Readings: Genesis 32:22-32; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Matthew 15:21-28
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jacob wrestled with God and had his hip ripped out of its socket. Dislocated. Pain. A lesson so important that it required a continual reminder to never eat any animal meat from that spot where God pulled Jacob’s hip out when they wrestled. Even in pain Jacob persisted. He demanded a blessing from God. He was strengthened, so much so that the Bible says that he prevailed over God and men. To be sure he limped away from that wrenching pain of a dislocated hip, but He was stronger and wiser, blessed in faith.
Such rough reminders for us of what faith is! It is clinging to what is promised but unseen. Even when life is telling you give up. Even when physical experience says forget it. Faith perseveres. It clings to what Our Lord has said, and even reminds Him who He is.
Remember Your mercy, O Lord, for it is from of old. (Psalm 25:6) It is what You are. Do not forget Yourself , O My God.
That is faith. Faith clings to who God is, not to what’s going on in life. It clings to His promises to you, based on His very being. Even if your experiences are telling you something else, who has God said He is? Cling to that.
Do not remember the sin of my youth, (Psalm 25:11) the things done in the foolish arrogance of adolescence, the "I’m-immortal-nothing-can-touch-me" stupidity we all had once. Don’t remember the state of error I chronically exist in on this side of heaven, the not-rightness of my being that I was born in. But do remember me on account of your graciousness, on account of your kindly disposition, O God of my salvation.
You called Yourself that! (Psalm 25:5) You said you were slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; etc.) Be that for me, O Lord! For I have no other hope, but that You would be merciful to me, to my family, to my errors, to my problems, to the mess I find in my life and make of my life. Be merciful Lord, for that is who YOU are.
How do I know? Because You have promised it again and again. Because when the saints of old persevered in the problems of life, clinging to You—whether literally like Jacob or in argument like that Gentile woman praying for her daughter—You remembered them. You turned your face toward them. You blessed them. Not because they persevered, but because You are merciful.
Even when we are tempted by the happenstance of life to doubt Your mercy, to doubt Your guiding hand, to doubt whether You can provide and make a way, and prosper Your inheritance, we will persevere. We will cling to you. For Your Holy Spirit has been placed in our hearts. Your Triune name has been placed on our heads with water. Your life giving body and blood has been placed on our tongues strengthening us to cling to You even as You cling to us. Even when we don’t have the strength we overcome God and men for You cling to us in love. It is who You are.
Jacob was a scoundrel. He cheated others, and got cheated himself. Yet in all he did he clung to Your promise that You would bless the world through him. (Genesis 25:21-23, 29-34; 26:1-4) He insisted that You were true. He had faith. Faith made him able to overcome a God who seemed to strive against him, and men who definitely sought him evil. Yet in clinging to his God, not to his light and momentary struggles, despite the rough reminders that God’s essence is grace and mercy, he overcame. For the God who is gives us rough reminders so that we act in faith. So that we live in faith. So that in faith we insist on the blessings He promises.
If you do not He must roughly remind you who He is. He must wrestle with you so that you forget yourself, lose yourself, die to yourself and fixate on Him, Him alone. For He is merciful. His mercies are from of old and on account of His name, He blesses. Where He places His name He must prosper and save. He saves us out of every trouble for His names’ sake, but He means to save your soul. If it costs your body, He will do so. If it takes physical pain to turn you away from yourself He will allow it. He will wrestle with You. He will cling to you. He will not let you go. He will do what is necessary to save you from yourself. For He is mercy.
In mercy He clung to you, taking your sin, allowing Himself to be nailed to a cross, clinging to that cross, til your sin was paid for. He wrestled with Satan in the wilderness of temptation and triumphed. He wrestled with men throughout His ministry, constantly being tested by arrogant men. He strove with God on the cross clinging to that cross, entrusting Himself to His Father even when it seemed the Father had turned His back. And He triumphed over sin and death for you, so that when He wrestles with you giving you rough reminders it is to strengthen you, to make you able to endure, to be capable of overcoming God and men by forgetting yourself and clinging to Him. For He blesses His name and His name is on you.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON