Scripture Reading | Genesis 32:23–31
23 He took them and everything that belonged to him, and he helped them cross the river. 24 But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke. 25 When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him. 26 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.”
But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
27 He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”
29 Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.”
But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 31 The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh.
In Sunday’s message, Jesus and Dirt, we learned that the Hebrew word translated “wrestle” is the verb form of the Hebrew noun meaning “dirt.” Wrestling, in this passage, might be understood to mean ‘get in the dirt with…” The imagery is powerful when we understand this picture of God “getting in the dirt” with humans and humans “getting in the dirt” with God.
In the book, The Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, Greg Boyd says this:
In this light, it doesn’t strike me as too much of a stretch to see in this narrative a call of God to relinquish our “Jacob”-like faith, with its conniving qualities, and to instead embrace an “Israelite” faith, which calls on us to have the courage to honestly struggle with issues before God and to even have the audacity to wrestle with God. (p. 81-82)
Abraham got in the dirt with God when he questions God’s justice regarding Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-33). Moses got in the dirt with God to try to change his mind (Exodus 32:10-14). Habbakuk gets in the dirt with God when he writes:
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you are unable to look at disaster.
Why would you look at the treacherous
or keep silent when the wicked
swallows one who is more righteous
What this a lack of faith on their part? Or, what this how they interacted with God because of their faith? I think it’s the latter.
Look at the dirt you’ve gathered. Let me invite you to take and hold some of it in your hands. For this moment, let this dirt represent your questions you have of God. Answer these questions as you hold the dirt:
- If you had a moment to “get in the dirt” with God, what would you want to say?
- What questions would you ask?
Oh God of Jacob, who gets in the dirt with your people.
I thank you that I can bring my questions, my struggles, my grievances, my doubts to you.
I thank you that are willing to wrestle with me and do not reject me.
God, in the dirt with me, I come to wrestle.