Monday, June 13, 2011

Jacob's God.

Last Sunday in church, we sang the song "Give Us Clean Hands". As we did, I started thinking about the lyrics, especially the last half of the chorus:
"Oh, God let us be a generation that seeks, that seeks Your face, O God of Jacob."  
It used to bother me when stuff was phrased like that--God of Jacob, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, etc. It seemed impersonal to me. It seemed odd to say the "God of so and so" when He was my God. But as I began to understand more and more the beauty of Old Testament Israel being equivalent to the New Testament Church--they were God's chosen people, the people of His promise, just as we are, making them our brothers and sisters--I opened up my mind a bit more to the connection between myself and the forefathers of the Old Testament.

So, I started thinking deeper. Why did this song say God of Jacob, exactly? Why not Abraham? Because two syllables fit better in the song than three?

These questions got me thinking about who Jacob was. The name "Jacob" means "deceiver"--not the best of names, to be sure, especially in the Old Testament culture, when your name was basically synonymous your identity. And if you've read about Jacob's dealings with his twin brother, Esau, you'd discover that his namesake was quite an accurate one.

But that is not the whole story. The most beautiful part is that Jacob's name changed. He wrestled with God for a blessing, and God told him, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel ["He struggles with God"], because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome," (Gen. 32:28). And not only did Jacob's name change after this radical encounter with God; his walk changed. God wrenched Jacob's hip out of its socket during their tussle, causing him to walk with a limp (Gen. 32:25, 31).

Great story, but what does it have to do with this worship song? Just what are we asking God when we plead "Let us be a generation that seeks Your face, O God of Jacob"?

Our generation has many names, and none that I've heard are very flattering. Selfish, Materialistic, Ungrateful, just to name a few. But what if God, the God of Jacob, the God who changes things, even our very identity--what if God gave our generation a new name? What if we sought God, wrestled with Him the way Jacob did, crying out God we refuse leave Your Presence until we see Your face and are changed! It may be painful. It may mess us up. It may give us a limp that we carry with us the rest of our lives. But I'll bet if we asked Jacob, he'd tell us it is so much more than worth it. For Jacob saw the face of God (Gen. 32:30).

Now, when I sing that song, that is my prayer. God, give this generation a new name. Let us be called the Ones Who Seek Your Face. Mess us up forever in an incredible encounter with You.

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