Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Genesis 32:28)
Jacob was an extremely zealous person from his birth. His mother, Rebekah, became pregnant with twins. It was God’s answer to a long period of prayers for children because she was unable to have children. The twins struggled with each other in her womb. And when they were born, Esau came out first, and then Jacob, whose hand was holding Esau’s heel. Thus, he was named “Jacob”, which meant heal catcher.
Since his birth, Jacob had never been changed as the same heal catcher. He tried to be the first over his brother, Esau. Here is the famous interaction between two brothers:
One day, when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!”
“All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”
But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.
The above interaction between two about the birth right was not the last one. Jacob also wanted to have his brother’s blessings associated with the first born son.
One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he decided to give out his blessings to his first born son. Thus, he called for Esau, and said, “My son.”
“Yes, Father?” Esau replied.
“I am an old man now,” Isaac said, “and I don’t know when I may die. Take your bow and a quiver full of arrows, and go out into the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare my favorite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.”
Unfortunately, Rebekah, who loved Jacob much more thanEsau, overheard this conversation, and secretly called her son Jacob. She explained his father’s plan to bless Esau. Then they plotted together to deceive Isaac, and sent Jacob in to Isaac’s room with a delicious meal while Jacob was pretending as Esau. Isaac was initially suspicious, but soon deceived and gave his all blessings prepared for his first son, Esau. It was a tragic scene, but Jacob’s lifelong desire was fulfilled. Jacob got everything that he wanted even by deceiving his father and his older brother. Of course, this deception did not last long. Soon it was revealed. Esau, who was so angry, wanted to kill Jacob, and Jacob had to flee. His mother, Rebekah, sent Jacob to his uncle, Laban. On the journey to the Laban’s house in Haran, the sun was setting, and he stopped to spend the night. He found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. He was alone in the middle of wilderness at night.
God, who was full of mercy, appeared in his dream, and comforted Jacob. God blessed Jacob – “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)
Jacob gave thanks to God, and worshipped Him. Following morning, he took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”). Jacob, although he fled from Esau due to his wrong doing, God showed His mercy on him. God was always faithful to His people regardless whether his people were upright or not. Why? He knows weaknesses of human beings including sinful nature. With mercy, God always protects, leads and makes his people to be more like Him, while going into a deeper relationship with Him, the True and Ever-Loving Father. However, Jacob did not get this message yet.
Following morning, Jacob continued his journey to Haran. He found Laban in Haran, and lived with his uncle. Initially, the relationship between Jacob and Laban was good, but soon their relationship was being deteriorated. In fact, both were not so honest persons. They deceived each other. At the end, Jacob deceived more than what Laban did to him. As a result, Jacob could collect huge wealth and most of all, he took both Laban’s daughters as his wives. Jacob was not able to be with Laban, his uncle, any more. He had to leave the Laban’s house. Jacob now headed back to his hometown, even though there was his fearful brother, Esau, who tried to kill Jacob due to his deception. Jacob, who should have known about his sins committed against his brother, Esau, and should have been get out of his old self: self-centered and using any possible mean if he could gain something that he dearly desired – the birthright, the first born son’s blessings from Isaac, and Laban’s lambs and goats. Jacob was not changed at all.
His returning journey to home was not so easy, because his heart continuously reminded his wrong doing. He was suffering from a severe fear of Esau who would revenge by severely harming or even killing Jacob. All suddenly came back and pressured down on him. As getting closer to his hometown, his fear about Esau was even more intensified every moment by moment. Finally, he arrived at the Jabbok River, which was the last river to cross before arriving his hometown. Although he sent out all of his belongings including his wives, and his children, he cloud not cross the river. He was simply frozen due to the extreme fear of Esau, because his heart continuously was telling that Esau would kill him. Jacob started to really feel the heaviness of his sins against his brother. The sin reality hit Jacob. The day was getting dark, but he was suffering from the sins that he committed. That night, Jacob met a man, and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. The man was God’s angel, and although Jacob used up all his strength while wrestling, it was the God’s blessing specially prepared for Jacob at the place and at the very time. In reality, God made Jacob wrestled with his sins and the consequences till Jacob was ready for receiving the promise that was given when he fled to his uncle’s house.
The man, i.e., the God’s angel, was sent by God to transform Jacob that night. Jacob, without knowing this, continued wrestling with the angel till the dawn. Jacob was desperate, he had absolutely no intention to release the angel because Jacob believed it was the last chance to receive his redemption against his sin. The angel hit his hip socket. Jacob was limping. Finally, Jacob could not hold the angel anymore. The angel was released from Jacob, and the angel saw a new Jacob, who was desperately holding on God rather than his own cunning and deception while justifying his means to obtain what he desired. Now, Jacob saw the end of his sins, and himself in extreme fear of the consequences of his sins. Through the wrestling, struggling, and most of all God’s mercy, Jacob got rid of the old Jacob — self-centered and doing anything for his own gain. Finally, God prevailed over Jacob. God carved out the Jacob that he wanted. Then God changed his name too from Jacob (heal catcher: self-centered) to Israel (God prevails: God-centered). Jacob’s old self was completely broken before God’s hand. He becomes a man of God, who was ready to receive God’s promise given to Abram and Isaac. Yes, God’s hand was stronger than anything on earth. The strong-willed, old Jacob was finally destroyed, and on top of the broken Jacob, he built the new Jacob, who was finally proper to be called “Israel.” The new Jacob, Isarel, became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel that we know now.
God is always faithful to His people, and continue to be merciful. He is really patient till his people turns and comes to Him. God, who was patient to Jacob, is today also waiting for us even in this very moment. Just come to Him, and He will accept us, and He protect and guide us because God is full of mercy.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10)