Monday, July 28, 2014

JUST CALL ME JACOB


Jacob is an interesting character.

One meaning for his name is "leg puller."

Of course this doesn't mean that Jacob was a practical joker.

Although, he and his mom pulled a pretty good *switcheroo* on good ol' Isaac.  (Which seemed like a terrible thing to do to an old blind man, right?!)

And do I even need to mention the whole fiasco where Esau traded his birthright for a yummy bowl of stew?  (Though I think Esau takes the blame on this one).

Maybe Jacob wasn't a practical joker, but he was rather sneaky, don't you think?

However, I do love how the Bible doesn't pull any punches when writing about some of our beloved characters.

This is the family tree from which the Messiah will be born??

God is outrageous, if nothing else!!


So, Jacob.

The above facts are interesting indeed.

But the reason I like Jacob is for another reason.

He wrestled.

You know, the whole scene with Jacob's nighttime wrestling match is a bit mysterious.  And yet, every time I read the account, I strangely feel this inner sense of excitement, of anticipation.  Almost unwillingly, a smile sneaks to my face.

Why, I wonder?

Part of it is definitely because I feel that my faith journey is this sort of wrestling match.  A match in which my faith battles my feelings, in which I strive to hold on to it in spite of life's adverse circumstances.

But, there's something else.

It's this – the whole scene is rather intimate.

One-on-one with God

(Or the pre-incarnate Jesus, or an angel, or at the very least, a God-ordained emissary sent with a purpose.  Commentaries vary on this opinion – and in the end, to my thoughts, it doesn't perhaps matter…)

I like the idea of a wrestling faith, for it fits the way I am.

But this year, the Year of JOY, I am finding that the struggle is evolving into something different.

Instead of struggling against God, I am actually striving to find Him.


So, let's discuss this – and I'm going to talk about it in two parts.  For this is what I see – the fight and the aftermath.


The Fight:

The word struggle implies making great physical effort to fight.  To make a valiant effort to overcome difficulties.  To writhe to escape.  To thrash about.

Yup, that describes what this faith wrestling has felt like.

In the Biblical account of Jacob's story, we can see our own struggles against fears, darkness, loneliness, inadequacy, vulnerability.  We can identify with Jacob's empty feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

But when we strive in our own might, our own power fails.

I can't tell you how much I have wanted to escape the turmoil that this year has brought.  I am tired of troubles, and wearied by contending for a good "faith attitude" in the midst of them.

I honestly feel like my spirit has been in a *winner-take-all* tussle with God.

Do I want to win?

Well, yeah, sometimes I think I do – IF it means having a restful respite from all the tough stuff for a while.  (Writhing to escape?  Yes, a perfect description…)

But if it means losing something from God, then no…

And that is where the pivot point is happening for me.


In my mind, there's two kinds of surrender.  There's lying on the wrestling mat, pinned underneath the overpowering hand of God and crying out, "OK, OK, 'Uncle,' you win!" – which is a begrudging *giving up* concession to the greater power of His might.

And then there's the other kind.  The kind that says, "Lord, I cannot fight You and win.  I don't want the fight anymore, I want You."

Frederick Buechner, one of the most read authors by Christian audiences, characterizes Jacob's divine encounter as the "magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God."

Yes, that's it.

When Jacob fought God in his own strength, he was only able to forestall God's intended purpose towards him.

But if God had chosen to unleash His full power, Jacob would have been crushed.  So, somewhere in the early hours of the morning, something changes in Jacob.

This is where the second part begins.


The Aftermath:

Somewhere along the line, Jacob's life and character moves from reliance on self to reliance on God – the One who moves from "divine Antagonist to Friend."

Can you imagine what it would be like if God fought against us with all of His might?

(Don't – it's scary!)

But, just as He did with Jacob, God mercifully restrains His hand.  His way of overcoming us is through love.  Some have said that the only way we can "defeat" God is to reject Him.

Well, though not a defeat in the true sense of the word, it is a way to thwart Him.

God, our perfect God of perfect love, wants to win us by our choosing to yield to Him.

This is what the wrestling is about.  We must be weaned from our dependence on self.  It must be broken, hobbled, and defeated.  Only then, when we accurately perceive our weakness – only then, can we grab onto the Hand that will infuse us with His mighty strength and power.


