October 18
‘For after I had turned away, I repented; and after I was discovered, I struck my thigh.’ Jeremiah 31:19a (NRSV)
Bible reading: Genesis 32:22-32 (Go to the Bible passage)
Jacob – initially a sheltered boy – had become a man through many years of trials. With good management and cleverness he had acquired great wealth: poor he had come in Harran, wealthy he returned to the land of Canaan.
But when he approached his native land, he grew afraid; not so much because of himself, but because of his children. What would it be like to meet Esau? Would he still seek revenge? Jacob sent generous gifts ahead to pacify his brother. But his worries did not decrease and he sent everyone across the Jabbok and stayed behind alone, hoping to find God’s peace in silence. Then a man wrestled with him.
The prophet Hosea calls this man ‘the Lord God’ and ‘an angel’ (Hosea 12:4,5). Jacob wanted to be blessed by God, he wanted to be sure God would be with him. But God could not bless Jacob unless he repented his sins. Jacob had been prosperous until then - God had showered him with blessings - but in those blessings Jacob had sought rather his own benefit than the honor of God.
When we come to acknowledge the blessings of God in our prosperity, we also perceive our own futility.
Jacob resisted acknowledging this. But God wanted to be with him, and therefore He struck him on the thigh, something Jacob should have done himself as a sign of repentance. So God awoke repentance and Jacob went on his way as a cripple, yet blessed by God.
What a clear image of the new covenant God promises (Jeremiah 31:31)! In our hardened hearts God awakes true repentance so that we can continue our ways as redeemed people.
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