Why God Plays Games With Us

Pentecost 22 Sunday

Genesis 32:24

“Then a Man wrestled with Jacob until dawn.”

[While some, misunderstanding Hosea 12:4-5, say that Jacob wrestled with an angel,] it is our opinion that this fighter is the Lord of glory, namely, our Lord God himself, or the Son of God who was to become man, who appeared to the fathers and talked to them. For God deals very kindly with his chosen Patriarch Jacob according to his great goodness and tests him as if he played with him in the kindest way. Yet this game was for Jacob an immeasurable pain and a very great fear
in his heart, although it is in truth a game. For it will become apparent there that it was only a sign of a very familiar love. And God plays with him in this way in order to test and strengthen his faith. In the same way a good father takes an apple away from his child which the child wanted to have. The father does this, not so that the child should run away from the father or hate him, but so that it would be enticed all the more to hug, ask, and implore the father: “My dear father, give back to me what you have taken from me.” Here the father wants to test the child, and the child, when it gets
the apple back, loves the father all the more, when the child sees that the father enjoys such love and games for children. This game is quite common in the homes; but in the things and struggle of the saints it is very difficult and vexing. For Jacob does not know who it is who fights with him; he does not know at first that it is God…Thus, the lesson of this account seems to be…that God at times is in the habit of playing games with his saints according to Jacob’s example. And as far as God is concerned, these are games for children, but as far as we are concerned, who are tempted in this way, things seem very different. Yet it is a very good and salutary exercise, also the most perfect instruction which leads to the most blessed end, namely, that we would recognize which is the good, the acceptable, and the perfect will of God, Romans 12:2. For the flesh, to be sure, cannot help but think that it is an evil, vexing, and distressing will–but then God
laughs kindly when we cry and is pleased with those who fear him and hope in his goodness, Psalm 147:11.

Walch ed., 2:1143-1144.

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