This is what I am learning about my wrestling.

Though I desperately want the *bad* to stop – it isn't worth it to me to lose the blessing in order to achieve it.

And what's the blessing?

Knowing God – in an ever more intimate way.

This is where my turning point has come – I am moving from wrestling to wanting more of God.

This is the turning point for Jacob, too.  I find this passage startling in its account:

"But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
'What is your name?' the man asked.
He replied, 'Jacob.'
…'Please tell me your name,' Jacob said.
'Why do you want to know my name?' the man replied.
Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means "face of God"), for he said, 'I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.'"  (From Genesis 32, NLT)


It was at this point that Jacob was finally capable of receiving the full blessing from God.  Emptied of himself, weak in his exhaustion, awash in his own powerlessness, he finally recognizes God.

A God who has lovingly allowed the wrestling until Jacob yielded.


A commentary I read said it this way:

"…he needed to have his heart thus cleansed and softened, and then opened wide by panting desire for the presence and benediction of God; he needed to be made conscious of his new standing, and of the higher life budding within him; he needed to experience the yearning for a closer vision of the face, a deeper knowledge of the name – and then it was possible to pour into his heart a tenderness and fullness of blessing which before there had been no room to receive, and which now answered in sweetest fashion the else unanswered desire, 'Tell me, I pray thee, Thy name.'"

(Alexander MacLaren, commentary)


"…panting desire for the presence and benediction of God…"

Do you love this phrase as much as I do?!

Yes, it describes it exactly – I pant for Him, thirst for Him, hunger for Him, feel like I will literally die if I can't feel Him close.

I so need Him.

And it is this desire that is the goal of God all along.  He desires that we desire Himwith "all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind."

We can be filled with God only when we are emptied of ourselves.  For this is when we are finally capable of longing for Him fully, a desire that God cannot help but satisfy, for we were made for Him.


God blessed Jacob only after Jacob asked to know His Name.

This has become the deep cry of my heart, too:

"Bless me, Lord, for I would know You."

As Charles Wesley put it, in his grand hymn on this incident ("Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown"):

"Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair…
Wrestling I will not let Thee go Till I Thy name, Thy nature know…

My strength is gone, my nature dies, I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive…and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know."


What beauty there is in our refrain, "I will not let You go."

Our lives were never meant to be easy.  And this is especially true when we attempt to "do life" in our own strength.

But despite our trials and tribulations, we are never without God's presence. 

His blessing ever follows the messy and chaotic struggle.


Wrestling matches lead to intimate encounters.

And when we cling to Him, the victory belongs to Him...and to us.





I will lift up my eyes to the mountains,
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip,
The LORD is your keeper.
He will keep your soul.
He will guard your going out
and your coming in,
From this time forth
and forever.

























"Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won.  He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him.  There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him – the LORD God of Heaven's Armies, the LORD is his name!" (Hosea 12:4, NLT) 

"Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day has broken.'  But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" (Genesis 32:26, ESV)


"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?

...Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you...

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me...

I say to God my Rock, 'Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?'  My bones suffer mortal agony...

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." 
(From Psalm 42, NIV)


"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1, ESV)

"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84:2, NIV)

"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you." (Isaiah 26:9, NIV)

"I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land...Answer me quickly, O LORD!  My spirit fails!  Hide not your face from me..." (Psalm 143:6-7, ESV)

"'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'" (Matthew 5:6, NIV)

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." (Psalm 107:9, ESV)

"'For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.'" (Jeremiah 31:25, ESV)

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power." (Isaiah 40:29, NASB)

"...he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.   For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12, ESV)



How do you identify with Jacob?  What are you learning in the wrestling?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAY, FAITH BARISTA, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, EVERYDAY JESUS, GRACE AT HOMEHEARTS AT HOME, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, THE FRIDAY FIVE, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, STILL SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, WEEKEND BREW, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, GIVE ME GRACE, SUNDAY STILLNESS



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

37 comments:

  1. Sharon, this is such a beautifully written and well thought out devotional writing describing how we each have found ourselves in the struggling at some point in our walk with God. I really enjoyed this one!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As I was reading your post, I was struck by a recurring theme in Jacob's story.

