We recall the Jacob who fled his home. We remember the Jacob so weary that with a rock for a pillow he lay down to sleep. That was the Jacob who needed divine attention; Jacob wakened from his dream affirming that God “is in this place.” On the eve of his return home, Jacob once again finds himself alone and in need of attention. Once again God comes—in a more physical fashion this time. Jacob hangs on and prevails to gain a blessing.
Jacob walks away from the wrestling match a changed man. From this time on, he will limp because the stranger struck his hip. And he has a new name. Jacob is now Israel, meaning “he wrestled with God.” If a name creates expectations, Jacob has improved his lot. The most common meaning of the name of Jacob is “supplanter,” one who tries to take the place of another. The old name implied an untrustworthiness. Yet God entrusts the covenant to him, selecting Jacob to join the company of the patriarchs. In the Old Testament, God speaks to the people in this way: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (See Exodus 3:15; Matthew 22:32.)
A limp and a new name, a new identity, mark the man Jacob-Israel. He names the place Peniel because he recognizes the face of God. He has wrested a blessing and a new understanding of God’s activity in his life.
A pastor once stated that God wants to wrestle with us. If this is true, God does not want to hear puny prayers. God wants us to pray passionately, demanding answers. We can grab on to the promises of God, saying, “I will not let you go until you give me an answer.” Perhaps, if we pray bold, fervent prayers, we too will know that we have been with God, forever changed by the experience.

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, show me how I can serve you today, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 14:13-21

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Lectionary Week
July 31–August 6, 2017
Scripture Overview

The heavyhearted psalmist gives voice to the feelings of many when he states, “Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry.” In the Genesis text Jacob wrestles with a “man.” At one level, this story is about human struggle with God, but at another level the story tells of a human being’s struggle with himself or herself. Yet even in the midst of our struggles, the enduring word is one of God’s grace. Romans 9 also deals with suffering: Paul’s personal anguish over Israel’s failure to receive God’s messiah, the Christ. Matthew 14 reminds us that God’s mercy is real. Obedient disciples become agents through whom God’s provisions are served to hungry people.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Genesis 32:22-31. When have you felt like you were wrestling with God? What impact did it have on your relationship with God?
• Read Psalm 17:1-7, 15. In what ways does your faith give you strength in the face of adversity? Reflect on a difficult time when you felt God’s presence.
• Read Romans 9:1-5. How do the words of Peter in Acts and Paul’s words in Romans shape your understanding of the Jewish faith?
• Read Matthew 14:13-21. How hungry are you for Jesus? Are you willing to nibble and snack, or are you starving for substance and sustenance?

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