“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved '” (Genesis 32:30 NKJV).
Alone. Above him the night sky sparkled with stars. The air blew colder and Jacob wrapped his cloak about him even tighter. Tomorrow he would face Esau. Tonight the solitary figure pondered what the future held for himself and his family.
Unexpected company arrived. Blindsided and grabbed from behind Jacob flew through the air and hit the ground. The hard landing rattled his bones. Dazed, he shook his head, clearing it just in time to see the mysterious assailant baring down on him. This time he was ready.
The two wrestled all night long. At times the desert marauder possessed the upper hand but in the sky's first twinges of sunrise, Jacob overpowered his aggressor. Pinned to the ground the man appeared beaten.
A searing pain rocked Jacob's body. With a final blow his opposition wrenched Jacob's leg bone from its hip socket.
“Let me go,” the man said, “it is almost daybreak.”
Jacob's encounter with God at Peniel contains a key for successful living. Jacob didn't dodge an assailant instead he found the ultimate life preserver.
“For I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved” (emphasis mine).
The Old Testament reveals a belief held by many ancients; face to face encounters with God brought death. Ever wonder why? My theory is Enoch's disappearance.
“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24 NIV).
That's flying first class.
I understand a belief based on Enoch's experience that close encounters with God prove fatal. What other plausible explanation is there for someone who's here one moment and then gone? Keep God at a safe distance and you just might live a long life.
God's not afraid to tinker with our well intentioned misunderstandings of Him and His ways. After Enoch's translation, God repeatedly demonstrated He was approachable. Noah interacted with God and received plans to build an ark. His obedience saved humanity and the animal kingdom from the flood. Abraham walked, talked and negotiated with God. Moses spoke to Him face to face. He and several others went to heaven and ate there. The Old Testament is rich with accounts of personal encounters with Our Heavenly Father.
Jacob discovered his life was preserved by his encounter with God. We New Testament believers boast we possess a better covenant. In the Old Testament supernatural visitations and activities were normal. Shouldn't we have the same, if not greater?
Counterfeiters don't waste time and energy making pennies; the risk is too great and the return is too small. Satan cannot create but he'll copy God's handiwork and add his own perverted twist. There is spiritual charlatanry but we must not dismiss all as fraudulent. Early church history contain practices now frowned upon and labeled New Age. Supernatural manifestations, angelic and heavenly being encounters, visions, trances and so forth occurred on a frequent basis. These were part of a dynamic relationship with God.
Exhausted from the all night struggle, Jacob tightened his grip on the stranger's garment. After all the man had put him through, his opponent wouldn't get off lightly.
“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Like Jacob it is time for the Church to contend for, regain and embrace our spiritual heritage. God's kingdom works on a higher plane than logic, reason and natural law. These are useless if one wishes to understand how He operates. God is capable of protecting us from deception. He will not violate our trust.
The world faces enormous problems on many fronts. Solutions requiring unconventional methods will need to come from God Himself. Current events necessitate a willingness on the Church's part to rethink what poses as normal Christianity. Faith in action looks risky sometimes. Like Jacob, we also can see the face of God and preserve not only our own life but also the lives of those around us.
Photo: Google Images