I’ve had a great deal on my mind lately. Nothing particularly eventful has occurred but my mind has been full of almost more than I can handle. I’ve written blogs on a couple of ideas that are whirling around in there, but one seems a little lame and the other a bit angry…neither of which has prompted me to hit “publish”.
Truth is, I’ve been wrestling a bit. Not the kind of faith-in-crisis wrestling that I’ve done in the past, but more of a faith-in-expansion kind of wrestling. The more I press into God, the more questions I have and the more answers I await. And while I would much prefer that God and I have a simple I ask a question and He answers kind of dialogue, this uncomfortable reaching and stretching and waiting is good. I am daring to exercise my faith in areas previously believed to be off-limits.
We are exhorted to come boldly before the throne of God and I feel as if there is nothing bolder to present in His presence than the questions we have. Especially the really hard questions. He has no fear or irritation at our asking. He holds every answer and is a good Father Who is patient and kind. But perhaps you feel as I did that our questioning presents a lack of faith. I now believe it to be the very opposite – to go fearlessly to our Father with great expectations that He will answer is to have great faith.
My thoughts have settled on Jacob this week and His wrestling with God. Different translations mention a Man or an Angel of the Lord. Not to get ahead of myself but the new name he was given has a meaning of God-wrestler.
This passage in Genesis 32 is so interesting. Jacob had done his brother wrong. They parted on bad terms and this chapter of the story picks up where Jacob is attempting to reconcile with Esau. Now Jacob was a God follower, a God worshiper. He’s heard the voice of God Who told him to return to his people and He would do him good. But Jacob is afraid. He’s afraid that Esau is still angry and will try to kill him. So He prays for God’s deliverance. He plans to offer gifts in a sequence of droves in order to gain favor with his brother. Finally he sends his family and all that he had across the brook and he stays behind. Alone.
It is then the Man comes and wrestles with Jacob. Now, perhaps Jacob thought it was a robber or an enemy from another camp. The text doesn’t reveal his thoughts, only that he gave this Man a run for his money! He didn’t back down and when the Man did not prevail over him, He touched the hollow of his thigh, putting it out of joint. Sometime in the midst of this struggle that lasted all night the realization set in that this was no ordinary man because when He told Jacob to let Him go, Jacob refused unless He would declare a blessing on him. Talk about bold!
Then the man asked him “What is your name?” Obviously God already knew his name but the Amplified Bible gives insight into why He wanted Jacob to say it:
The Man asked him, What is your name? And in shock of realization, whispering, he said, Jacob – supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler! (v. 27)
It was in the presence of God that Jacob came face-to-face with himself. He would have known the meaning of his name for many years now, but for the first time he truly saw his character. It is in this moment that God gives him a new name, Israel, changing his identity and drawing him into the plan for his life that had been there all along.
Something had been working in the wrestling. There was a reason the Man came and forced Jacob to contend with Him, forced him to engage in a surprising and confusing and exhausting exchange. And this meeting with God left him limping.
When we press in for more of God and refuse to let go it is certain that He will bring us face-to-face with ourselves. It is in these moments that pretense falls away and we see who we really are and how desperately we need Him. It is then we are ready to surrender to live out the plans He has for our lives in our new identity – the righteous, redeemed, forgiven children of God. When we examine our motives and the whys of our beliefs, stepping away from empty religious acts can be uncomfortable…kind of like limping. It is then we find that we can no longer walk the same as we did before.
He named the place of this meeting Peniel – the face of God, and was thankful that his life had been spared, so I don’t think he minded the limp. I think every time he took a cautious step, even if it hurt a bit, he remembered that he had been in the presence of God and the limp that to others may have looked like a handicap was actually evidence of his strength. Whether he had the limp for the rest of his life or not, it was sure that he never walked the same again.
“When meeting with God leaves you limping” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com
Painting: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (detail) Eugène DELACROIX (1798-1863)