Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How to Pick a Fight with God and Win! Part 1

(a 2 part series as it seems I have more to say about his topic than I realized when I began writing.)

Yes, you read it right. You see I read something just a few days ago in scripture that made me realize I have been fighting with God. 

Now, the uber religious folks out there are all sanctimoniously nodding their heads in agreement. 

“Oh, yes dear, come to altar.”

 If you have ever fought with God and heard their voices much like the voices of the friends of Job in the middle of his fight with God you can probably hear them again today and you cringe. But there’s something that those of you who have fought with God realize that the sanctimonious peanut gallery does not realize and may never realize.


You can not only pick a fight with God but you most certainly can win that fight!



 
                                                                                                      Created by Balasoiu - Freepik.com 
Oh, George, did you hear her? That poor girl’s gonna go straight to hell. (tisk-tisk)



Do you Strive?


We all seem to from time to time. Some of us strive for perfection. And if I can be candid the religious “some” may well be striving for the picture perfect godly family, or picture perfect religion or reputation which is why we don’t really tell folks how we are doing when asked on Sunday morning or we wait until we are away from church and have looked over our shoulder before we begin to gossip I mean discuss the situation concerning sister “so and so” or we wait until we think everyone has left the church building before we let that vulgar curse word fly out of our mouth as we vent our frustration from the happenings of the “Lord’s” day. Yes, I have been around church long enough to not only be guilty of all of the above but also to witness a good portion of the rest of us “children of God” actively becoming guilty of them as well.  But back to the point some strive for success or status, some of us strive for peace or security and so on.  

We strive.

I think we all from time to time strive for one thing or another.

But do you really STRIVE?

I mean the blood, sweat, tears and time kinda strive? Do you?

When was the last time you were so desperate for something that you did that kind of striving? 

This is where I am. I have picked a fight with God. We are still in the middle of our fight.

  
I HAVEN’T WON YET BUT I’M NOT LETTING GO 
UNTIL I DO!

Does that last sentence remind you of anything or anyone? It should. It did for me when it first rattled around in my brain. Head over to the book of Genesis with me and let’s see if I can refresh your memory or possibly inspire you to pick your fight with God.

Genesis 32:24
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” [1]

Before we go on there are two things that need to be made abundantly clear to those of us who tend to deify the characters we read about in the Bible. By deify I mean we lift them up above mere human status as though they were more righteous than the rest of us or somehow stronger which is why they made  it into the Bible and that all their decisions and actions were always right and godly. 

So the first thing to make abundantly clear is that Jacob was a liar. He was a cheat; a scoundrel. And Jacob knew God.  But Jacob was also a fighter. From before he was born he was fighting.

Genesis 25:21-22a
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; [2]

Jacob being a twin grabbed a hold of his brother’s heel at birth.

Genesis 25:24a-26b
behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob[3]

Before he took his first breath Jacob was a fighter.


Esau was born first. His name comes from
6213b. עָשָׂה asah (796b); a prim. root; to press, squeeze:—handled(3).[4]

I laughed out loud when I read that one interpretation of the name of Esau is “handled.” Jacob surely handled his brother alright. Next, Jacob was born holding onto the heel of his older brother Esau. 

Jacob’s name comes from
6119.   עָקֵב aqeb (784a); from an unused word; heel, footprint, hind part:—footprints(1), footsteps(1), heel(4), heels(3), hoofs(1), rear guard(1), steps(1), trail(1).[5]

I grew up in church and in Christian school and one thing I have been taught all along is that Jacob’s name means supplanter. But after looking up his name as I was studying I noticed that this is not at all true. Jacob’s name means as it states above – heal, footprint, or hindpart.

His name does not mean “supplanter.” 

But we have his angry older brother calling him that in Genesis 27:36 which is probably where the misunderstanding comes from. The point being that your character or personality is one thing but it is your actions that often define who people regard or remember you as. Jacob’s name does not mean supplanter but his actions in his dealings with his brother and father have defined who he is for us for generations.

Reputations linger so be careful what you do with your name.

Then again if my name meant hindpart I might be more than okay with everyone believing it meant supplanter instead.

I am not saying that what Jacob did concerning the birthright and blessing was wrong; nor am I saying that what he did was right. This is not the point of this post. I am just attempting to clear up a commonly taught misconception. 

