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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's in a Name

Genesis 32:1 thru 35:55

As Jacob started on his way again, angels of God came to meet him.  Genesis 32:1

I loved that our reading today started with this verse.  Anytime God instructs us to leave one place and sojourn to another, we will never take the journey alone.  Psalm 34:7 says, For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.  And Jacob was definitely about to need some surrounding and defending.

He fled his home and family 20 years earlier because he deceived his father for his brother Esau's blessing.  I can just imagine that every day since Jacob dreamed of returning home. Dreamed of seeing his parents again.  But each time his dream would turn into a nightmare when he pictured Esau's face.

Jacob's conscience, on more than one occasion, probably awakened all the wrongs he committed in his past... the past he ran away from.

And now... he's coming home.

Every step was a step closer to uncertainty.  Was Esau still angry?  Did he still want revenge?

Jacob sends messengers ahead to inform Esau of his return hoping that Esau would be friendly to him.

After the messengers return to Jacob they said We met your brother and he is already on the way to meet you... and he is bringing 400 men with him!

Now if you were going out to meet someone and took 400 men with you, it's not going to end well for somebody.  And that is exactly what Jacob knew. It is at this point Jacob does what he should have done first. 


But not just a now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep prayer.  Oh, no. It was a please-rescue-me-from-the-hand-of -my-brother-because-if-you-don't-God,-he-is-about-to-kill-me prayer!

Even though Jacob knew he was told by God to go home (Gen 31:3) and he knew the angel of the Lord was with him (Gen 32:1) he still panicked.

But this was a good thing.  How?  Because Jacob, the great schemer and deceiver, was about to realize that in order to truly win in life, you first must lose.

Everyone wants great victories in life.  But very few people want it badly enough to endure the discipline and struggle that a victorious life requires.

And here is the first step: Recognize who you really are.

In verse 22 it says that Jacob got up during the night.  (I am sure that sleep was eluding him.)  He sends his family and all his possessions to the other side of the Jabbok River.

And now Jacob is alone.  

Sometimes you have to get by yourself to really see yourself.

God comes and wrestles with him all night and He asks Jacob What is your name?   God knew what Jacob's name was but He wanted Jacob to know his name.  So he answered Jacob is who I am. In other words, I am a  deceiver.

God says yes that is who you WERE but you are no longer Jacob, a deceiver.  From now own you will be called Israel, one who strives with God.

Jacob's name no longer defined his past.  It now defined his future.

So many times we let our past define us.  But when we come to Christ, although it may not result in a name change here*, our future is now defined by the cross.  So my name still is Tina today.  But you could say it is now Tina the Forgiven, or Tina the Redeemed.  I actually kinda like that.  Wonder if the bank would send my checks back if I started signing with my 'new name'?  

Just kidding.  Sorry, back to today's reading.

Before... Jacob was a self-reliant man.  Now... he was God's man.

After that night Jacob had a permanent limp.  God touched his hip, and wrenched it out of socket forever crippling him from that night on.  There are so many lessons in just that one point, but one thing I want to leave you with is this...

The result of this spiritual crisis in Jacob's life was obvious to all who observed him for the rest of his life.  It literally resulted in a change in his walk.

When God touches us, it should forever change our walk and anyone who gazes on our life should always be able to notice... That is a person who has been truly touched by God.  

Happy reading,


*Revelation 2:17 says To him who overcomes... I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.

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