Image result for jacob wrestles with god icon
Genesis 32:
22 The same night (Jacob) arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 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. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, scepter that rises out of Jacob, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, rule our hearts through Your suffering cross and forgive us our sins, that we may become partakers of Your divine life;  for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Bio:  Jacob, the third of the three Hebrew patriarchs, was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” was renamed “Israel,” which means “he strives with God” (Gen. 25:26; 32:28). His family life was filled with trouble, caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (March 31). Much of his adult life was spent grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land. Prior to Jacob’s death during the blessing of his sons, God gave the promise that the Messiah would come through the line of Jacob’s fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49).

Reflection: The twin brothers Jacob and Esau ended up in bitter enmity.  As Esau said of his brother, “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”   Enmity seems to be magnified in families.  But why did Esau hate Jacob? Jacob tricked him out of his birthright and their Father’s blessing .  Yes, Jacob did so but Esau was also complicit in his own hatred, as we read earlier in Genesis, at the beginning of the Jacob narrative:

29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 

Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of red lentil stew showing he despised his birthright. But why did Esau despise his birthright and then sell it?  Answer: He was hungry! He thought he was so hungry Esau said:  I am about to die .  Later when his birthright was ripped off from Esau by his brother, then Esau’s birthright was again precious to him and he was sad he lost it. 

Was Esau about to die from hunger? We have probably all said at one time, “I am so hungry, I could die”.  We aren’t about to die, neither was Esau!  These Scripture verses are a cautionary tale in among and themselves about temptation to sin.  Why did Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?   “…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…”  Her eyes were doing the leading. As if Eve said, What’s the use of faith and obedience to the Lord??  Why did Cain kill his brother Abel?  Cain heard from the Lord that He had a higher regard for Abel’s sacrifice.  By what he heard from the Lord (!), then Cain was “angry” of the Lord’s favor for his brother. When the Lord Himself counseled Abel, Abel did not listen. Cain in anger killed his brother, the world’s first murder. As if Cain said, What’s the use of my brother and service to my brother?  When King David saw a beautiful woman, he committed adultery with her and had Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle. As if David said, What’s the use of fidelity in marriage and my leadership as King?

When one of our organs, like our stomach, or our eyes, ears, and especially the organs right below our stomachs, are leading, then it is the devil’s opportunity to be misleading.  Can we be so easily tempted?  Ahh, yes. We use the excuse of our organs as to the reason we are tempted!  I was hungry! I was angry! I was randy!  Then when misled, I am dead. Who can raise us up?  Answer:  the LORD God. This is saving faith.  Eve, Cain, David and Esau looked to themselves alone and not to the Lord, that is, they had not faith. Esau did not think he sinned and needed to repent.  Jacob did believe and trust because he was a sinner and he knew the promises of God to him.  And it was a struggle, so much so that when the Lord Himself wrestled with him all night, God renamed Jacob: Israel, literally, he who wrestles or struggles with God.

Jumping way ahead in Biblical time, Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights and we are told “He was hungry” then Satan tempted him to turn a rock into a loaf of bread. We read in Scripture He was tempted in every way we are but was without sin.  He knows from the inside out of our skin to guard and guide us in the time of sin, that is, temptation.  See Hebrews 2:18 

Now Esau was very  sorrowful as to what happened, but not what he did, follow his stomach and so easily despise his inheritance.  He was caught but he would not be taught.  Jacob sinned as well but he could be taught, and he would be again and again and again. But by the grace of God, went Jacob.

