“What’s your name?” sounds common enough. Yet at this point in time when Jacob is asked that question it is loaded with meaning.
Jacob is now coming back to the land of promise from where he had fled twenty years earlier. He had deceived his father and brother then. Later he, in turn, was deceived by his mother’s brother Laban. Thus at first he got as his wife Leah instead of Rachel for whom he had worked for seven years. Now he is about to meet his brother Esau from whom he had fled twenty years ago. He is filled with fear and distress. He prayed (Genesis 32:9).
That night when he was left alone a man wrestled with him till daybreak. No doubt this was God Himself who came in the form of a man. And it was a physical struggle as well. But it brought out into the open the spiritual struggle within the heart of Jacob. Jacob, somehow understood that the man who was wrestling with him was no mere human. So when that man asked, “Let me go, for it is daybreak,” Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
But God could not bless him before a change of heart could happen in Jacob. Jacob whose name means deceiver had lived on his ability to deceive others. He, though having God’s promise of blessing in his life (see Genesis 28:13-15), somehow tried to run his life on his own. In this we too are like Jacob. We think that we can live our lives as we please and leave no room for God in our planning. At the same time we seek God’s blessing. It simply cannot happen like that.
There has to come a day when God would confront us like He wrestled with Jacob. It is then that God would touch a strong point in us so that we are made weak. God touched the socket of Jacob’s hip like that. The purpose is to make us realize that we need to come to God in weakness rather than in our strength to get God’s blessing. And as long we rely on our strength it is impossible for God to bless. Here, God wanted Jacob to come back to the land of promise as a weak man but filled with God’s strength.
So God asked him the question, “What is your name?” (Genesis 32:27) This time Jacob honestly answers, “Jacob.” He is made to realize that he has been a deceiver all his life. Let us remember that the last time he was asked his identity, he said, “I am Esau” (Genesis 27:18). But now he honestly admits his name; that is, his character.
Today, are you struggling with God to get His blessing? Perhaps God is waiting for you to honestly admit who you are. His blessing will then come to you when you are weak, and not when you’re strong.
And then as Jacob got his name changed to Israel, God will give you a new identity. And you will carry God’s blessing with you. Along with the limp that you’ll have so that each day you’ll be reminded of your struggle with God. (Helpful Reading: Hosea 12:3-6).