Reading 1 - Gen 32:30,31
"So Jacob called the place Peniel [face of God] saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared' " (Gen 32:30).
Brethren, do we wrestle with God? How do we confront our "enemies"? Do we go through life dividing our time between praying and plotting? Do we ask for help and then scheme in unworthy ways to obtain our goals, giving the lie to all our worthier thoughts? Do we twist and turn and worry under every constraint to our own wills, never pausing to remind ourselves that God is in control of everything, and that what we "suffer" as well as what we "enjoy" contribute alike to His purpose?
It is so easy to forget the lesson of Shimei's cursing of David, that God had sent the "enemy" -- so who are we to ask "why"? (2Sa 16:10). Likewise, the reply of Jesus to Pilate: "Thou shouldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). For us the problem is the same as Jacob's: how to remember in our troubled hours what we take for granted in our quieter moments; that "All things work together for good to them that love God" and, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Assuredly we shall all come to times when our theoretical belief in such an idea will be put to the test of reality.
We should see ourselves in Jacob, and Jacob in ourselves. The experiences of this flesh-and-blood man have direct relevance to us. Do we fear and doubt? Do we vacillate between faith in God and scheming on our own account? So did he! But in his weakness he was drawn finally and completely to God. Let us have the humility and grace, and wisdom, to follow his path.
There is comfort in this thought, that Jacob never became perfect -- that he never could bring himself to trust God absolutely, and yet God loved him. And so it may be with us. God has condescended to be known as the "God of Jacob" (the one who "wrestled"), not just the "God of Israel" (the "Prince with God")!!
"And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh" (Gen 32:31).
The "thorn in his flesh", like Paul's, was not removed. It remained with Jacob as proof and reminder of his encounter with God. And so we all "limp" through life, our failures and weaknesses witnessing eloquently to us of our need -- our desperate need -- to trust in God alone. We survey our lives, remembering the times when we, personally, failed... yet, in those failures found God.
As Jacob limped toward his meeting with Esau, the sun rose upon him! The doubts, the shadows, and the fears were gone with the night. He had seen "God" face to face, and through his weakness found a blessing. Now, when at last he saw Esau, he would still be seeing "God" (Gen 33:10). From now on, he would always God's "face", wherever he went.
Help us to see Thy "face" in all our experiences.
Cause the light of Thy truth to shine into our hearts,
so that -- abandoning our own wills
and our own strength --
we come at last to trust in Thee alone.
In Christ we pray.
Reading 2 - Psa 36:8
"They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights" (Psa 36:8).
"Sheba's queen was amazed at the sumptuousness of Solomon's table. She lost all heart when she saw the provision of a single day; and she marvelled equally at the company of servants who were feasted at the royal board. But what is this to the hospitalities of the God of grace? Ten thousand thousand of his people are daily fed; hungry and thirsty, they bring large appetites with them to the banquet, but not one of them returns unsatisfied; there is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore. Though the host that feed at Jehovah's table is countless as the stars of heaven, yet each one has his portion of meat. Think how much grace one saint requires, so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day; and yet the Lord spreads His table, not for one, but many saints, not for one day, but for many years; not for many years only, but for generation after generation... the woman said, 'The dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the master's table'; but no child of God is ever served with scraps and leavings; like Mephibosheth, they all eat from the king's own table. In matters of grace, we all have Benjamin's portion -- we all have ten times more than we could have expected, and though our necessities are great, yet are we often amazed at the marvellous plenty of grace which God gives us experimentally to enjoy" (CH Spurgeon).
Reading 3 - Mat 21:21
"I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done" (Mat 21:21).
"Never worry. Worry has sent more people to the asylums and hospitals than anything else. Worry is stupid, juvenile, faithless, non-productive, round-and-round-in-a-circle thinking. If something calls for concern, be concerned. But be concerned in a constructive, productive way. Think in a straight line -- from problem to solution. Or if there is no solution, to acceptance. If there is no solution, there is always prayer: though that should be the first resort, not the last. God can make anything happen or not happen. If He doesn't choose to, then it is not to be; or we have not prayed long enough, or sincerely enough. Or we have something to learn that denying our prayers helps to teach us. Everything related to God's affairs and God's people has a good purpose. Folly frets and worries and rebels. Wisdom knows there is a reason, and accepts, and adjusts, and is thankful, whether God gives, or takes away" (GV Growcott).