Photo by Hakon Grimstad
Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:28
Jacob was a man who had lived true to his name. His name means ‘deceiver or supplanter’.
From the minute he came out of the womb, he was just that. He deceives his twin brother into selling him his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34) He tricks his father into giving him a blessing that was meant for his elder brother. (Genesis 27) He deceives his uncle Laban to be able to get the payment for his wages. (Genesis 31:41-42)
Jacob had learnt how to get through life through trickery and deception. Until he encountered God, and God said, you are no longer going to get through life by your own means and strength. You will lean on me and trust me to help you. God gave him a new name, and with a new name came a different way of living.
God introduces us to ourselves so we can see what needs changing.
And He said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Genesis 32: 27 God is not asking Jacob his name because he doesn’t know who he is. He is revealing something to Jacob. He is also giving Jacob an opportunity to come to terms with his true nature.
When Jacob says his name, he is saying, “I’m a liar, cheat, and a supplanter.” Jacob finally accedes to who he is, and because he does, God can now transform him.
God cannot change who we refuse to acknowledge we are. He has to lead us to a place where we will see ourselves clearly, and when we do, we are ready for transformation. If He tells us we have a problem with anger, or we are lustful; or bitter or covetous, or ungrateful or hateful, and we don’t get it. He will orchestrate situations to reveal to us again and again who we truly are. He will patiently wait until like Jacob, we can say, “ I’m a liar…or I have a problem with anger…or I’m unrepentant… Whatever He needs to change, we will have to come to terms with it before we can see a transformation.
Transformation precedes the blessing
Jacob wanted the blessing so badly that he was willing to wrestle God for it. But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32: 26 But here is the thing; God will not put His blessing on what doesn’t represent Him. Before He can give us the blessings, He has to deal with all our ways. He wrestles with Jacob until he came to a place of repentance, and begged God for His favor.
He wrestled with the angel and prevailed; he wept [in repentance] and sought his favor. Hosea 12:4AMP
When Jacob finally saw who he had been all along, he weeps in repentance. He is done with all his trickery, manipulating situations to get his own way; he is done with being a deceiver. He wanted God’s favor so he wouldn’t have to lie and cheat for it. God blessed him because he had submitted himself to God’s desire for His transformation.
God is not withholding the thing you are asking Him for, He is waiting for you to be transformed so He can entrust you with His blessings. Sometimes we are crying for things we have no ability to carry because we are unchanged. And if God will put His blessings on us without transforming us first, we will be destroyed.
We receive a new identity
God doesn’t reveal to us who we really are to shame and condemn us. He shows us what needs changing because He wants to give us a new identity. Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with man, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:28
Jacob’s new name was now Israel- which means a prince with God-or one who prevails against God and man. God was saying you now have a new identity, you will reign in life with me, you are no longer going to cheat and lie through life.
God will give us a new identity if we will bring to him what we don’t like about ourselves. If we’ll bring to Him what is hurting us and others because it doesn’t look like Him. He will change us into different people and teach us how to live differently. Jacob was tired of having to cheat and deceive to get anything; God was ready to give him a new way of life.
We encounter God in the transformation.
There is no way that we can be changed without first meeting the God who changes us. This is what happened to Jacob. In his transformation, he also encountered the God who had chosen and loved him unconditionally. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Genesis 32:30
Jacob sees God’s face. God’s face is also His presence; it’s His countenance; it’s His character. When we come to the place of encounter, we discover who God is; we also know His presence, experience His love and goodness, and are transformed.
May we come to the place of transformation; where we discover who God is and we discover our identity in Him. And in this place may we receive the blessing we have been begging God for.