    Jacob deperately desired blessing! It's a recurring theme throughout his life.

    At birth, he grasped his twin's heel, trying to arrive first to receive the blessing of the first-born.

    Later he convinced Esau to sell his birthright. Then, with his mother's help, he fooled his father into giving him Esau's blessing.

    Then, in the mysterious scene of wrestling with the angel, again, he refused to let go until he had received a blessing.

    Maybe this is what I like most about Jacob...he understood the value of blessing and relentlessly pursued it.

    May I pursue God's blessing with such single-minded focus!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this insight, Joe! May we all be as passionate to be blessed.

      Delete
  3. I love that Buechner quote, Sharon. Do you know which book of his it is from? I would love to read all of his thoughts on Jacob's struggle. I've been meditating on this scripture this week too and your thoughts are so helpful. I'm always fascinated with the residual limp. The wound that is a blessing, a reminder of that spiritual tussle. So much richness in that story. Thanks for taking me there!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Blessings Jacob-Sharon ... (I'm calling you as you entitled this "Just Call Me Jacob") cuz you are ever so clever in relating this character to us and indeed the "wrestling" matches in our lives that deal us mighty blow after blow yet once again you triumphantly carve the way for us to seek God's truth and application of His Word to our lives by the unique gift you have in turning the tale into something we need to learn, grow and hear in a fresh, new way ... as I nod a long reading nugget after nugget of Godly inspiration. I was down for the count far too often, "pinned" against the trials and tribulations once if not many times in my life and could have used this wisdom or Jacobs ... to not let go until I receive the blessing. I'm guessing we fatigue or give up way ahead of that blessing (oh yes, the joy of it) instead of waiting. I'm so thankful the Champion of this wrestling match is JESUS! That He is my Victor and wears the Crown ever so deservingly. Identify in my inheritance and God's many blessings even when I don't deserve it or did not wrestle on to the grand ole finish, He does and wills me to in His strength when I'm not able ... (whew) ... Great verse, quotes, study, (even a song) and so well written, Jacob- Sharon (me thinkest ye have learnt this one well-so stop wrestling and grab hold of the victory won)! You got it! Match over! God is matchless in everything ... Wonderful verses with such promise and encouragement! Thanks! May I remain yielded to the King of kings with you!

    Love and hugs,
    Peggy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here are a few video clips of Beth Moore that I came across

      "Wrestling for the Blessing"

      Shocking Peace of God

      Wrestling with God brings us closer to His love - originally aired on Life Today on Sept. 11, 2013!

      Love to you Sharon Jacob... Peggy

      Delete
  5. I'm so thankful that God allows us to wrestle with him when he could easily defeat us in a split second. It's in that wrestling that I've learned to love his patience and his grace more and more. Thanks for sharing so openly, Sharon. It helps us all when we can truly be ourselves in this safe place.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was great, Sharon, I hadn't thought of Jacob's wrestling in the way you described it, but it totally makes sense that he gave in for more of God and less of him. I think I want to be just like him too; not self reliance on myself but getting to know God more! Lots of food for thought here that I'll be thinking about :)

    betty

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, Sharon! I am in tears! What a beautiful post. My heart resonated all the way through...I can FEEL that same, intense desire Jacob must have felt that night. What am I learning in the wrestling? So many lessons, my friend. I feel that the wrestling is well worth the lessons...and so worth the closer look I am getting of Jesus' face and character. This post really moved me and made me think about this passage of Scripture in a new way. Thank you for your sharing what God lays upon your heart. This year has been tough for you, but oh, the nuggets of truth you are gleaning from your suffering....so thankful you share those nuggets with us here.

    ReplyDelete
  8. God didn't pull any punches when he allowed stories of the saints of old to be shown for who and what they were - just human. God knows our weakness and yet he loves us. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great food for thought, Sharon. I never really thought about what life would be like if God WEREN'T pulling His punches. Thanks for the insights!