Another Reflection (a better one!) by Martin Luther, from his commentary on Genesis, on Esau’s ‘repentance’:

…there is another repentance that is not genuine but is false. The Germans call it “a gallows repentance,” namely, when I repent in such a way that I am not ashamed of having offended God but am ashamed because I have done harm to myself. Such a repentance is very common, and I myself have often repented in this manner; and I felt sorry that I had done something foolishly, unwisely, and with harm. I was more ashamed of the foolishness and harm than of the sin, than of the guilt or offense. But to feel sorry only for the harm that has been done is a repentance of which God has no knowledge. Indeed, even our own hearts have no knowledge of it, as is evident in the case of Esau; for he does not say: “Now I realize that I have sinned. Why did I offend God by selling my birthright? Now I shall gladly do without the blessing, provided that God forgives me this sin.” This would have been a true repentance, with which he would have been concerned about appeasing God on account of the sin that had been committed. For true repentance looks at God’s wrath on account of sin. It earnestly desires that He be appeased; it shuns the wrath of God. It not only produces grief on account of the harm and no anger and hatred against the brother, but this is what it says: “Provided that God were willing to be gracious to me, I would gladly bear any harm and evil whatever.”  You hear nothing of this from Esau; he has a repentance because of punishment, not because of sin. Therefore, he does not find a repentance for the punishment, for he does not seek a repentance for sin but is stubborn in his sin…

Psalm 12 for Today

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12 Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
    for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
    the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

This Psalm is the appointed Psalmody for January 28th. This is the problem that the Psalmist correctly observes:

Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak… (vs. 2)

“With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is master over us?” (vs. 4)

On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man. (vs. 8)

These Scripture verses describe to a “t” our world of Twitter, Facebook, internet, newspapers, magazines and TV:  “flattering lips”, “double heart” and “vileness” and it’s exaltation.  They obviously and also correctly describe the world of the Psalmist.  We are surrounded. The only aspect of these sins against 2nd and 8th Commandments that has changed in the ensuing centuries  is the speed by which they occur in our day. The twitterverse is a constant and dreary war of words, of innuendo, half-truth and falsehood. The Psalmist’s response, his inspired response is to pray and by doing so diagnoses a terrible problem.  As a great Hasidic rabbi, the Baal Shem Tov said, We have beheld evil so that we also see it in ourselves. 

With the Psalmist, we have been redeemed by the Lord in true faith by His grace.  Even to know that what we hear and see around us is so terribly amiss and “wicked” is itself a grace.  The old adage, “But by the grace of God go I” maybe apropos here.  The Lord’s grace is the sole cause of humility. I wonder that by His grace, are we on the outside looking in or in the inside looking out and seeing that “…on every side the wicked prowl”. 

In his day, St. Basil the Great, saw this as well with the Psalmist. Here is the Church Father’s Commentary on Psalm 12:

“Our lips are our own; who is our master?” These are words of insane and deranged people. For this very reason Paul says the opposite to them in the words, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price,” and bids them not to live for themselves. Your lips are not yours, he is saying, but the Lord’s. He it was, in fact, who made them, who fitted you together, who breathed life into you. But you—what do you have? Not all that we have, by contrast, is ours; for even the possessions we have others have entrusted to us, and the land we lease others have given to us. Exactly so has God let these things out on lease to you, not for you to bear thorns but to convert the seed into something useful; not for you to make folly flourish by them, not for deceit but for humility, benediction and love. He gave you eyes, not to indulge in unrestrained gazing but to embellish them with temperance; and hands, not for striking but for giving alms.

Per the saint’s commentary: Who we are is Who’s we are. What are we to do?  Answer: Trust in the Lord’s promises which makes us pure:

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.

The Lord will keep His Words so we can keep them…and even speak the Word of Truth in our various modes of communication.  Note also that the Psalmist speaks of the “words of the Lord” not the “word of the Lord”.  I think this may refer the words of the Bible which are he words of the Lord. They are “like silver” and then Psalmist intensifies their absolute purity, “purified seven times”, like no silver on earth.  When “we have words” with someone, face to face, or face to Facebook, and they are lies and half-truths and vile, we turn to the Lord in repentance and contrition. We do sin in “thought, WORD, and deed”.  Only His pure Word in the pure Word made flesh who can forgive and restore us to Himself.  And when tempted and tried before we put our fingers to the keyboard to pray, Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.  His Words make clean and keep us clean. “Create in us a clean heart, O Lord…” (Ps. 51) Psalm 12 is perfect for our tongues prone to wag, our eyes to wander and hands to abuse, that the Lord use our hands, eyes and tongue for His pure purposes. The Lord will guard us from this generation forever Psalm 51: 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.

