22The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.
24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Reflection: In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet calls out to Romeo with these words: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet was right in that names do not matter in the way in which she spoke of them. After all, Juliet and Romeo’s surnames were keeping them apart because of the violent feud between their families. In that case, the two lovebirds, who did not share the feud of their families, should have been able to cast their warring surnames aside and be free to love one another.
However, names do matter in a different manner. In the ancient world parents intentionally named their children to reflect the circumstances of their birth or the character they wished their children to display in life. Jacob’s name meant “to grasp by the heel” and this came to identify him as a deceiver. The new name God gave him was Israel, which meant to struggle with God. Whereas Jacob had lived his life trying to gain what he wanted by taking it from others through swindling acts and dishonesty, he would now receive what he needed in life only through engaging God in honest, face-to-face communion.
In our household, we take names seriously. The names of the four persons in our household mean “Yahweh is my full salvation,” “Consecrated by God’s grace,” “Clearly consecrated to God,” and “Little song of joy” (unfortunately, there is no telling what Bizzell means!). Look up your name’s meaning and reflect on what it says about you, the circumstances of your life, and your character. Simply click here to go to a site that includes a database of name meanings and origins.
Now consider how God might want to rename you. What would God name you if you were to be renamed? Would it be a name that truly reflects your character? Would it be a name that brings healing to your understanding of who you are? Remember that God saw Jacob for who he truly was and knew that he could be healed of his deceptive ways. That which had marked him from birth was transformed and redefined by God’s grace, forgiveness, and goodness. When God names you, that is the name that will “stick.” So ask God to redefine you through the gracious gift of a new name. God sees us differently, more lovingly, than we see ourselves. After all, if you can think of nothing else remember that God has first and foremost named you my child.
- Tuesday, October 11 – Romans 13
- Wednesday, October 12 – Romans 14
- Thursday, October 13 – Romans 15
- Friday, October 14 – Romans 16
- Saturday, October 15 – 1 Corinthians 1
- Sunday, October 16 – 1 Corinthians 2
- Monday, October 17 – 1 Corinthians 3
Prayer Focus: In our Scripture, Jacob (the second-born twin) is on his way to confront Esau (the first-born twin), the brother he cheated out of his birthright and blessing. Jacob is not sure how Esau will react when they meet. If we were to read on in the Scripture, we would see that Jacob is pleasantly surprised by the gracious reception Esau gives him. In God, there is hope for reconciliation – even in the most dire and divisive of situations. This week, ask God to heal those relationships that are broken and shattered in your life. Are you estranged from a family member or at odds with a friend? Has someone hurt you and you struggle to forgive them? Does someone hold a grudge against you that they refuse to release? Reunions and reconciliation do not always happen, nor are they necessarily a possibility in all cases (such as when a person still poses a threat to you or the other person has died). However, healing is available in all cases by the power and grace of Jesus Christ. And God is still in the business of bringing Jacobs and Esaus back together in peace. Pray for the courage and ability to receive that peace and may your relational wounds be healed and your broken relationships restored.
Meditation Focus: Jacob is one of my three favorite persons from the Bible. Along with Abraham and Job, his is a story of imperfection growing toward complete trust of God. This week, I would like to share with you a song I have written over the years about Jacob. The song is entitled Ladder. The words are provided and a rough recording is included as well. It is inspired in particular by our scripture for this week and the story of Jacob’s vision found in Genesis 28:10-22 (check it out here). I would only share this in the context of the Word and Spirit Guide if I believed doing so would be pastoral and spiritually enriching, and not for personal reasons. So, I invite you, as a pastor, to listen to these words and/or read them. As you do, ask God to reveal Godself to you in a new, loving, and grace-filled manner.
If heaven is opened, then why
Do my prayers return to me?
If heaven were opened, then where
Are the angels descending on me?
I’ve seen heaven opened, but I have
Taken everything by the heel
But heaven never stays opened to the ones
Who only know how to lie, cheat, and steal
I can almost see a ladder
Waiting for me
If heaven were opened, would I have
The courage to walk right on through?
To cross over the Jabbok and embrace
The consequences of selling out you?
I can almost see a ladder
Waiting for me
Wrestle with me
Bless me, Lord
Come and rename me
I can almost see a ladder
Waiting for me
You’re calling for me
You’re waiting for me
Journaling Focus: This week, pick one or more of the following questions and write out your response, going in whichever direction the Spirit leads you:
- Have you ever “wrestled” with God? If so, what brought you to that “wrestling” experience and what was that experience like?
- How has experiencing God “face-to-face” changed your life?
- What struggles have come with your attempts both to understand God and to receive blessing from God?
- Are you still wrestling with some aspect of your faith journey or God’s character? How so?
- Is there anything you want/need so desperately from God that you refuse to let go of God until you receive it? Why do you want/need this so desperately? How has God responded to your want/need already? How will you find peace in this situation?
- In what special place have you had a remarkable encounter with God? Why is that place holy or special to you? What has God taught you there? How has God met you there?
- Have you ever experienced being completely alone with God, separated from all that you held dear to the point that you were forced to depend on God alone in that moment? What was this like? What did you learn about trusting God through this experience?
Breath Prayer: Father, name us anew in your grace.
Ladder, © Josh Bizzell, 2002, 2015, 2016.