Introduction: Looking at Jacob’s life until this point, it would be hard to find a single reason for God to have selected him to be the future father of the nation of Israel. He cheated his brother out of his birthright at a time when his brother was hungry. He defrauded his father and brother by tricking Isaac into believing that he was Esau when Isaac sought to bless Esau. He fled from the Promised Land instead of trusting God. He committed acts of polygamy by taking on four wives. He created jealousy and strife amongst his wives and children. Out of a covetous desire for wealth, he used superstition to try to build up his wealth at Laban’s expense. He gossiped against Laban and turned his daughters against him. He further failed to forgive Laban for Laban’s acts of deceit against him. He was also prideful when Laban confronted him. If a committee of humans were to select the future father of the nation of Israel, Jacob would have long ago been cut from the list. Yet, God sees people for the transformed believers that they will one day become, not as the sinners that they may be in the present. Here, upon his return to the Promised Land, Jacob’s transformation finally began. His life, guided by the flesh, finally gave way to the life guided by the Spirit. Here, Jacob met the pre-incarnate Jesus, and Jesus transformed Jacob by renaming him “Israel”. From Jesus’ transformation of Jacob, God reveals seven lessons on your transformation through faith in Jesus. These include: (1) forgiveness for your enemies; (2) trust in God; (3) repentance; (4) restitution for those you have wronged; (5) dependence upon God; (6) faith in Jesus; and (7) a desire to know and have fellowship with Him.
First, Jacob forgave his brother and sent a messenger to seek his brother’s forgiveness as well. From this, God reveals that your transformation should begin by forgiving others who have hurt you. Second, Esau responded to Jacob’s good will offer by sending 400 men, an ominous sign. Jacob had no hope of victory in conflict on his own. He was forced to trust in God alone for his deliverance. Your transformation also requires that you trust in God alone for your deliverance. Third, for the first time in his life, Jacob approached God in prayer with a humble and contrite heart. He recognized that he was not worthy of God’s help. From this example, God also wants you to confess and repent of your sins to Him. Fourth, prompted by the Spirit, Jacob sent peace offerings of flocks of animals as restitution for his many wrongs against Esau. From this, God reveals that a transformed believer does more than merely apologize. He or she should also restore anyone that the person has harmed. Fifth, Jacob then wrestled with a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Jesus made Jacob strong by making him weak and dependent upon Him. From this, God reveals that a transformed believer is dependent on Him. Sixth, without knowing the blessings that Jesus had to offer, Jacob showed faith by seeking out His blessings. Jesus rewarded Jacob by renaming him Israel. From this, God reveals that your transformation requires faith in seeking the blessings that come only through Jesus. Like Jacob, Jesus will also reward your faith by renaming you in heaven. Finally, Jacob (now Israel) showed his transformed state by seeking to know Jesus’ good name. From this, God reveals that a transformed believer in Christ seeks out fellowship with Christ by desiring to know Him better.
Jacob’s desire for peace and forgiveness from his brother. During Jacob’s final encounter with Laban, Jacob revealed that he carried 20 years of resentment. At that point, Jacob was not yet a transformed man. Yet, as he approached his brother Esau, Jacob had no anger against his brother for threatening to kill him. His transformation began with his spirit of forgiveness: “1 Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. 2 Jacob said when he saw them, ‘This is God’s camp.’ So he named that place Mahanaim. 3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He also commanded them saying, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; 5 I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’’’ (Gen. 32:1-5). Esau had previously threatened to kill Jacob: “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” (Gen. 27:41(b)). Rebekah told Jacob to flee to Laban in Haran for a “few days” until she sent a message that it was safe to return: “Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides,” (Gen. 27:44). But Esau’s fury never subsided. Rebekah also never sent for Jacob to return home. He then spent 20 years of his life hiding from his brother’s wrath. He also suffered greatly during his exile. The Jacob of the flesh would have felt bitterness against Esau. But the transformed Jacob forgave his brother. He also sought his brother’s forgiveness. As Jacob walked by the Spirit, he now also enjoyed the protection of angels.