Walker Percy
Walker Percy, Novelist

“Where are the Hittites? Why does no one find it remarkable that in most world cities today there are Jews but not one single Hittite, even though the Hittites had a great flourishing civilization while the Jews nearby were a weak and obscure people? When one meets a Jew in New York or New Orleans or Paris or Melbourne, it is remarkable that no one considers the event remarkable. What are they doing here? But it is even more remarkable to wonder, if there are Jews here, why are there not Hittites here? Where are the Hittites? Show me one Hittite in New York City.”

The Lord commanded Peter: Feed My sheep( John 21:16-18). We need to eat and drink every day and every week, so we need Him. This was the vocation of Paul and his brother pastors Timothy and Titus.

Concordia and Koinonia

Acts 20: 28-35

Psalm 71: 1-14

Titus 1: 1-9

St. Luke 10: 1-9

St. Titus, like Timothy with whom he is often  associated, was a friend and co-worker of St, Paul. Titus was a Gentile, perhaps a native of Antioch, who accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem when they brought assistance to the Christians in Judea during a famine (Acts 11:29-30; Galatians 2:1). It is not known if he accompanied Paul on his first or second missionary journeys, but Titus was with him on the third one, when he helped reconcile the Corinthians to Paul (2 Corinthians 7:6-7) and assisted with the collection for the Church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:3-6). It was probably on the return to Jerusalem that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:4-5). Afterward he is found working in Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10). According to tradition, Titus returned to Crete, where he served as bishop until…

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“…we must really note well, so that we esteem the preaching office as we ought. Paul receives his sight, his insight and the Holy Spirit, through the ministry of Ananias, so that he knows who Christ is, understands the power of baptism, and forthwith emerges as a changed man.“ -Luther

Concordia and Koinonia

Acts 9:1-22Galatians 1:11-24Matthew 19:27-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, You turned the heart of him who persecuted the Church and by his preaching caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant us ever to rejoice in the saving light of Your Gospel and, following the example of the apostle Paul, to spread it to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Day: St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascus is related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out for Damascus to arrest and bring believers to Jerusalem for trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are…

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Prayer of the Day

Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Psalm 71:15-24
Acts 16:1-5
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Matthew 24:42-47

Bio:  St. Timothy had Christian believers in his family. His mother, Eunice, was a Christian woman and was the daughter of a Christian woman named Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). Acts records that St. Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and wanted Timothy to continue on with him (16:1-3). Over time, Timothy became a dear friend and close associate of Paul to whom Paul entrusted mission work in Greece and Asia Minor. Timothy was also with Paul in Rome. According to tradition, after Paul’s death, Timothy went to Ephesus, where he served as bishop and was martyred around AD 97. Timothy is best remembered as a faithful companion of Paul, one who rendered great service among the Gentile churches.

Reflection by  Fr. Valerius Herberger (21 April 1562-18 May 1627, German Lutheran preacher and theologian):

“Dearly beloved, today we celebrate the commemoration of St. Timothy. He was born in Lystra (Acts 16:2); his father was a pagan, but his mother, Eunice, born an Israelite, had accepted the Christian faith and had committed her son, Timothy, to be raised by her mother, Lois, who was also a Christian. So Timothy learned the catechism from his grandmother. See, dear parents, what the diligent training of children can do! Now since he was a good, excellent thinker, St. Paul accepted him as his colleague or chaplain, and since he improved himself daily, Paul eventually ordained him as bishop of Ephesus, where he was also killed by the raging pagans. St. Paul loved him dearly, which we can see from both epistles that he wrote to him. In 1 Timothy 1:2, he calls him his true son in the faith. From these two epistles, many passages shine forth like the stars of heaven:

1 Timothy 1:5: “The aim of the commandment is love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from a faith unfeigned.”

