“I need ammunition, not a ride”
Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022
A shot heard round the world.
No, not the one that began the Revolutionary War. This shot came last week—fired at America: “I need ammunition, not a ride.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had just told off the United States. He wasn’t a man who tucked tail and ran, wasn’t interested in the U.S.-offer to boost him out of the country.
Zelensky stood tall, determined to fight the massive Russian army. And fight he did, holding the Russians back night after night. What happened? A frustrated Putin announced he was putting nuclear weapons on alert. And world leaders, heeding public pressure, began stepping forward, shame faced. Zelensky got promises of military aid.
It won’t surprise you that this Ukrainian president comes from a family with a backbone. The Washington Post reported an amazing story about Zelensky on February 25, 2022. It seems that his Jewish great grandfather had four sons. The five joined the Soviet Union’s Red Army to fight Hitler’s invasion of the Ukraine in 1941. The great grandfather and nearly his entire family were subsequently murdered in the Holocaust, shot by their German occupiers. But one son survived. Volodymyr Zelensky is his grandson.
Zelensky’s situation reminds me of an event that happened to Jacob, a Jew who lived nearly 4,000 years ago. It’s one of my favorite moments in Scripture. As the story goes, Jacob got himself into some serious trouble with his brother, who vowed to kill him. But Jacob’s mother intervened, sending him far away to live with his uncle. Jacob remained there for decades, marrying and having a large family. When the time came for him to return home, Jacob sent word to his brother.
The messengers returned to tell Jacob that his brother was coming with 400 men. Jacob immediately sent gifts, hoping to appease his brother. But Jacob was terrified for his family. That’s when this famous scene in Scripture takes place. Do you remember it? Was Jacob: Taken to heaven in a whirlwind. Met by God, who blessed him. Given a magic rod that could part water. Surrounded by angels who journeyed with him. Look closely at your choices. I will give you a hint—this story is about courage. Take another look and lock in your answer. Here’s the passage: “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint…
“Then (the man) said, ‘Let me go for the day has broken.’” This is a big moment. Jews believed if you looked on the face of God you would die. And Jacob knew He was with God, yet he stared down death. Like Volodymyr Zelensky, both men were willing to pay the ultimate price to save those they loved.
Here’s the rest of the passage: “But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ “And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ “And he said, ‘Jacob.’ “Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel because you have striven with God and with man and have prevailed.’ “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (which means the face of God), saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” Genesis 32:24-30 The answer is number 2. God reveals Himself throughout Scripture as three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If Jacob was wrestling with God, who else could that be but the pre-incarnate Christ. And Jesus can’t get free of him! I love this passage because of Jacob’s brazen determination. I also treasure it because we see a glimpse of Christ. You can find the Holy Spirit referenced in the Old Testament over two dozen times, but rare are the moments when Jesus appears. And rare is this moment. You and I are living through a historic event. If Putin wins, Russia will sit beside Poland, which sits beside Germany. Western Europe will live in the shadow of a man waving nuclear arms. Whatever the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine War, Volodymyr Zelensky will never be forgotten. “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
He rallied the world. One man willing to give his life in a hopeless fight. A patriot. A hero. The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a faith columnist, seminary graduate, and the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at Hello@RAMathews.com. Copyright © 2022 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.