Everyone is given a name when they’re born. A person’s name is typically one of the few things that doesn’t change in life. Yes, some people are known by a nickname or shortened version of their given name, and some people choose to legally change their name, but the large majority of people are born and die with one name. If you’ve ever been around a parent-to-be, you probably have witnessed the work that most people put into naming their children, which in many ways is fascinating because you have no idea what that baby will be like or what name will really be a good representation of them. Which is why many parents give their child a name that they hope they will live up to, or a name that they think will stand strong for the child through all their stages of life.
The Bible has several interesting name related stories, including in the New Testament with Jesus’ relative John the Baptist who was given that name by a temporarily mute father and mother following instructions by God Himself (see Luke 1 for the story), and Jesus also renames Peter as part of his apostle journey. Of course there are a couple of name stories in the book of Genesis including Adam and Eve, and Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, but one of the most interesting is Jacob’s story.
Jacob, a twin, does some things he shouldn’t do and so he ran away from home for a season, and as he was returning back many years later with wives and children in tow, has an evening wrestling match with a man who he learns is God. It’s a unique story among the many unique stories that the Bible shares and Jacob actually has several of those unique stories. But this one is different because it is a human interaction with God and God says some special things about Jacob at the end of the encounter:
“”You can’t go until you bless me,” Jacob replied. Then the man asked, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”” Genesis 32:26b-28 (CEV)
Jacob has fought really hard for where he is in life at this point and has made some big mistakes too. It’s not necessarily a unique story, it’s one that many of us can identify with, but Jacob has fought for enough in his life that he isn’t willing to just call it a tie and let God go, so he asks for a blessing. God has an interesting way of giving a blessing, and it’s actually a three-fold blessing. First, you’ve got the wrestling match in the first place, which God used as a way to see where Jacob was and if he was really willing to fight for his life. Second, you’ve got the blessing of being named by God. And finally, you’ve got the blessing of God’s compliment and recognition for Jacob having wrestled with both God and man and won.
I’m not big on winners and losers, I don’t think that every situation calls for people to end up in first place (or last place), but I am big on victories, and I think that that’s what this is all about. God is making sure that Jacob is up to the challenge He has for him, the purpose He’s put him there for, and Jacob proves that even though he’s made some mistakes in the past, this time he’s ready to step up. What about you? Are you ready to take up the challenge that God puts in your life? Are you ready to overcome the mistakes you’ve made in the past? Are you ready for forgiveness and a fresh start? Maybe today is exactly the right time for you to step up and into that victory.