June 28th, 2022 – Tuesday Evening
“He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.'” ~Genesis 32:28
What’s in a name? Who cares if Jacob is called Jacob or if he is called Israel? Does a name really matter? Well, based on the seriousness of this verse and its surrounding context, the meaning of a name is very significant. You see, the name “Jacob” in Hebrew means “heel-holder” or “supplanter”; this was quite fitting for Jacob’s life since he supplanted his brother twice and deceived his father-in-law. On the other hand, “Israel” means “God prevails” or “God contends/fights”. Changing Jacob’s name from “Supplanter” to “God prevails” signifies a very important change in Jacob’s identity, wouldn’t you say?
The immediate context of this name change (by God) is an all-night wrestling match between Jacob and, what he thought was, another man. During the wrestling match, the other man (obviously not a mere man) touched Jacob’s hip socket and dislocated it after seeing that he was not prevailing over Jacob; the man then asks Jacob to release him since the morning is upon them. Jacob, for his part, refuses to release the man until the man will bless him; he then gives his name at the man’s request. That all brings us to our verse today where the man pronounces the name change to a now broken Jacob; Jacob’s desire for a blessing is then fulfilled in verse 29. Afterwards, Jacob realizes that he had wrestled with God Himself and (interestingly enough) renames the location “face of God”.
There are many things we could discuss in relation to this story, but let’s just mention one observation today: Who ultimately won this wrestling match? Jacob or God? Jacob did not give in to the other man and he refused to let him go (even after being injured) until he was blessed; previously he had prayed for protection and deliverance from his brother, and now he was being blessed by God. Yet, Jacob did not prevail over his opponent and he lived for the rest of his life with two constant reminders of his struggle with God – a dislocated hip and the name “God prevails”. To say that Jacob won this wrestling match would be foolish; God had nothing to lose, while Jacob lost his ability, his name, and his self-sufficiency.
Jacob’s loss was ultimately his gain, however. You see, when he lost his ability (with a dislocated hip), his name, and his self-sufficiency, he gained the blessing of God and a constant reminder that God was for him. No longer was he the “heel-holder” and the one who looked out for himself; no longer was he the supplanter who would swindle his way through life; no, he was now “Israel”, the one for whom God would fight.
Are you fighting with God? Is He having to break bones, dislocate joints, and pound your precious reputation into the dust? My friends, He will do what is necessary to strip us of our stubborn pride and arrogance; He will wrestle with us and wound us so that we will submit ourselves to Him. Let us resist Him no longer.
Thank You, Father, for Your persistent love and affection! Help us to surrender to You.