In my last entry, I told you we were going to look at the last question Jacob asked of the Man he wrestled with until daybreak. I also warned you of the possibility of encountering your own wrestling match and exhorted you not to let go – under any circumstances!
So guess what happened to me earlier this week?
Exactly. And it was painful! Don’t let anyone kid you into thinking that this wrestling thing is all just figurative language – there is a real soul wrestling that will require something real of us if we are to hold on to the end and see the blessing that the Father would bestow.
“O God, let us be a generation that seeks – that seeks Your face, O God of Jacob.”
Have you ever meditated on this familiar lyric fashioned from Psalm 24? The psalm describes a generation that seeks after the face of God and declares that the God of their salvation will grant blessing and righteousness to the man or woman who lives after that same manner of life.
I’m forcing myself to reserve the first four verses of the psalm for another day to focus this entry on the epic wrestling match of a man who refused to be satisfied with the “happy quo.” I’m also holding off on the first part of the chapter because I believe that a Jacob-esque pursuit of the face of God is the prerequisite to clean hands and a pure heart (among other things).
If you’ve been chasing the American dream for long, you’ve probably figured out that this “pursuit of happiness” bit is at best elusive and at worst merely cheese to draw you into the rat race and keep you running. That’s probably because the whole concept was an edit to John Locke’s trinity of rights to “life, liberty and property.” Happiness definitely sounds better, but I’m not so sure Americans (or anyone else, for that matter) don’t believe the two to be synonymous. There’s a reason possession is nine-tenths of the law, folks.
No matter how enlightened we may claim to be, it is man’s nature to perpetually pursue and acquire things – even things that aren’t things, like our families and our reputations. Things that are ours! Things that make us happy! Why do you think the disciples were so appalled when Jesus told them that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? If a rich man isn’t “blessed’ enough to enter the kingdom, then who can be saved?
This is the same paradigm shift that makes the beatitudes so radical. Jesus’ words strike blow after blow to everything most of us spend our entire lives pursuing in one way or another. Blessed is a word that doesn’t really like to be defined in any language, but the reality is that the Greek’s best guess at its meaning was simply, “happy,” and the Hebrews likely viewed it in such a context as a gift. But how can the poor or the mourning be happy? And what kind of gift is persecution?