Q: Can you think of a sentence with five ‘and’s all in a line?
A: A painter was repainting the inn sign for the ‘George and Dragon’ pub. The publican came out to check on him:
“You’ve not left enough room between ‘George’ and ‘and’, and ‘and’ and ‘Dragon’.”
Important word, that ‘and’!
Take a look at Genesis 32:24. “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”
How can both those things be true? It doesn’t say that the man came and wrestled with him, just that he did. So he must have been there – so how was Jacob alone? As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that this ‘man’ was indeed God. So could the writer correctly say that Jacob was alone?
Well, we know from the promise that God made Jacob, he would always be with him, so in that sense he never was alone. But that didn’t stop him feeling alone. Jesus has promised to be with us, always and everywhere, but there are not many of us that never feel alone.
We sometimes talk about inviting God to come – but how does that work if he is always present? There are times when he surprises us by announcing his presence – I’ve occasionally experienced his perfume. And there are different levels of God’s presence. There are times when it is really tangible, but most of the time we just have to believe it by faith.
What I really like about this passage, is that there is no record of the man disappearing either! Verses 29-30 “Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel…” No departure, no vanishing act. He was still there. Yes he withdrew from Jacob’s immediate awareness, but he was not gone. Jacob had one of his toughest challenges to face. He knew from this fresh encounter that God was with him, whether he could see him or not. And the pain from his hip was a constant reminder. There are times we are alone and he is there.