August 30, 2013
Genesis 28:18, 19; 35:6, 7
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
So Jacob was a deceiver who had tricked his father Isaac into giving him the blessing of the firstborn – a blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau, his elder twin brother. When Esau plotted to kill Jacob, the younger twin ran away to Mesopotamia to his uncle Laban, whom he then served as a shepherd. Now he was returning to Canaan after being gone many years.
The many years involved over 20 years working for his uncle Laban. But on the trip back to Canaan, it was then that Jacob experienced an incident that changed his life. As he approached his old homeland, he sent word ahead to his brother Esau that he was returning. His brother started out to ‘greet’ Jacob with 400 men! Jacob assumed Esau’s old animosity was still active and that he would attack and kill his brother. So Jacob divided his family and possessions into two camps and sent them off, away from the danger he perceived was coming. Alone that night, God met him! “…and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.” (Genesis 32:24). God won the wrestling match – doesn’t He always?! – by touching Jacob’s hip and dislocating it. Thereafter, Jacob walked with a limp.
That wasn’t the only thing that changed. It is recorded in Genesis 32:27 and 28:
…He [God] said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And He
[God] said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have
struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
From Jacob – heel-grabber, one who trips up another, liar, deceiver, to Israel – God rules. Jacob experienced a name change! And that not of his own doing!
Isn’t this a wonderful picture of salvation? We receive a new name and a new nature. In Old Testament times, a name suggested the nature of the person. So we receive a new nature from the Lord – from an old, sinful, natural nature to a new, righteous and holy nature. No longer are we to be dominated by the old deceitful nature. So radically different is the new nature that receiving it is called being “…born again….” (John 3:3, 7; I Peter 1:23). This new nature, according to I John 3:9, “…cannot sin….” All sin comes out of the old nature which we still possess.
Yes, Jacob was now to be known as Israel, but he still fell back sometimes into his old Jacob nature! But generally he walked with a noticeably different gait – a distinctive limp from his encounter with God. We too are to ‘walk’ (or live) differently because God has touched us – made us new through faith in His Son Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross of Calvary.
More time passed – we do not know how much – when God told Jacob (now Israel) to go back to Bethel (Genesis 35:1). This was the place where Jacob had slept and dreamed the dream from God recorded in Genesis 28:12-15 – angels coming and going between heaven and earth, and God speaking to him, telling him He would be with Jacob and eventually give the land of Canaan to Jacob’s descendants. This was the place where, upon awakening, he…
…took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up for a pillar, and poured oil
on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel….
Bethel – the House of God. But now Jacob had a new name and a new nature. So when he came to Bethel,
…he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God had
appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.
El Bethel – it means The God of the House of God. Now Jacob knew The God of the House of God! And his life reflected it – even with some slips and slides backwards!
How many people go to church, and are maybe quite involved in church? It is to them Bethel – the House of God. How many of them need to experience a life-changing encounter with God? Then it will become El Bethel – The God of the House of God! There is a big difference, you know. Oh, that my cousin would discover El Bethel – The God of the House of God! Oh, that we all would discover El Bethel – The God of the House of God!