Summary: Jacob wrestles with God and names the place "Peniel," meaning "face of God". Each of us needs our own "Peniel," a place to meet God. God gives us such a place, the Holy Bible.
Talk about the courage to suffer:
A first-grade teacher seated her students in a circle. She asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. One by one, each child got up and announced, "I’d like to be a nurse like my mother," or "I want to be a banker like my father," or "I want to be a teacher like you, Miss Smith."
The last child to speak was the most shy and timid little boy in the class. He said, "When I get big, I’m going to be a lion tamer in the circus. I’m going to face those animals with my whip and chair and make them leap through hoops of fire and obey all of my commands."
Seeing the disbelieving looks on the faces of his classmates that he could ever act so boldly or bravely, he was quick to reassure them, "Well, of course, I’ll have my mother with me."
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at some central figures of the OT, Abram, later named Abraham one of his sons, Isaac and last week we began to at Jacob. We talked about some of the similarities between the unknowns of Abrahams life, and those of Jesus.
We discovered that as Abram, he fathered a son by his wife’s servant Hagar, and whose name is Ishmael. Just after that event, God changed Abram name from Abram (Father of your native land) to Abraham (Father of the multitudes) and, as Abraham, at age around 100 yrs, Abraham became the father of Isaac.
And of course, as we explored the story of Abraham and Isaac, we discovered what were for most of us, some surprising facts; for one, the age of Isaac. He was not the young boy as he is most often depicted in religious paintings. He was, the best evidence shows, a mature man of about 37 yrs! And, I think we made a good case to interpret the story of Isaac’s potential sacrifice and God’s intervention as more than a test of Abraham’s love for God, trust of God and righteousness. Could we not agree that we can also interpret that story as a demonstration of God’s intense love for Abraham, and mankind as to stop Abraham before plunging the knife because God never intended to have Abraham endure the pain of sacrificing his son. Instead, God sent HIS only Son, Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice. I believe we can also see from this story, it is never, has never been in God’s plan for us to suffer such tragic losses. That is not to say we don’t suffer those kinds of losses, but when we do, God suffers with us, not because He planned our loss, but because He knows the pain of loss.
We saw that, Abram passed his wife Sari off as his sister to avoid, in his mind, being killed, by the Egyptians when he fled to Egypt because of a famine. We saw Isaac doing the same thing, passing off his wife as his sister when he encounters Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, again to avoid in his mind, his death.
Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, like Abram’s wife, was barren. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife and she became pregnant with twin boys. Scripture tells us they jostled with each other within her womb. When they were born, the first son was red and his body hairy and so they named him Esau…which means….hairy. The second boy was born grasping the heel of his brother, and so they named him Jacob… which means he grasps the heel, or figuratively, he deceives.
From our reading last week, we can consider Jacob a natural man vs. a Godly man. He looked only to his own instincts to interpret life. As we read Jacob’s story he had made a mess of things. He’s greedy, self-serving and it seems, without much of a conscience. He cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright, deceived his blind old father into giving him the blessing meant for Esau, and last week we found him on his way to stay with relatives because things were way too hot for him back home. Still, God sees something valuable in this schemer that apparently even Jacob himself didn’t perceive.
We read about and talked about Jacob’s dream… the stairway and Heaven’s Open Door. Jacob’s dream reminded him of the realities that God’s presence encompasses much more than what he could SEE around him! I pray this story reminds us of God’s presence around us always. That is more that we see with OUR eyes also. There is an eternal dimension --- heaven --- that exists as well, and it is closely connected to the life we know.