ISRAEL AND US
The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
In the 32nd chapter of Genesis, Jacob met a life changing event where he wrestles with God. Following the battle, God gives Jacob, whose name means “deceiver” a new name; Israel. The name Israel means “one who struggles with God.” What an appropriate name for the man and for the nation.
Jacob’s flesh was constantly putting him at odds with the Lord! His deceitful ways must have disappointed God on a regular basis. Deceiving his father and uncle (Laban) and all of his self-centered actions must have challenged God’s desire to bless and use him, but God has never walked away from a challenge.
When we look at the children of Israel, we see a people who were constantly struggling with the Lord God who had chosen them to be his people. Just look at how Jacob’s own sons dealt in jealousy of one brother to the point that they sold him as a slave.
Look at the Israelites under the leadership of God’s chosen leader, Moses, a man with his own personal struggles with God’s calling. When, after a 10th plague the Egyptian Pharaoh released these slaves to go back to their homeland, Canaan, a.k.a. the Promise Land, they still struggled against God. When trapped between the Egyptian armies (because Pharaoh had changed his mind) and the Red Sea, they started whining and complaining. Surprisingly, even after they had seen the mighty hand of God through Moses’ outstretched staff, part the Red Sea for them to cross on dry land and the sea swallowing up their Egyptian pursuers, they still complained a few days later when they ran into a water problem. When they were short of food they complained until God provided them a substance called “mana” (meaning “what is it”) and quail at just the right time. Then when God provided mana each day, they began to complain because they were sick to death of eating mana. God disciplined them with the fiery poisonous snakes. Over and over they complained. One big battle came when Moses came down from the mountain with the Commandments God had just given him to find the people in chaos worshipping a golden calf. But God continued to discipline, bless and use them. The icing on the cake came when they chickened out on crossing over into the land God promised because 10 out of the 12 spies Moses sent to explore it said they were too weak to capture the land. Even though 2 of the spies declared that God could lead them to victory, They believed the 10 spies so God cursed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 additional years until all of those over age 20 died except for the two good spies. But through it all God stayed with these who wrestled against him and eventually sent them into the land he had promised.
Throughout Israel’s history, there were more ups and downs than a Six Flags rollercoaster. The wrestling match continued through the times of the Judges and the Kings. Yet, God kept his unconditional promise that the world would be blessed by their offspring when Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, came into the world to dies for our sins and to be raised from the dead victoriously.
The New Testament Scriptures tell us that the Church of Jesus Christ was ingrafted into the vine of Israel to be included in the relationship and promises. A quick study of “Church History” will tell us that over the past 2,000+ years the church has kept up the wrestling match. And we who claim to be followers of Christ still wrestle with him.
Do you find yourself, even as a believer, wrestling with God because of fleshly wants or lacking faith? I’m afraid it happens to me more times than I could count over the years.
However, the faithfulness of God continues. We try to put up a good match, but God keeps on blessing our lives with his Amazing Grace. As Paul told us in Romans chapter 5, his grace is greater than our sin. We should all keep praying that we can surrender the match and give our lives completely over to him.
I look forward to the day when Jesus returns and all of us who follow him will never wrestle again.
The Sunday we will continue our exciting series Any Nobody Can Become Somebody, The transformative power of God in people with a message titled Wrestling With God based on Genesis 32:21-32 & Hebrews 12:8-11. I hope you will join the church family and me as we discover nuances of these passages and find more ways to apply it to our lives.
Trying not to wrestle,