An interesting bunch of readings before us today as Jacob legs it from Laban (remember the dodgy Father-in-Law?) and as he approaches home is afraid of Esau (whose Birthright he pinched) he sets up two camps so if there's 'a bit of bother' he can escape with one intact (shrewd or dodgy, which is this man??) and sends the women and children first (always a good idea at sea too as sharks won't eat if they'd been well fed ;-) )!!
Then he bumps into a man with who he wrestles all night and, eventually, the man strikes out and dislocates Jacob's hip and then agrees to bless the tenacious Jacob, changing his name in the process to Israel (he strives with God - or God strives) and naming the place Peniel (the face of God). Here we have rampantly dodgy Jacob getting a blessing!
Even here we find God blessing when perhaps He should be dishing out a thumping (now that's worthy of a hallelujah I reckon).
Jacob has sought peace, prayed to God for deliverance and returned, true to type, to a bit of dodgy dealing (don't you just love the patriarchs?) and then he realises that without God's intervention he is doomed- and this is where He and God begin to really do business and this is where Israel is made real.
Perhaps we, like Jacob, look to God and pray great prayers and the like but also have a rich vein of dodgy dealing and hypocrisy within us. Perhaps today we find ourselves in a place where it's time to stop the posing and gets to grips with God. Perhaps, like Jacob, it's time to out in the hours with God to find a real result that, being from God lasts, even when we know we may well be fickle and flawed.
Sadly the Romans reading is cut just a little short, for if it continued just a little longer it would have given us these words to ponder:
'For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.'
And we like those who, perhaps foolishly, committed their time and remained where Jesus was (in the wilderness) and found themselves fed with physical food (along the spiritual stuff from Jesus) by the disciples. The people are blessed and fed, the disciples are blessed and witnesses to something miraculous and Jesus, overseeing the whole thing sees everyone's needs (physical and spiritual) wonderfully met.
So are you in a wilderness place today? If so, as it says in the Psalm (and displayed in our readings) that if you call upon the Lord then He will answer you and meet your needs according to His love and will be salvation and refuge for us.
Are our lives taken up with keeping God's laws or are we, like Jacob, looking holy but living in some degree of dodginess? If the answer is 'Yes' then we need to come to God and wrestle with Him, face-to-face, and let Him bless us (despite us).
Do we have our hearts set on God and what it means to follow Jesus, the Christ?
Israel is more than just those descended from him (Jacob as was) it is those who live according to God's word and because of Jesus, God's living word. Sadly many Christian live in the belief that having the name 'Christian' is enough - but it's more than wearing a fish or going to your local 'holy huddle' gathering - it's about something spiritual (and I know I struggle here without God's Holy Spirit living and guiding me).
So today the present might be hopeless - we might find ourselves in the wilderness- we might find ourselves returning to type when the chips are down (lying, cheating and worse).
BUT HOPE IS AT HAND - JUST LOOK AT JACOB!!!
Mighty to save - Hillsong
you give us gifts and make them grow: though our faith is small as mustard seed, make it grow to your glory and the flourishing of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
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. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 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.’ 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.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint; listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips. Let my vindication come forth from your presence; let your eyes behold what is right. Weigh my heart, examine me by night, refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.
My mouth does not trespass for earthly rewards; I have heeded the words of your lips. My footsteps hold fast in the ways of your commandments; my feet have not stumbled in your paths. I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me, and listen to my words. Show me your marvellous loving-kindness, O Saviour of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.
As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness; when I awake and behold your likeness, I shall be satisfied.
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit - I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Post Communion Prayer
Lord God, whose Son is the true vine and the source of life,
ever giving himself that the world may live:
may we so receive within ourselves the power of his death and passion
that, in his saving cup,
we may share his glory and be made perfect in his love;
for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever.
Nada te turbe