Jacob sent gifts to reconcile with his brother Esau1
Forgive others just as God forgave you. One of Jesus’ last statements before His death was the following prayer: “Father forgive them for they known not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34). He did this as an example for believers to follow. God expects every believer to forgive those who have caused them harm. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). “[O]n the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” (2 Cor. 2:7). “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). If someone repeatedly sins against you, Jesus says that you must forgive that person “up to seventy times seven” times (Matt. 18:22). If a believer does not forgive another believer, God will not forgive the believer (Matt. 18:35). Is there anyone who you need to forgive?
Be kind to your enemies to win them over. Instead of lashing out in anger as he did with Laban, Jacob used kind words to win over his estranged brother: “By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.” (Prov. 25:15). “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Prov. 15:18). “Then they spoke to him, saying, ‘If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.’” (1 Kgs. 12:7; 2 Chr. 10:7). If someone is angry at you, do you use kindness to win them over?
Jacob’s fear in facing Esau on his own. Unlike Jacob, Esau was not a transformed believer. He was still a man of the flesh. Jacob could not face his enemy on his own. He needed to trust God: “6 The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ 7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; 8 for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’” (Gen. 32:6-8). Esau later arrived with 400 men (Gen. 33:1). In the past, Jacob escaped every danger in his life through deception. He also previously tried to bargain with God by conditioning his promise to tithe on God’s provision (Gen. 28:20-22). But He could not manipulate or deceive Esau as he had done in the past. There also was no way that he could fight 400 men on his own. Nor could he flee with his children and livestock. He further had nothing to bargain with for God to protect Him. He could only survive by trusting God to deliver him. Yet, by dividing his people into two groups, he showed that he did not yet fully trust God.
Out of fear, Jacob divided his family into two2
God can also send angels to protect you from evil. Even though Jacob was unable to defend himself, God had just given him a sign from the angels to encourage him. Jacob further camped next to the angels for protection. The name he selected for the place “Mahanaim”, translates as “two camps.” (Gen. 32:1-2). God showed Jacob that he had no reason to fear. The angels would protect him from his brother’s wrath. Four hundred years later, God again used an angel to reassure the Jews that He would protect them during their similar return journey to the Promised Land: “The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.” (Ex. 14:19). “But when we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out from Egypt; now behold, we are at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory.” (Nu. 20:16). God also promises that His angel will encamp around those who fear Him: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” (Ps. 34:7). “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps. 91:11). For example, an angel protected Daniel in the lion’s den: “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” (Dan. 6:22). Angels also ministered to Jesus and Peter: “Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.” (Matt. 4:11; Mk. 1:13; Lk. 22:43). “When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”’ (Acts 12:11). Jesus has more than “12 legion of angels” at His disposal to help you (Matt. 26:53). “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Most believers will never know that angels are protecting them. For example, Elisha’s servant had no idea that angels were protecting him until Elisha prayed for God to open his eyes: “So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:16-17). Do you trust Him to protect you?
God tests you to show you where your faith is lacking or where your heart is evil. God’s angels could have struck down Esau’s 400 men. Or, they could have struck them with blindness, like they did in Sodom. The angels instead remained behind the scenes to allow God to test Jacob’s heart. God showed Jacob that he needed God to deliver him. God will also test you. He tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). He also tests you to show you where your faith is lacking. When He does, rejoice in knowing that His testing is designed to build up your faith: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Ja. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). David was a sinner. But he invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you inviting God to test your heart?
Fear is false evidence appearing real. Trust and fear are recurring themes in the Torah. Abraham feared Pharaoh and Abimelech. Isaac feared a different Abimelech. Jacob feared Esau and later Laban. The Jews later feared their Egyptian slave masters. They also feared the Canaanites when they (like Jacob) tried to make their way back to the Promised Land. In all these cases, the patriarchs and the Jews were called upon to trust God and not to fear their enemies. “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). The Lord is the only thing that you are to fear (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). Do you fear God?
