S-1214 21SAP/3C 10/17/10 Hymns (O) #451; S#210 (C) #658
Text: Genesis 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8
Them: “The Big Showdown” (Genesis 32:24-25)
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the O.T. Lesson: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with Him.” (Genesis 32:24-25).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved, on October 26, 1861 in Tombstone, AZ, is the legendary story of one of the biggest showdown of the west, between Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp along with Doc Holliday fought the Clantons and McLaurys at the Ok. Corral. The showdown lasted only 30 seconds, with many killed and wounded. However, this showdown is remembered as the most famous face to face gun fight in the history of the Old West.
Showdowns didn’t only occur on the dusty trails of the western Cowboys, but in every area of life. On March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York there was another big showdown called “The Fight of the Century” between the world’s boxing champion Joe Frazier and the challenger Muhammad Ali. When it was all said and done the Champion was still holding the crown.
Today, Moses the prophet of God speaks of another Showdown, not at the Ok. Corral, not at Madison Square Garden in New York, but at the Ford of Jabbok in Palestine between Jacob and the Angel of the Lord. PAUSE
But wait I am getting ahead of myself. Jacob had more than one showdown. His first was when he cheated his brother Esau out of his birth right and had to run away. Another showdown took place when he ran away from his father-in-law Laban and now is preparing for another showdown with his brother. Playing it all safe, he divides his family, servants and flocks and sends them on ahead of him. He cheats, and then he runs away, what a pattern of success!!! What a way for a Patriarch to live!
But the Supplanter the one who cheats and runs is about to have His showdown - a showdown of Grace - a showdown that will change the course of his life and speak of God’s power to transform hearts. This showdown begins like this: Jacob stays behind and prayed to the God of Abraham and Isaac to spare his life from his brother Esau (Another attempt to run away, but...). In the night all alone in the camp, he had his biggest showdown of his life. In the shadows of the night, there was a man. Jacob couldn’t see him clearly and didn’t know who he was. Was it Easu? Was it one his brother’s hit men? Whoever it is, Jacob was afraid. The hair on his neck was standing, his knees were shaking, and his heart was beating faster and faster and he was preparing for the showdown. There was no running away, no escape from this showdown...
It was so dark, Jacob couldn’t see him, but the man kept getting closer and closer and finally he was on top of him. And so the Big Showdown began. They wrestled all night but neither the man prevailed nor Jacob succumbed to the wrestling match. After this every muscle in Jacob’s body ached and burned from the showdown.
But all of a sudden Jacob’s adversary reached gently and touched the hip of Jacob with His hand. It popped. The hip flipped from its socket. Pain shot through every muscle in his body and Jacob fell to his knee. He knew this was no ordinary Man. He could have squashed Jacob any moment He chose but didn’t. As the dawn early light began to break, the Man spoke His first words saying, “Let me go, for the day has broken!”
Who was this Man? Why did He come? What would be the outcome? This would all be revealed in time… after the Big Showdown. Jacob knew he wasn’t wrestling with a mere mortal man, but none-other than the Everlasting Angel—the Pre-Incarnate Christ. This Everlasting Angel had humbled Himself to come to the Ford of Jabbok to correct a major blind spot in Jacob’s life.
Throughout his young short life, Jacob had thought of God as His friend and companion to care for his every need. He was there to wait on him hand and foot. However, this Big Showdown revealed God as his enemy to teach him a major lesson and by this deed Jacob would become His friend forever.
This Big Showdown took place so that Jacob would let God be God, and, he was to stop trying to play God. Through this Big Showdown Jacob learned to depend on His God - 100 percent. He learned not to rely on his strength and merits; not to rely on his own powers of deceit, nor of flight in the sight of danger; not to try to earn God’s favor by his own reason or strength, but completely and solely to rest on and rely on His seeming adversary’s grace and goodness. One other thing Jacob learned from this Big Showdown—to ask for God’s blessings. PAUSE.
