Friday, March 14, 2014

Camping anyone?

A meditation on Genesis 32

At first, reading this story made me think, "Lord, what in the world are you telling me in this story?" So I looked closer. A repeated term in the story is the word "camp" (also translated group or company). The most important occurrence of the word is in verses 1 and 2, where we find Jacob saying, "This is the camp of God!" (after seeing angels) and then calling the place "Mahanaim," which mean two camps. After sending some messengers to Esau to let him know that he (Jacob) was coming back, and after hearing that Esau was coming with 400 soldiers instead, Jacob became afraid and divided his group into two camps (v.7)). Then he prayed (v.10), and told the Lord that he even though he had nothing before, but now he has two camps (or groups). Without waiting for the Lord to answer, he took it upon himself to divide his entourage into little gifts (groups) so that they can go on ahead of him to Esau, his brother, hoping to pacify him (v.21). Finally, Jacob was left by himself in a place that will later be called Peniel. There he wrestled with a man (v.24), who later the narrator reveals to be God (that's why Jacob called the place Peniel). So God eventually blessed him (because Jacob wanted so much to be blessed by God, v.26). But before that God change his name to Israel (v.28). The man (God) said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans (some translations do not have "and with humans") and have overcome (or won, prevailed)." What's the meaning of this? Jacob has found his true camp at last. It is in the presence of God. He has been struggling all his life, wanting something (a blessing) but could not get it in a legitimate way, so he had to deceive and lie all the time. But now he realized that he cannot continue like this anymore. He had to trust God with everything, because now his very life is at stake. Esau is about to kill him (he thought). He cannot escape the consequences of his actions anymore. Now he must face them. But in the end he realized that all he really needed was the presence of God. Without God in his life he had nothing. But with God he can do all things (even face Esau, his angry brother). Jacob (just like Israel later on) had to struggle (wrestle) just to survive. But in reality God's presence (God's camp) was all that is needed to succeed. In the same way, you can stay in your camp and try to protect it, and fail eventually, or you can go over to God's camp (His presence) and experience His blessing. The choice is yours. Which camp are you in right now?

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