Wrestling with the angel

Jacob wrestled with the angel all night long. (Genesis 32:22-31) They were alone on an island together. The text doesn’t state whether Jacob even called out for help while he was wrestling. He didn’t get a chance to sleep that night because all night long he and the angel were wrestling. Towards the end of the night the angel touched him on his hip to make the fight stop. While this may seem like an unfair thing for the angel to do, I wonder why he touched him on the hip, and not somewhere else?

If the angel had touched him on the arm, the fight would’ve been over just as soon as touching him on his hip. You can’t pin someone to the ground with only one arm, or at least not very easily. It’s impossible or very difficult to throw them to the ground and hold them there. So he could have touched him on his shoulder and it would have been over just the same. Therefore it is very relevant that he touched him on his hip.

I propose that he touched him on the hip because Jacob was getting his strength from his roots. Jacob was relying on his ancestors and their faith (not his own, yet) in order to give him strength for this battle. The angel needed him to not rely on his own strength or on the faith of his forefathers. The angel needed him to trust in something so much bigger than him, something that he didn’t even know about yet. The angel needed him to trust in what AA would say is his “higher power”. And the Higher Power that the angel wanted him to rely on was God. He had to break his connection with his roots – his strength that he was getting from the past and from the present. He needed to make him learn how to rely on something bigger than himself, that very something that his ancestor Abraham relied on.

Jacob was very strong in many ways, but he hadn’t yet come to understand how much stronger he could be if he connected his power with God’s power.

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The wealthy man and Lazarus

“Once there was a very wealthy man who dressed in royal purple and fine linen, and he ate a lavish feast every day. A poor man named Lazarus was left at his gate. He was covered in sores. He would have been grateful to eat even the scraps that fell from the wealthy man’s table, but dogs came and licked his sores instead. One day Lazarus died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The wealthy man died on the same day and was buried. While he was being tormented in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham very far away with Lazarus reclining next to him. He called out ‘Father Abraham! Show mercy to me and send Lazarus to cool my tongue with a taste of water from his fingertip. The flames here are agonizing!’

‘Child,’ Abraham replied, ‘remember all the good things in life that you had, while Lazarus had only bad? He is getting his share of comfort now, while you are in torment. In addition, there is a huge chasm between us and you, so that even if someone wanted to travel to the other side they couldn’t.’

‘Father,’ the wealthy man begged ‘then please send him to my father’s house to warn my five brothers so they won’t end up here.’

Abraham said ‘They should listen to Moses and the prophets.’

The wealthy man then said ‘No, father Abraham, they will repent if someone comes to them from the dead.’

And Abraham countered “If they ignore Moses and the prophets, they will ignore someone who comes back to life.'”

LK 16:19-31

The genealogy of Jesus Christ

Jesus was about thirty years old when he began to teach, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Jesus, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Symeon, the son of Judas, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

LK 3:23-38

Jesus and Abraham

The Jewish leaders said “Aren’t you a Samaritan? Aren’t you possessed?”

Jesus replied “I’m not possessed. In fact, I show honor to my Father, and you dishonor me. I’m not trying to gain any glory for myself. God wants me to have glory, and is the One who judges. I assure you: if you follow my teaching you’ll never die.”

Then the Jewish leaders said “Now we know you are possessed. Abraham and all the prophets have all died. You say ‘If you follow my teaching you’ll never die’. Are you more powerful than our father Abraham who has died, along with all the prophets? Who do you think you are?”

Jesus answered “If I praise myself, it means nothing. My Father – the One you claim is your God, He is the One who praises me. You don’t know him, but I do. If I said I don’t know him, I’d be a liar just like you. But I do know him, and I do what he says. Your father Abraham eagerly looked forward to these days – he rejoiced to see it come.”

The Jewish leaders said “You aren’t even 50 years old yet, and you’re saying you’ve seen Abraham?!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied “before Abraham ever existed, I am.”

When they heard this, the leaders picked up stones to hurl at him, but Jesus was out of their sight and he left the Temple complex.

JN 8:48-59

Truth and Freedom

Many people believed that Jesus was the Messiah while he was saying these things. Jesus said to them “If you follow my message, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and it will free you.”

Some people in the crowd said “We are descended from Abraham. We’ve never been anybody’s slave. How can you say we will be freed?”

Jesus replied “This is the truth: everyone who sins is a slave to it. A slave doesn’t always stay in his master’s house, but a son does. Therefore if the Son releases you, you are free to go. I know that you are descended from Abraham, yet you want to kill me because you don’t welcome my message. I speak about what my Father has shown me. You do what your father has told you.”

“Abraham is our father!” they exclaimed.

Jesus said “If Abraham really was your father, you’d do what he did. But you are trying to kill me – someone who has spoken the truth of God that he heard. Abraham didn’t act like this! You are acting just like your father.”

“We aren’t illegitimate,” they replied. “Our father is the One God.”

