Thursday, February 2, 2012

When you wrestle with God, let him win

Jacob or Israel?

While most people would see Jacob's character transformation and name change to Israel after wrestling with the Angel of YHWH as a type or symbol of prevailing with God in prayer ( especially intercession), I think its more than that. I believe its way more than an allegorical story, but that its an example and pattern of transformation by encounter. I think it is a wholesale revelation and understanding, a life change that is completely opposite of the way he conducted himself in relationship to people and God his whole life up until that point. The first part he was in charge and the remaining part of his life he trusted God.

Jacob's encounter with God released him from being a spiritual orphan to being a prince and prevailer with God ( the meaning of Israel). You don't get to become Israel until you learn that God wins and your strength (thigh) has no redeeming value. We don't become Israel until we walk with a limp for the rest of our lives because of our encounter, visibly and noticeably different forever. From the wrestling in the desert and forward he would trust God for establishing him and his tribe and the eventual nation of Israel. Even though that meant going back to his dysfunctional family to try and make things right after the way he left. With his heart in the right place, the Angel of God went before him and softened his brother's heart.

Jacob was born chasing after his brother and grabbing after everything he could get his hands on through deceit and cleverness. His name Jacob meant Heel or heel grabber and that worldly label defined him for most of his life. The Text in Genesis is very clear that he was a momma's boy and his dad Isaac favored his twin brother Esau, who was more of a manly man. That being understood, it accounts for Jacob's orphan/abandonment behavior and the need to take his brother's inheritance as opposed to trusting God for his own.

The way I read the text, Jacob's mother Rebekah held onto the prophetic promise God gave her that the youngest son would be the leader and bearer of the birthright and that is a sign of her incredible faith and trust that she helped Jacob walk into his destiny even if he didn't fully realize what that was yet. God always fully intended on Jacob being the one in the line of Christ and the progenitor of the twelve tribes, but he will have it done his way. The encounter with God released Jacob from the anxiety and stress of having to figure out his own destiny and helped to heal the father wounds of his natural father at the same time. I think that may account partially for the reason God chose him as the father of the twelve tribes and Jacob's tenderness towards his younger sons Joseph and Benjamin.

Jacob is the type of person who tries to make the will of God happen in their own strength, in other words a lot like most of us or at least hopefully how we used to be. Like many of us, he grew up in a household that was dysfunctional and lacked affirmation. He knows there is a call of God on his life (Padan Aram) confirmed by dreams, but still goes and works for the man for 14 years multiplying sheep ( making money), outside of his homeland and birthright. Even in Jacob's rebellion God recounts his great promises to him in a dream knowing he will turn his back on them for a long time. God is patient, he will wait and he will have his way. He always has our best interests in his heart. Its interesting that 14 years seems to be the seasoning time for the cultivation of a prophet, but I digress. Only when the oppression and lack of justice in Jacob's world becomes unbearable does he really consider the call and promise of God in his life.

Jacob ( and you and me) have to face God all alone, that is why he puts his family on the other side of the river. When you face God alone in an honest encounter, before you face those you have wronged then your character is revealed. Surprisingly to those of us who are expecting rebuke and punishment, what God does most of the time is reveal the character and person he has seen in you and me all along, (Israel) princes and princesses before him, because he sees us in Christ. When we accept God's encounter and word to us and receive nothing less than God's best and blessing we get the revelation of who we are. With the revelation of the way God sees us, we can face anything and anyone and its never as bad as we thought it was going to be, people will forgive and accept you when you finally figure out who you are. It comes down to believing that the Father's blessing really was for you in the first place.

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