Genesis 32:13-34:31 ~ Matthew 11:7-30 ~ Psalm 14:1-7 ~ Proverbs 3:19-20
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Old Testament - Genesis Chapter 32 closes out with Jacob in a wrestling match! With God? Or an angel? Or God in the form of an angel? Or Jesus preincarnate? Or Michael the archangel? Biblical commentaries offer a few different views on just who Jacob was wrestling with. Clearly, God ordained whomever was wrestling with Jacob and I do think it could have been God himself in an angelic form. It was obviously not God himself in all of his glory - because He would have whooped Jacob in a wrestling match! :) We do see the quick & fierce power of whom Jacob was wrestling in verse 25 when "he struck Jacob's hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket." Please do let me know your thoughts on who Jacob was wrestling this night in the Comments section below?
This painting above from 1855 by Gustave Dore of Jacob wrestling with the angel is one of my favorites! I think it says so much about our faith journey at various stages. I don't know about you, but there are times when I have wrestled with God over aspects of my faith. It happens at various stages and seasons – sometimes unexpectedly. And I think it is okay to enter into these wrestling matches as long as we ultimately realize that God is in control and we are not. God is going to win the wrestling match. We will not. But, sometimes the wrestling match – the struggle – is something we need to go through to move forward in our faith. Sometimes we need to wrestle with God before we enter the Promised Land, as was the case with Jacob returning to Canaan with his family in our readings in Genesis this week coming up. Below is the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix's "Jacob Wrestling the Angel" from the year 1861:
This is what I love about the chapters of Genesis that we are entering into with our readings now – we read about imperfect humans, not so unlike us, trying to make sense of their lives and their relationships with God. Sound like anyone you know? :) In this early part of the Bible we are shown a God who is willing to wrestle with us, if we need to wrestle. A God who gives us dreams that end up saving a family that will soon become a nation that will save the world. A God who moves us into places and lands and situations to where we need to be to fulfill His perfect will. And in the midst of all of this – we read about imperfect humans that make mistakes. And God still can work through those mistakes and redeem mankind. This is incredible narrative in our readings coming up this next week in Genesis! Below is Rembrandt's "Jacob's Struggle with the Angel" from the year 1659: (can you tell by all the paintings I'm posting up here that I'm fascinated by this wrestling match... :)
Chapter 32 verse 28 is an incredibly important verse: ""Your name will no longer be Jacob," the man told him. "It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won."" This is interesting to know! Israel means "God struggles" or "one who struggles with God." It is also interesting I think to see that God gives people new names at times in the Bible, and the names are reflective of their new lives with God. Abram becomes Abraham. Sarai becomes Sarah. Jacob becomes Israel. Simon becomes Peter. Okay, no more wrestling images... :) Below is stained glass artwork from the Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy of the angel blessing Jacob:
Today's Genesis chapter 32 starts off with Jacob preparing presents for Esau. Overall, I thought this was pretty smart. I suppose in some ways you could look at all this as bribery... :) But, I guess I thought Jacob was demonstrating some good business / political principles here. This is something that I do struggle with at times in my own life - a balance of utilizing good business principles versus relying completely on God. I suppose you could argue that Jacob should have simply relied on God to prepare the way for Jacob's meeting with Esau. And this would be a good argument - Esau had become wealthy over the years himself, and seemed to have forgiven Jacob before they met up here again. Though, if you were in Jacob's shoes, think about how you would have had no way of knowing this... and think about the last time you saw your brother 20 years earlier and how that ended... I do think that while clearly our reliance should be on God and His work and providence first and foremost, I believe God also wants us to be actively partnering with him. So, I think after we first pray to God about a situation, we should also do the work that we are called to do by God for the situation as well. This is where I think good business / political principles can come into play - as long as they are clearly aligned with the will of God. Again - a fine line to walk, and a line that can only be blessed by the Holy Spirit. We cannot walk this line on our own power or smarts. Do you pray to God to show you the work He wants you to do in your life? Do you also ask God to show you the work to be done in various situations that arise in your life? Do you enjoy working with God?
