This whole blog is about Genesis 32. One of the most mysterious and weird bible passages of them all. I mean the bible is weird in a lot of places (some might argue the whole thing is weird ha!) but this passage is so weird if you really look at it. For me it is one my favourite passages of scripture. Unless you suspend your logic for a few moments and try to read it for it's symbolic meaning it totally doesn't make any sense.
Ok let's look at it literally first. So bascially Jacob is alone one evening and some unknown guy just comes and starts wrestling with him? Like WHY? Not only that as he wrestles with this unknown person it is revealed that Jacob is actually wrestling with an angel? oh and not only that this angel is supposed to represent God? riiiiiiiiiiight this makes total sense.
So we are being asked to believe that an angel which is definitely more powerful than a human comes to wrestle with Jacob and can't easily beat him? Also what is the point of this wrestling?
As you can see, merely looking at this on the surface and in a literal way presents all kinds of problems. It simply doesn't make sense to just merely look at it this way. There has to be more to this.
For me personally I see this whole passage as a metaphor that looks exactly like my "relationship" with God. This whole thing about faith and "coming to grips" with the idea and reality of God is just like wrestling.
Even when I try to "let go" of God, I find out that the idea of God or I should actually say God doesn't let go of me. I have tried sometimes to let go but you see, I need God's grace to get through besides I think God has got me. You can blame it on my journey through religion which kind of began at a young age or whatever but the whole idea of God has caught my imagination. It has caught my entire being! I can't shake God, believe me I have tried.
Some might call religion a crutch and all that but hey I am not ashamed to say I am weak and need something or should I say someone greater than I am to hold my life together and give my existence meaning, purpose and hope.
So we have Jacob wrestling as it is written "a man came to wrestle with him until the break of day" I mean that right there is loaded with HOPE! so basically this "wrestling" won't end until I get some LIGHT! Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning! I might have to battle with doubt, depression, pain or a senseless situation for a while but there is a point to it and it seems it is to bring me to a realisation of something. It is to bring me light. God won't leave me until I see! Ok it is either I am reading my desire and projecting my meaning into the text or that is what it really is. Hey I aint not a theological expert like some folks might be.
So while this whole wrestling is going on, the angel (who really represents God in this context as far I can see) says some strange things. First of all he says "Let me go" I mean what a strange thing to say. Wasn't it the guy who came and started wrestling with Jacob in the first place? but Jacob's response is such a discerning one. He says "I will not let you go until you bless me" Jacob is ever the oppurtunist looking for the chance to grab a benefit in any situation, I mean he was born holding on to his twin brother's heel trying to come out first in order to get the blessing of the 1st born for goodness sake! ha! I guess this is the way to respond to tough times, we have to say "I WILL NOT LET YOU GO....."
He is still holding on even after the angel has dislocated his hip and crippled him, imagine the pain Jacob is feeling right now with his hip being thrown out of joint but he is still holding on saying "I WILL NOT LET YOU GO UNTIL YOU BLESS ME" I guess that is the attitude we must have in tough times, doubtful times, confusing times, painful times [fill in the blanks]
So the angel says something else, He asks a question, to me it is a strange question, he says "what is your name?" I mean COME ON! If this angel is meant to represent God surely he knows who he is right? Well the question (I think) is more for Jacob because back then names expressed the character and nature of the person and Jacob means "supplanter" basically it means one who hustles and cheats in order to get ahead. I guess when relating to God we have to be real with where we are, good, bad and ugly. There is no point frontin' like God doesn't know us.
The funny thing is with this admission of who Jacob is to this unknown wrestler, he gives him a new name. He calls him "Israel" which basically means one who has wrestled with God and prevailed! WOW! Seriously this whole affair doesn't make sense. So this encounter has brought about some kind of transformation in the identity and destiny of Jacob and all he had to do was hold on after being crippled and experiencing gut wrenching pain and be real about who he was? riiiiiiight!
Jacob then asks him for his name and the angel refuses to tell him who he was! This whole encounter is weird, why didn't the angel tell him what his name was? I don't know for sure but what I kind of take from that is sometimes we humans have the need to box things in and define them but such an encounter with God is something that is beyond definition as it should be. It is a mystery how transformation happens. This whole faith thing is beyond logic and explanations when it happens for real. It is beyond formula, you can't systematically break it down even though many have tried, you can't pin it down, you can't bottle it, label it and commercialise it even though you would make a commercial killing if you really could (well some actually ARE making a killing in selling the illusion of having it "defined" and "all figured out" but I digress). So asking for it to be defined is unnecessary. Just be glad it happened and is happening.
"So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel:“For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” just as he crossed over Peniel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip" (Gen 32:30 & 31)