Advent, Advent Devotional, Christmas, Promised Hope

Still Wrestling At 90

NARRATIVE

GENESIS 23-32

Sarah died at the age of 127 years.

Abraham married again and had many sons. But none of those sons, like Ishmael, were the sons through whom the promise would continue.

Isaac was that son. And Isaac was a forty-year-old single male.

So before Abraham died, he found a wife for Isaac. Her name was Rebecca, and she was a worshipper of Isaac’s God.

But again, we hear of an empty womb. Twenty years a barren womb.

Isaac sought the LORD on her behalf, and God responded with not one but two sons, Esau and Jacob.

Even before they were born, God gave Isaac and Rebecca a hint that it might not be easy raising these two boys.

“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.”

GENESIS 25:23

God didn’t speak in hyperbole.

Before breathing his first breath, Jacob wanted to be first. Leaving the warmth of his mother’s womb, he clutched the heel of his twin brother, wrangling to be firstborn. The name Jacob meant holder of the heel, a Hebrew idiom for the deceiver.

But his brother Esau was born first and was favored by his father. Strapping, strong, and a bit uncouth, Esau was a man’s man.

Rebekah favored Jacob. He was quiet and gentle—sage-like, with great potential but a propensity to deceive.

When the opportunity presented itself, Jacob offered a bowl of stew to a hungry Esau in exchange for his birthright. The birthright was the cultural provision that gave the father’s estate and headship of the family to the firstborn son. Not the kind of thing you trade because your hunger has overcome you.

A propensity to deceive.

With the help of his mother, Jacob offered his aging father a tasty plate of venison as a means to receive the blessing that accompanied the birthright, the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau.

Fearing for his life, Jacob left home and headed to Paddan Aram to stay with his mother’s brother, Laban. While journeying alone the five hundred miles, God appeared to Jacob in a dream with a blessing. (A blessing for this deceiver?)

I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying…I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

GENESIS 28:14-15

The identical blessing given to Abraham and Isaac. The promise must continue.

Acknowledging that the LORD had come to him, Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning the house of God. But Jacob’s faith still hinged on if; he wasn’t all in.

Leaving that place, Jacob continued to Haran to find a wife. He found a beautiful woman whose name was Rachel. And he loved her.

After working seven years to earn her hand in marriage, the wedding day arrived. But Uncle Laban devised a sham, and Jacob married Rachel’s older sister Leah instead. An ironical first taste of deceit from the fork of another.

Jacob later married Rachel as well.

In Haran, Jacob built a family for himself and a business for Laban. The family business flourished while the family was fraught with pain. After many years, Jacob’s favor with Laban faded, and God told him to go back to Canaan to make amends with Esau.

One night when Jacob was alone, he confessed his unworthiness to God but reminded God of the blessing He had promised him.

After ninety years of bargaining with God, Jacob met God in human form — face to face. And they wrestled all night, God waiting to reign in Jacob, not over him.

Near daybreak, God yanked Jacob’s hipbone, dislocating it. Even in his pain, Jacob begged for the blessing. Surrender didn’t come easy for this old Jacob!

“What is your name? “asked the LORD. ( Pretty sure God knew.)

And he confessed, “My name is Jacob. I am the deceiver.”

And in His mercy, God said no more. He gave Jacob a new name, a new identity. 

You shall be called Israel. For you have struggled with God and man and have survived.

Deceiver. Runner. Wrestler. Only God could change a Jacob.

Hope changehim.

REFLECTION

What a journey! These people God chose to move His promise forward were just as messy as the first.

Sure, God made some solid moves. Closed wombs, opened the same. He protected the line of the promised Seed. But He also required His people to do the hard work of learning to trust Him. To fully surrender. Jacob was to be the father of a nation, but not before His heart belonged to God.

How easy is it to judge someone by a chapter in their life when it was just that, a chapter? Too often, we write them off, thinking they are too far gone, too far off. Or perhaps they are just too different from us.

Or maybe, we declare ourselves unworthy, unreachable, unchangeable. You are not; I am not.

Where are you in your faith journey? Are you still running from God? Are you wrestling with God? Or have you been changed by Him through your surrender to Him?

God loves you just the same. His love doesn’t shift with the winds. He will stand in the struggle with you until His change finds you, too.

PRAYER  

Father, I am grateful that You are not offended by our struggle. Because You love us, You pursue us. You are not afraid of our questions or fears. You are not a Father who leaves; You are the God who stays.

Father, I pray for the runners and ask You to pursue them. I pray for the wrestlers. Will you please stay in the struggle with them? And Father, I celebrate those who have surrendered to You. May they be a light to those around them. Amen.

PRACTICE

My limps are a reminder of my struggle. But a greater reminder of the God who loved me enough to stay until His change found me. He gave me a new name and a new identity.

But my new name —your new name — isn’t just for our benefit. Our love for God is measured by our love for others.

So today, show some love to those around you. Speak a kind word to a bruised or broken soul. Look your waitress in the eye; let her know you see her. Tip her generously. Find a family in need and give what you can. Extend grace to that person who wronged you.

And don’t get sidetracked; don’t make it about you.

For this is how they will know You love me, that you love one another.

JOHN 13:35

We cannot truly worship God and not love those around us. We are to share this Hope we have with the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s