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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, March 16, 2019              

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

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. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle. (NRSV)

The theme of these verses is wrestling, struggling, striving. The storyteller doesn’t want us to miss the theme, and so he sets the location of Jacob’s wrestling match with God at the Jabbok River. Jabbok, in Hebrew, means wrestling. Jacob is wrestling at the Wrestling River.

We wrestle with a lot of things. People come into my office wrestling with feelings of grief or relationships that are confusing. Parents wrestle with issues of parenting, wondering when it will get easier. And then they wrestle with feelings of loss and worry when a child is about ready to leave the nest. I wrestle with those important issues, and I also wrestle with things as insignificant as whether I’ll make it to the gym twice per week or be able to find my cell phone at the bottom of my purse.

But this story is not about any wrestling. It’s about wrestling with God. What do you wrestle with God about? Or are you afraid to wrestle with God? What are you willing to bring before God in a face-to-face, body-to-body, eye-to-eye, sweaty wrestling match?

I hope you’ve done that—if not now, then sometime in your past. And I hope you’ll do it again. Because when we find the courage to wrestle with God, to really be honest with our doubts or our complaints, we have the possibility of the outcome Jacob received. A blessing and a new name. A blessing and being changed. A blessing and knowing God at a deeper level than ever.

Wrestler of All Wrestlers, Giver of All Blessings, help us to value a relationship with you so much that we are willing to wrestle with you, too. Help us to admit our doubts and to ask you for understanding. Help us to voice our complaints and to ask you for comfort. Help us to hold on and to trust fervently enough to expect your blessing; with all praise and gratitude. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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