I’ve believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, each time my family and I went to church, I’d repeat the salvation prayer with the pastor at the end of the sermon. I guess I wanted to make sure it took the first 10 times! Even with this intellectual belief, though, there was no real life change. My heart still desired the same things and my mind still relied on its own way to get them.
Last Saturday morning, my eyes were opened to new meaning behind a well-known account in the book of Genesis. A man named Jacob, a child of God and heir of the covenant promise, also had an intellectual belief that hadn’t changed his behavior. He habitually relied on manipulation and deceit to get what he wanted. As was common in this day, his life reflected the meaning of his name: “he deceives”. How’s that for an omen?
What I find interesting, though, is what God used to change Jacob. Here’s what happened in a nutshell: Jacob is met by a man that wrestles him all night. The man couldn’t overpower him, so he gives Jacob a dislocated hip. The man changes his name, and then it dawns on Jacob that the man was actually God. Weird. But what does this have to do with life change? Here are some things I believe are worth noting:
- God brought Jacob to a point of exhaustion. A typical collegiate wrestling match lasts only seven minutes, but by the time it’s over, these tip-top athletes are panting and dripping with sweat. Jacob wrestled God All. Night. Long. In effect, God wore him down. God had to first rid Jacob of his own strength before true life change could be birthed.
- God gave Jacob a weakness. Even after all of this wrestling, Jacob still refused to submit to his Contender. So scripture says that God “touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.” Since Jacob wouldn’t give up through exhaustion, God stepped it up a notch and gave him a weakness that encouraged submission.
- God prompted Jacob’s repentance. Giving another person your name during Jacob’s time was an act of yielding. God asked his name, and Jacob finally surrendered and admitted his sin of self-reliance. “Deceiver (Jacob)”, he answered.
- God changed Jacob’s name. After God exhausted Jacob’s self-reliance and prompted his confession, the soil was ready for God to plant a new seed in Jacob’s life. He changed his name to Israel. In doing this, God changed his trajectory from deceiver to overcomer. No longer would he rely on control, manipulation, and deceit to obtain a blessing; his reliance would be on God alone.
If you, too, are worn out from your own way, I encourage you to hear God’s loving invitation from James:
James 4:6-10 (Amplified)
Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but[continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].” 7 So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people]. 9 Be miserable and grieve and weep [over your sin]. Let your [foolish] laughter be turned to mourning and your [reckless] joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].