Today’s readings are Genesis 32, and Luke 9:18-27.
As we celebrate Australia Day, I found myself drawn to thinking about prosperity and blessings as I read these two readings.
Jacob was a man God promised to bless, and by material measures he is already quite wealthy by the time we get to Genesis 32. Yet Jacob has been in constant conflict all his life—with his brother Esau, his father Isaac, his father in law Laban, and his wives Leah and Rachel. He is not one to surrender easily. His name Jacob means “supplanter”, and he has taken an inheritance by deception. This material wealth is perhaps more from human machinations than from divine blessing.
Before God’s blessing can be truly given, Jacob must engage in an all night conflict with “a man”, or as the heading added to some translations puts it, he must “wrestle with God”. After wrestling all night and neither prevailing over the other, God’s angel dislocates Jacob’s hip and tells him to let go. Having struggled all night, Jacob refuses to quit without gain, so demands a blessing from his opponent.
God already wanted to bless Jacob, but needed Jacob to submit. Jacob will submit but in turn wants to be blessed. His eventual submission to God is so significant that his old name “supplanter” is discarded and his new name “Israel”, which becomes the name of God’s people, is bestowed as a symbol of the blessing.
God’s blessings are (not necessarily) about worldly wealth and material gain. Anyone preaching that true Christian faith must equate to material blessing clearly can’t have read our passage in Luke.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
I am very thankful that I live in Australia, and that by world standards I have much wealth. I thank God for the material blessings I enjoy. But I am reminded by our readings today, on Australia Day, that the true blessing of my inheritance living in the “lucky country” is that it was built on a Christian heritage, where the freedom of those before me allowed them to declare the saving grace of Jesus, and like Peter before them could declare that Jesus was the Christ. In order to receive the blessing of peace with God, I needed to surrender to him.
My prayer is that I will never be ashamed of my Lord and His Word. That I will learn to surrender to God so that he can bless me according to His plans—whatever that may mean—including taking up my cross daily.