Posted in Advent devotions, Devotions

Advent devotion: Wrestling with the Lord

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 2, 2020. Read Genesis 32:22-32 and Psalm 3.

Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

Jacob ran away from home twenty years ago. After cheating his brother Esau and deceiving his father Isaac, he literally had to run for his life. Now with two wives and a boatload of kids, it’s time to return. The night before the reunion, he wrestles all night with a man later identified as God himself, a unique pre-incarnational appearance of the Lord.

If there was ever a person who could make you say “uncle,” it would be the Almighty. But Jacob will not give up. He said, “I will not let go unless you bless me” (32:26). And God does! He blesses Jacob, who will now be known as Israel (32:29). Until this moment, who would have thought you could wrestle a blessing out of God?

In one of his lessons on prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to always pray and not lose heart, just like the proverbial widow who wouldn’t stop bothering a judge until she got justice (Luke 18:1-8). With boldness and confidence we call God “our Father” when we come to Him in prayer because we are His dear children. The point is, you really don’t have to try that hard to wrestle a blessing out of God. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

I remember wrestling with my kids. When they were little they loved hanging on me, climbing on me, jumping on me, and rolling around on the floor with me. The blessing was in the wrestling! They knew they couldn’t win, and I didn’t want to win. It’s reassuring to know that your father has strength you can count on when you need him! Just like Jacob needed to fully realize the power and the promises of God.

Did anyone else in the bible wrestle? Rachel “wrestled” with her sister Leah who was able to have more kids than her (Genesis 30:8). Samson kind of wrestled with a lion, tearing it to pieces with his bare hands (Judges 14:5,6). Paul writes that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with evil spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12). That’s scary!

But you know what? Once you’ve wrestled with God, you know He can handle those spiritual enemies, and nothing can ever separate you from His love!

Lord, I think I’ll just hang on to you with every ounce of faith I have, for you are the One who blesses me with every good and perfect gift from above! Amen.

Posted in Advent devotions

The Cast of Advent: December 14 – Jacob

Photo by Jakub Gorajek on Unsplash

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus… he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31,33).

Over her long history, many kings had ruled over Israel, here called the “house of Jacob.” After Jacob wrestled all night with God (Genesis 32), he received a new name: Israel. Some of those kings had been faithful and devout. Others were horrible and brought destruction on the nation. Mary’s son, however, would be the last king they would ever need or have. “Of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Monarchies, empires and dynasties come and go in the pages of world history. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Walmart and Microsoft reign in the marketplace. But they all have beginnings and all will one day come to an end. Broadway shows that play for years and years all have a final performance. Brilliant careers all end in retirement. A kingdom with no end is definitely otherworldly.

And our Lord’s reign also had no beginning. He was on the throne before creation just as he will be there when heaven and earth pass away. Yet he steps into this world with both a birth and a death, events that look like a beginning and an end. His beginning and end, though, testify to his eternal nature. He is not passive in that beginning and end. He actively becomes flesh, willingly allows his death, and then powerfully comes back to life. Those events that limit our lives do not restrict him.

The bible is serious when it says that his steadfast love endures forever. It reaches back into our past, covering all our sins. It extends into a future that has no end. It defines who were are today, too. The eternal king has given us the gift of eternal life.

Lord, let your love, grace and peace rule my life today and every day. Amen.