Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Aug 6th)

Pastor's Summary of Genesis 32:22-31

After serving Laban for many years, Jacob has decided to return home to Canaan. He has outwitted Laban into giving him the best of his flocks, and has departed with his wives and entrourage without saying farewell. This has angered Laban, who has marched after Jacob, but (thanks to God's intervention), they have come to an amicable agreement.

In ancient folklore, struggles between humans and mysterious beings are common. Such beings, sometimes divine, often guard river crossings, and are only effective at night. The being is usually forced to reveal something of himself. This is such a story-but much more. Jabbock is little more than a stream, but it runs in a deep, mysterious gorge. The supernatural event can have no witnesses ("Jacob was left alone", v. 24.) The struggle appears to be with " a man", but in v. 26, Jacob probably recognizes him as God: he seeks his blessing. This is confirmed in v. 28: "you have striven with God". Jacob's life has been a struggle, from his birth on. He does not win a complete victory: his "hip was put out of joint" (v. 25). In v. 30, "Peniel" means face of God. We read in earlier chapters that God promised to preserve Jacob's life; here (v. 30) his "life is preserved".

This story was handed down orally for many generations, and recorded by an author of Genesis much later. To this authoir, what really mattered was what it said about Israel, the nation: Jacob struggle with God, and he is given a new name ("Isreal, v. 28.) This change signifies a new era in Jacob's life; it gives meaning to his future life; he now has a mission. Jacob is no longer just cunning: he is now divinely commissioned Israel: he is father of God's chosen people. Just as he struggle with God, so does the nation. It too is protected by God, and God's people have a role in the path to salvation.