It’s been quite some time since I actually posted, so I thought I’d jump back in with some theology.

The story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32 has always been one of my favourite Old Testament stories:

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

There are any number of deep thoughts in this passage, but the one that has been on my mind of late is the giving of the name ‘Israel’ to Jacob.

As is common in the Bible, a change of name is an indication of a change of destiny, but my thoughts center on the choice of the name. Now, I’m not trying to say anything against 3000+ years of history, but I find it interesting that we would have the name Israel as the choice here. The name Israel is translated ‘he contends with God,’ which has an obvious relation to the scene here in the passage, and is a clear improvement on Jacob, which means ‘heel.’

Or is it?

Is the renaming of Jacob, in fact, a sign of the blessing that he received from God, or is it meant to serve as a warning? Consistently through the next thousand years, the people of Israel will be in contention with God, going through this cycle of rejection, reprimand, repentance and restoration. I wonder if the choice of name itself is meant to serve as a prophetic word that the people are meant to learn from rather than to perpetuate.

I could be entirely out to lunch on this, but I still think that there’s a message in this for us, and it’s that we ought to be pursuing a life of obedience to God rather than being in contention with Him.

Are you contending with God over something at the moment? Maybe it’s time to realize that He can knock your hip out of joint any time He likes, and that it’s better to obey the One who is greater by far than us.

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