The Day God Lost A Wrestling Match
Pentecost 22 Trinity Lutheran Church
16 October 2016 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
No, this is not some WWE throw down or cage match! That’s all fake. Just for kicks and laughs. Here, however, is wrestling match that is for real! Done in all seriousness. With lots at stake! Jacob wrestles with … God! Or better yet, God grapples against Jacob! Isn’t that incredible? Imagine watching this wrestling match! However, what is even more astounding is who wins. Is it God? Or Jacob? Jacob wins! He puts God in a full nelson! And incredibly God says, “I give!”
Would you dare to grapple with God? Would you even consider tussling with the Almighty? I suppose you would if you were in desperate straits. You know, like Jacob! He’s in deep trouble. It’s a severe crisis. His life appears to be at an end. His faith in God is seriously stressed. What must God think of him? When he looks back at his life it’s full of regrets, bitter disappointments, and loads of sin.
Everything’s come full circle in Jacob’s life. You remember, don’t you? When it came time for Rebekah to birth her twin boys, Esau came out first. But Jacob had his hand clenched to Esau’s heel. They fought with each other even while in the womb. Even while they made the treacherous trek through Rebekah’s birth canal!
Jacob and Esau: twins. And yet complete opposites. Esau: tough, fiery, red-hair-all-over, brutish bear of a man. Big game hunter. A man’s man. A bar room brawler. A real head knocker. You don’t mess with a dude like that! Old man Isaac favored burly Esau because his oldest son could fix the best spicy deer jerky and deep fat fry the tastiest elk steak.
Jacob, on the other hand. Subdued. Clean shaven and smooth skinned. A momma’s boy. Stays out of the bars and doesn’t hang around naughty girls. He’s a home body. Hangs out with the women in the tents. You’d call him a “girly man.”
Momma’s boy Jacob cheated his brother Esau of his birthright with a bowl of stew. And then everything came to a head when Isaac’s macular degeneration was in full swing and his senior citizen body was wearing out. As her husband gets closer and closer to the grave, Rebekah schemes. She tells Jacob to impersonate his brother and steal Isaac’s blessing that rightfully belongs to Esau the firstborn.
Esau finds out of course. Can’t keep a lie like that secret for long! He’s furious! Enraged! He makes a promise. He will get even with his brother even if he has to murder him. Pay backs are …! Well, Jacob can’t stay. When you go messin’ with Esau he looks for his Smith and Wesson. He’ll teach Jacob a lesson. Jacob has to get out of Dodge post haste! Run for the hills! Run for his life! A bounty is on his head. Esau would even “drone” his brother if given the chance!
Exiled Jacob. A fugitive. On the run. He flees to uncle Laban’s ranch way up in the north. For years while at Laban’s he labors, pulls off a few more dicey deals, gets hitched, and has kids of his own. During this banishment God does the unthinkable. The improbable. The inconceivable. God promises Jacob that he would return to his home. God promises His blessings of forgiveness and salvation. That takes us to today’s text.
Decades have gone by. Jacob is on his way home with his family and all that he has. Heads south. But look who stands in the way! Brother-That-He-Cheated-Esau is on the other side of the river! With four hundred well armed men! “He is coming out to meet you Jacob!” The gig is up! Esau will surely get his revenge for Jacob’s sins against him. Take all Jacob’s possessions and livestock. Ruthlessly murder the women and children. And then slowly get his revenge on Jacob himself.
What pressure. What stress. What angst. What a crisis! However, there’s another predicament that is more crushing. It’s this: What does God think of all this? What does God think of Jacob? That’s the biggest existential dilemma of all. It appears that God is now Jacob’s biggest problem. So all through the night Jacob wrestles with God who has taken the form of a man. God dislocates Jacob’s hip. God appears to hate Jacob. God seems to enjoy hurting him. God appears to delight in giving Jacob what he deserves.
But Jacob will not give up. He will not let go! Tenaciously he clings to God. After all, God has given Jacob promises of blessing and salvation. Yet God appears to be saying now: “Let go of me! Let go Jacob. Your thigh is hurt. You’ll be lame the rest of your life. Give up Jacob.” Jacob does not listen. “Not until you bless me!”
“Not until you bless me!” “Not until you bless me! You’ve promised! You’ve promised!” With these words Jacob wins. He has God in a headlock. It’s the full nelson of … F-A-I-T-H! And in this scuffle God gives in. The match is over. Ding the bell. God is defeated – BY JACOB’S FAITH! “Not until you bless me!” “Not until you bless me! You promised! You promised!”
Things not going so well in your life? One crisis after another? Does it seem that God is against you? Fighting against you? Acting like He does not want to keep the promises of life and salvation He’s given you? Is it a health crisis? Lost a loved one or a very good friend? Is it the crisis of divorce? Failing a test? Been betrayed? Hurt deeply by a friend or family member? Feeling the effects of sin in your life? Death staring at your door?
“Where are You God? Why do You always seem to be against me? Do You hate me?” Is that your cry? Are those your questions?
Then it’s time for another wrestling match. To call God out. To take God to the mat. Whether it takes one sleepless night or many. Whether God puts your hip out of socket or puts you in the sleeper hold. When God appears to be saying: “Let go of me, you’re hurt, give up, I’m strangling you,” faith reverses everything and pins God Himself to the mat by saying: “Not until you bless me!” “Not until you bless me! You’ve promised! You’ve promised!”
The stranglehold of faith says: “Oh, yes, I’m not worthy God. I’m a rotten stinking sinner like Jacob. But you promised God! I’m going to relentlessly hold you to your promise. With you I know there is mercy. With you I know there is forgiveness. Sometimes it doesn’t appear that way when I look at my life. But Your Son Jesus died for me. Your Son Jesus put His saving Name on me in Baptism. Your Son Jesus gives me His Body and His Blood in the Supper. You’ve promised to bring me home. To give me the Promised Land of Heaven. You’re not against me. You’re FOR ME. You’ve promised. You’ve promised. I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
That’s a hold God can’t get out of. He’s doesn’t even mind. In fact, that exactly what He wants from you. Happy wrestling with God faithful sons and daughters of Jacob.
In the Name of Jesus.