Jacob’s humility and his contrite heart in approaching God. Jacob had never before apologized or acted with humility. Yet, as a transformed believer, he approached God with a humble and contrite spirit for protection: “9 Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’’” (Gen. 32:9-12). This was Jacob’s first recorded prayer in the Bible. It lacked the sophistication of a prayer warrior. But it was a start. He began by invoking God’s prior command for Jacob to return home (Gen. 31:3, 13). This included God’s promise 20 years earlier to prosper him (Gen. 28:13-15). God prompted Jacob to repeat His promises because faith comes through hearing the Word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). When his heart was ready, Jacob then did something he had never done previously. He pleaded to God for protection from the humility of an unworthy sinner (Gen. 32:10-11).
In humility, Jacob pleaded with God for help3
Repent and approach God from a humble and contrite heart. Jacob’s cry for help was not a sin. It was instead the type of humble and contrite spirit that God rewards. Centuries later, David cried out for help in a similar manner: “ . . . A Mikhtam of David, when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from those who do iniquity and save me from men of bloodshed.” (Ps. 59:1-2). “O that You would slay the wicked, O God; depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.” (Ps. 139:19). “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam. 4:10). “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk. 4:11; Matt. 23:12). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). If you are in need, have you approached God with a humble and contrite spirit?
God can bring good out of any bad situation. Unlike Laban, Jacob could not offer any righteous excuses for his conduct. He also had no right to God’s help. Without his feeling of defenselessness, Jacob might never have fully turned to God. He might have continued to rely upon his own cunning and wit. Just as God used Laban’s jealousy to bring Jacob home, He used Jacob’s fear of Esau to bring Jacob into a relationship with Him. He can use any bad situation for His glory when you trust Him: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). When things go wrong, do you trust that God is in control?
Memorize God’s Word so that you can also pray His Word in faith. Many of the great leaders of the Bible repeated God’s promises in their prayers. This was never to remind God of something that He had forgotten. Instead, it was to boost the faith of the person who prayed. Unfortunately, many today fail to follow this prayer format. “Many of our prayers fall short because there is none of God’s Word within them. Often there is none of God’s Word in them because there is little of God’s Word in us. Jacob remembered what the Lord had said to him.” (David Guzik on Gen. 32).4 David memorized God’s Word to keep himself from sin: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11). “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8). Have you memorized many Bible verses to pray over?
Jacob’s acts of restoration for his wrongs against his brother. Through the Spirit, Jacob sought to restore his brother Esau for Jacob’s many acts of fraud and deception against him: “13 So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.’ 17 He commanded the one in front, saying, ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” 19 Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, ‘After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20 and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, ‘I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ 21 So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp. 22 Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.” (Gen. 32:13-23). Jacob tried to win over his brother with kindness. God showed him that gifts of kindness can help to defuse a crisis: “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.” (Prov. 19:6). “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” (Prov. 18:16). “A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.” (Prov. 21:14). Yet, although his motives were correct, Jacob carried out his act of restitution without faith. If he fully trusted God, he would have led the animals and offered them by himself to Esau.
