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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Wrestling w/God

I am always intrigued by the story from Genesis 32 of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Of course, this passage and Hosea 12 identify the mysterious stranger as the Lord God himself.

What does it mean to wrestle with God? Jacob was always wrestling with someone. Even in his mother's womb, he wrestled with his twin brother Esau.

What is remarkable is that Jacob refuses to release the angel until he grants him a blessing. What is it with Jacob and his obsession over getting blessed? Remember his crafty deception of his father, Isaac, to steal the blessing intended for Esau?

Jacob wrestled with God and lived to tell about it. Notice he didn't walk away without injury, however. Being in the intimate presence of the holy one has a crippling effect upon us. But in our hobbling, we become recipients of divine favor.

Interestingly, the lectionary our congregation uses aligns this Old Testament text with the healing of the Canaanite woman's daughter in Matthew 15. There was another example of someone grasping desperately for God, refusing to be discouraged, insisting humbly on being helped. Martin Luther said we should boldly expect God to honor his promises. And what precisely does God promise the sinner? Forgiveness. God gives the sinner the right to demand that God fulfill His own Word. That's the kind of firm confidence demonstrated by the woman who persisted in prayer despite Jesus' initial unfriendliness and Jacob putting God into a headlock.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this passage a couple months ago. I also wondered about the name. When God renames Jacob "Israel", translations go between two different meanings. Some translate it "He who strives with God" or something along those lines. Others translate it "Prince of God". And, as far as I can tell, both words would be pointed the same in Hebrew.

So, is there a play on the name here? As in the one who strives against/with God, God nevertheless blesses them and declares them a prince.

Obviously it's not due to anything we are owed. But even though we fight with God, He still somehow calls us something good.

scott adle

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary