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)
It was a dark night. Jacob was alone at the bank of the Jabbok River. He was wrestling with an angel, who appeared to him while he was desperately praying to God.
Suddenly, all of his past sins finally found him, and made him terrified. The weight of his sins and the fear from his past sins were hugely heavy that he could not cross the small Jabbok River. His home town, where he was born, was just the other side of the river, but he could not cross by himself. He prayed and prayed. Then an angel appeared to Jacob, while he was praying, and Jacob started wrestling with the angel.
Jacob remained on one side of the river although all of his young children and all of his possessions were sent to the other side by crossing the river. (This is one of the best examples in Bible about the weight of sins committed by a person, which debilitates the person.) At the most crucial point of Jacob’s life, his past sins found him. Till that moment, all things of Jacob went well in earthly measures. He was successful. To achieve his success, he tricked Esau, his brother and Isaac, his father. He stole the blessings that Esau should have had received. As a result, He had to flee, but God protected him while he was fleeing. Jacob arrived at his uncle’s house, and lived there for twenty years. During his stay with his uncle, Laban, Jacob tricked his uncle and accumulated his wealth. Later, Laban’s family told, “Jacob has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.” Jacob had to run again. Soon, Laban noticed Jacob fleeing from him, Laban pursued him, but God intervene Laban in a dream and told him, “I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!” Thus, Jacob was saved again. By God’s help, all of his possessions were intact, and he could return to his birth place now as a wealthy man with twelve sons. When he left his home, he was alone and had nothing. His huge success in his life made him blind to his sins committed throughout his life.
God, who saw through Jacob’s life, knew exactly that Jacob was not ready to cross the river. God knew Jacob had not been changed at all. He was clever and tricky to be successful on earth. God had been faithfully protecting Jacob and allowed him to be successful, not because he was righteous and/or better than others, but because God made the original promise to Abraham, his grandfather. God patiently waited the precise moment that could change Jacob to the person that God really wanted. That night was the exact moment – Jacob’s spirit was completely paralyzed by his past sins, and he could not do anything anymore. He prayed and prayed that night, because his sins were so heavy, and he was completely helpless.
The gracious and merciful God sent an angel. Jacob tenaciously wrestled with him throughout the long night. When the angel saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. (Genesis 32:25b) Even so, Jacob did not release him. He was really persistent. The wrestling continue till dawn.
Then the angel said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Jacob could not release the angel. He really needed God’s blessing. He clearly knew how sinful he was. He was completely helpless. Without God’s help, he could not make even one more step toward his home. Finally, out of the struggle with the angel, the old Jacob gave in, and released the control of Jacob. Jacob was freed from the old self. In fact, God waited and waited for this moment. God gave many opportunities for Jacob to see himself directly – how tricky and sinful he was. Jacob had not truly seen himself till the night.
Now, the old self was completely drained out from Jacob. Jacob was ready.
The angle asked, “What is your name?”
He replied, “Jacob.”
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the angel 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) Then the angel blessed Israel, the new Jacob, and left. God, finally, carved out Israel, God’s masterpiece, from Jacob, the raw material.
The name “Jacob” means “heel catcher”, who was zealous of everything from the birth. He grabbed his older twin brother’s heel when he was born. Since then, he was always greedy and tricky for his own gain. Indeed, Jacob, as the old Jacob, could not receive the promised given to Abraham. God had to change Jacob first before granting the promise. Jacob had to struggle to take off the old self. He fought for his own fear from his past sins. This fight was not easy. He had to wrestle with the angel throughout the night till dawn. The angel hit hard and added an excruciating pain by making his hip socket out. Although he was experiencing the unspeakable pain from his dislocated hip socket, he clang to God by holding tightly with the angel over the night. Of course, it was not a real match. It was a God’s grace and mercy.
Although Jacob felt he was wrestling with the angel, but the angel actually hold him in his bosom. Jacob was not able to even stand upright by himself due to the dislocated hip socket, let alone wrestling against the angel. In the angel’s bosom, the old self was destroyed, and Israel, a new Jacob was born. The name “Israel” means “May God prevail” Yes, finally God prevailed in Jacob’s life by carving out Israel from the raw material of the old self. In God’s bosom, Israel was created, who later became the father of the twelve tribes of Israel people. Yes, this is the love of God, and His faithfulness to Jacob as well as toward us, who are still raw materials before God like the old Jacob.
Praise God, who is always faithful to His children! Sing praises to God, who has no rotating shadow! Our God is the Ever-Loving Father, who will carves out from us, although we are rough and raw materials before Him, His masterpieces to do good works for God.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)