Home > Lent, Piles in my office, Prayer > Fighting With God and Winning. Reminiscere 2018. Genesis 32:22-32

Fighting With God and Winning. Reminiscere 2018. Genesis 32:22-32


jacob wrestling2Reminiscere, the Second Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Genesis 32:22-32

February 25, 2018

Fighting with God and Winning

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

This isn’t the first time Jacob was after a blessing, but it was the first time he fought for it honestly.  This time Jacob didn’t get the blessing with the help of his mother by deceit.  And it wasn’t his old man Isaac he had to get this blessing from, who could be deceived easily because he could barely see.  He had to get this blessing from a man who could see very well, who can see in the dark.  He had to get this blessing from a stranger who attacked him in the middle of the night.  It was totally crazy for Jacob to think he would get a blessing from this unknown assailant.  But Jacob seems to know who it is, doesn’t he?

 

Yes, Jacob knows who is trying to pin him.  He knows the same way that Jonah knew who was in the storm that was about to sink the ship on which he had booked passage in the opposite direction from the place God had told him to go.  He knows the same way that Adam and Eve knew whose voice it was calling for them when they had eaten the fruit God commanded them not to eat.  Jacob knew who was wrestling him the same way you know, but try not to know, who it is that is taking you by the neck in your distress and trial.  When Jacob asks His name, to confirm his suspicions, he says, Why do you ask My name?  (Gen 32: 29)  You know who it is.

 

The blessing Jacob gets from this person in the night is a new name.  The man says, What is your name?  And he said, Jacob.  Then He said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and men and have prevailed (Gen 32: 27-28).  Jacob means “he takes the heel” or “he cheats.”  He received the blessing of his father Isaac and the blessing of God through cheating and trickery.  But now he stood alone with God and fought, and he prevailed.  His new name is “He fights with God.”

 

That name became the name of God’s people.  God’s people strive and fight with Him.  Not the way that the Israelites did in the wilderness, complaining about the lack of food, water, doubting God’s presence, doubting God would bring them into the promised land.  That wasn’t fighting with God.  That was running away from Him.  The true Israelites, His true people, not only fight with the devil, as we heard about last week.  They strive with God and prevail over Him, like Jacob did.

 

The wrestling and fighting Christians do with God is called prayer.  And the way we win this wrestling match with God is we remind Him of His promises, of His Word.  That is what the name of this Sunday indicates—Reminiscere, “remember”, from the Psalm at the beginning of the service, Psalm 25, where David prays, “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.  Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”  (Ps. 25: 6-7)  We remind God of His promise, His covenant with us that He made with us when we were baptized, where He promised to be our God, and to remember our sins no more. Jacob told God, I will not let you go unless you bless me, he wasn’t trying to force God’s hand by the strength of his own arms.  That is impossible.  He overcame God with God’s own promise.  God cannot break His Word.  If He did that, He would stop being God.   

 

So now Jacob is coming back to the land in which he was born, with his wives, children, his flocks and his servants.  But now he has to meet the brother that he deceived and sinned against.  He hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  And Jacob sends his family in two groups ahead, hoping that if Esau attacks, some of his family will be able to escape.  And while he is alone and afraid, God visits him in the night.  He attacks him.  He wrestles with him.

 

Some of you who are listening to me today understand exactly what it is like to be Jacob.  You know what it is like to be afraid and to be struck with calamity.  In the midst of it, you feel as though God is coming at you with your sins.  It feels as though you are being reminded of all the evil you have done, all the reasons God has to be angry with you.  If you haven’t had this experience, you certainly will—if not in this life, if not on your deathbed, then on the day when He judges the living and the dead.

 

But there is good news for you when this happens.  God wants you to prevail against Him in this fight.  In Jesus your Savior, you have already prevailed over God’s wrath and judgment.

 

We have good reason to feel as though God is judging or punishing us for our sins, that He is angry with us, when we are faced with death, dishonor, calamity.  None of these things would happen to us if we weren’t sinners.  And our sins are real.  We say we are sinners, but the seriousness of our sins seldom dawns on us.  By nature we don’t feel the gravity of sin and death, and we don’t seek God’s blessing.

 

And even when God has given us the gift of repentance, and we do grasp His blessing, our flesh divides us.  Our grasp is listless and weak.

 

So God wrestles us.  He scares us.  He wounds us.  He brings us down to the grave, so that He may raise us up, so that He may heal us.  We are healed when we grab hold of His blessing, when we grasp it with our hearts by faith.  And when we grasp His promise, our hearts overflow from our lips and we call out to God Remember your mercy!  Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways!  According to your love remember me!  I will not let you go until you bless me, as you swore to me when you baptized me!

 

This prayer prevails over God so that He hears and grants it.

 

Yet it isn’t our faith that overcomes God.  Our faith simply grasps the man who overcame God’s wrath and won His mercy and favor.

 

Jesus also experienced this fight with God.  In the garden of Gethsemane, He was alone.  The hour was coming when He was about to die an agonizing death.  But even worse, the hour was approaching when He would have to endure what Jacob feared but did not experience.  Jacob was afraid that when he met Esau, Esau would remember the wrong Jacob had done and kill him; Jacob was afraid that God would abandon him to Esau’s wrath.  Just as Adam was afraid when he heard God call for him, and when he came out to meet him he must have been thinking “It’s all over.”  Just as Jonah knew that God was in the storm that hit the ship.  He told the sailors to throw him into the sea and the storm would stop.  He must have expected that when they did that the depths of the ocean would be the gate through which he entered the depths of hell.

 

But Adam instead heard the promise of the Messiah.  Jonah was saved by a great fish that swallowed him.  And Jacob’s brother Esau met him and forgave him.

 

But Jesus was not saved.  He went into the garden and saw the end approaching and began to be so sorrowful that He said to His disciples, My soul is greatly troubled, even to death.  Stay here and watch with me. But his disciples did not watch.  They slept, while Jesus prayed in agony, and his sweat mingled with blood as He wrestled with God.

 

What did He pray?  Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done.

 

But the Father was not willing.  Jesus had to drain the cup of God’s wrath.  The wrath and judgment of God that we fear fell on Him.  Not just whips fell on his back and left stripe after stripe; not just nails piercing his hands and His feet, and all the agony of crucifixion.  But God turned away His face from His Son.  He abandoned Him.

 

That is what we really fear, or what we really should fear—that God forsakes us for our sins.

 

But He does not, even though we have returned to our sins like a dog to vomit.  When we wrestle with Him to fulfill His promises, to give us His Spirit, to let His Word go forth, to keep us in the faith, to forgive us, to deliver us from temptation and give us eternal life—He is overcome by us.  Because He has been overcome by His Son, who took away His wrath and judgment and the record of our sins.

 

God comes to you in the night and wrestles with you so that you may take hold of Jesus, who overcame His Father’s anger against human sin and won His heart to human beings.

 

In Jesus your Savior, you have already prevailed over God’s wrath and judgment.  Be bold when God comes to wrestle you.  Be a fighter.  Strive together with Jesus and claim God’s mercy for you and His church and His world.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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