Before we actually get to the story where this name for God appears we are going to take a little history lesson for a couple of days. Today we are going to talk about Jacob. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and Sarah and the son of Isaac.
This is actually a story of family struggles. We know that Sarah took matters into her own hands because God had promised her a son and she gave her servant girl to Abraham instead of waiting for the promise of God to be fulfilled. Well eventually, God did fulfill his promise to Abraham and Sarah and they had Isaac.
Isaac grew up and married a woman named Rebekah. Rebekah had fertility issues of her own and Isaac pleaded with God to open her womb. Rebekah became pregnant with twins, Esau and Jacob. You often hear stories of twins being so close they can finish each other’s sentences or wear the same or similar clothes even though they are miles apart. Twins are usually thought of as they will grow up in close relationship with each other. However this is not the case with Esau and Jacob. Their battles began in the womb.
As time went on a jealousy between the brothers ensued. Esau was the oldest of the two and was favored by Isaac and Jacob was favored by his mother Rebekah. Esau should have received the birthright but he sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob cheated Esau of the blessing from his father. All of this deceit and jealousy continues to build until Esau is plotting to kill Jacob so Jacob has to flee for his own life and safety. Oh and by the way Rebekah helped this along.
Jacob ran away to his Uncle Laban’s and eventually gets himself into a situation there too. He falls in love with Rachel the younger daughter of Uncle Laban. But he ends up marrying both of his daughters due to the trickery of Uncle Laban. Then more family dynamics because Jacob is married to the two sisters. Leah the one he was tricked into marrying can conceive children but her sister, Rachel, the one he loves cannot. So Rachel gives him her servant girl (sound familiar?). The Leah gives her servant girl, then eventually Rachel conceives and over time Jacob fathers 12 sons and a daughter between these four women. Talk about some family dynamics.
I have put all of this history into a nutshell in the interest of time, but what we see here are a lot of jealousy, and comparisons and trickery and deception. Unfortunately, it sounds a lot like life today but it is an awful lot going on in one family. Eventually Jacob desires to reconcile with his brother Esau and he sets out on a journey to do so in chapter 32 of Genesis. On his journey to meet with Esau Jacob has a night of wrestling with God in verses 22 – 32. As morning began to break the “man” that Jacob was wrestling with touched Jacob’s hip socket so that Jacob’s hip was out of joint.
“Then he said, ‘Let me go for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, “Jacob.’ 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.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said ‘Why is it the you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. 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 32:26-30
Before I started studying this, it had never quite hit me before that Jacob had finally received what he had been after since he was a young man. Jacob cheated Esau out of the blessing from his earthly father. Yet he still did not feel blessed until he actually came face to face and wrestled with God. How many times are we after the blessing with man and the only thing that would truly fulfill us is the blessing from God. We wrestle with God over our path and direction in life, we wrestle over our finances, we wrestle with Him over relationships and comparisons and jealousy and may find ourselves in trickery and deceptions. Really, we should be humbling ourselves and laying our stuff at the foot of the cross and asking Him for the blessing on our lives instead of looking to others for acceptance.
True change came to Jacob only after he wrestled with God. True change comes many times in us after a struggle. I know for me, I have been through some hard things in life that found me clinging to God in new ways. When you come to the end of yourself and you find that God is all you have, that is when you find that God is all you need.
“God rewarded Jacob’s persistence. When Jacob finally acknowledged that the blessing he had stolen must ultimately come from God, he was able to fully receive it.” Wendy Blight “I Know His Name”