Devotions for September 21-27, 2015
Monday, September 21, 2015
“He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything he had” (Genesis 32:23).
Ken and Lea Takemoto sat by the side of their daughter’s hospital bed. They had brought her into the ER when she complained of severe headaches. A short time ago the doctors told Ken and Lea that their daughter had a virulent form of meningitis. It might take their daughter’s life. They could only wait and see if the drugs their daughter was receiving had a positive effect.
Ken was a successful lawyer and Lea was a school district superintendent. They had created a good life for themselves—the American dream. But, as the Takemoto’s sat by their daughter’s bed all of that meant nothing; it was of no help to them. All that Ken and Lea could do was to come before the Lord empty handed and ask God to heal their child.
Jacob was a rich man. He had been blessed with livestock, servants, wives and children. As he prepared to meet his brother, Esau, Jacob’s riches meant nothing. He sent them across the brook out of danger. He would face his brother alone and could only pray that God would go before him and make peace. Jacob’s only hope and our only hope is in our God. Nothing else endures.
Lord and Master enable us to place our entire trust in your love and mercy, and to live boldly for you. Amen.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
“Jacob was left alone” (Genesis 32:24a).
We aren’t comfortable with ourselves. We turn the television on when we are alone even though we don’t watch it. We say that we like to hear the voices of others. The cell phone has become our constant companion. Any spare moment will find us checking emails, surfing the internet, texting or playing a game. Our excuse is that we need to be connected. Sometimes we need to turn up the music to drown out the accusing, demeaning voice that we hear in our head. Though it may be a positive move to confront that voice, or to pause and examine our feelings, our goals or our motivations, we avoid it.
Jacob had sent his family away to keep them safe. His brother was coming to meet him the next day. For the moment Jacob was alone. We don’t know what went through his mind, but we can guess. Jacob might have remembered how he had tricked Esau out of his birthright and blessing. He might have been uncomfortable when he recalled how he had lied and cheated others most of his life. Perhaps Jacob pondered that though he was not an honorable man, God had still chosen Jacob and carried out God’s covenant with Abraham through him.
We may be uncomfortable being alone with ourselves. We may not like ourselves. Still, we have a God who loves us just as we are. Our God welcomes us into God’s family and is proud to call us his children. We may not be even close to perfect, but we are God’s.
Loving Lord, thank you for bringing us into your family. Help us to celebrate this truth through the day and in the days ahead. Amen.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
“A man wrestled with him until daybreak” (Genesis 32:14b).
Juan was struggling. There was a new kid in school and Juan felt he should go out of his way to make the boy feel welcomed. The trouble was that Juan didn’t want to do it. He has a little shy and the boy didn’t look like he was the type to fit in to Juan’s circle of friends. Kris had been hurt by some comments that a friend of hers had made. Since that happened Kris had given her friend the cold shoulder. She knew as a Christian she should forgive, but she really didn’t want to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. Bill was addicted to pornography. He knew it was wrong and that he should give it up. He desperately wanted to give it up because it was affecting his relationships, but the porn had a strong hold on him.
Jacob wasn’t the first or the last person to wrestle God. He felt that the Lord, through circumstances, was leading him to places where he didn’t want to go. Jacob wrestled with God all night. Jacob came away from the match with a limp and a new name.
We all have struggled with God. The Spirit may have convicted us of one of our favorite sins, or shone the light on our prejudice or sought to lead us out of our comfort zone. We wrestled—we didn’t want to do what the Spirit was asking us to do, but we knew that we should follow the Spirit’s leading. We made excuses, told ourselves we couldn’t do it but in the end hesitantly took the first steps of faithful obedience. All the time God patiently worked in our lives guiding, forgiving and loving us. God never stopped loving us.
Divine Coach, thank you for your patience as we struggle to be obedient and honor you in our lives. Amen.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
“He struck him on the hip socket” (Genesis 32:25).
