My wife just discovered this guy yesterday. This song kind of blows me away. He’s kind of like a Christian John Mayer.
Frederick Buechner’s Secrets in the Dark contains a sermon he preached titled ‘The Magnificent Defeat’ that details the story of Jacob’s all-night wrestling match with God:
22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. (Genesis 32:22-31)
If I’m being honest, I’ve always had a little trouble grasping this passage. Buechner’s take on it, however, is beautiful and spoke to me a great deal. Jacob is a man who has always gotten ahead by being just a little crafty and devious. If you recall, he caught his brother Esau in a moment of weakness and essentially tricked him into trading his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). He then set about with the help of his mother to trick his father into granting him a blessing that was intended for Esau (Genesis 27:1-29). Jacob was a little devious … and here’s the hard part to understand – his deviousness worked for him.
Jacob got ahead as a result of his trickery. He gained his brother’s birthright and blessing and, although he had to flee before Esau exacted revenge, he enjoyed the benefits of his deviousness. Buechner writes:
… the shrewd and ambitious man who is strong on guts and weak on conscious, who knows very well what he wants and directs all his energies toward getting it, the Jacobs of this world, all do pretty well.
Jacob is the guy at your workplace who gets ahead on the backs of his coworkers. The guy who isn’t afraid to sacrifice others on his way to the top. But it is essential for us to remember that such trickery will only get us so far. Look again at Jacob’s wrestling match with God. The battle goes on for the entire night. Though Jacob struggles in all his might he is unable to get the advantage. He battles and battles until God finally reaches out and cripples him by simply touching the socket of his thigh. One can only wonder why God didn’t do this from the beginning. Why did God allow the wrestling match to wage for the entire night when He could win so easily. Perhaps there was a greater lesson for Jacob to learn.
Once crippled, Jacob grows desperate. He grabs on to God and begs, “I will not let go unless you bless me!” Jacob knows he is losing the wrestling match. He is crippled. God can’t be taken advantage of like Esau or duped like his father Isaac. Buechner writes:
[God's blessing] is not a blessing that he can have now by the strength of his cunning or the force of his will, but a blessing that he can only have as a gift.
Once Jacob gets desperate, God extends His grace, “So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28 He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there” (Genesis 32:27-29).
God’s blessings are a gift and they reach a crescendo in Jesus Christ “… that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). We can not trick, demand, or force our way into eternal life – we must humble ourselves and accept the free gift of Jesus Christ.
Not in our strength, but His.
Title: Culture Shift
Author: Albert Mohler
Date Completed: April 3, 2013
How should our Christian faith impact our lives within the context of the culture we live in? This is the question Mohler addresses in this short book. Essentially, this is a collection of short essays addressing topics, such as politics, education, terrorism, and abortion. As such, the book is relevant and needed. I love to read Mohler’s commentary as I have always found him to be concise and too the point. I must admit, however, that I was slightly disappointed that this book didn’t address each topic in more depth. Some chapters were approached with much more care than others which left the book seeming a little unbalanced to me, however, it is still a great. I appreciated Mohler’s take on the subject of abortion a great deal and would recommend this book to anyone who struggles to discern how their faith should play out in their daily lives.
A couple of years ago I began a series of posts that attempted to draw life principles from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. I grew a little disappointed when the posts failed to receive many views and abandoned the series for other topics. Since then, however, the first two posts in the series have been receiving more views and hits through Google searches and I am pleased to finally continue the series.
God’s Second Response
2 Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. 3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. 4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. 5 “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, So that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, And he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations And collects to himself all peoples (Habakkuk 2:2-2:5 NASB).
I find it so interesting that God instructed Habakkuk to inscribe the vision he was about to receive on tablets (v. 2). The vision was meant to be shared. Those who read it were to run and tell others. This is true of all God’s Word. It is meant to be shared. Christians are meant to share the Gospel of Christ just as Habakkuk was meant to share this vision.
God then warns Habakkuk to be patient (v. 3). Though the vision he receives concerns the future, Habakkuk is to exercise patience when waiting for it to come to pass. He was not to waver should it seem like God was taking His time. The writer of the Book of Hebrews would echo this sentiment some seven hundred years later when he reminded the Christian to exercise endurance, “For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay” (Hebrews 10:37). God’s plan has been unfolding for thousands of years and we are called to remain confident that it will all come to pass according to His plans and on His schedule. Like Habakkuk, we must not waver or grow impatient.
God then directly responds to Habakkuk’s query concerning the Babylonians. How can God be silent as the Babylonians swallow up the righteous? God points out that the Babylonians are sinfully proud and their souls are not right (v. 4). God contrasts the Babylonians’ posture with that of the righteous who live by faith. This implies that Babylon, despite its strength and might, will not live because they fail to trust in God. In his commentary, Dr. Thomas Constable explains that 2:4 is pivotal in understanding the Book of Habakkuk:
This is the key verse in Habakkuk, because it summarizes the difference between the proud Babylonians and their destruction, with the humble faith of the Israelites and their deliverance. The issue is trust in God.
In verse 5, God compares the Babylonians to the public drunkard. He staggers about exposing his appetite for all to see. He is never satisfied … never sated. The Babylonians may be hungry to gather all peoples and nations to themselves yet it is all in vain for they have failed to put their trust in God. Their fall is inevitable. God justice will prevail in time.
Principles for Christians Lives from Habakkuk 2:2-5
The next post in this series will examine the Five Oracles of Woe.
Title: The Time Machine
Author: H.G. Wells
Date Completed: Feb 18, 2013
Years ago I read a children’s edition of this book and loved it. The imagination of my youth was captivated by the notion of time travel. I decided it was time to revisit this classic when I found a free edition of it for the kindle and I wasn’t disappointed. I must say, the notion of time travel is still intriguing. I enjoyed the Time Traveler’s interaction with his contemporaries (the scenes that open the book) a great deal more than I did Wells’ vision of the future. Perhaps I am to far removed from the political and social statements Wells interjected into the story, but it fell just a little flat with me as the story progressed. Had Wells included just a hair more action into the story I would have definitely given it a five-star rating.
If you like to read science fiction, this is a must read.