Reading Genesis 32 this morning, I was bewildered, as I am every time I reach a passage which is not immediately nourishing to my soul. My convictions about the meaning of Scripture can be summed thusly: Everything written is about Christ and for the church. There’s more to it than that, of course. I don’t want to be found guilty of squeezing Scripture in a headlock until it blesses me the way I wish, regardless of its intent or original meaning. So, having established the grammatical-historical-literary whats-it of the text, I always ask myself how this text is about Christ, and how it is for me and the saints.
As far as I can tell, this is necessarily typological. Jonah is a type of Christ, the whale a type of the grave, the spitting out a type of resurrection, and Ninevah a type of those who hear and believe, right? Right.
Now Genesis 32. Jacob wrestles with a man long into the night, and when the man sees he can’t win, he touches Jacob’s hip and cripples him. Then he asks to be let go because day has broken, and as everyone knows, dawn is when all fighting with the supernatural must cease. Jacob refuses to let go unless the man blesses him, and so the man gives Jacob a new name: Israel, “he strives with God.” So Jacob lets him go, and now Jews don’t eat the sinew on the thigh. And pray with me. Every head bowed and every eye closed, if you’ve never accepted Jesus into your heart…
No really, what is going on? I still don’t know for sure, but I think that last part gives an insight into typology that I’d like to chase down. Genesis 32:32 says “Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socked of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.” Jacob’s thigh is present in some sense in every thigh, and every time butchering day comes around, the Jews are reminded again that their nation is founded on the faithfulness of their God not to destroy stubborn Jacob.
This is a function of all those stories told in the Old Testament, a function of the earthiness of Scripture. For those with eyes to see, every thigh is Jacob’s thigh, every meal a Paschal feast, every lamb the lamb of God, every tree a cross, every Lord’s Day the Day of the Lord. We know this principle which McClendon calls the “This is That” instinctively, which is why brides wear white, why some people never wear funeral clothes twice. What is it that Lewis says? “Every bush (could we but perceive it), a Burning Bush.” The holy things of God are earthy to make the things of earth holy.
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