When you meet someone, it is always polite to introduce yourself. Tell the person your name. When you meet God, He already should know. But in the case of Jacob, he asked a simple and intriguing question. He asked “What is your name?”
Names have a very important meaning. It’s significance connects you to an identity that you own and hold. No one else shares that identity but you. It is an identity given to you by God – together with where you’re born, what nationality you have, what color your skin is, and all the other factors that make you… You.
Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” - Genesis 32:26-28
When God asks
God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Meaning He knows everything – every star, every creature, every hair on your head… And every name under heaven. But as you can see, in this short story, God asked Jacob something that He already knows. A simple question of his name. Why did God ask such a trivial thing?
He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.” - Gensis 27:18-19
You see Jacob had another identity that he once claimed. He claimed to be Esau. He took on the name of his brother about whom God said:
Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” – Romans 9:13
Jacob’s name means deceiver. And we can see it unfolding its meaning in his deception of his earthly dad, Isaac in order to get his blessing. Now that Jacob wanted God’s blessing, God had to ask Jacob his name. Why? Because God wanted to let Jacob know that he doesn’t have to assume another man’s identity to receive His blessing. He can be Jacob and he can be blessed.
A New Identity
God gave Jacob a new name. He named him Israel because he overcame his struggles with God and men. This new identity became Jacob’s takeaway from his encounter with God. He remembered that God gave him a new name, a new identity together with his blessings.
And isn’t that true for all of us? When we decide to take on the new identity given to us by God is when we experience His blessings in our lives?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” - 2 Corinthians 5:17
God has given all of us new identities in our Lord Jesus Christ. We have to understand that we cannot live in the old identity or any other identity which we once claimed to be our own if we want to be blessed by Him.
Bear your new identity in Christ and live a life blessed by God so you can bless other people and glorify His name.