Many people with the best of intentions take everything in the Bible as factual, but in doing so, they distort what God is telling them. The fact is that the Bible, in teaching us the truth uses many types of literature that do not lay out the facts. The Bible uses poems and parables; and in today’s first reading, it uses fables to get its point across.
Fables have at times used a twist that has an other-worldly creature working at carrying travelers across wild streams. St. Christopher was such a ferryman. In carrying the child Jesus across a stream he found him growing heavier, but on his life he struggled on keeping him safe. That was fable, not fact.
Fables can use a twist that allows one combatant to win a struggle if he can only get to know his combatant’s name. The fable of Rumplestiltskin revolves around that gimmick.
In today’s reading, Jacob came on a mysterious stranger guarding the ford of the Jabbok. They struggled all night, with it ending by the stranger, who would not reveal his name, gave Jacob the new name of Israel. Isra means “to struggle,” ad El means “God.”
Jacob was the founder of the whole race of the Israelites. They have remained a cantankerous people who will even fight with God.
The story’s message for us is that when we are kept awake by all kinds of worries, we should offer our problems up to God, and fight them out with him.
To the tune of “Glory, Glory, Halleluiah” from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” I had my Sixth Graders singing. “Night time troubles when they’re on you, Night time troubles when they’re on you. Night time troubles when they’re on you, just fight them out with God.”