Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Old Testament Passage – Wrestling with who were, are, and will become

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.” (Genesis 32:22-23)

Jacob was returning home, and he heard that Esau was coming to meet him. I imagine that all the memories of how he had treated Esau were coming back to him. And he thought, or assumed the recompense was coming. His first action was to protect all that was near and dear to him. Then, and only then, did Jacob prepare himself to face what was coming.

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (Verse 24)

I can imagine that scene; can you beloved reader? Out the dark a figure emerges, and before Jacob can discern who it is, he is tackled. He tries to prevail against the man but they seem to be evenly matched. But Jacob does not back down. He’s future is waiting for him on the other side; all his hopes, and his fears. He grips one as closely as the other.

“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.” (Verses 25 – 26)

Did Jacob know who he was wrestling with? Do we know? Was it an image or incarnation of the Divine? Or was it merely his own hopes and fears that he needed to grapple with and come to terms with. So many years he worked hard to achieve all that he dreamed of. And he would not let go until he has achieved all that he wanted and felt he deserved.

“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.” (Verses 27 – 31)

Jacob was in the line of men who were inheritors of the promise and covenant of the Divine. Grandpa Abraham first heard and answered the call. Then Father Isaac carried forth the promise of becoming a great nation. Jacob took from his brother Esau that lineage and literally ran with it – although he is returning home now. Of all the struggles Jacob had to endure, wrestling and proving himself to this mysterious stranger (Mysterious Stranger?) was the greatest challenge. And he prevailed. We, beloved reader, may not wrestle literally with our destiny – but we most assuredly wrestle figuratively. For some of us, the wrestling and struggling never seems to be over. The thing to remember though, is that the Divine really is on our side! Selah!