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
The name Jacob means “supplanter” or “deceiver” and Jacob fully lived up to his name. He fooled his father, Isaac, and cheated his older brother Esau out of his inheritance then ran away from home. He then continued to manipulate his way into success and at times was greatly deceived himself. Jacob had no intention of returning home, but years later God told him to “go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” (vs 12) God was going to extend the promise He gave to Abraham and Issac to Jacob.
Jacob believed what God said and was being obedient to return home, but he was full of anxiety and very afraid of his brother. Up until this point Jacob used manipulation and control to deceive his way to attainment; now he was going to receive blessing through faith and obedience. Because he was afraid he sent gifts ahead of him in hopes to “pacify” any anger Esau still had. Then later that night he camped alone with his thoughts before facing his brother the next day.
That night a man, who is later referred to as God or an angel of the Lord, comes and wrestles with him through the night.
“Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
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 32:24-28
Jacob went from being named “deceiver” to “overcomer” through wrestling with God. Jacob did not only receive the blessing of God he also became a new person. The new season God was taking him into could not include his old strategies of manipulation and control. It required faith, obedience and humility. There are some blessings that require us to wrestle with God until we are new people who are able to walk into the next season. We may even need a limp to remind us of where we came from.
Wrestling might sound like angry prayers and asking God “why?” Wrestling might feel like God is silent and still praying for answers. Wrestling is often stepping out in faith to do what you believe God has called you to do then watching everything around you feel out of your control while still believing in His promises and the last thing He said.
Jacob could have quit, but I believe he knew he needed to be made new. The type of “new” that could only be done through struggle. The type of “new” that comes from trusting God and relentlessly seeking Him until He renames you "overcomer." This type of sanctification takes commitment. It requires obedience to keep moving forward and grit to not let go until the daybreak comes.
Originally posted from Sept. 14, 2020