by Rachael Stelzer
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Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome’ (Genesis 32:28).
For a second time, Jacob is alone in the wilderness at night. The first time, he dreamed of a staircase to heaven, with angels ascending and descending, and he built an altar there, calling it Bethel, the house of God.
Now ‘a man’ wrestles with Jacob all night. And as dawn breaks, this man – or more accurately, God in human form – tells Jacob that dawn is coming, and Jacob should let him go. (How loving of God to protect Jacob from seeing God and dying.) But Jacob refuses to let him go without a blessing. It seems that this wrestling match has concluded on Jacob’s terms.
And so God renames him. He is no longer Jacob, the usurper, the one who cheated his brother. That’s history. In fact, he is returning to his brother to be reconciled. No – he is Israel, the one who struggles with God and prevails. And he is affected – in this case, a limp, but he also has a new name, new title, new purpose.
What is the name you carry? What labels are dangling around your neck? Is it time to allow God to remove the old baggage, guilt and habits of mind?
What is your new name? What will people read and hear in your life if you face the struggle with the One who made you and loves you beyond all you can imagine? One thing is certain – you will walk away changed.
Dear Lord, you could have had Jacob pinned in a second. But in the struggle, he saw a new vision of himself, and you blessed him and gave him a new name. And he walked away changed. I want that, too, Lord. I know it could hurt. But it could also set me free. Amen.