That Guy Named Jacob

So, in my devotions, I’m plugging through the book of Genesis.  I must admit…I’ve never read the Old Testament in its entirety, and when God asked me to do that, I was half excited, half bored.  Something about “conquering” the Old Testament seemed like quite a task.  Trying to understand all the customs, and culture, and law, and contexts, and geography to get the true meaning in each story seemed a little overwhelming. 

Saying that “out loud,” I sound a little ridiculous.  People in foreign countries are literally dying for a page of the Bible, and I’m having a hard time because I don’t think I can handle the whole thing.  Sometimes I disgust myself…and then wonder what God’s thinking.  Do you ever do that?

Anyway, I’m learning so much through the Old Testament characters and have run across Jacob most recently.  I had never really taken an in-depth look at him, but have quickly come to realize that he might just be my twin in ancient form.

Reading some commentaries and studying his life, you can see that he is a self-sufficient man.  In chapter 32, right after he finishes praying, he goes to work making plans and back-up plans (v. 13-20).  Chuck Smith said, “One of Jacob’s problems was that he felt God couldn’t do His work without his help.”  Um….just wondering, did anybody see the name Chelsea there, or is that just me? Haha.

Throughout his life, “Jacob’s weakness was his strength.”  Or what he thought was strength.  True strength comes through submission.  How much harder is it to submit to authority than to be your own authority?  I think we can all take a stab at that answer.  Of course it’s harder to submit than to assert!  Jacob was so opposed to submission that God literally had to cripple him when he was wrestling the angel all night, “until the breaking of day” (32:24).

Hosea 12:2 says God punished Jacob “according to his ways.” God punished Jacob by making him weak- by putting him to shame in what he saw was his strength.  Verse 3 says, “In his strength, he struggled with God.” Isn’t it just like me to think that I can even try to win a battle against God?  I know God gets a kick out of it.  It’s like a little ant using all its force, believing with all its might, not ever giving up- to try to defeat a human.  It’s impossible.  That wee little ant will never overcome me.  Yet, I submit to my own authority, my own flesh instead of God.

Jacob persisted- he didn’t give up.  But, he only prevailed in the struggle when “he wept, and sought favor from Him.”  He cried out for God “Bless me!” (v. 26).  It seems like such a selfish prayer to me, one that so many of us find ourselves praying in a struggle.  God, bless me!  Instead of praying that God would teach us in the midst of our suffering, we just focus on getting out of it.  We don’t even deserve blessing, and we have the nerve to ask the King of Kings to bless us…we should be more concerned with blessing Him!!!  In light of who He is, our personal radar of blessing shouldn’t be in the picture unless it’s a monitor of outpouring. 

But, “God is faithful” (1 Cor. 1:9).  He asked Jacob, “What is your name?” (v. 27).  In the Bible, a name is so much more than a name.  It’s character.  It’s image.  It’s conduct.  A name isn’t just a reference to an individual, it’s a description of the individual.  God was reminding Jacob exactly who He was.  Jacob means “heel catcher” or “supplanter.”  He was reminding Jacob that he had lived in sin, that he had deceived his father and many others along the way to get where he wanted to go.  But, God didn’t leave Jacob condemned.  He offered hope. 

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”  When I read this, it reminded me of Simon’s transformation in the New Testament.  “You are Simon the son of Jonah.  You shall be called Cephas.” Jacob became Israel, “Prince with God.”  Simon became Cephas, “A Stone.”  A change in name was a change in character. This was a big deal.  Jacob was now identified as “Prince with God”!  That’s quite a change in status.  From someone who struggled against God, to a son working with Him, working under His power. 

When we encounter God, we are never, ever, ever the same (2 Cor. 5:17).  I could try with all my mind to block out God, but it’s simply impossible.  Once you’ve known Him, you can’t forget Him.  He changes your character, your heart, your thoughts, feelings, actions.  Everything.  I just wonder what He wants to call me.  Right now, I’m Chelsea.  I’m human- imperfect, worrier, planner, analyzer, Chelsea.  But what will I be when I’m fully transformed?  “And we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3).


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