God requires that a sinner restore his or her victims. In the case of theft, theft under false pretenses, fraud, and other similar crimes (like the ones Jacob committed against Esau), God required a “guilt” offering where the sinner gave back the stolen property to restore the victim (Lev. 6:1-4). The Hebrew word for “guilt offering” is Asham. It means indemnity, reparation, or restitution. In other words, it means that the sinner must make the victim whole. Saying that you are sorry does not by itself fulfill God’s law. In the case of any type of theft, a sinner like Jacob was to restore all stolen funds plus at least a fifth of the value of the stolen property as a penalty or 120% of the total (Lev. 6:5). Where the theft deprived someone of their livelihood (symbolized by animals), the penalty was twice the value of the stolen property: “If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.” (Ex. 22:4). If the sinner had no remorse, the penalty was four times the value of the property: “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” (2 Sam. 12:6). Jacob did not restore Esau’s spiritual inheritance. Esau had no regard for this. But Jacob did restore Esau’s physical inheritance. If Jacob had followed the law written on his heart, he also would have made an offering to God. Theft also required the payment of a ram offering for the separate sin against God (Lev. 6:6-7). When you steal, you profane God’s holy name as His representative. “[O]r lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Prov. 30:8-9). Jesus became the ram (“guilt”) offering and relieved you of the obligation to perform this sacrifice: “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” (Is. 53:10-11). When you confess your wrongs, Christ will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Yet, Christ did not relieve you of your obligation to restore your victims. For example, after Zaccheus accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, he promised to pay restitution four times above the amount that he had defrauded from others in the past: “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’” (Lk. 19:8). This suggests that Zaccheus had defrauded others in the past (like Jacob had done) without any remorse: “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” (2 Sam. 12:6). Jesus did not correct Zaccheus or say that this was unnecessary. Thus, believers should follow Zaccheus’ example in restoring those who they hurt. If you fail to restore those whom you hurt, what kind of a witness are you?
God will not accept your offerings unless you first restore your victims. God commands that a person pay restitution “on the day he presents his guilt offering.” (Lev. 6:6). Jesus later clarified that you must restore your victims before you seek God’s forgiveness: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Failing to do this will not affect your salvation. But it may affect your fellowship with God. Is there anyone who you have wronged who needs to be made whole?
You must also forgive those who refuse to pay restitution to you. Restitution is a central part of most civil and criminal justice systems. It is also central to God’s law. Jesus did not fulfill this obligation for you. Yet, if someone refuses to apologize or pay restitution for a sin against you, Christ still commands that you forgive them: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12). If you refuse to forgive someone, God cannot forgive you: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). Are you burdened by grudges against anyone?
Jacob wrestles with Jesus and becomes weakened in His presence. Jacob then met a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Jesus perfected Jacob’s strength by making him weak. He then rewarded Jacob for his perseverance in the face of conflict: “24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.” (Gen. 32:24-25). Jacob’s “wrestling” with others had gone on since he was in the womb with Esau. “But the children struggled together within her;” (Gen. 25:22). The prophet Hosea reveals that Jacob struggled with a mysterious person who was both God and what Hosea called “the angel”: “In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel and there He spoke with us,” (Hos. 12:3-4). Jacob also later referred to this mysterious person as “God.” (Gen. 32:27). He further renamed the place “Peniel” (פנואל), which means “Face of God.” Jacob, however, could not have seen God the Father in human form and lived (Ex. 33:20). No one has ever seen Him (Jo. 1:18; 6:46; 1 Jo. 4:12). The Jews therefore believe that Jacob merely met with an angel. Yet, it would have been blasphemous for Jacob and later Hosea to refer to a mere angel as “God.” Most Christians therefore believe that this was one of the many pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Hagar twice met Him in the wilderness (Gen. 16:7-9; 21:16-19). Abraham also met Jesus before He sent angels to destroy Sodom. Abraham also referred to this angel as “‘My Lord . . .” (Gen. 18:1-3). Moses also met Him as the “I AM” who later gave Him the Ten Commandments (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). Joshua met Him as the “captain of the host of the LORD.” (Josh. 5:13-15). Gideon also met Him when He appeared in angelic form (Jdgs. 6:11-27). Samson’s parents also met Him when Jesus instructed them to raise Samson as a Nazarite (Jdgs. 13:3-23). All Scripture was written about Jesus so that you can find a relationship with Him (Lk. 24:44; Ro. 15:4). He appeared throughout time to let you know that He is always there for you. When you are in trouble, do you trust Him to hear you?