1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Since St. Paul and St. Timothy were dear friends, they were put beside each other in the calendar, and also on the day of St. Timothy, the Gospel of John 15:9-16 is read, which speaks of pure love and friendship.”

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Thoughts on the Day:  Our Lord’s Passion, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Friday is called by the Church, the Triduum, translated: The Three Days.  The next three days is a kind of Triduum: Today, January 24th the Festival of St. Timothy; tomorrow, January 25th, the Festival of Conversion of St. Paul;  January 26th is  the Festival of  St. Titus.  All three of these saints were called by the Lord and His Church into the Holy Ministry. This is a triduum of the Holy Ministry. These three pastors shared in the unity of the faith and doctrine of Christ in His Church but they were not uniform in their talents and abilities the Lord had given them. They were faithful to the Word and not their religious ideas.  In the middle day of this pastoral triduum is the Apostle Paul and he is flanked by two pastors.  This triduum is a good time to reflect on pastors, pray for your pastor(s), rejoice in the Holy Ministry of the Church and your pastor feeding you the Word of God and pray for your faithfulness to the Word of God which is inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures.

Intro:  Sarah was the wife (and half sister) of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham (Genesis 11:29;20:12). In obedience to divine command (Genesis 12:1), she made the long and arduous journey west, along with her husband and his relatives, from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran and then finally to the land of Canaan. She remained childless until old age. Then, in keeping with God’s longstanding promise, she gave birth to a son and heir of the covenant (Genesis 21:1-3). She is remembered and honored as the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, the second of the three patriarchs. She is also favorably noted for her hospitality to strangers (Genesis 18:1-8). Following her death at the age of 127, she was laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah(Genesis23:19), where her husband was later buried.  (Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Reflection:  The icon above is entitled The Hospitality of Abraham.  It is the illustration of the visit by the 3 angels to Abraham and Sarah at the Oaks of Mamre, as recorded in Genesis 18.  The 3 angels turn out to be none other than the Lord Himself! (see the beginning of verse 1).  Abraham treats them royally to food.  Now to be fair, this icon should probably be called the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah! After all, she also help prepared the food (vs. 6).  The Lord came to give a birth announcement to this aged couple,

“The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

And you may remember the problem:  they are both pushing a 100!  When the Lord says the above, this follows:

And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

The Lord does not strike Sarah dead! The Lord did say,  you did laugh.  Was the Lord laughing?  We do not know.  When she did give birth,

Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”

The name Isaac means “laughter”!  When Abraham was told that he would have a son at the century mark, he fell down laughing in the Presence of the Lord (see Genesis 17: 17).  A number of years ago, PBS had a documentary on comedy, “Dear God: Next Time Choose Someone Else: the Legend of Jewish Comedians”, on Jewish comedians.  One comedian said all Jewish humor is from the texts cited!  Laughter is in the Bible.  There are two types of humor:  derision and joy. The Lord will have the last laugh: “He who sits in the heavens laughs;the Lord holds them in derision” (Ps. 2), that is the nations and the wicked.  And here is the laughter of sheer joy, of birth in the midst of death:  the birth of Isaac. The Child given us to us  was born to be our Savior! Sin, death and the devil are laughed to derision  by the sheer joy of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.  God has made laughter for us!

Let us pray…

Lord and Father of all, You looked with favor upon Sarai in her advanced years, Putting on her a new name, Sarah, and with it the promise of multitudinous blessings from her aged womb. Give us a youthful hope in the joy of our own new name, being baptized into the promised Messiah, that we, too, might be fruitful in Your kingdom, abounding in the works of Your Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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