October 18

Genesis 32:26-32

“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.’” vs. 28

These days when traveling through Israel, tourists are amazed to discover large fields of prickly pear cactus. The pads are eaten as a vegetable and the pods make delicious jams and jellies–in Israel they are known as “sabra,” which is also the name given to native born Israelis. The name describes them well–like the sabra, a tenacious, prickly desert plant, these Jews believe themselves to be tough on the outside, but having a certain sweetness on the inside. Whether or not this is true, the name “sabra” does call to mind the tenacious desert dweller, Jacob, who wrestled with God and with humans and was blessed with a new name. “Israel” means “one who strives with God” and became the name by which Jacob’s descendents have been known. Indeed, according to the scriptures the people of Israel have a long history of struggling with God–nothing came easy for them. Of course the same thing could be said of the followers of Jesus. While the Christian life is often portrayed as being full of peace and serenity, for many disciples it’s been nothing of the sort. And there really is a sort of toughness required for those who live in Christ. Of course that’s not all bad–without the struggle there would probably be no growth! And a prickly pear really isn’t a bad role model!

Thought for the Day: Can a person be both tough and gentle?

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