Daily Reflections January 31, 2018
Today’s text is both mysterious and wonderful. The thoughtful reader can’t help but walk away from Genesis 32 with a laundry list of questions. Why did God wrestle with Jacob? Was the man in this account an early revelation of Jesus Christ? Why did God allow Jacob to have some semblance of success? Surely God could have easily won that match had He so desired. And why did He leave Jacob with a limp?
As I ponder these questions myself, Romans 15:4 springs to my mind:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV)
This story and all of the strange details contained within it was written to build up the church. It was written to give people like you and me hope. With that in mind, can you see the hope in this story of the way in which God deals with a sinful man?
He wrestles Jacob to the ground and brings him to the point of exhaustion. He rewards Jacob’s tenacious desire for the blessing of God. He gives Jacob a new name – his former name carried the meaning of one who is a deceiver – one who grasps at the heels of others – but his new name means one who wrestles with God. And with this new name, God gave Jacob (now Israel) a limp so that he would always remember his encounter with God. As I think about this last detail I can’t help but think of Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians:
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. (Ephesians 4:1 ESV)
When we have encountered the living God, it changes us. That change is both internal and external. We walk differently on the other side of an encounter with the living God. I think that’s what we’re meant to see here. Jacob had a history of lying and cheating. He was a sinner, through and through. But God, being rich in mercy, wrestled this sinner to the ground and set him on a new trajectory. He gave him a new identity. Jacob never walked the same after that day.
We should note that he still had to face his brother Esau. Jacob’s circumstances didn’t change, but his identity changed and that made all the difference. The man who had made his fortune through cunning and deception approached his brother face to face and asked for forgiveness.
When God takes a hold of His people, they are never the same. Old Testament and New.
Assistant Pastor Levi denBok
As Jesus taught, healed, and called people to repentance, he continued to encounter opposition. In Mark 2 we saw four instances of conflict with the religious authorities. In these encounters, Jesus addressed issues of forgiveness, Sabbath rules, eating with sinners and fasting. Though he silenced his critics, he did not stop their enmity. As this chapter unfolds we see the opposition of his family, rejection from the scribes, and murderous intentions from the Pharisees and Herodians.
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. (Mark 3:1 ESV)
On the Sabbath, in the synagogue, Jesus threw down the gauntlet, purposefully healing a man with a withered hand. Contrary to Jewish protocol concerning Sabbath practices, Jesus demonstrated that God is compassionate, does good, and saves life! In the healing, Jesus broke no biblical laws concerning the Sabbath - rather he demonstrated both his heart and authority to heal and forgive. Jesus has power to liberate. He reaches out across the strata of society and offers eternal life. In Jesus, mercy indeed triumphs over rabbinical law.
This healing set his opponents on a mission to destroy him. The war was on. In fact, by crossing traditional enemy lines, the Pharisees formed an alliance with the Herodians. Not only did the Pharisees show no mercy to the crippled man, but they themselves, on the Sabbath, conspired to murder Jesus. They were blind to Jesus’ identity and their culpability. It was apparent that Judaism was completely, spiritually bankrupt. They rejected and eventually killed their Messiah. How utterly tragic. How we need to guard against a hard-heart and against man-made rules that blind us to God and how he works in the lives of the broken.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? (Mark 3:22-24 ESV)
Jesus, the Son of God, also had to endure the blasphemous accusations of being called a demon-possessed tool of Satan. Jesus countered this ridiculous and illogical charge warning those who accused him of their eternal damnation.
Obviously, Mark presents different groups of people who rallied around Jesus for different reasons and motives. Some came to criticize and destroy (the religious leaders). Some came for the goodies and free lunch (the crowds). Some came to protect him from his apparent ill-balanced lifestyle (his biological family). Some came because they, by God’s grace, understood that Jesus was who he said he was; and to that end, they sat, listened and sought to obey his word and will.
Praise God for a merciful Saviour who endured unimaginable rejection and still patiently waits for people to bow before him. As a broken person, stretch out your hand and touch the hem of his garment in prayer. In faith, receive God’s generosity and grace. As one who knows Jesus the Son of God, yield to his word and Lordship. Sit as his feet, spend time with him. Learn from him and seek to walk in faithful obedience and in loving compassion.
Associate Pastor Jody Cross