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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 32:22–31

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and 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 place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. (NRSV)

“What’s your name?”

“Why do you need to ask?”

This is Clint Eastwood, High Plains Drifter stuff: The wronged man returns to avenge himself on those who wronged him. If you’re Jacob, you know you’re not the avenger. When the unnamed man walks out of the darkness and challenges you, you know what’s what.

Esau, the one he wronged, is coming at Jacob with 400 armed soldiers. Jacob doesn’t know what Esau’s intentions are, but it’s doubtful they’re good. And as that night falls, Jacob is alone, with a potential enemy army on the way. I mean, this may be the ultimate “Should I stay or should I go?” scenario. If he stays, he may be cut to ribbons. If he goes, Esau will probably continue to pursue him. It will never end.

It’s a tough problem to wrestle with. I mean, you could probably wrestle with it all night and not come up with an answer.

In the end, Jacob can’t run. Things are out of joint—out of joint because of something he did, if the truth be known. And in spite of how much this hurts him, he won’t, he can’t let go.

“What’s your name?”

The guy who was up with you all night, so perfectly matched that no one could win? The guy who put him out of joint so he can’t escape, just like he put things out of joint to cause all of this?

“Why do you need to ask?”

How often God teaches us by confronting us with ourselves, that inescapable mirror in which we cannot deny the truth of who we are. If we have integrity, we wrestle with that confrontation because we know that there is one person we can never escape. When we don’t run, when we look at the truth we see the face of God, and lo and behold—not only does it not kill us, but it opens the door to reconciliation and healing.

Lord, hold the mirror up to us so that we may see the inescapable truth of who we are, and strengthen us in the struggle to be people of reconciliation. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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