In actuality if you view the life of the Patriarch Jacob, you must admit his whole life was one showdown after another. It is a cycle of struggle and seeming success. And so were the lives of the children of Israel—struggling to make ends meet in Canaan. Struggling under the rod of the Egyptian oppressor. Struggling against the Philistines and Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Romans. Wrestling with God and faith in the midst of a pagan world, with temptations to be like the other nations, worship their idols, and practice their immorality. It was a struggle in which they often failed. Yet it was also a struggle in which God blessed them. Here, God, not Jacob, won, and in the Lord’s victory was Jacob’s first and best victory - to see His Savior and receive His grace - as GIFT!
This Gracious God, this Man engaged in struggle with His creation, He blessed them in so many ways: By rescuing them from slavery; by feeding and caring for them for 40 years in the wilderness; by revealing His personal name to them; by demonstrating in Word and deed His dedication and devotion to them. He did it as He brought them safely to the Promised Land. He poured upon them blessing after blessing with His presence at the tabernacle, forgave them their sins by the shedding of blood and eventually He led them to Bethlehem and to Calvary to see Him as the Man who is not mere mortal; but the Everlasting Angel.
But these showdowns were not limited to the Patriarch Jacob or the children of Israel but these are our showdowns as well. Yes, we too, have our showdown. We too, struggle. We too, strive to climb the Ford of Jabbok on our own terms. We wrestle with God. And as with Jacob, thank God, He prevailed... God prevailed... on the Cross... from the grave... in your Baptism... in your life... even as He did for Jacob.
You know your struggles and striving. I need not remind you of that. Your problems are not hidden from you—you know them well. How many times you and I try to play God rather than letting God be God? How many times we want God on our own terms? Oh, yes, you know what I am saying full well. You struggle with family, co-workers, friends, health, finances and others that climb out of the depth of our sinful hearts. How many times have you been Jacob???
We have other showdowns—struggles against the Spirit of God. As Christians, we strive to live and do God’s holy will, but fail miserably. Oh, we try, and sometimes we try harder than others, but fall flat on our face. Sometimes it seems the more you try not to sin, the more you end up sinning. If we could just go one day, one hour, one minute without sin! But, no! Sin’s got hold of us, like the 8-leged tentacles of an octopus pulling us and sucking the life out of us. We mean to do well, but we end up doing wrong. Like Pastor Paul and all humanity we fight the fight of our life. We have our own showdown against the old Adam. But we don’t win. Oh, I would like to say that I have mastered sin and its destructive power, but that is not true. Like Paul I cry out. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
When we struggle with sin, in reality we are struggling with God. Will we rely on ourselves and our own devices, or will we acknowledge God as the giver of every good and perfect gift? Jacob came to the realization, after his long struggle, that he needed God’s blessing. And so do you and so do I.
On our own, by our own efforts, we cannot win the struggle against God. But in His mercy and His grace, He continues to come to us—to bless us even when we don’t deserve it. At times He shows us who’s really in control, as He did by touching Jacob’s hip and throwing it out of joint. At times we are hit hard with the hand of God to stop wrestling against Him, and accept His blessings for us as His most beloved Bride.
Jacob had his showdown. He received his blessing, the new name, the new identity, the new reality, that he is one who has fought with God... and by God’s grace, has prevailed. The Children of Israel had their showdown. Every prophet and every evangelist had his showdown. And so do you. But the greatest showdown that ever took place wasn’t in 1881 at the Ok. Corral or in 1971 in New York City, but on a hill outside of Jerusalem. There was the BIGGEST showdown ever. It took place on a Friday between the true Son of Israel and the evil forces. For six long hours the wrestling match went on, until the Son of God laid down His life. In the other corner Satan and his demons were jumping, hollering and screaming for winning the match. In the end, the Son of Man prevailed... and in His victory we find our peace. We, like the man now named “Israel” know we needn’t run away, but we can rest... in Him!
Yes, how quickly things changed! For God ended the BIG Showdown once and for all at the cross, through His Son, Jesus. There the night of our rebellion becomes the dawn of a new life with God. There He gives us His blessing, and changes our name – giving us the name of Christ to bear. And now He reaches His hand not to harm us but to place His Triune name on us in the waters of Baptism and blesses us to be a blessing to others. Amen.
Now the peace of God.