“If God really were your father,” Jesus replied, “you would love me because I have come from God. God sent me – I’m not here on my own. Why can’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t hear my message. Your father is the Devil, and you want to do what he wants. From the very beginning he was a murderer and he hates the truth because he is full of lies. It is his very nature to lie, because he lies all the time and creates liars. Yet you don’t believe me because I tell the truth. Which one of you can accuse me of any sin? Why don’t you believe me when I tell you the truth? Anyone who is from God hears God’s word. You don’t hear what I have to say because you are not God’s children.”

JN 8:30-47

Gold as God? Good as Gold?

Many of us are familiar with the story of the golden calf. This is what some of the Israelites had talked Moses’ brother Aaron, the high priest, into making for them to worship. A lot of time had passed from when Moses went up Mt. Sinai to get the tablets from God, and they wanted something to worship.

But notice what happens when Moses comes down from the mountain. He doesn’t just get angry and smash the tablets.

Exodus 32:19-20 (HCSB)
19 As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became enraged and threw the tablets out of his hands, smashing them at the base of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf they had made, burned it up, and ground it to powder. He scattered the powder over the surface of the water and forced the Israelites to drink the water.

He made them drink the gold. It became part of them. How long does that last? Does it pass on, from generation to generation? What does it mean to have this reminder of not having faith in God as part of you, in your body?

In what other ways have people in Biblical times not trusted in God?

What God says is going to happen always happens – but it rarely happens quickly. God’s timetable is not the same as ours. God told Abraham that he was going to be a father in his old age, and Abraham believed him for a while. Time passed, and still Sarah wasn’t pregnant. She gave him her handmaiden as a surrogate, and he got her pregnant. They took matters into their own hands, and trouble resulted. They didn’t have faith that God was going to do what God said. It was over 12 years later that Sarah got pregnant by Abraham and had Isaac.

King Saul didn’t wait for the prophet Samuel to make the proper offering, and did it himself. This caused God to get very angry and remove the mantle of kingship from him.

What ways do we not wait and trust in God? Is the gold in us? Is taking matters into our own hands just hardwired into our DNA?

This is a test. This is something we can overcome, but not on our own. If we give it to God and ask for the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome our basic tendency to rush things and do things on our own. We can overcome if we yoke ourselves to God.

Nothing is an accident

I’ve written before about how the Lord told Abraham that he was going to be the father of many people. Abraham didn’t do things on the Lord’s time, but tried to get things going on his own.

Abraham and Sarah (named Abram and Sarai at that time) were very old. It didn’t look like they were going to have children, so they tried to figure out a way that they were going to fulfill God’s promise that they were going to be the parents of a multitude.

Genesis 16:1-3
Now Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; 2 and Sar′ai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar′ai. 3 So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.

It was fourteen years later that the Lord allowed Sarah to become pregnant and give birth to Isaac. Fourteen years! Can you imagine? They were sure that God’s promise was going to happen anytime. They were just getting older and older. It still wasn’t happening. But we forget that God’s ways are not our ways. We forget that God knows everything – and if God says something is going to happen, then it will.

Meanwhile, Ishmael was there. Was he an accident – or part of God’s plan? The Lord has a way of making things NOT happen if they aren’t supposed to happen. Let’s look at two examples.

Genesis 20:1-7
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abim′elech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abim′elech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abim′elech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, wilt thou slay an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours.”

God prevented the king from getting into trouble. Abraham said that Sarah was his sister to protect her, but it didn’t work. God stepped in and prevented a problem.

Then we have this story.

Numbers 22:21-35
21 So Balaam rose in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the ass, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the ass, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall, and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the ass with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the ass, “Because you have made sport of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the ass said to Balaam, “Am I not your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.” 31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your ass these three times? Behold, I have come forth to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me; 33 and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have slain you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that thou didst stand in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in thy sight, I will go back again.” 35 And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

In this case, the Lord prevented someone from going the wrong way by sending an angel to stop him.

So if we aren’t supposed to do something, God will get in the way and let us know. Sure, the king could have gone ahead and taken Sarah as his wife. Sure, Balaam could have gotten off the donkey and walked around the angel.

But notice – nothing stopped Abraham from having a child with Hagar. There was no warning, no angel sent. So what looks like a human way of solving a situation is much more than that. God wanted Ishmael to be born, even though he was prophesied to be constantly fighting.

When Hagar found that she was pregnant, she was rude to Sarah, and Sarah kicked her out. This is way out in the desert, with nobody else around. This was a death sentence. Alone, upset, Hagar cried out for help and the Lord sent an angel. The angel told her to return to Sarah and submit to her.

Genesis 16:10-12
10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ish′mael; because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

So even though it doesn’t sound like it is part of God’s plan to have someone constantly fighting – it is. The Lord didn’t send any warning to stop it happening. So we have to accept it.