It was the Sunday after the youth mission trip. They had gone into Mexico and built houses for a week. Working together, praying together, encountering the poverty and helping people who have so little changed them. One by one they approach the microphone and share about the week. “I’m so much more thankful for what I have,” states a girl. A boy leans into the microphone, “I felt so much closer to God when I was helping others. I want to continue to help people.” And so it went, each of the ten teenagers shared what the Holy Spirit had done and how they had been changed.
Jacob encountered God and he was changed. His outward limp probably mirrored the inward change that took place in him. He no longer appears to be the cocky liar and conniving thief. Jacob is more humble and able to let go of the worry he had concerning his meeting with Esau. This isn’t the last time Jacob will encounter God. He will live a long life—one that was filled with tragedy and triumph.
When the Holy Spirit moves in our lives, we are changed. It may not be an overnight transformation, instead it may take years. The Holy Spirit, though, is shaping us into God’s image and enabling us to bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy peace, patience …
O Divine Potter, you are the craftsman and we are the clay. Make us into the vessels you want us to be so that we may serve you and our neighbors. Amen.
Friday, September 25, 2015
“You no longer shall be called Jacob, but Israel” (Genesis 32:28).
Max was in the witness protection program. His testimony had put several drug kingpins behind bars. They wanted revenge so Max had to begin a new life—a new town, a new vocation and a new name. Max thought his name change was fitting because he was no longer Ben, the mild mannered, somewhat shy accountant.
Jacob’s name was changed. He received the name Jacob because of what happened at his birth. His brother Esau was born first, but Jacob had hold of Esau’s heel. The name Jacob means “a person who supplants,” it could also be meant to uproot, to supersede or to steal. Not too many people would like to be called Jacob if they knew that was what their name meant. That’s not the end of Jacob’s story, though. Jacob wrestled with God that night and when the sun came up he had a new name, “Israel—the one who strives with God.”
When St. Paul described what happened to a person who became a disciple of Jesus Christ he wrote, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Like Jacob who became Israel, God has touched our lives and made us new.
Precious Savior, you have given us new life. Though tempted to live in the old, enable us to turn away from it and live in the new. Amen.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
“And there he blessed him” (Genesis 32:29).
Jacob was blessed. That was one gift that set him apart from others. Jacob received his father, Isaac’s, blessing instead of Esau. Now Jacob also received a blessing from God. Many years before, God had blessed Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. That blessing is recorded in Genesis 12. At the time of the blessing God told Abraham, “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (vs.2).
Blessings aren’t to be hoarded; they are meant to be shared. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have been richly blessed: forgiven, given new life, given a new purpose in life and loved. If we keep our blessings to ourselves they become stale. It is when we share our blessings with others, seek their needs rather than our own and share God’s love and grace with them that our blessings become fresh.
Through much of his life, Jacob was a selfish and self-centered man. It took him a while before he understood that there is only one God and Jacob wasn’t God. We might not be good at sharing our blessings at first but God never stops blessing us, and inviting us to share our blessings with others.
God of Grace, make us blessings to someone today. Amen.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
“I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).
In Old Testament times, is was believed that if anyone saw God face to face that person would die. That’s why God never appeared to Abraham, but rather only spoke to him. When God appeared to Moses, God did so in a burning bush. Moses couldn’t see God. When Moses was up on Mount Sinai and God was giving him the Ten Commandments, God hid Moses in a cleft in the rock so Moses wouldn’t see God and be killed. The logic behind the belief is a little like the theory of matter and anti-matter. If the two come together there will be a gigantic explosion. Holy and unholy can’t be together either.
It was dark when Jacob wrestled with God. Jacob couldn’t see the man’s face. Times have changed. We have seen God and lived. God has revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. In the person of Jesus we see a God who is forgiveness, love and grace. We didn’t just catch a glimpse of God, but rather Jesus dwelt among us. This same Jesus has called us to be his disciples and Jesus dwell within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. We have seen God and we have been given new life.
God of Life, thank you for revealing yourself to us. May our lives mirror your image so that when they see us they see you—God who dwelt among us. Amen.