Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jacob Seeks God’s Blessing -- Genesis 32:29-30

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. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved."

I suppose that if God could ask Jacob what his name was when He already knew and then changed it to a new one, Jacob felt he could ask Him His name. And he did. But God did not answer his question except with another question, “Why is it that you ask?” As I contemplate this exchange between God and Jacob, I cannot help but think that this is indeed often the case when we ask God a question that we seriously feel we need the answer to. He responds by putting another question in our heart or mind. For example, “God, what should I do with respect to my situation at work?” And He replies, “What does the Scripture say about similar situations?” or “What do you think my Son may have done in your situation?” And so on; you get the idea. I cannot, nor do I ever presume to, speak for God where He himself has not (when I do, it is only to quote what He Himself has said in His word). In this case, I can only suggest that there may be two reasons for His often answering our questions with another question. The first is to suggest that we are not useless. We were in fact created in His image. We can think and we have a memory that allows us to learn, experience, and store things for future reference and application. Secondly, it is possible that His Word as given to us in the Scriptures is indeed complete and can help us arrive at the answers to all questions for which we actually need an answer to at this time. Jacob must have sensed that. He must have even figured out the answer to his original question by considering God’s posing of the question, “Why is it that you ask?” in His response. I say that because you will notice that there is no record of Jacob answering the question that God asked. All we know is that God then blessed Jacob.

We have no record of the nature of the blessing, just what Jacob said about the whole experience and what he called the place where this occurred. Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Here in this portion of scripture we first hear mention, indirectly, of the idea that seeing the face of God may be a very dangerous thing, for Jacob says, “I saw God face to face and I’m still around.” Had there been some previous thinking in this regard by those that worshipped Jacob’s God? Or perhaps Jacob was really saying, “I wrestled with God and by His grace, He allowed me to still live.” Jacob was no fool. He knew God could have wiped him out in an instance but instead He kept him alive for a purpose.

And Jacob then names this place ‘Peniel’ which is translated from the Hebrew as the “face of God”. His memorial to this event would not be remembered for the fact that Jacob fought God, but that he saw God’s face and God granted him life. May that be our desire in all our dealings with the Almighty. Not to remember our striving with Him, but to realize that by His grace we are still alive to tell the story.

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