Nov 102019

From Hamo’s Blog Post
Pastor, Quinns Rocks Baptist Church.

“Did you know there are twins in New Zealand and their parents named them ‘Fish & Chips’? True story.

Another family have 3 kids – Faith, Hope and… yeah, you guessed it… Kevin! Not surprisingly, ‘Fish & Chips’ have been banned as a names in NZ, along with other choice names like ‘Robocop’ (Mexico), ‘Circumcision’ (also Mexico) and a host of others.

Names matter.  In the ancient world names carried weight and significance. They spoke to our very identity.

So when Jacob [Gen 27-32] was given his name – meaning ‘deceiver’ or ‘supplanter’ – it spoke to who he was and how his life would be lived.  Jacob deceived both his twin brother Esau and his father Isaac and took what was rightfully Esau’s. Not cool. And not surprising that Esau wanted to kill him.

After a significant time apart, Jacob believes he needs to go home and see Esau again. He is on his way when he hears Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men – which only serves to confirm his worst fears. Anticipating the worst, Jacob splits his family in half and sends them off in opposite directions and then stops for a while on his own. Then follows the most bizarre but transformative encounter.

Verse 24 says: ‘So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.’ 
I’ve done a lot of camping, but never have I had someone approach me and ask for a wrestle! And the idea of fighting through the entire night seems equally weird. The ‘man’ (who Jacob later realises is a representative of God) couldn’t ‘overpower him’, which I sense means he couldn’t get him to tap – to quit. Clearly the ‘man’ was able to end the fight as the eventual touch on the hip suggests, but he couldn’t get Jacob to quit.

Just before this encounter was Jacob’s dream – a beautiful, grace-filled moment when God reaffirmed his covenant to him. God chose to use a betrayer and deceiver as the father of the nation he would call his own…

And now in this moment Jacob boldly says to the ‘man’, ‘You can’t go unless you bless me.’ He receives that blessing, along with a new name. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel – from deceiver to ‘struggler with God’.

The people of Israel are those who will struggle with God.

As I read that story again recently, I was reminded that as the church – the ‘new Israel’ – we inherit that identity and we too are those who struggle with God. The choice is how we will struggle. We can struggle well – honestly engaging with God, grappling with our expectations and disappointments – or we can struggle badly. We can disengage – give up the fight – or just live forever in anger and fury at a God who didn’t do all we had hoped. Or again we can live in denial – we can parade the ‘victorious Christian life’ to those who look on – we can speak the lingo, look the part – all the while disintegrating internally because our experience does not match our rhetoric.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘struggling well’.

So many of us struggle.  Correction, we all struggle – it’s in our DNA – to wrestle with God in some way. But often, when we speak of ‘those who struggle’, we do it in pejorative terms, as if they were our ‘bench players’, or our liabilities.

Nothing could be further from the truth.”

An extract, with amendments, from Hamo’s blog.  Just interesting that we are sharing the same thoughts together.


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