Wrestling the Angel
This message was written and preached by Tim Basselin
My mom loves the Bible. I mean really loves her Bible. Some of my earliest memories are her reading the bible to me and my brother. Now that she’s a grandma, it’s not surprising that she’s given multiple versions of children’s Bibles to my kids. Since I have 4 kids, we’ve built up quite a collection over the years, and now our youngest, Case who is nearly 2, has his own baby bible library. His current favorite is this one. It’s a soft, fuzzy bear on the outside and has 11 stories on the inside.
As I held Case recently and read from this bible, I started thinking about the elite nature of the stories we include in childrens bibles. God’s activity in the world throughout history is billions of stories. It’s really all the stories. We have a rather small collection of thousands of those stories included in our Bibles (hold up bible). And just 11 stories in this book I was reading Case.
Which stories we select for our children reveals something about our priorities, and our hopes, our understanding of God.
Here’s one that makes it into many children’s bibles: Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Daniel was in a difficult place. His faith was being challenged, and he was persecuted for his beliefs. His fate was certain to be that of a martyr. Yet God closed the lions’ mouths, and Daniel survived. That’s a beautiful, hopeful story. It’s true about our God and certainly authoritative for our belief.
However, despite the other 10 stories in this elite selection looking very similar, God’s miraculous intervention is not the only way God operates in our daily lives, or in our crises.
More often, God’s activity is difficult to decipher.
That’s the kind of story we’re going to look at today. It’s the story of Jacob wrestling in the middle of the night and getting his name changed.
In historical perspective, this is a huge event. His name, and his identity, is changed from Jacob, which means deceiver, to Israel, the name all his future descendants took as their identification. And yet the moment itself is not clear, divine rescue. It’s a physical and psychological struggle in the darkness, where Jacob doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on.
I think all of us are somewhere on a spectrum of wrestling with God most all the time. We have struggles and we pray for God to intervene and just shut the lions’ mouths so we don’t have to worry about it. We like to tell each other stories of when God does intervene. But we’re not as good at telling stories about entering into the struggle with God.