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669 (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) (painting 1659/60)5
Gustave Doré 1832 – 1883 (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) (engraving 1885)6
In your weakness, your faith is perfected. Jesus is “the author and perfecter of faith.” (Heb. 12:2). Just as He did with Jacob, He perfects your faith by transforming you. Like Jacob, He will perfect your faith in your weakness. “All of Jacob’s life up until chapter 32 had been characterized by carnal striving to secure divine blessing. Now Jacob has learned the folly and futility of such self-effort. Entrance into a life of blessing will be achieved only on the same basis as Jacob secured the blessing of the Angel of Jehovah, by clinging to God to fulfill His promises and by depending upon Him to provide and protect when we are opposed.” (Bob Deffinbaugh, “How to Win With God and Men” (Genesis 32:1-32) (2004) (Bible.org)). Paul later realized that God would only strengthen him when he was weak and dependent upon God: “On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.” (2 Cor. 12:5). “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). When you recognize your weaknesses and your need for Jesus, He will then strengthen you: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,” (1 Tim. 1:12). “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously” (Col. 1:11). Have you given thanks for your illnesses or disabilities so that He can strengthen you?
Those who persevere will be rewarded in heaven. Jacob’s act of “wrestling” with God has a negative connotation because it suggests that Jacob had not fully submitted his life to God at this point. On the other hand, he clung with all his might to the mysterious man and persevered until he received in faith God’s blessing. While clinging to God, God also wants you to persevere in the face of adversity, just like Jacob did. He does not want you to give up when a situation seems hopeless. When you persevere in your faith in the face of conflict, He promises to reward you in heaven: “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;” (2 Tim. 2:12). ‘“He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”’ (Rev. 3:21). ‘“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’” (Rev. 2:7). When you face conflict, do you persevere in your faith?
Jacob’s desire for Jesus’ blessings, and his transformation. While wrestling with Jesus, Jacob showed faith by desiring the blessings of heaven without fully knowing what that included. Jesus rewarded Jacob’s transformation through faith by renaming Jacob as Israel: “26 Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ 27 So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ 28 He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’” (Gen. 32:26-28). Jacob’s old name meant “heal grabber” or “supplanter.” This reflected his old nature of seeking to deceive and manipulate his brother, his father, his father-in-law, and others. His new name Israel meant “struggle with God”. Like every transformed person, Jacob’s walk would include struggles with God as he at times returned to his old ways of the flesh. The nation of Israel would also at times walk with God. At other times in its history, it would also struggle with God as it returned to its old ways of the flesh. Throughout the Bible, Israel would be referred to by both names to reflect its dual nature. Yet, God encouraged the nation of Israel that He would remain faithful to His promises to them, even when they were not: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”’ (Is. 43:1). “Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.” (Is. 44:21). You are also a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 6:17). Yet, you also have a dual nature. Your old flesh still contends with God: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17). When your flesh causes you to rebel or wrestle with God, do you give thanks that He remains faithful to you? “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Without faith, you cannot please God. Jacob could not be transformed until he acted in faith to seek out God’s blessings: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Do you seek out in faith the blessings of God or the things of this world?
God will one day give you a new name. Throughout the Bible, God changed a person’s name to reflect that person’s transformation. He changed name the Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many”) (Gen. 17:4-5). He named Isaac before his birth (Gen. 17:19). Here, He changed the name Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:28). As another example, Joshua was originally named Hoshea, which meant “deliverance.” (Nu. 13:8). Moses later renamed him as “Joshua,” which means “the Lord is deliverance.” (Nu. 13:16). Jesus likewise changed the name Simon, which means “God has heard” to Peter, which means “stone.” (Jo. 1:42). Peter was a failure while Christ was alive. Yet, He heard God’s calling and became an important “stone” in God’s church after Jesus died. Jesus was the Rock upon which his stone rested. Jesus saw him for the man of faith that he would become, not the failure he was while Jesus lived. These examples reveal that God sees you for who you will become, not the failures you made in your past. No matter how much you have failed in the past, those failures are forgotten when you accept Christ in faith (Heb. 8:12). All believers in Christ will one day receive a new name in heaven (Rev. 2:17). Just as Adam named the animals to show his dominion over them (Gen. 2:20), God will name you to assert His dominion over you. “Everyone who is called by My name . . . I have created for My glory.” (Is. 43:7). Are you living a life worthy of your new name in heaven?
