Wrestling with God’s Word

Peniel

Luke 11:28 “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Do you ever find the Bible frustrating?

Perhaps you have tried to read it cover to cover before. Things started well. Genesis was easy reading, because it covered the lives of real people, and there was plenty of action, intrigue and adventure. Exodus started out much the same way. But by the end of Exodus, page upon page of laws and instructions for ancient worship became tiresome. Leviticus was just too much. Its list of rules and regulations for the Israelites was sometimes hard to make any sense of. “This was once what faith in God was all about!!?” You put it down, and never started it again.

Or maybe you have visited Bible class before, but they had been studying this topic for three weeks already, and it was obvious that if you didn’t attend those first class periods, what followed wasn’t going to make much sense. “What was that exinanition of Jesus thing again?” At other times the class was starting a topic that didn’t have any immediate connection to your life. “Almost everyone I know and work with is a Christian. I live in a free country. Why do I need a class on dealing with persecution?”

Or maybe you have tried to start those home devotions that you always feel guilty about not having. But you didn’t feel sure of what you were doing, the kids were antsy and didn’t pay attention, and the whole experience seemed more irritating than uplifting. “This is supposed to strengthen my faith!!?”

Do we just give up?

Jesus pronounces blessing on those who hear God’s word and “keep” it: hold it dear, trust it, and strive to put it into practice. God’s promise through Isaiah still stands, “My word…will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Time with God’s word is never wasted time. Ever. That is God’s promise.

But this does not mean that time with God’s word will always be a warm and wonderful experience. It doesn’t mean that reading or studying God’s word will always be an easy thing. In fact, sometimes it may simply be hard work. But isn’t that true of many lesser activities that are good for us?

At times we need to approach our study of God’s word and trust its promise to bless us in much the same way that Jacob approached the Lord himself when he wrestled with the Lord at Peniel (Genesis 32:22-32).

When Jacob was returning home and about to face his estranged brother Esau, the Lord appeared to him at night as a man and the two wrestled with each other all night until dawn. “When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’” (Genesis 32:25-26).

Jacob’s experience was a painful one, but he held on. He held on and would not let go of the Lord until he received his blessing. As much as this was a physical struggle, it was a struggle of faith. And Jacob’s faith was blessed: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

In the same way, when we are wrestling with God’s word–struggling to study it–and it doesn’t come easy, let us take a hold of that word and hold on to it in faith and not let go until it blesses us. God promises us it will. Maybe the blessing won’t be immediately obvious and maybe it won’t be the blessing we had in mind, but bless us it will. “Learn of me,” Jesus promises, “and you will find rest for your souls.”

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