The word supplant means to take the place of another, as through force, scheming, strategy, or the like; to replace one thing by something else. So by this definition we can say that Jesus Christ was also a supplanter - just something to think about.

Now before you go off halfcocked telling me I am wrong on this point please do the work for yourself and study. Then present the corrective information to me so that I can study it as well and we can discuss. But if you aren’t willing to study and be iron that sharpens iron then I say keep it to yourself. The last thing I want is for any of us to go around lookin’ like a fool. That doesn’t do much for the keeping of the honor of the name of God or His church now does it.

Back to Jacob.. 

So we see that even before he was born Jacob was striving for something. Now let’s fast forward to the situation in Genesis 32 and discuss why Jacob was alone and what he was wrestling for so earnestly. 

Remember, that Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and blessing. This wasn’t like stealing your brother’s candy money or his bicycle. No, this was a huge deal. This made Jacob, the younger brother, the “head” of the family once his father passed away. This would have been something very shameful for Esau to live with. Esau was understandably angry even if he did sell if for momentary self gratification. The two brothers parted ways and Jacob prospered but not without his own struggles.

We read in Genesis 32 that Jacob parts ways with Laban. He then does something that I think all too often we miss or overlook. Genesis 32:1 tells us that Jacob goes on his way and the angels of God meet him. When Jacob sees them he doesn’t flip out. In fact, there is no sign of fear at all given to us from scripture on the part of Jacob. The Bible tells us that when he saw them he named the place where he was Mahanaim because it was God’s camp.




  









So we see Jacob going along his merry way and he decides to send messengers to his brother in Edom. He tells the messengers to tell his brother what he has been up to and how he has prospered but notice how Jacob tells them to relay the message. He uses terms of respect; “My lord, Esau” and “your servant, Jacob.” Because Jacob had received the birthright and the blessing he should have been known as “lord” of the family not as Esau’s “servant.” But Jacob knowing full well the depravity of his own nature and past actions humbles himself even though he wasn’t bound by law to do so. The messengers come back and inform Jacob that not only did they relay the message to Esau but that Esau was on his way to meet him.

Funny, how the appearance of supernatural angelic beings did not strike fear into Jacob but the news that his older brother was coming to see him makes him cower. Interestingly, the messengers did not give any indication to Jacob that his brother was coming to do harm to him. But nevertheless, Jacob takes immediate precautionary action. He divides all that he has into two groups and then sends them in different directions. His strategy was that if Esau attacked and destroyed one group the other would remain safe. He then calls out to God and picks the fight.


Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’ ”[6]


The best way to start a fight is to remind someone what they once said to you and imply that they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Oh, God, you told me this would work out and now look at the mess I’m in. Now I know I don’t deserve what you have done for me so far but you said return and prosperity and now look. My brother is on his way and I am divided into two different groups for safety. God, he’s gonna hurt me. This doesn’t look or feel like prospering. You said You would prosper me remember! (my own humorous paraphrasing)

Jacob then creates this rather elaborate attempt at appeasing what he has perceived is his brother’s anger through stages of gifts and messages. That same night Jacob takes his wives, his children and his maids and crosses a ford. He then sends all of them across another stream while he stays put and this is how Jacob ended up alone and afraid.

Now come back to Genesis 32:24

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” [7]

This brings us to the second thing that needs clarification and that is that the “man”, the “he” in verse 25 and the beginning of verse 26 is an angel. When the angel realized that he had not prevailed against Jacob he…wait for it….fought dirty! Then when that didn’t work the angel begins to plead with Jacob a mere human…a non-supernatural being to let go of him! This astounds me to no end. 

Frankly, if it doesn’t astound you I wonder why not?

Jacob wrestled with the angel of God and overpowered him through mere human determination and chutzpah. From that day forward, Jacob was forever changed hence the name change. Look at what the angel says to him in verses 27-29.

Genesis 32:27-29
“he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” [8]


Do you see it? Jacob picked a fight with God and men and he won! Yup, you read it right. 

You can pick a fight with God and win.


In Part 2 of this blog post I will show you just how you can pick a fight with God and win!






[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:24–26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 25:21–22). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 25:24–26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[4] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
[5] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.
[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:9–12). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:24–26). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ge 32:27–28). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.