Jacob prepares for confrontation
But during the night Jacob got up and sent his two wives, two concubines, and eleven sons across the Jabbok River. After they were on the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp … (Gen 32.22-24a)
Jacob wrestles God
… and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. (Gen 32.24b)
The encounter leaves Jacob with a limp
When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. […] The sun rose as he left Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. That is why even today the people of Israel don’t eat meat from near the hip, in memory of what happened that night. (Gen 32.25, 31-32)
Jacob refuses to quit!
Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is dawn." But Jacob panted, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
Jacob receives God’s blessing!
"What is your name?" the man asked. He replied, "Jacob." "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." "What is your name?" Jacob asked him. "Why do you ask?" the man replied. (Gen 32.27-29)
Name changes in Scripture …
• Abram/Sarai > Abraham/Sarah
• Saul > Paul
• Jesus said, "I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me." (John 15.15)
• Jesus said, "You are Simon, the son of John–but you will be called Cephas." (John 1.42)
Lessons from Jacob
>> Get in the game!
In 1922, Texas A&M played a football game against then top-ranked Centre College. A&M was sufering from a lot of injuries, at the time. Interestingly, the head coach remembered a former player (E. King Gill) who was up in the press box working with reporters for the game. The team called on Gill to suit up and be ready to play if necessary. Texas A&M finally won 22-14. Because Gill stood ready the entire game, it has become a tradition for the entire student body to serve as the "Twelfth Man." They stand during the entire game to show their support. They are always in the stands waiting to be called upon if they are needed. (Read the full story here.)
What about you? Are you standing, ready to play when called upon?
>> Be willing to put it all on the line, to face your fears and to take risks!
Jacob decided to return to his homeland. The decision meant certain confrontation with his brother, Esau, who had earlier intended to kill Jacob. He took a huge risk in returning home!
>> Play hurt, if necessary!
Jacob’s hip was knocked out of joint in the struggle. But he didn’t quit. He continued fighting, even though he was injured, until he received the blessing!
>> Expect to be changed!
Jacob left this struggle with a limp. It is impossible to encounter God (or, more accurately, to be encounted by God) and not be changed in some lasting, real way!
>> Show what you’re made of!
Jacob’s name change acknowledged a change in his character. He went from "Trickster" to "Prince of God."
What I’ve learned about Alexandria/Barree in this process …
- You are willing to let go of past
- Your future is more important than your past
- You are not ready to quit
- You are willing to embrace change in order to fulfill God’s mission
>> Expect God’s blessing!
One more lesson from Jacob: Expect God’s blessing! Jacob was blessed because he didn’t quit!
And, in response to God’s mighty acts in Jacob’s life, he named the place where he wrestled for God’s blessing — Peniel ("face of God")! Today, we have the opportunity to name what God has done among us, what he’s doing in us, and what he will continue to do through us!
O God, thank you for encountering us, and for changing us! I pray that you will continue to encounter us so that we may do more effective and fruitful ministry in this valley. Guide us now as we name what you are doing among us! Amen.
[Note: Following today’s sermon, the congregation chose the name of Hope United Methodist Church. May this congregation bring the hope of Jesus Christ to the Juniata Valley and beyond!]