Summary: For the most part, names don’t mean much today; they are chosen because the parents like the way they sound, and many names are picked out of books that list every conceivable name. But that’s not how it was in the Old Testament. Names were significant i
Title: A Name Change
Text: “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no linger be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with god and with men and have overcome’” (Gen. 32:28, NIV).
Scripture Reading: Genesis 32:22-32
Occasionally, people become dissatisfied with the names their parents have given them.
Many years ago, the country singer Johnny Cash recorded a popular song called, “A Boy Named Sue.”
You could not blame a boy named Sue for wanting to change his name.
I worked in a plant in Iowa where everyone was given a nick name that would be expressive of some physical characteristic.
I was told that I had a nick name, but I never found out what it was.
I am probably better off, not knowing.
But in high school, I was called mouse, because I had a unique talent; I could wiggle my nose.
We named our daughter after her grandmothers; Mary for Sierra’s mom, and Alice for my mom.
That pleased them both.
However, for the most part, names don’t mean much today; they are chosen because the parents like the way they sound, and many names are picked out of books that list every conceivable name.
But that’s not how it was in the Old Testament.
Names were significant in the Old Testament.
Often they describe a person’s character.
The name Jacob, for example, meant “deceiver” or “supplanter.”
He definitely needed a name change!
The story of Jacob is about a person taking on a new nature and then taking on a new name to describe that new nature.
Genesis 32:28 says, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Let’s examine the insights into Jacob’s story of change, beginning with a wrestling match that he was involved in; it’s recorded in Genesis 32:22-32.
22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.
23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.”
28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.
First, let me say, “All of us need a name change.”
The story of every human being is one of rebellion against God.
Therefore, everyone needs a name change.
The life story of Jacob, is the story of a man who had a sinful nature.
Jacob’s character is first reflected in his name.
Throughout his life the meaning of his name matched his reputation as a trickster.
He cheated his brother, Esau, out of his birthright.
Then he tricked his father, Isaac, into blessing him rather than Esau.
When Isaac and Esau realized they had been tricked, Jacob had to flee to his Uncle Laban in Haran.
But living with his uncle didn’t change him; Jacob continued to be a man of deception.
So far, nothing good can be said about this man; but unfortunately, Jacob’s sinful nature represents every human being’s nature.
A French writer once said, “I never examined the heart of a wicked man. I once became acquainted with the heart of a good man: I was shocked.”
Even the best of us sin, and it doesn’t stop when we are saved, because we still have our old nature.
The new nature that God gives to us must always contend with that old nature, and sometimes the old nature emerges and leads us to sin.
Confronting our sinful nature causes us to conclude, “All have sinned.”
We desperately need a new nature.
But I have some good news, and the good news is, all of us can have a new nature.
The theme of the Bible is that every human being can have a new nature.