Penuel

How do you deal with your sordid past?


Atheology ; Jacob fighting the angel, by Delac...

Atheology ; Jacob fighting the angel, by Delacroix inspired the bookcover of traité d’athéologie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creäture: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

You have heard the clichés, “What goes around comes around.” And, “Do good and good will follow you.” Like many of us, Jacob wrestled with his sordid past. All the white lies, scheming, and scandalizing came back to haunt him. He tried to run away, yet he could not do so. He was like a spider trapped in its own web of deceit and craftiness. Still, more than anything, Jacob wrestled with God. The Bible tells us that Jacob wrestled with God a whole night along the banks of the Jabbok river. He rolled in the mud of his mistakes, but he was determined to change.

Sick of his past and in desperate need of a fresh start, he met his Redeemer in person. And because Jacob wanted to change so badly, God honored his determination. He gave him a new name (Israel) and a fresh promise. However, Jacob did not leave God’s presence unscathed. God gave him a wrenched hip as a reminder of that mysterious night on the banks of the Jabbok river.

 “And Jacob arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.  He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.  Then Jacob was left alone, probably to have a quiet talk with God, and an Angel wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  Now when the angel saw that He did not prevail against Jacob, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of the joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

However, Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”  So the angel said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.”  And the Angel said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

 So Jacob called the name of the place Penuel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he crossed the Penuel, limping because of his hip.  Therefore, to this day, the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank” (Genesis 32:28-32).

Like Jacob, we should unmask our stained hearts and grimy souls and be honest with the One who knows our most secret sins. The result could be refreshing. We know it was for Jacob. After his encounter with God, Jacob was a new man.