Summary: Discovering your name sometimes requires experiences of dark nights and aloneness. God must test our behaviour. He pushes us to see things that are not good for us, things that must change. He loves us far to much to leave us to our destructive behaviour

The unknown author of the following story captures the value of a name. “After the American Civil War the managers of the infamous Louisiana Lottery approached Robert E. Lee and asked if he’d let them use his name in their scheme. They promised that if he did he would become rich. Astounded, Lee straightened up, buttoned his gray coat, and shouted, "Gentlemen, I lost my home in the war. I lost my fortune in the war. I lost everything except my name. My name is not for sale, and if you fellows don’t get out of here, I’ll break this crutch over your heads!"

The question “What is your name?” is an important question. As we explore God’s question to Jacob, we need to drop in on our host family and explore their interesting family dynamics which will help us appreciate the question later in the story.

Genesis 27 – The eldest son Esau was to receive a customary blessing for prosperity from his father Isaac.

• While Esau was out hunting to prepare a meal for his father, a condition set by his father before he would issue the blessing, his brother Jacob (under his mother’s direction) pretended to be Esau so that his nearly blind father did not know the difference and as a result he stole his brother’s blessing, not to mention lying to and deceiving his father.

• Esau was enraged to learn Jacob stole his blessing. He vowed he would Kill Jacob when he finished grieving for his father who had now died. Jacob did what any opportunist would do – he ran from the truth – to his uncle’s home in Paddan Aram (27:41).

• Jacob was an opportunist. An opportunist will do things and make decisions to get what they want regardless of the sacrifice of ethical principles they break to get results. This opportunist, like thousands more, lived a very blessed life, though not without its challenges:

- He started out working for his uncle, having forfeited the inheritance of his father

- Married his uncle Laban’s two daughters (Leah and Rachel) –This was the result of his uncle tricking him into marrying Leah when Jacob worked for seven years for his uncle Laban to have Rachel as his wife. So, he worked another seven to get Rachel’s hand! Deceit ran in the family it seems.

- Lots of children – eleven (28:31ff) – questionable practices since he fathered children for his two wives and their servants.

- Private enterprise was prospering and he was becoming very wealthy (30:25ff) This was not without the burden of his stock dropping, long hours of work leading to sleep deprivation, and fluctuating wages for twenty years (31:38-41). His primary stock holder, his uncle, was somewhat of an opportunist himself (Jacob got his trade techniques from his mother and her side of the family). Finally, Jacob started his own private business and broke away from his uncle. He decided he would not be exploited any longer. What’s that verse in Galatians 6:7 – “{a person} reaps what they sow.” Go figure.

Before we delve into this story, we need to keep one other thing in mind, as offered by a writer: “Facts {of the Bible} were often given an imaginative and poetical form.” (The Speaker’s Bible, Volume I) As a result, poetic language of the Bible means we can’t often take much of it literally. The poetry is lost when we treat it as simply historical facts and realities. While we consider the story from an historical, factual point of view, it bears a tremendous amount of poetical realities as well. For instance, did Jacob really wrestle with God physically, or does it represent something more mysterious and not so obvious? You decide as we explore this gold mind. It will be hard work and requires a lot of digging, but there’s an amazing discovery to find!

Several years had passed and we catch up with Jacob wanting to go home. Having received word that Jacob was heading home, Esau started out to meet him. It’s been twenty years since they spoke to each other. Add to that a dysfunctional family life and also the fact that Esau was bringing an army of 400 hundred men with him, well, suddenly the past was looming as large as life and Jacob was terrified (“great fear and distress” – 32:7).

- Jacob a strategist, just like his mom and her brother:

- Divided his family and flocks into two groups – if one was attacked the other could escape (32:8)

- A special gift of livestock would go ahead of him (32:13-16) – four large companies of gifts (hoping as Esau drew closer and saw the offerings he would become less angry and more loving

The only way to deal with and communicate to a strategist is to out-maneuver them. God showed up. He taught Jacob some powerful, life-altering lessons.

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