    ReplyDelete
  10. When I saw the title I couldn't push my button fast enough to get here...I knew I could relate. You have nailed it. My 2013 was a year to end all years in struggles and yet, I also saw God show up in the most miraculous ways. This year...I think I am stunned from the struggle and haven't totally taken off my fighting gloves, because I keep thinking the next punch is coming. I am trying to rest and surrender. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like Jacob too. I like that he was desperate enough to hang on. I feel like that a lot. I couldn't handle life without Him. After you've had even one encounter with Him, the world becomes too cold, too cruel, too foreign to tolerate. So I hang on to Him, and hang on, and hang on some more... and invariably, He blesses me. He is mindful that we are but dust. I'm so thankful for a mighty God who meets us at the point of our need. Your post is beautiful; thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post Sharon. So many good thoughts on Jacob and his wrestling with God. This has met pondering.....meditating....on my own walk of course.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am so glad that God is so very patient with me when I struggle. Thankfully He knows my heart. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  14. "This is what the wrestling is about. We must be weaned from our dependence on self." YES! This makes me think of so many things in my life, but especially the whole situation with Craig's porn addiction. IT wasn't until God weaned me from my dependence on self that we really started moving anywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  15. How wonderful to be at this turning point..at the brink of another layer of the gospel...And this stopped me in my tracks, "And then there's the other kind. The kind that says, "Lord, I cannot fight You and win. I don't want the fight anymore, I want You." Here is where He can really reveal Himself . Praise God! Thanks for sharing this and for sharing your gift here.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wonderful post. I can read the story of Jacob wrestling with God over and over and over and never get tired of it. Maybe it's because I'm such a wrestler myself. I believe the mark of having wrestled with God was then and will always be that noticeable limp in our walk. I can't tell you how many times I have considered my own limp of faith and reflected on the wrestling that caused it.

    Right now, I would say that this Jacobette is a Jacob on Wheels. I'm well beyond limping. The current wrestle has rendered me basically unable to walk at all, and I'm sitting in a spiritual wheelchair.

    But just as my mom's physical walk is returning to her day by day, I am believing God that someday I will "rise up and walk" again too. Until then, I am trying to pay attention to where the Spirit is wheeling me.

    Wonderful and thoughtful post as always, Sharon. I'm so proud of you for sharing your gift. Sorry to be Drama Debbie this morning.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Really enjoyed this, Sharon. So glad I hopped over here today. This idea of our faith being a wrestling match - Yes, so have been there...oh, pride, I'm there now! What richness of thought and truth you've set before us...will come back to feast...and I'm tweeting this today. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Last week when I took a break from the blogging world I so missed visiting you because your messages are always wonderful. I look forward to them . . . I really, really do. I don't even know how to explain but they give me so much to ponder. Just good stuff . . . ALWAYS. So grateful for your heart to share your faith journey with us. Much love. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sharon, another helpful blog, you have such a good way of sharing things. Yes I associate with the wrestling match, it is tough sometimes, but good to be on the victory side.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great post, Sharon! I loved how you said that when we strive in our own strength we fail. So true! God's strength is so apparent in my weakness and I know I daily need Him. Though I wish it was different a lot of the time, I have fibromyalgia so I'm in pain constantly, but it has been incredible how it has taught me to surrender to Him- and He's been faithful. It is truly amazing to me how He uses us once we reach that point! Thanks for linking up!
    -S.L. Payne, uncommongrace.net

    ReplyDelete
  21. ""Lord, I cannot fight You and win. I don't want the fight anymore, I want You." - oh, yes - to be here - for me, for the rebels around me, how I want us all to understand this! Good meat here for the soul Sharon!

    ReplyDelete
  22. We can be filled with God only when we are emptied of ourselves. How true. Jacob is also one of my favorite characters, in fact he is my top favorite. I love his transformation from weakness to nobility. And this wrestling match is one story I know by heart. YET... there was an angle from which you wrote this story that I did not see before. That Jacob received the blessing only after he wanted to know the name of the One he was wrestling with. That was such a beautiful angle to the story I have known for years. You have thought about this post very well, dear friend. ANd I thank you for sharing your thoughts about it so beautifully, including the quotes from the commentaries, and most especially the Bible verses at the end of your post. What a blessing this post has been. I will surely have to come back to re-read it, for there are too many precious insights that I want to read again. Blessings,
    Lidia

