Bible Society of South Africa
Louise Gevers

Who is God? – Day 5

The Transformer of Lives

Bible text(s)

28The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”

Genesis 32:28GNBOpen in Bible reader

9When Jacob returned from Mesopotamia, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but from now on it will be Israel.” So God named him Israel. 11And God said to him, “I am Almighty God. Have many children. Nations will be descended from you, and you will be the ancestor of kings.

Genesis 35:9-11GNBOpen in Bible reader

Have you ever thought of changing your name? Would you change it if by so doing you would be given a fresh start?

It is rare to find someone who is entirely happy with his name throughout his life, but most people will, over time, get used to their name and grow with it into maturity, even if it is not what they would have chosen for themselves. However, there are times when people will go to the trouble of changing their name because it holds connotations for them that they would prefer to forget. Perhaps there were connotations about Jacob’s name that were better forgotten too, and it is God who announces the change to him in such a way that it heralds a new status.

In the Scriptures there is no indication of what Jacob thought of his name, but in these passages in Genesis 32 and 35, we read of the two occasions where God appeared to Jacob and announced that He was changing his name because he had shown himself worthy and with the new name would come great blessing. We ask why it should be important to God to change a man’s name and what does that teach us about His character?

We realise that God has a plan for man and He holds the power to transform lives, but with this transformation He gives a new beginning and He blots out what went before. Earlier in Genesis we learn that Jacob had not been a very upright character. As his mother’s favourite, he had been encouraged to be deceitful to the extent that he had lied elaborately to his father in his old age to gain his blessing, after he had taken his twin brother Esau’s birth right. Sadly, this sin caused enmity between them and exile for Jacob for twenty years.

But when God changed his name, we understand that He was giving Jacob a new start and a new character to aspire to. Through God’s grace Jacob would be able to leave his past behind and go forward in the blessing that God gave him.

Who is God to me?

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
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