From: Jonathan Bailes
The story about Jacob at the river Jabbok in Genesis 32 is a bewildering, and yet beautiful, tale about the ways of God in dealing with those whom He loves. The Jacob who sets up camp at the river that night is a prosperous man, rich in wives and children, livestock and servants. Yet, as Jacob well knows, that prosperity has come at a price. He has worked hard for what he has, and he has not been above getting his hands dirty when necessary. To get where he is, he has had to trick a beloved father and defraud an only brother. Jacob’s life seems to be a perfect illustration of a quote frequently (mis)attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.” And in Jacob’s case, we might add, the word “hustle” is applicable in more ways than one! But that night, at the river, Jacob meets an opponent he can’t outwit or overpower, and as he begins to realize that his striving and scheming won’t help him this time, he has no hope but to cling to his enemy and plead for a blessing.
I love this story because, no matter how strange or mysterious it may seem, it bears witness to a truth with which we may all struggle, but which we will finally learn one way or another, the truth that, in order to give us life, God must first put us to death, and that though He slay us, yet can we hope in Him. God could have left Jacob alone at the Jabbok that night, left him to depend on his own effort and cunning once again. Or He could have let Esau enact his righteous vengeance on the brother who had wronged him, and thereby affirmed the truth of Romans 6, that the wages of sin is death, and of Proverbs 26, that those who dig a pit will fall into it. But He didn’t. Instead, He came to Jacob in person and he wrestled with him all night long, until Jacob learnt that God’s strength is perfected in his weakness, until Jacob, the schemer, was put to death, and Israel, the limper, was able to greet the rising sun with the blessing of his Maker. Frederick Buechner has described what Jacob experienced that night at the river as “the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.” May I be so defeated, and may you too.
I live in Cleveland Circle with my wife Rachael and our three kids, but in two weeks that will change when we move to Texas. In the meantime, we are reminiscing over our six years at Church of the Cross and finding ourselves continually surprised by how it has blessed us.