True Identity

Message:  In Genesis 32 Jacob was leaving his Uncle Laban and heading back to his homeland. He had lived his life as a deceiver and a cheat and this is what caused him to live on the run in the first place. Once he had found a wife and wanted to begin building his own life he experienced the other side of being deceived and cheated. He had to work hard building wealth for someone who was trying to cheat him but because of the blessing of God on his life (that he stole from his brother) God didn’t allow the cheating to be successful. Everything worked out in Jacob’s favor because of the blessing. Not because Jacob was faithful, but because God was faithful, and the word spoken over Jacob’s life was honored in spite of Jacob’s deception. When Jacob left Laban God didn’t allow Laban to harm him and he caused the two to form a covenant. Now he was heading back to his homeland and he still feared the wrath of his brother that he had left behind. He attempted to appease him by sending extravagant gifts ahead but he also divided his family into two separate camps just in case something went bad with his brother so it wouldn’t wipe him out completely. As I read this, I realized that we do this very thing on an emotional level. If we have hurt or wronged someone, we fear the vulnerability of what should be coming to us, so we only reveal half or part of ourselves emotionally. We hold the rest back because we are inwardly and subconsciously trying to protect ourselves from full exposure. If we haven’t done this with people, we have certainly done this with God. Verses 9 and 10 reveal exactly where Jacob was with God. He prayed in that moment and acknowledged that it was God who sent him back to his homeland but he also acknowledged that he was unworthy of all the faithfulness and kindness that God had shown him and he begged God to rescue him from the hand of his brother. Jacob must have still felt pretty exposed because the divided camps and the gifts he sent ahead still didn’t feel like enough protection. During the night he took both wives, their servants and his sons and hid them across the river with his personal belongings. That night Jacob ended up wrestling with God described as a “man” and interestingly enough, he told him he wouldn’t let go until he blessed him. Wait what? Didn’t Jacob already have the big blessing that he stole from his brother? Didn’t he even see the fruit of that blessing when God didn’t allow Laban to cheat him and the flocks multiplied in Jacob’s favor? Why then did Jacob still want a blessing? He must have felt desperate as he was about to face his brother. So after he demanded the blessing God (in the form of a “man”) asked him what his name was. This is fascinating because when he had stolen the blessing from his brother, he claimed to be his brother. Now his identity was being challenged here by God and once he stated his true name God blessed him rightfully in his own name but told him he would no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. This is so symbolic of us when God takes us in our broken state with our identity issues and our deception and he brings it all to light before telling us that we will no longer be known as that person, but we will be a new person. We will no longer carry the identity of a deceiver and we will no longer have to lie and cheat our way through life because God has blessed us and given us a new identity.

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