On Being Re-named

  S (Scripture): Genesis 32:22 During the night Jacob quickly took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  23 He took them and sent them across the stream along with all his possessions.  24 So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” 28 “No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”

O (Observation): So a LOT of stuff is packed in here.   Names are of great importance in the ancient culture in which Jacob and Esau lived.    Jacob’s name is loosely translated to “heal” and by extension “usurper” (as in coming up from behind someone and taking what is someone else’s).  

As Jacob wrestled with “the man” in the Jabbok, the man turns out to be an angel of God.   As Jacob realizes this, he seeks a blessing.  The angel puts his hip out of socket and instead of just blessing Jacob, he asks Jacob to say his own name.  But why?

Perhaps the angel wanted Jacob to fess up to and own his name: Jacob, the Usurper.  (Remember how Jacob extorted Esau’s birthright over a bowl of soup, and how Jacob stole his father’s blessing by deceiving Isaac?). So Jacob confesses his name, Jacob, which, as you remember,  is like a window into his identity.   

But something grace-filled happens here.  Jacob is re-named Israel!!!   Israel means “God wrestles.”    Now Jacob moves forward with a new identity.  And this new name also meant that Jacob / Israel was given a new direction, a new way forward.  No longer trapped by his old identity, in this scene with water all around Jacob becomes someone new…someone through whom many nations would come…and even a Savior.  

A (Application): So what about you and me?  What is our name?  What is our identity?  

As baptized believers, we become children of God.   We become those in whom God is well-pleased, which is not so much a declaration of who we are, but who we are becoming all of the time.  

We would all do well to confess our names out loud, acknowledge our brokenness, and be reminded that God re-names us in our baptism.  We are re-purposed for the sharing of the Good News.  

We are given a new identity in baptism.   We are given a new future and brought into the body of Christ – broken and sinful as we are.  We will struggle with that brokenness our whole lives long, but now those places of brokenness are places where God is healing.   And we pray that our wounds turn into scars and from those scars (where healing has taken place) we can then proclaim what the Lord is doing:  healing us and making us whole!

As you confess your name out loud, what do you call yourself?  Discouraged?  Worthless?  Divorced?  Widowed? Sinner?  Coward?  Bully?

These are difficult words, but also hear God’s proclamation:  “You are my Son, my Daughter!  With you, I am well-pleased.  You are the one I have redeemed at great cost!  You are my child!”

You are loved!  Remember that this day.  

I’ll leave you on that note.  Take care!

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that we are named and claimed by you. Thank you!  Amen.  


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