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Rooted Growing Branching

Oct 30, 2016

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CONTENDING WITH GOD

Jodie Hatlem, preaching

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Usually preachers emphasize that in answering Job, God is insisting on the unknowability of God’s will. This reading tends to neglect that God clearly says that only Job in his insistence on divine justice has spoken truly about God. It is only Job who instead of accepting pat answers for his problems continues to demand some sort of explanation. This final speech of God is interesting as well because it is not simply about God’s power, but also about the pleasure God has in the stunning array of things that God has made. He exults in the size and power of the leviathan. But he also exults in the speed of the ostrich. And the ingenuity of the animals that find safe place in the rock. And all the variety of fish, fauna and flora in the created realm. My favorite part is when God waxes on about the pleasure taken in the ostrich. Even though God allows that the ostrich is so stupid it will step on its own eggs and crush them. And among this strange, dazzling and glittering array of creation, is this human being: Job. Who does not have the speed of the ostrich. Who does not have the strength of Levithan. And certainly does not know what God knows.
But, in some inscrutable way Job, like Jacob, is able to hold onto to God, to not be overcome, and to wrestle all night long. And even though Job knows, like Jacob did, that one touch from this Divine hand can be his undoing, still he persists. And who is no longer in the text? Satan. For Satan no longer has any accusation to make. Human beings. Human beings in their persistence like the widow in Luke 17. Human beings who insist on finding the “yes” hidden in God’s no. Who pray with Jesus, not my will, but thine. Who can say with Job Though God slays me, I will trust still. These human beings are, indeed, creatures capable of loving God. Not because of what they might receive, but because God has made us. Creatures of astonishing persistence.
Creatures capable of holding on to God all night long. And this is the identity of Jacob renamed Israel that we have been engrafted into. People who struggle with God.

Genesis 32:22-31
The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ 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. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’


(NRSV)