In Genesis chapter 34 Jacob and Esau meet again! I found verses 5 through 7 interesting. Jacob presents his concubines and sons first - then Leah and sons - and then Rachel and Joseph. I read a commentary that he was keeping his favorite wife and son back, as the last presentation to Esau - just in case anything should go wrong with Esau and the introductions of his family... Meaning, if any violence erupted - Rachel and Joseph would hopefully be removed from it. Below is an image of Esau and Jacob meeting in verse 4: "Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him affectionately and kissed him. Both of them were in tears." Below is Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens' "The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau," from the year 1624:
In verse 14 of this chapter we see Jacob likely being deceitful again: "So go on ahead of us. We will follow at our own pace and meet you at Seir." He did not follow Esau and meet him at Seir, as we will see in the next chapter. And commentaries suggest Jacob never intended to go to Seir. Below is a pretty good map showing you where some events in this chapter took place: Peniel, where Jacob wrestled with God - Shechem in chapter 34 - and Seir is basically where you see Edom on the map, just south of the Promised Land.
Genesis chapter 34 is a chapter where we see a lot of violence... It is interesting to note that the name of God ends chapter 33 and begins chapter 35, but is completely absent from this chapter! The NIV Study Bible has this note about this chapter: "Jacob is now confronted in the promised land with the danger of being absorbed by the native Canaanites (verses 9 & 16), and then with the threat of their hostility after his sons' vengeful act (verse 30). These were dangers Israel constantly faced from the peoples around them - either absorption or hostility, both of which are perpetual threats to God's people." As there is so much going on in this chapter, I highly encourage you to spend a few minutes with Bob Deffinbaugh at bible.org for his commentary on Genesis chapter 34 - surf down to about mid-page at this link for ch. 34. Below is a 13th century French miniature painting of Simeon and Levi taking Dinah from Shechem:
New Testament - Matthew chapter 11 opens up with Jesus teaching about the importance of John the Baptist's ministry and the transitioning from the old covenant to the new covenant, which can be seen in verse 13: "For before John came, all the teachings of the Scriptures looked forward to this present time." Basically, this could be rephrased that all of the Old Testament was prophesying about the coming of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven. Do you believe this to be true about the Old Testament?
Verse 20 is a convicting one! "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities where he had done most of his miracles, because they hadn't turned from their sins and turned to God." This is something for each of us to really examine ourselves on. Have we heard Jesus' teachings? Do we believe in his miracles? And in light of these things - have we turned from our sins? And have we turned to God?
Today we read Matthew chapter 11 verses 28 through 30, which are amazing verses for each of us to consider, particularly if we are struggling with the burden of sin or the burden of worry or the burden of regrets (and the list could go on - you can fill in the blank for your life): "Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." Is there something in your life that you are carrying on your own that is weighing you down? Do you want relief and rest from this thing that you are carrying? Will you give it over to Jesus? Will you seek rest for your soul in Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus can give you rest? Will you accept Jesus' offer of rest this very day?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 11 titled "The Offer of Spiritual Rest" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 14 could be seen at first glance as a discouraging Psalm...
Particularly as we look at verse 3: "But no, all have turned away from God; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not even one!" I think it is important to keep in mind that there is truth in this verse (particularly if we ever start thinking we're "good" and others around us are not...). But also I think it's good to keep in mind that this verse was written before Jesus came to the earth. Jesus was perfect. And through His resurrection we are called toward greater holiness and ultimately perfect goodness once we meet Jesus face to face in heaven. Jesus gives us the hope spoken of in the closing of this Psalm in verse 7: "Oh, that salvation would come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel! For when the LORD restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice." Do you recognize the salvation that has come to us? Are you shouting for joy for this salvation? Are you rejoicing!?
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 3 verses 19 & 20 are so truthful. If you look at the amazing way in which nature works, I don't see how you cannot believe in God. Could all of this majesty around us be just random chance? Do you believe as verse 19 teaches us: "By wisdom the LORD founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens"? Do you believe in intelligent design?
Worship God: Today's readings in Genesis, Matthew, Psalms and Proverbs today all reminded me of the Aaron Shust song "To God Alone:"
Have you given God alone all of your glory? Click here for Glory!
Please join me in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that Jesus would give you rest. Pray for Jesus to take all of your burdens. Pray for restoration in Jesus. Pray for your friends, neighbors, and co-workers that they too would come to Jesus, give Him their burdens, and rest.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Let's talk about my fascination with wrestling in today's post... :) What is your take on Jacob wrestling with the angel and then being blessed by the angel? Should Jacob have not wrestled / struggled with the angel / God? Should we in our lives today not wrestle / struggle with God? Or should we wrestle with matters of faith sometimes? As long as we know God will win the wrestling match - is it okay for us to enter into a wrestling match with God or no? Is there a faith-journey wrestling match in your past that you'd be willing to share with others? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!