Genesis 32 takes us deeper into the story of Jacob. At this point in his journey (arguably, the most important), Jacob is on is way to reunite with his brother. They don’t have the best of histories - so he knows that this may not end well. Therefore, he sent his family ahead of him (with a peace offering) to warm up his brother, and right now…he’s in the woods. Suddenly, this…man shows up & starts fighting….(rude, right?!)
Jacob isn’t one to be beaten, so he starts fighting back. No backup, no support system, no nothing. It’s literally just Jacob and a stranger. Well, it turns out that this mysterious man was God (yes, THE God - so Jacob was in for quite a fight). Have you ever had a fight with God? I know I have….lost every time. Jacob, however, held on for so long that God had to lowkey fight dirty & knock the man’s hip out of socket (stubborn level: expert, because that didn't even make Jacob give up). God, THE God, had to tell Jacob to let Him go, because it was almost morning (like really…this has gone on long enough). Jacob said something that church folks LOOOOOVE (and will continue to love) throughout eternity: I won’t let go until You bless me! (So….Jacob had to know who he was wrestling with - it’s always good to know your opponent) That’s a magnificent part of the story, but…it’s not the best part to me. The best part occurs immediately afterwards. Right after Jacob said that, God was impressed, and He asked Jacob what his name was. Jacob told God that his name was Jacob. God was essentially like “….nah. Your name is Israel…because you’ve fought with God & with men…and won.” (and that, ladies & gentlemen, is the topic of our chit chat with Christ this week)
What I love about this story is that when God got ready to bless Jacob, He didn’t give him a car. He didn’t give Jacob a new house or another wife. He didn’t give Jacob more money, or more friends, or more food. God didn’t even give Jacob more land. When God got ready to bless Jacob, He didn’t put anything in his hands; He put it over Jacob’s life. When God got ready to bless Jacob, He gave Jacob a new name.
By changing Jacob’s name, God changed Jacob’s destiny. By changing Jacob’s name, God changed Jacob’s identity. By changing Jacob’s name, God changed Jacob’s mind (and once your mind is changed, your life is changed). Back then, names had deep meanings. Every name had a definition or a story behind it. The name Jacob meant supplanter; a cheater, deceiver, etc., and Jacob lived up to that (very well) to this point in His life. Cheating? That was his SKILL!!! The dirt that he did was done incredibly well. He was probably so good at it because it had been spoken over him for all of his life. Israel, on the other hand, essentially means ‘victor’. It’s one who wrestled & won. By giving Jacob a new name, God gave Jacob a new start. Do you want a fresh start? Walk under a new name.
What does God call you? God calls you blessed. God calls you redeemed. God calls you forgiven. God calls you prosperous. God calls you strong. God calls you great. God calls you His child. He sings over you. He’s already declared that no weapon formed will prosper. He’s already declared that you are victorious. He’s already declared that you are more than a conqueror. All of that is great & true, but it leads me to my next question: what do you call yourself? How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a victor? Or a cheater? Do you call yourself redeemed? Or unforgiven? Are you whole? Or are you hopelessly broken? I’ve learned that we eventually fulfill the names we call ourselves. The saying ‘once a _____, always a _____’ is only true because we allow it to keep us in a cycle. Christ, on the other hand, calls us a new creature the moment we give our lives to Him. The words we speak and the identities we accept can make or break our lives. So…why do we still respond to the names and identities of our histories?
What I love about Jacob’s transformation was the fact that it seems so similar to ours, because he tended to bounce back & forth. Throughout the Bible, Israel is referred to as both Jacob & Israel. There were moments when he had it together, and moments when he…didn’t. Yet, God still used him to do great things. Despite his imperfections, God made Israel’s name great (like children of Israel great). God used both identities (God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob; children of Israel) for Israel’s good. Why? God doesn’t need a perfect person to bring His will to pass; He needs a person willing to walk in what He’s called them to be.
Finally, I think it should be noted that God didn’t do anything new with Jacob; He simply called out of Jacob what He’d placed inside of Him ages ago. Many times, we revert (or run) from the names that God calls us because we don’t believe that they could actually be true. How can I be victorious when I’ve messed up so many times? How can I be prosperous when I can barely pay my bills? I used to ask these questions…until I realized that it really wasn’t my business. I stopped asking questions when God showed me that He only calls out of me that which He has already put in me. God will never ask you to do something that you don’t have the strength, capacity, and grace to do. The Bible is literally packed with examples and affirmations that support this (Deut. 33:25, Philippians 4:13, Moses, etc.). Therefore, He won’t ask you to sing if you can’t hold a note. He won’t tell you to speak if He doesn’t give you anything to say. He won’t tell you to move if He hasn’t already prepared the way. If God calls you to do something, He’s for you…and if God be for you, who can actually succeed against you? Absolutely no one & nothing. God calls Israel out of you because He placed Israel into you while you were still in your mother’s womb. Don’t run from the call of Israel; search for it, and let God reveal it.
There’s an Israel inside of you, and the world needs to see them. You may not always get it right. You may slip back into Jacob every now & again, but after every fall, find the strength to get back up. Israel is not easily defeated. Israel is not easily swayed. Israel endures. Israel presses on & fights for another day. So, this week, I want to know…what is your name?
Background music: Journal - Casey J; New Creature - Mali Music
Words from the Author
At the end of the day, these posts are the thoughts that run through my mind. These are the lessons I've learned. The doors that I've walked through. The path I've chosen. This is part of what it means to be me. Hopefully, it'll help you be...you. Let's grow together, kay?
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