Sunday 19 Nov 2017
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Psalm 1: 2-3

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.

The Place Called Peniel - The mode of transaction

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Article Index
The Place Called Peniel
Peniel a place of divine transaction and exchange
The mode of transaction
The details of the transaction
Jacob received his blessing
Final words
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He wrestled with God and prevailed?

When it was said that Jacob wrestled with God, many would struggle to understand what was implied, persuading them to accept such a notion remains an uphill task. For how, many would ask, can a man wrestle with and even be said to prevail against God? How does a mere mortal wrestle and prevail against the Almighty God, one may ask? The answer to this I would say, the wrestling implied is in the battle of wills, the will of man proudly or ignorantly pitting itself against the will of God. You see God, who made man in his own image, also gave to him a will, a will that he (God) expects man to freely submit to him in worship and in adoration. But man having tasted the fleeting pleasures of disobedience (which he ignorantly and arrogantly calls freedom) now struggles and finds it hard to bring his will, under submission to the one who made him. Puffed up with the pleasures of disobedience he sets out in defiance and utter disregard for his maker, on a journey to explore life on his own relying on his own will and instincts as opposed to the will and guidance of his Maker whose initial intent remains to be the one to guide and direct manin this quest.

So when it is said that man prevailed, does that mean that man defeated God in this wrestling match? With this question I can see the struggle going on in the mind of the one who posed it. I want you to know that there are two ways that a man can prevail in the battle of will against his maker and none of them would ever leave man claiming victory. I say this because the cost of coming into this supposed victory would sooner or later bring man running back in total surrender.

I will explain these points by re-visiting the scriptures;

a. Man may prevail only, and only because God allows man to have his way. God allowing this because he is faced with the prospect of having to destroy the man he created as an object of his affection in the battle of sovereignty of wills. God being faced with two options (wrath or redemption) as the solution needed to bring to an end man's rebellion, opted for redemption, he did this because of the love that he has for the man he made in his own image (John 3:16).

As a result of his choice, he had to withdraw as an act of mercy, from the battle that pitches his will against that of man, and this is how the scripture puts it.

First we revisit the book of Genesis;

Then the Lord said, 'My spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; and his days will be a hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3).

When it is said that God would not contend any longer with man, what exactly was implied here? Well Apostle Paul gave us a clearer picture of what was implied;

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonour their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:23-25).

As we can see from Paul's letter to the Church in Rome, God left man alone , he gave man the freedom to live as he pleases, he gave them over to their will rather than engage him in the battle of will, which can only have one outcome. So what other option does God have if he had not taken this stance, could he not have taken a different approach? Well he could have if he wanted to, let us go to the scripture again;

God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, 'I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them' (Genesis 6:12 - 13).

In addition to the scripture above, this was also what God said to Moses as a result of the stubbornness of the Israelites, he told Moses he (God) would no longer travel with them and the reason he gave for this we find in the verse below;

.. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way  (Exodus 33: 3b).

What would the outcome of the battle of will between a righteous, holy and just God pitched against the mortal, sinful and helpless mortal be if i may? The answer for anyone who wants to know is that such an encounter would be disastrous for the mortal man. For no man (in his sinful nature) can see God and live. Therefore let no man make the mistake of thinking that Jacob actually prevailed against God, by overpowering the will of God. This is far from the truth. It must be stressed therefore that the consequences of God withdrawing from the battle of will due to his aversion and reluctance to bring mankind to sudden destruction is the reason why there is a place called Peniel. A place where the mortal man sees(encounters) God and lives to tell the story.

b. The second way that a man may be said to have prevailed against God, is when the wretched condition of man forces its way into the heart of a loving and merciful God, who being so full of compassion cannot hide his face and ears any longer from the cries for mercy from the man that he created to bring him pleasure, the creature he loved so much and made in his own image. This is when the love of God expressing itself through mercy and grace reaches out unconditionally and oblivious to the shortcomings of the mortal man. Using the arguments and the pleadings of Moses when God wanted to destroy the Israelites because of their stubbornness (Exodus 32: 9-14). For how could it be said that God would turn his face away from the very people he created and called his own, how can it be said that he turned his face away from the man he made in his own image.

Finally it may be said - 'how could God go against his own will and his eternal plans all because of the disobedience of man? Will he not be true to himself and show compassion, will he not be true and remain committed to his own plans by overlooking the iniquities of his people, by committing judgement to another time or carry it out on a substitute, in order that his own will may prevail eventually. Such is the mystery hidden to mankind the ways through which God allows mankind to have his way because he (God) decides to stay true to himself, by showing mercy to the one who does not deserve mercy.

Nevertheless irrespective of what may be said about the mercy and the faithfulness of God, let no man make the mistake of thinking that he could flagrantly have his way and come crying to God, just because he is the compassionate God and the one whose river of mercy never runs dry. The cost of entertaining such folly is high, very high indeed, once again it is the reason why there is a place called Peniel.

So when it was said that Jacob prevailed against God, which of the two options stated above is implied, I strongly believe that it was the second option (b), the one where God remembered his own promise and his compassion to his servant Jacob. You see not only did the pleas of Jacob for help touch God, but God also remembered the promises he made to Abraham, to Isaac and he also remembered his own commitment to the man Jacob, a commitment that Apostle Paul helps us to see clearly here;

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, 'The older shall serve the younger. As it is written, 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.'' (Romans 9: 10-13).

Moses while speaking to the Israelites when they got to the promise land reminded them why God had overlooked their transgressions and had chosen instead to favour them, he said;

It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of the land, but on the account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 9:5).

We can see from these passages that the use of the expression ‘Jacob prevailed against God’ actually carried more weight and reveals more than what was literarily conveyed across in the passage that we read earlier. While it is true that Jacob wrestled with God at the place called Peniel, but in this particular struggle his will was already broken, instead this was a wrestling match that was meant to have God accept what was left of his will in exchange for the will of God. With nothing left to offer God, he prevailed on the mercy of God, he prevailed against God by holding on to God, reminding God of his promises to his fathers Abraham, Isaac and he prevailed against God by reminding God of his eternal plan into which his life that was now at stake remains closely and irrevocably tied.

The question may then arise, what then does the scripture imply when it said that Jacob prevailed against men? Good question, you see while it is possible for man to prevail against one another in the battle of wills in a way and manner that we can easily relate to, the victory so implied is different when the same term is used with reference to God. It's a very true that Jacob was able to manipulate his way into his brothers inheritance, it is equally true that he was able to dig deep into his bags of tricks and outwit his wily Uncle called Laban in the battle of wills, to emerge from servitude to him with great riches and wealth. This was simply the will of man pitched against the will of another, none of which have an eternal structure upon which eternal victory can be guaranteed. The very same Jacob who prevailed against his brother by usurping his inheritance, now stands in dread of his brother, he was now willing to hand over everything back to his brother. Such it must be recorded is the inconsistency that plagues the battle of wills between one man and another. We should therefore be able to see that the victory implied in the battle of wills here differs, even as we restrict ourselves to the battle of will between man and his maker.

 



Home Expositions The Place Called Peniel The Place Called Peniel - The mode of transaction
Psalm 1:1-2
“[BOOK I Psalms 1?41] Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”

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