I never really learned to wrestle, but I remember being taught a few pointers in gym class. I recall the high school wrestling coach, Mr. Laurelli, as a strong man. You know how things seem bigger when you’re younger … in hindsight, he had 20-inch biceps and a chest like an oak trunk.
I felt some admiration for — and envy of — a high school friend who was on his school’s wrestling team. Boxing is revolting, but there is something about wrestling that draws me — despite the lack of appeal of being that close to another sweaty body. My son will not play organized football, but I might be convinced to let him wrestle!
In the Genesis account, many striking, singular events occur. Last week, I was reminded in a Bible class of one of the most striking of the striking (to me, anyway). When the angel figure and Jacob wrestle (32:24f), it seems to be a watershed event in the history of humankind.
Some notables include the theme of seeing one’s face (which is continued from verse 20 above in the context of Esau), the mysterious identity/nature of the other wrestler, the blessing, and the name change from Jacob to Israel. Whatever we make of this event’s specifics, I think it is a gargantuan symbol rising out from the annals of biblical history. It represents something of deep significance in the relationship between Creator and created.
Some years, ago, in a time of melancholy doubt and wonder, I wrote a song based on this event. It is not one of my better songs, but perhaps it highlights aspects of this event with some effectiveness.
Words & Music by Brian Casey
© Aug. 1997 ENCOUNTER Music
With vivid awareness
Peniel — the face of God Most High.
Soul compelled beneath the moonlit sky.
Man arose to an incident — wrestling . . .
God came down; man encountered Him. A blessing!
Peniel — Your face is known to me.
In the bread a holy mystery.
Well, You willingly laid Your life on the line,
And denied all Your humanness — that’s grace divine.
Peniel — could it be the face of God?
Time will tell — is this Your staff or rod?
Are You leading or chastening thru the night?
In disclosing this to a son, clear his sight!
Peniel … O Lord.
Face to face: my reward!
In the face of God I see devotion beyond infinity.
The angelic energy is a Father’s love for me.
Manifesting “struggle,” the song moves between minor and major keys. The chorus cadences — and the bridge continues — in major. Seeing God is in itself a resolution and a “reward.”
How else might we say that we see the face of God? In the second verse, I traveled more than a millennium into the future, bridging to the Lord’s Supper and the experience of God in Jesus Christ there. Is there a sort of wrestling inherent in communion?
And isn’t there struggle — wrestling — inherent in our relationship with God, period?