What could be worse than Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue”?
Well, Jacob’s name meant something akin to “cheater.”
Can you imagine the conversation at the water cooler? “Hello. Yes sir, Abraham’s my grandpa and Isaac’s my dad. Esau’s my twin brother, though we’re nothing alike. My name is ... cheater!”
You know the story. Jacob cheated Esau out of the birthright and the blessing, and then to save his hide, he ran off to live with Uncle Laban (Genesis 25-28). There he met and married the love of his life, Rachel... and her sister Leah. Oh, and there were the two other women... Bilhah and Zilpah (Genesis 29-30). Ugh. What a soap opera! (The Bible has to be inspired by God. No mere man could make this stuff up!)
After twenty years of labor (Genesis 31:38), Jacob determined that it was time to return home. By then, he had eleven sons and a fortune in livestock.
There was, however, a problem! Because Jacob, the cheater, had stolen his twin’s birthright and blessing, Esau had threatened to kill him, which left Jacob seven kinds of scared!
Nearing the end of the pilgrimage to Canaan, while camped just a few miles east of the Jordan River, Jacob sent messengers to Esau. When they returned, they told Jacob that Esau was coming with four hundred armed men. Driven to his knees, Jacob prayed, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant... Please rescue me from my brother Esau, for I am afraid of him” (Genesis 32:10-11, CSB).
“During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two slave women, and his eleven sons, and ... sent them across the stream, along with all his possessions” (Genesis 32:22-23, CSB).
That’s when we get to the Christophany.
Jacob was alone on the banks of the creek when a “man” appeared and “wrestled with him until daybreak” (Genesis 32:24, CSB). It must have been quite a down-in-the-dirt scrap and scuffle, leaving Jacob’s hip dislocated.
We get the first hint concerning the man’s identity when he “said to Jacob, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’ ” (Genesis 32:26, CSB).
The blessing... a new identity... transformation... a new name! “ ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ he said. ‘It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed’ ” (Genesis 32:28, CSB).
Jacob, the cheater, became Israel, which means “having power with God” or “God’s fighter!”
Later that morning, Israel, God’s fighter, renamed the location, “For I have seen God face to face ... yet my life has been spared.”
Who was the man who came to rescue Jacob? Who was the man with the power to transform? Who was the man willing to wrestle with the cheater? I think it was Jesus!
At the water cooler again... “my name is God’s fighter!”
I’m left to ponder ... maybe we need to prop our Bibles open and wrestle with God... wrestle all night... wrestle until we’re broken... wrestle until we’re forever transformed!
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor