God’s Struggler

I have little time to write these days, so I am repeating one of my favorites, something I think about often. I hope it encourages you wherever you find yourself right now.


I am everyone in Scripture. In reading through the Bible I often take the perspective that each character and incident reflects something about me as a human being. A previous post described me as Barabbas. I am also the woman who worshiped Jesus with her tears. I am Joseph, the one who experiences affliction which God intends for good. It is easy to see that I am Peter, denying Jesus and being restored. You get the idea. With those new eyes I want to meditate on Jacob, who wrestled with an angel. Sure, I see that he struggled with God in prayer, and I certainly do that. But there is more to the story which I have found confusing. So this post is one woman’s attempt to find herself in Jacob who was renamed Israel.

 

You will find the story in Genesis 32 and 33. Jacob was on his way to meet with his estranged and powerful brother, and he had his family and all his possessions in tow. The Bible says that he was in “great fear and distress.” In fact, he was so afraid of his brother, Esau, that Jacob sent him numerous bribes and then lagged behind the rest of the caravan. That is how he came to be by himself, wrestling with the angel of God at night. The Bible doesn’t say this, but I think that he was going to bolt. He had already done every cowardly thing short of running away, and I think that was why he wrestled God. His name, Deceiver (Jacob, loosely translated from the Hebrew), would bear this out. When morning came, Jacob’s helpless wives and children would find themselves inexplicably alone, in the hands of Jacob’s worst enemy.

 

If you read the story from that perspective, you find that by daybreak, God had still not overcome Jacob’s fear, his craven resolution to flee. Jacob’s flesh was stronger than Jacob’s faith. And so God crippled him. In this hindered state, Jacob continued to wrestle for God’s blessing. He no longer had the option to run, and so he asked for the thing he should have sought in the beginning, God’s purpose and blessing in the midst of his struggle. Our gracious God who maims then bestowed upon Jacob, the Deceiver, his new name: Israel or Struggler. The rest of the story reveals God’s faithfulness as Jacob assumes his rightful place at the head of his family. I’ll let you read it for yourself.

 

This story is about Israel’s identity as a man and as a people. It’s about my identity. It’s about the many ways I deceive myself and others, the many ways I run from the hard things, the many ways I fail even to ask for courage. If you know me, you know that I am crippled. I have an artificial leg which is the result of an amputation which saved my life. It has also kept me from running away when I wanted to and caused me to wrestle with God until He blessed me. It is a visible reminder that my name is Struggler, and that is a good thing.

 


If you’d like to hear a sermon on this passage by Mark Driscoll, click this link: http://marshill.com/media/genesis/jacob-wrestles-god.

Connecting the Dots: an overview of the Bible in stories

cover smallHave you ever wished you understood how the Bible fit together a little better? Who are the Babylonians, anyway? Does the Old Testament have anything to say to us today? How does it connect with the New Testament – or does it? If you are looking for a summer study for yourself or a small group, check this out (it’s free):

 
 

http://dearchristiancounselor.com/connecting-the-dots/
 

Pledge of Allegiance

A Meditation upon Psalm 20

 

Let it be understood from the outset that Christ’s people are not waging a physical war. As He did not fight His enemies with a sword but with words of truth and gracious deeds, so His followers must love their enemies in the world. Now read on.

 

This psalm is not what it appears to be at first. It may sound like a sweet, simple blessing that we could pronounce over our children as they go off to college: “May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” But nearly everything about that interpretation is wrong. This is not a prayer asking God’s blessing on human plans. It is not an uncommitted invocation that we can bestow and forget. There is nothing innocuous or human or uncommitted about it.

 

It seems that David wrote this prayer to be used in the liturgy of the Hebrew people for a very specific purpose. This psalm was an invocation of blessing recited by the people of God over their king before he went to war. Notice that the recipient of the blessing is the anointed one, and it is his aspirations for the nation, not his people’s desires, which are being affirmed.
Pledging allegienceThe people of Israel also constituted the army of God, so this is, moreover, the benediction of the army upon its general. In that context it is not merely a blessing – because the success of the king’s plans depended greatly upon the commitment of his army, it is also a pledge, their pledge of allegiance. What an encouragement it must have been to David on the eve of battle to hear this prayer for his well-being and for the triumph of the kingdom, to hear the declaration of his fighting force to do their utmost to achieve the victory.

 

We, too, are the army of God’s Anointed. When Christ rides out to battle on that last, great day of trouble, “with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers” (Rev 17:14). And in the meantime, we do battle every day in His name with fear, temptation, sin, suffering and Satan. If we do not recognize those battles, like sleeping disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, then they are already lost to us. But if we meet them prayerfully, they are already won. This psalm is our pledge to take up the banner of Christ, to honor His sacrifice, to follow His lead and to realize His objectives. It’s not God’s job to bless our plans – it’s our job, as the army of God, to bless His plans. This psalm is not asking for good weather, a better job or another child. It proclaims our willingness to wage war for the sake of God’s agenda, to do brave things because they are His things. Look around at what God is doing in your life, your church, and the world today. It’s your job to join His campaign. Let Psalm 20 be your prayer of blessing upon the King’s plans. Our King is worthy of our blessing and deserving of our pledge.

 


Questions:

1. Are you more likely to ask God to bless your plans or to seek to be a blessing to God’s plans?

 

2. What battles do you see being fought in God’s name right now? Is there a role for you in some of those struggles?