Sunday, July 24, 2011


Genesis 32: 24-30
 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  

When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 

Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
 But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 

 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[g] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Hosea 12:4 - 
Yea, he wrestled with the Angel, and prevailed;

I've never wrestled an angel before.  I'm assuming they'd cheat.  I know I would, if I were an angel.

How could you not cheat?  It'd be too easy. Just being your regular, 'ole angel self would be an automatic and unfair advantage. 

Look, imagine you're angel.  You have a little thing called WINGS tacked to your back.  I'd use mine to swoop down on my opponent then slap his head with 'em till he saw feathers. 

Guess what?  You've got wings?  YOU WIN.

But wings are nothing compared to the angel's ability to glow in the dark.  If you were an angel and wrestled at night, you could "go dark" for the first part of the match, then suddenly pop on the glow feature, and BOOM - you've just created momentary blindness in your opponent.

Glow in the dark?  YOU WIN.

Better still, in the day time Angels can go completely invisible (except to donkeys), which as anyone knows who has seen certain 3 Stooges movies, always makes for a nice bit of carnage.

Invisible?  YOU WIN.

Of course, if the wings and invisibility and the glow feature don't get the job done, all the wrestling angel has to do is whip out the ever-present sword/harp/trumpet  gear and finish the job in short order.

Robe full of gadgets?  YOU WIN...again.

Angels don't lose wrestling matches.  They can't.

Which is why this story has always confounded me.  In THIS story, the angel DOES lose.  Or at best, DOESN'T win.

Here Jacob wrestles an angel (some translations call it "a man") all night.  In the passage it says that...

"When the man saw that he could not overcome Jacob..."

Huh?  Really?  The angel COULD NOT overcome Jacob?  REALLY?  Jacob was THAT tough?  REALLY?  That musta been some head lock.  Not bad for a guy who didn't like the outdoors, or have wings, or glow in the dark.

Not only could the angel not beat Jacob, but he resorts to cheating (what'd I tell ya) and smacks Jacob in the hip, injuring him in the process, and then demands that Jacob let him go.

Well, sorry, Mr. Angel.  Not gonna be that easy this time.  This is Jacob you're dealing with, not some run-of-the-mill, Sunday School Weenie.

Simply put: Jacob doesn't let go. Even after the angel tells him to. Jacob doesn't give in.  He doesn't stop fighting.  Instead, he continues to struggle, continues to fight, continues to wrestle against impossible odds.  Instead of giving in to the Angel's demands, Jacob digs in harder, and says,

"I will not let you go, unless you bless me." 

I don't care who you are - that's impressive.  That's mouthy.  That's tough.  To refuse to let the angel go shows a real truth about Jacob.  He was going to get his blessing, no matter what the angel wanted. 

The amazing thing is, 2 verses later, Jacob gets it.  He gets exactly what he wanted. 

Which was nothing unusual for Jacob.  He usually got what he wanted, even though he didn't always go about getting it in the "proper" way.  By this time in the story Jacob mouthing off to the angel doesn't surprise us at all.

He appears to have a been a headstrong, stubborn, crafty, risk-taking, conniving, rascal.  A rascal who, by the way, ALWAYS got what he wanted...eventually.  Which makes the meaning of his new name all the more understandable, 

" have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

Not bad.  But also not anything like how we'd do it.

Jacob's way just seems so...impolite to us.  So pushy.  It's just not how  a "good" person should ask for things. For us it would go more like this:

"Let me Go."

"OK.  Sorry.  I hope I didn't come off too pushy.  I tend to get overly excited and...anyway...sorry.  Maybe we can talk about that blessing when you get some free time?" 

That's how WE do it.  But thankfully, that's NOT how Jacob did it.  Not by a long shot.  And it's good he didn't do it our way because if he HAD...he probably would've gone home empty handed.

We forget, Jacob wasn't condemned for his determined, stubborn, tough fighting style - on the contrary, he was rewarded for it.   

The angel hadn't come down and offer to bless him on the spot, free of charge. Jacob had to fight for it.  Struggle for it.  Demand it.  It was only THEN that he was given what he was asking for. 

But it is the end of the story that takes an even weirder turn and makes my head explode every time I read it.   The angel wasn't an angel, or a man.  It was God.

God.  The loving father.  The giver of all good things.  The one who will gladly supply all our needs.  THIS was who Jacob was fighting with?    THIS was who Jacob had to WRESTLE a blessing from?   

Um.  Yes.  Oh...yes.

And guess what?  After much struggle, and much sweat and much demanding, Jacob got what he wanted...from God.

Which is not normally how we think of the whole "God thing" either.  

For us it's much more civilized.  Easier.  Nicer.  More polite.  We ask, He gives.  We ask.  He doesn't give.  There is rarely any struggle to anything we do.   

"Let me go!"

"Oh, OK, sorry.  So, I guess we can talk about that whole blessing thing later I guess?"

Which is why we are so rarely touched by God.  So rarely smacked.  Never surprised.  Never confused.  Our hips are fine.  We never do anything that would cause them to be otherwise.

But at the same time, we aren't REALLY blessed by Him either, aren't really challenged by our faith, aren't moved in our churches, aren't prompted by injustice, aren't fulfilled in our walk, aren't wrapped up in passionate, creative works, aren't joyfully swept up by life.

How could we be?

So polite.

So good.

So civil. 

Meanwhile Jacob asks...and God asks...

Wrestled any angels lately?

As together we stand and sing.


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