A Dark Night of the Soul
Sovereign Lord, I give myself to You. With all my being, I want to run this race of life for You.
Read Genesis 32:22-32
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“An atheist does not find God, for the same reason a thief does not find a policeman” (Unknown).
Having done all he can to be ready for his momentous meeting with Esau, Jacob is finally by himself, no doubt with a tumult of thoughts and feelings. He now experiences his second theophany (appearance of God), which is variously described as enigmatic, ambiguous, shrouded in mystery and difficult to interpret. Some interpreters have said that it is a reworking of an animistic tale where a spirit would lie in wait for a traveler at a place where it was difficult to avoid. However, this is a completely unnecessary, wrong-headed interpretation and should certainly not be used to trivialize the importance of this event in Jacob’s life. It changes him physically; he becomes lame. More fundamentally, the new name of “Israel” marks a change of identity. Jacob’s past, marked by his birth name, is now just that: past. In the future, he–and the nation he founds–bear the new name. The place where he met God face-to-face he names Peniel, recalling his encounter and indicating what happened to him at the place he struggled and where he was spared.
Jacob’s first theophany occurred as he left the Promised Land; this one occurs as he returns to it. The first marked the reason he left (to escape from Esau’s anger); the second marked what happened next (reconciliation with the brother he wronged). They surround the time Jacob spent away–with God’s presence and blessing even though it took all those years for him to acknowledge God as his own, as well as the God of his forebears.
In wanting to be alone before meeting Esau, Jacob shows a sense of the gravity of the occasion and the need to prepare; he can’t have anticipated what would happen, but it gave his life new direction and helped him realize his spiritual inheritance.
Reflect on, and give thanks for, the ways you have been changed through meeting and going deeper with God.
Lord, I want to see You more clearly, love You more dearly and follow You more nearly today, and every day.
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