And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 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.” Genesis 32:24-28
The time finally arrives for Jacob to head back home. He has worked hard for Laban and both men are wealthy with much livestock.
Remember Jacob’s encounter with God on his way to Laban’s house (the ladder dream)? Well, years later Jacob has another encounter with God while traveling with his four wives (Leah, Rachel, and the two servants), twelve sons, daughters, and livestock back home from Laban’s house.
Jacob is scared out of his mind of Esau, the brother whose birthright he stole and fled from 20 years ago. Jacob sends everyone ahead in separate groups with gifts to appease Esau if and when they meet him along the way. While alone, Jacob has another more intimate and intense encounter with God.
Jacob wrestles with God! God asks Jacob his name. A chance to redeem himself…no longer pretending to be Esau to steal the blessing God already intended him to have. God blesses him, but Jacob is forever scared with a limp. A reminder of his encounter with God with every step he takes.
Jacob thought his biggest threat was his brother, but it was himself. David Guzik says, ‘before Jacob could be delivered from the hand of his brother, he had to be delivered from his own self-will and self-reliance.” In losing the battle, Jacob gains the blessing…and a new name. No longer Jacob the deceiver, now he is to be called Israel.
Questions: Do you have a “limp” – a reminder – from an encounter with God in your life? If God were to change your name based on an experience or promise, what would your new name be?