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Wrestling With God and Prevailing Against Sin


As we continue into today’s reading from Genesis 32:14 through Genesis 32:30, we read the rest of Jacob’s plan for meeting with Esau and trying to appease his anger. He chooses a bunch of animals and then puts them into groups heading toward Esau. He tells the men who head up each group of animals to tell Esau that they are a gift for him and that Jacob is nearby in the next group. Jacob’s intention is to watch and then move backward a group at a time until he is sure Esau will accept him without killing him. At the same time, he sends his two wives, two slave girls, and his eleven children across a stream with his possessions.

With the gifts in front of him and his family across the stream, Jacob is alone for the night. Suddenly there was a man wrestling with him. Jacob refused to give up and continued to wrestle until morning. Scripture says that when it appeared the man would not prevail against Jacob, He touched him in his hip socket so that his hip was dislocated as he wrestled. And then Jacob said the words that gave away that he knew exactly who he was wrestling with. The man had asked Jacob to let him go because it was morning, but Jacob said to Him, “I won’t let You go until You bless me.”

Now, I love what God does here. He asks Jacob what his name is. Remember way back when Jacob was born, when Jacob stole the birthright, and when Jacob deceived his father? In all those things, Jacob lived up to the meaning of his name; supplanter. He tried to come out first, he stole the birthright, and he falsely gained his father’s blessing. Esau even pointed out how the name was fitting for him. Now God is asking Jacob to admit that he is as his name, one who steals what he wants–one who wrestles for his blessings. Like the first of the “12 Steps” in Alcoholics Anonymous (and related programs), God is telling Jacob that He will not bless him until he admits who and what he is. It works the same in repentance when we finally admit that we are sinners in need of God’s salvation. And I am certain I am not the only one who has wrestled to get to that point, but it is worth the wrestling if you fight until you subdue the flesh and press through to obtain God’s blessing. Paul mentions in Philippians 3 that he is pressing on and forward to a goal of something that lies ahead of what he has now. It’s a finish line where everyone who crosses, and not just the first one, is a winner.

So, after he said his name was Jacob, everything changed for him. After we admit we are in need of God (and not just at our first repentance but each time we wrestle with something that we need to let go of), everything can change for us as well. AFTER Jacob confessed the absence of God in his efforts and admitted that he was trying to do everything on his own, THEN God not only blessed him, but his blessing came with a name change. God changed the name of Jacob (supplanter) to the name of Israel (wrestled/contended with God). He put His title, EL, right into Jacob’s new name. Jacob was no longer one who had to steal positions and possessions or birthrights and blessings. He was now one who was blessed of God because He sought God’s blessing face to face.

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Jacob Prayed


Today we begin a new portion: Parashah (portion) 8, the Hebrew “Vayishlach” meaning He Sent. It runs from Genesis 32:4 to Genesis 36:43, but today’s reading is simply from Genesis 32:4 through Genesis 32:13. Jacob is on his way back to the home of his birth in obedience to what God directed. He knows Esau still lives there, and he is sure Esau is still angry, so he sends men ahead of him to let Esau know that he is coming to him with gifts of cattle and flocks as a peace agreement.

The men came back and told Jacob that Esau was coming out to meet him, but they also said he was bringing 400 men with him. This made Jacob fearful and distressed, so Jacob created a two-fold solution. First, Jacob split his people and possessions into two camps. This way, he said, if Esau comes to destroy a camp, one camp of people will still get out alive. That was good preparation, but the second solution was the best.

Jacob prayed a beautiful prayer to God. He first reminded God that it was His idea for Jacob to return, so he showed he was being faithful. He then showed humility and thankfulness by telling God that he knew he was not worthy of the love and faithfulness He had shown him since he first crossed the Jordan with nothing but the staff in his hand. And then he asked God to please deliver him from the wrath of Esau and to keep His promise to make his seed abundant. He even repeated God’s promise to him and to Abraham and Isaac as it had been given to them by God.

I believe that prayer showed a relationship with God that was built on more than just a “gimme” game. I love the faithfulness, thankfulness, humility, and praise that came before the requests. And as we continue into this portion, we will see the wonderful things God did as a result of that prayer.

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Watchtower of Angels


This post will be kind of short and fast because I had a rather difficult time getting connected to the internet–even from my phone. But I think I’ve got something now, so we’ll see what I can do. The reading today is from Genesis 31:43 through Genesis 32:3, and it continues on with yesterday’s story where Laban met with Jacob after chasing him down because he thought someone had his gods.

Well, today, he is trying to say that everything Jacob has belongs to him–including his daughters and cattle. But I think he’s saying it more like a protective daddy since after saying it, he makes a suggestion that he and Jacob make a commitment about caring for his daughters. They set up stones to represent the place of the deal. Laban gives it an Aramaic name, and Jacob gives it a Hebrew name. But one meaning for the place is also The Watchtower.

As part of the deal, Laban says his gods will watch him, and Jacob’s God will watch him. He then tells Jacob that if he hurts his daughters, God will be watching out. Later, as Jacob continues on his journey, he sees angels in the camp and declares it as God’s camp. He then gives it another name; Machanayim–meaning two camps.

In closing this, I’ll just say that I think we all live in two camps, and I believe that angels camp near us often. I also believe that God watches us, though not from a distance as the song declares. I’m thankful that even in unfair situations like Jacob went through, God can bring truth and His presence into the situation.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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