“Don’t Give Up!” – Genesis 32:24-26; Luke 18:1
Pent. 21 – Oct. 15 & 16, 2016
Do you know (remember) the OT story of Jacob and Esau? (their nick-names were “Grabby” and “Hairy”). Esau was born first, “red and his body was covered like a hairy garment.” / “Esau” = Hairy. His twin, Jacob was born “with his hand grasping Esau’s heel” = “grabby.” Jacob certainly lived up to his name – born “grasping the heel” of his twin brother, Esau. He “wrestled” away from Esau (the birthright for a bowl of red stew) and the family blessing (deceiving his dad with his mother’s help). In addition, Jacob “wrestled” with his Uncle Laban (being tricked into marrying Leah, after working 7 years for Rachel; working another 7 years for Rachel; and another 7 years for flocks and herds). Now, as Jacob is returning to the Promised Land, fearful for his life again, because of meeting Esau with his 400 men; in the climax of this story, our OT reading; Jacob is “wrestling” with God, Himself!
This is a pretty strange story, for it seems that Jacob was “out-wrestling” God! But note God’s kindness and mercy – He got Jacob’s attention by doing what came so naturally for Jacob – “wrestling.” [How marvelous that God appeared in this extraordinary way – like a father wrestling with his very young child – allowing Jacob to appear to be winning!] True to his name – Jacob was not about to “Give Up!” without “grabbing” a blessing! When God said, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak.” Jacob replied, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” [And marvelously again! God gave to Jacob another blessing – indicated by the name change from Jacob (grabby) to Israel – meaning, “he struggles with God and with men and have overcome.”
In the process, and as a constant reminder of what God would promise him, and to assure Jacob that this was not another dream (remember the dream of Jacob’s ladder some 20+ years earlier?) – God “wrenched Jacob’s hip,” from then on he walked with a limp / a constant reminder of the blessings God had given to him and through him.
What Jacob didn’t realize (or remember / and we so easily forget as well): he didn’t need to “grab” a blessing from God – God had ALREADY promised Jacob The Blessing – the same covenant promise given to Adam & Eve, passed on through the generations also to Abraham & Isaac. Even before he was born, when Jacob and Esau were still in their mother’s womb, God told Rebekah, “the older will serve the younger.” And 20+ years earlier, when God gave Jacob the dream of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending, God had repeated the covenant promise given to Abraham & Isaac with the additional promise, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go… I will do what I have promised.” (Genesis 28:15) In spite of Jacob’s “grabbiness,” God would continue His covenant promise through Jacob.
Our natural tendency is also to be “grabby” for the “stuff of this life;” racking up heavy debts, over-loaded schedules, closets and garages full of stuff, – always trying to “keep what we have” and “get more!”
And this is not just with the “stuff” of this world, but even more harmful, in our relationships. We “hold on” to grudges, indicating that we have not forgiven the offense and our refusal to be reconciled with the other person. We are “holding on to” the wrong things!
Therefore, God’s Word says – “Let go” the grip of the stuff of this world and the “past grudges and hurts from others” – INSTEAD, “grasp your hands in prayer,” “don’t give up praying;” with the assurance and promise of God’s richest blessings!
In the Gospel reading, “Jesus told His disciples (and us) a parable to show that (we) should always pray and not give up.” (Luke18:1) And note especially the question Jesus asks at the end of the parable: “…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (v.8) Don’t Give Up (hold on!) or you will lose the precious gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ!
This parable Jesus told is really quite simple – two characters – a widow and a judge. We are told twice, perhaps for emphasis, that the judge “neither feared God nor cared about people.” (Just the opposite qualifications of what a judge – or elected official – should be!) And the widow was in need of “justice” from someone trying to take advantage of her. The widow didn’t give up until she wore down the judge and received justice. Then Jesus makes the absurd comparison “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8)
He tells us, “we should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1) because God is “the exact opposite” of the unjust judge. God ALWAYS “brings about justice for His chosen Ones” – working in His time, in His way – in spite of our impatience and times of weakness of faith.
What a timely message for us today – especially in our political, social, moral situation in America and throughout the world these days – leading up to the election (a little over 4 weeks) of our next president and other elected offices. Are you “wrestling” with knowing how to vote – what to do? God’s Word tells us: “Don’t Give Up!”
Don’t give up (in spite of the pressures and many troubles of this world) / Don’t let go (of the precious truth of God’s love and care for you) / hold on tight (to the promises God so clearly promises and gives) – This is even more true with the eternal truth of saving faith – “hold on!”/ “Don’t give up!”
Oh, how we need the encouragement: to “give up” grabbing for the things of this world / becoming discouraged because of what we see, hear and fear for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. Jesus shows us that we “should always pray and not give up:” and when He asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” – by His grace, we confidently answer, YES HE WILL because He strengthens and preserves us as we “continue in His Word,” strengthened in His Sacraments, and “grasping our hands together” in prayer and petitions with thanksgivings – no matter the political, social, moral or personal situation.
Looking forward to worshiping with you next weekend!