Jacob’s desire to know Jesus. Jacob (now Israel) realized that he had just met God. As part of his transformation, he sought to know Jesus by asking to know His name: “29 Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’ 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.” (Gen. 32:29-32). When Samson’s father met the mysterious Angel of the Lord, he also wanted to know his name. At that time, Jesus revealed that His name is wonderful: “But the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?’” (Jdgs. 13:18). Both Jacob and Samson’s father had a desire to “know” Jesus. Jesus also knocks at the heart of every believer seeking a deep intimate relationship: ‘“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”’ (Rev. 3:20). Like Jacob, you can know Jesus better by learning the secrets behind His many holy names.
The divinity of Jesus Christ’s name. Jesus’ many names reveal that He was more than just a man or an angel. He was God who became flesh. In Greek, the name “Theos” means “God”. The name Theos is also used for Jesus (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1). Likewise, in Greek, the name “Kurios” means “Lord.” The term stresses authority or supremacy. Although the term can refer to Jesus as a rabbi (Matt. 8:6), it is also used to refer to Him as God as well (John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11). The term “despotes” in Greek for “Master” is also used in reference to Jesus (Luke 2:29; 5:5; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4). Jesus “manifested [God’s] name to the men who [God] gave to [Jesus].” (Jo. 17:6). Jesus also prayed “Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me.” (Jo. 17:11). Many other names stress Jesus’ divinity. He is the “Lord of All.” (Acts 10:36). He is the King of Glory (1 Tim. 1:17). He is also the King Eternal (1 Tim. 1:17). He is the creator (1 Pet. 4:19). He was also called “Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.” (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He is the “firstborn,” which means preeminent one (Ro. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Rev. 1:5). He is the only begotten son (Jo. 1:18). He is the “highest.” (Lu. 1:76). He is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3). He is also the gift of God (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “Word” of God that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13). He is described as omnipresent (Matt. 28:20), omniscient (Jo. 16:30), omnipotent (Matt. 28:18), and as the holy one (Acts 2:27, 3:14). He is our “all in all” (Col. 3:11) and the “heir of all things.” (Heb. 1:2). He is the “ancient of days.” (Dan. 7:9). He is also the author of our peace (1 Cor. 14:33). He is the author of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He is our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). He is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:24). He is the Radiance of God’s Glory (Heb. 1:3). He is potentate (the supreme power) (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8). He is the Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15). He is the Lord of Harvest (Matt. 9:38). He is the Lord of Righteousness (Jer. 23:6). He is Love (1 Jo. 4:8). He is the Majesty on High (Heb. 1:3). He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13). He is also the “beginning” and the “end.” (Rev. 21:6).
Salvation comes through Jesus Christ’s name. His name also has the power to save you. It is belief in the name of Jesus Christ alone that brings the salvation (Jo. 1:12). He is both the “anointed one” and “chosen one.” (Ps. 2:2; Is. 42:4). He is the “branch” (Jer. 33:15), the “vine” leading to salvation (Jo. 15:5). He is the “Christ.” (Matt. 16:16; 22:42; Lu. 2:11; 9:20). He is Jesus (Matt. 1:21). He is also Jesus Christ our Lord (Ro. 6:23). He is the “door” leading to salvation for those who believe in Him (John 10:7). He is the “truth” and the “way.” (Jo. 14:6). He is the “true light.” (Jo. 1:9). He is the Light of the World (Jo. 8:12). He is the Arm of the Lord (Is. 53:1). He is the Bishop of Souls (1 Pet. 2:25). He is the King of Saints (Rev. 15:3). He is the Messenger of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1). He is the Messiah (Jo. 4:25). He is the King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15). He is our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). He is our peace (Eph. 2:14). He