The man asked him, “What is your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
“No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.”
“Why do you ask my name?” the man replied.
Then he blessed Jacob there.
This text humbles me.
Because there’s something here that I’ve missed all along.
Every other time I’ve read the story, I’ve gone the same route:
Trying to ‘figure it out’
Asking questions like,
Who is the man Jacob wrestles with?
Is it an angel?
Is it Jesus?
What’s the point?
Is it about wrestling with God in prayer?
Why doesn’t the author just explain it?
Missing what’s there right in front of me.
Jacob asks the question I keep asking.
And the man answers.
“Why do you ask my name?”
As an American I tend to miss things like this, we aren’t exactly the type of culture that chooses names with a purpose, let alone one that allows seeks the Lord’s counsel in naming our children. A friend of mine had a girl in his middle school Boys and Girls Club program named
But in the ancient cultures, a name wasn’t just an arbitrary word to keep track of different people, like a tracking number,
A name meant something.
A name was who you are.
Jacob’s name was important.
Heel-Grabber, one who contends with,
His name proved to be true,
Getting his brother’s birthright, as well as his blessing,
Gaining wealth from Laban’s flocks,
The debacle with Rachel and Leah,
Strife seemed to follow him wherever he went.
The man asks Jacob his name, not so he knows what to call him, but he’s asking him:
at the deepest level of your being Jacob,
Who are you?
and when Jacob tries to turn it around and ask the same question?
It’s not about me right now, Israel
It’s about you, and who you’re going to be,
because of me
And there’s the simple, but impossibly hard question I need to ask myself before every action,
before every word,
What’s my name?
Who does God say that I am?
Lord help me to become more and more, Who I am in you, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in your sight.
son of Paul.
son of God.
From the archives. Originally published by (anglinsam) January 13, 2014.