"And Jacob was left alone. And a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the Man saw that He did not prevail against Jacob, He touched his hip socket, & Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him. Then He said, 'Let Me go, for the day has broken.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let You go unless you bless me.' And He said to him, 'What is your name?' And he said, 'Jacob'. Then He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God & with men, & have prevailed.' Then Jacob asked Him, 'Please tell me Your name.' But He said, 'Why is it that you ask My name?' And there He blessed Him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, 'For I have seen God face to face, & yet my life has been delivered.' The sun rose upon him as he passed Peniel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day, the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh."
- Genesis 32
As a Pastor, I have been privileged & honored to sit with families at the best & worst of times. The best of times have been teh easiest to handle. Who doesn't enjoy births, baptisms, birthdays, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries, even retirements? It hs been the worst times that try everyone's souls: sicknesses, surgeries, firings, crime, death, sometimes, worse, cancer. During the best of times, the same things are said. Words of happiness & wonder are spoken: look at that face, what a cute little baby, many happy returns, & a few more, but people seldom come up with anything new to say. It is terrible, but also true, that the same things are said during the worst of times. Why does this have to happen? Why did this have to happen now? Why do these things happen to good people? Where is God when these things happen? Why is God doing these things? I know God doesn't want me to be mad at Him, but I can't help myself.
It's the last few statements that leave people feeling even worse sometimes. They have a normal feeling that God has let them down when something bad happens, & then they make themselves feel even worse by thinking God will now be more upset & cause more evil to befall. They think they have to just keep all of their fear, hurt, & pain in because if they say it out loud, God will punish them more. But, let me tell you what they really should do.
I would tell them to get angry with God. Yell at Him. Spill your guts. Question & rant & rave & cry. Point your face to the sky, or toward the cross, or wherever, & shout to the Lord how much the pain, suffering, upheaval, & trouble is destroying your heart & your soul. Then say that you want to blame Him because He is God. And I promise, when you are done, there will be no lightning bolt, there will be no crushing thumb, & there will be no condemnation because God wants to hear from us. God wants us to fight with Him. Jacob proves just that.
Jacob was sitting on the banks of the Jabbock River dreading the coming day. He knew he would have to face his brother Esau. Even though a few years have passed, Esau still had cause to hate & kill his brother. Jacob had conned Esau into selling his inheritance for a bowl of lentil soup. Jacob had tricked their old, blind father, Isaac, into thinking he was Esau to get the blessing. Jacob had run & left Esau to care for mother & father aft the deceit. Jacob had every reason to think Esau would shoot him on sight. He was afraid & needed to vent that fear because God was making him see his brother.
So God wrestled with Jacob. He could have been angry with Jacob & killed him outright. Jacob deserved death (& not just because we all deserve death from our sins), for what he had done to his father & family. But God came down & took the form of a man to wrestle with Jacob & gave him a fighting chance. God wanted to be with Jacob, face to face, side to side, holding him tightly. Jacob may have considered it a fight to the end, or even to the death, but God saw it as holding onto His son when he needed to work out his fears. That is why the name Israel, the man who wrestles with God, is a blessing, because to wrestle with someone you have to be intimately close to each other. (IF you don't believe me, watch a tape of a wrestling match. You will see two young men in a tighter embrace than they would ever try anywhere else.)
Let me add this as well: God became a man to wrestle with Jacob, & where else does God become man, but when He took human flesh to be our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Jesus, He became man to get as close to us as possible, to live with us.
The old adage is 'bad publicity is good publicity because any publicity is good publicity'. god feels the same with us & communication. Any time we speak with God is a good speaking with God. He wants to hear our good words, our well wishes, our praises, thanks & good news. He also, however, wants to hear our fears, our failings, our pains & sufferings. He wants to hear that we are mad at Him, that we want to fight with Him, as any good father would. It is when we are at our angriest & fighting Him, that He can hold us the closest & let us wrestle with Him & His will. The only bad thing to do when angry with God is to give Him the cold shoulder. How can he help when we walk away & won't try to listen?
So, follow the good example of our father Jacob (I mean Israel), & don't let go of God. Get Him in a bear hug & scream in His ear. And just like Israel, He will not throw us off or put us on the mat. He will hold us all night long if necessary, & leave us with a blessing. The blessing of God made man.
In His Peace, alone,
Pastor Red Etzel