Thursday, December 06, 2018

Advent Angels 6

Day 6: Warrior Angels

Jacob, who we met a few days ago dreaming of angels ascending and descending from heaven, has spent a couple of decades working for his uncle, and has married two of Laban’s daughters. Finally, though, he decides to return and face Esau, who he had cheated out of his birthright as head of the household.

On the night before they meet Jacob and his caravan of family, servants and flocks come to a brook called Peniel, which is marks some sort of boundary. Once he has crossed it he will be in Esau’s territory. This is the last point where he might turn back. He sends his family and possessions over the brook ahead of him, but he waits by the brook, as if not sure whether he can bear to commit himself to what might be a very difficult confrontation with Esau.

During the night, however, an angel (or possibly God himself – this is one of those ambiguous stories where we aren’t quite sure which the writer means us to understand) wrestles with Jacob, All night long they fight, and neither is able decisively to defeat the other. As the day breaks, though, Joseph is exhausted, and his hip is put out of joint. He refuses to let go, though, until this divine creature has blessed him. He realises that this has been a holy struggle. Jacob has been a trickster from his youth upwards, often getting his way by subterfuge and deceit. This time, though, there has been no way of cheating, and Jacob has been humbled and changed forever by this fight.

·         How do you feel if you can’t get your own way? Have you ever used underhand or devious means to win a fight of some sort, just so that you can be proved right?
·         Have you ever struggled with your conscience as Jacob seems to do here? What helped you make the right decision (if you think you did!)?

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