Jacob Gets a New Name

Jacob Gets a New Name

Genesis 32:24 – And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

Before yet encountering his brother, God again appeared to Jacob in a very significant way. While alone one night, a man who is called God came to Jacob and it seems likely this was Jesus. Though Jacob was at this time an elderly man, he wrestled with the man (either an angel or probably Jesus) all night, unwilling to give up until he was blessed. Jacob started wrestling with his twin brother in their mother’s womb, wrestled metaphorically with Laban for years, and now wrestles with God.

At daybreak, the men stopped wrestling and the man changed Jacob’s name (meaning “trickster”) to Israel (meaning “wrestles with God and perseveres”) as he has now matured from a man who excelled by trickery to a man of faith who trusted God to bless and protect him according to the covenant promises. Israel is mentioned over 1,800 times in the Bible, as this is a significant moment in world history.

Jacob had grown in faith to the degree that he had become a servant of God and was ready to re-enter the Promised Land as a new man with a new name. This is revealed by his prayer, which is the only recorded prayer of any length in Genesis. The man with whom Israel wrestled touched his hip so that he would limp for the rest of his days. This was a reminder to himself and everyone who saw him that God had been patient with him for many gracious years and had blessed him when he could have justly harmed or killed him at any point. The theological point of this account is that, throughout his life, Jacob was ultimately not wrestling with Laban or Esau, but rather God. The same is true for us. Often, like Jacob, whether we know it or not, our struggles are often with God who has a blessing for us if we fight through our battles to our blessings.

Is there a season or experience in your life that left you limping but was ultimately a blessing because it made you a better and braver believer?

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Mark Driscoll
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