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Monday, January 13, 2014

Time For a Name Change?

Genesis 32:28 And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed (NKJV)."

Our last devotional post discussed how easily we give away the blessings of God in exchange for something virtually worthless, like beans. 

Thank the Lord that the story doesn't have to end there!  Although the devil would like us to think otherwise, the truth is, God is always willing to forgive us.  By His grace, He can help us move forward, and give us a bright future, even after making mistakes. 

We see this aspect of God, oddly enough, in the life of the one who did the cheating in our previous story; namely, Jacob.  Even though God had promised that Jacob would be the one to lead the family, Jacob seemed bent on grasping power by his own means.  First, he took advantage of his brother, Esau when he was weak and "bought" his birthright (Gen. 25:29-34).  Then, when it came time for Isaac to give the paternal blessing, Jacob stole that from Esau as well (Gen. 27:1-29).

Obviously, Esau resented his brother.  In fact, the Bible says that he "hated" Jacob, and plotted to kill him after their father passed away.  Jacob was forced into exile to save his life.  He went to live with his uncle, Laban for many years.  While he was there, he became victim of deceit, as his uncle tricked him into marrying the wrong woman, coerced him into working many extra years to marry the woman he loved, and changed the agreement regarding Jacob's salary ten times while they worked together.

Finally, the Lord told Jacob to return home to his family.  Jacob was terrified of Esau's response to his return, so he sent messengers ahead of him with a gift.  He also divided all his flocks, servants, and family into two companies, so that if Esau attacked one group, the other might escape.

After sending all that he loved ahead of him, Jacob spent the night alone in his camp.  The Bible says that "a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. (Gen.32:24)"  (This "Man" was God!)  As the morning came, God crippled Jacob, and yet he continued to wrestle with Him.  Finally God said, "Let me go, for the day breaks."  But Jacob responded, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!"

God asked, "What is your name?"
He said, "Jacob."
God answered, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."

In other words, Jacob came to the end of his rope.  All his life he had relied on his own devices, making things work by his own means, but he knew that reuniting with Esau was beyond his control.  He was facing the fact that he had dealt deceitfully with others, and  that he was living up to the name Jacob, which means deceiver, or liar.

He might have been physically wrestling with God that night, but in actuality, he'd been wrestling against God's will most of his life.  When day broke, and God told him to let go, Jacob refused. He did so not  to disobey God, but because He knew that He needed God.  He refused to let go of the only One who could help him. He was falling completely upon the grace of God, and revealing how desperately he needed Him.

Then the point of forgiveness occurs:  When God asks Jacob his name, He's basically asking Jacob to admit his sin.  Jacob admits that he has lived as a liar.  He has hurt people through his lies, and now he is facing the consequences of those lies.  God's response?  He gives him a new name; a new identity!  "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel."  The name Israel, in the King James Version of the Bible, means "Prince with God."

God took Jacob's life of lies, and turned him into a prince.  If He can do that for Jacob, what can He do for you?  Is it time for a name change?  Would you like to live a different life than the one you've built for yourself?  All it takes is admitting to God that you've messed up.  God will forgive you, give you a new identity, and make you one of His children.  There is nothing too ugly for God to forgive.  There is no name, no reputation you've built for yourself, that God cannot change.  So, come to Him, wrestle with Him, come to the end of yourself, and discover the name God has for you!

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