    ReplyDelete
  23. I guess you could call me Jacob too for all the wrestling over my faith that I have done! Love that God hears our hearts and is willing to let us wrestle it. Thanks for sharing at Testimony Tuesday, Sharon!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I thought I've heard all of Charles Wesley's songs but this one is new to me. 'Till I thy name and nature know." I'm still learning the preciousness of God's name and the magnitude of His nature. This was a wonderful study, Sharon. ~Pamela

    ReplyDelete
  25. Like Jacob, we desperately seek blessings in our own strength--the flesh strives and manipulates to have its way. Wrestling with God, God had to bring Joseph to the end of himself. This is an excellent writing on Jacob and the comments really fill out the discussion. Visiting from Counting Blessings today.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ah, my Jacob sister Sharon. I totally get this. Sometimes I wrestle for God and other times I feel like I am wrestling WITH God. I love the way you put this. Every time I read you blog, I either laugh out loud or, like this post, I make a pondering HMMM sound out loud. You have a gift, my friend.

    Thanks for sharing this over at #EverydayJesus.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I find it so revealing of the fallen human condition that strives to be free of the struggles, only to find them the times that do the most for us in the way of wisdom and a closer walk with our Father.

    You wrote the heart of many, sister. Blessings to you and yours.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Leg puller???? Didn't know that. :). Beautifully written Sharon. I can so relate to Jacob especially that fight to hold on until I get what I want. And wanting a blessing from God is the best I think. Have a great weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  29. You've written some great posts, but this is, perhaps, your finest. It blessed me immensely.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Your journey toward intimacy is one we can all learn from. Your wisdom here and perspective is refreshing. I had to get to the end. I love this post and what you pull from scripture as it applies to your wrestling. Beautiful and encouraging! thank you

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sharon...my sister in the Lord...you post has left me sort of breathless with this sentence. " We must be weaned from our dependence on self. It must be broken, hobbled, and defeated. Only then, when we accurately perceive our weakness – only then, can we grab onto the Hand that will infuse us with His mighty strength and power."

    My mind goes back to the turning point in my life when I stopped wrestling against Him and started striving for Him. The peace that flooded my soul and I think for the first time I really understood the fullness of the Spirit. No fireworks went off, I did not speak in tongue but it changed my perception of God. He did become my friend...my best friend and I was in awe of Him and His power that He kept restrained to protect me. Beautiful, simple beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Dear Friend, I've skipped to comments before reading all of your post because I wanted to put in words my thoughts before they escaped me :) The wrestle for me has definitely been a wrestle with God. I've wrestled to have him give in to my wants and desires and have cried in despair when that hasn't happened. But I hope that somewhere in all of this, I have that surrendering moment (or have had that surrendering moment) when I say, "Lord, I cannot fight You and win. I don't want the fight anymore, I want You." I also loved Fred Buechner's quote: "magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God." That's where I want to be. Such peace and beauty! I'll chew on this for awhile. Now, I'll finish your excellent dissection and application of this piece of Scripture. This is truly insightful, Sharon.
    Blessings, Janis

    ReplyDelete
  33. I missed this last week, being at the conference. So powerful! Great insight! I, too, know this wrestling well. I love that you're now wrestling towards Joy rather than wrestling to escape. I shall have to think on that.

    Bless you, friend. Your ruminations are part of my looked for devotional reading each week.
    Joy,
    Kathy

    ReplyDelete
  34. I completely identify with the wrestling with God. It can be a huge battle, but I love that God allows us to question, grieve and be just, plain mad. Loved this quote: "Instead of struggling against God, I am actually striving to find Him." Beautifully said! Thanks for always sharing your heart at the Saturday Soiree Blog Party!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I have recently come out of a mighty period of depression.
    While in my depression I could not see a way out.
    Looking back on it I can see God was with me the whole way.
    Today I have an intimate relationship with my Savior and Lord Jesus.

    ReplyDelete

"So [I] have been greatly encouraged in the midst of [my] troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives [me] new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How [I] thank God for you!" (1 Thessalonians 3:7-9)

Thanks for your comments - it is such a joy to be sharing my journey with friends like YOU!