Israel, the struggle with God
In the beginning God created…everything.
He made people in there somewhere and shortly there after everything went downhill. He tried to clean things up a time or two, but realized that to steer the world back on course with the mission that he had in mind, it was going to have to be an inside job.
He announces this in a strange way by coming to earth and getting into a wrestling match with a guy walking across the desert. They fight for a while, God throws the guys hip out of whack and once they are finished God gives the guy a new name, Israel, which means “wrestling with God.”
Now, the Jews have a history of naming things very obvious names (Adam came from dirt so his name is dirt, Esau had red hair so his name was red), but there is something a bit cooler about the name Israel. Not only was it a name about what he was doing, but it is also a name to denote what his people would be doing until the end of time.
God wants wrestlers. And his people have wrestled. The wrestled with him in the desert, in Egypt, again in the desert, in Babylon. They struggled with Christ and what to do with him. They have wrestled with God under the Romans. They have continued to wrestle with him for much of the past 2000 years. And it is in this wrestling match that sometimes there comes a moment of clarity, a system of thought, even a small insight that man hadn’t thought before.
Because in the wrestling match, when man and God get into it, change happens. Hips are broken. Hearts are broken. Egos are broken and man receives something new from God.
This is the story of church history. This is the story of the rabbinical ages. This is the story of the prophets. This is the story of everyone who has picked up the Bible, flipped through the pages and found something to wrestle with.
I am a bit sad, from time to time, to be part of a church tradition which rejects (mostly by exclusion) much of church history. I have friends who are Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopalian who have rich history and traditions. My denomination however was founded recently with the hopes of recreating the original church from the first century (with some minor updates). So we don’t talk a lot about the saints, the church fathers, or the various councils and meetings which brought to us many of the rich traditions in the Christian world today. Much of this research I have had to do myself.
I think that we aren’t better for it. Because when you cut out 2000 years of history, you are cutting out 2000 years of true, hard and honest wrestlings with God. And when you cut out the struggle, you cut out the growth.
Keep on struggling. It means you haven’t given up.