is the Price of Life (Acts 3:15). He is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He is our propitiation (1 Jo. 2:2; 1 Jo. 4:10). He is the resurrection (Jo. 11:25). He is the rewarder (Heb. 11:6). He is the righteous one (1 Jo. 2:1). He is our rock (1 Cor. 10:4). He is our stone (1 Pet. 2:8). He is the Witness of God (Is. 55:4). The Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2). He is our Temple (Rev. 21:22). He is the Ruler over Israel (Mi. 5:2). He is our Savior (Lu. 2:11). He is the blessed and Holy ruler (1 Tim. 6:16). He is the Captain of Salvation (Heb. 2:10) He is the “fuller’s soap” (Mal. 3:2)(kjv). He is the “desired of all nations.” (Hag. 2:7). He is the “just one” (Acts 22:14). He is life (Jo. 14:6). He is the living stone (1 Pet. 2:4). He is the lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). He is the living water (Jo. 4:10). He is also the “true witness.” (Rev. 3:14). He is the “wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:24). He is both our “cornerstone” and “foundation” (Is. 28:16; 1 Cor. 3:11). He is both the bread of God and the bread of life (Jo. 6:33-35). He is the author of both our salvation and our faith (Heb. 5:9; 12:2). He is also our “deliverer.” (Ro. 11:26). He is both the “elect one” (Is. 42:1), or “the one” (Ps. 144: 2, 10). He is the “horn” or power behind our salvation (Lu. 1:69). He is the holy one of Israel (Is. 49:7). He is the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16). It is the name of Jesus that everyone will one day bow down to and confess as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).
The compassion, humility, and humanity of Jesus Christ’s Names. Christ’s names reveal that He is not only divine, He also humbled Himself so that we would know that He can relate to you. His other names include: carpenter (Mark 6:3); avenger (1 Thess. 4:6); advocate (1 Jo. 2:1), intercessor (Ro. 8:26-27, 34; Heb. 7:25); counselor (Is. 9:6); mediator (1 Tim. 2:5); chief shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4); the good shepherd (Jo. 10:11); the great shepherd (Heb. 13:20); the high priest (Heb. 3:1, 4:14, 6:20); friend (Matt. 11:19); faithful and true (Rev. 19:11); faithful witness and our hope (Tit. 2:13); commander (Is. 55:4); consolation of Israel (Lk. 2:25); dayspring (Lk. 1:78); crown of beauty (Is. 28:5); “diadem of beauty” (Is. 28:5); King (Zech. 9:9); King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11); the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29); the “Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45); leader (Is. 55:4); man of sorrows (Is. 53:3); bridegroom (Is. 62:5); and husband (Is. 54:5; Jer. 31:32; Ho. 2:16). He was a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23). He is the offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). He is our physician (Lk. 4:23). He is a prophet (Acts 3:22). He is the prophet of the Highest (Lk. 1:76). He is a Rabboni or teacher. (John 13:13; 20:16). He is the Root of David (Rev. 22:16). He is the Rose of Sharon (So. 2:1). He is the Son of David (Matt. 1:1). The Son of Man (Matt. 8:20). He is the Servant (Is. 42:1). He is the Star out of Jacob (Nu. 24:17). He is the Seed (Gen. 3:15).
The power of attorney given to use Christ’s name. Like Jacob, God also promises to bless those who seek out and then invoke His name properly: “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” (Nu. 6:27). Believers are also encouraged to invoke Jesus’ name in faith. They should gather in Jesus’ name. (Matt. 18:20). Believers should also “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). In the book of Acts, the early disciples also frequently referred to their service, worship and suffering as being done in Jesus Christ’s “name.” (e.g, Acts 4:18, 5:28, 41; 10:43; 19:17). The name of Christ will, however, be a stumbling block to non-believers. Christ warns that those who bear His name will be hated (Matt. 10:22). Yet, for those believers who pray in faith, Jesus has given us the legal equivalent of a power of attorney to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14). “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16). “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” (John 16:23). The name is so powerful that the archangel Michael was able to drive Satan away merely by rebuking him in Jesus’ name (Jude 1:9). When you pray, do your pray in faith in Jesus’ powerful name?