An Encounter with God
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. (NIV)
Jacob was changed after an encounter with God. God gave him a new name and a new character.
When I was a boy, my dad and I would wrestle on our living room floor. He would pin me down and I would call time out, get up and eat some spinach. You see, spinach always made Popeye, a cartoon character, strong enough to win his fights. It never worked for me! As I got older, dad and I would go watch the wrestling matches in Laurel. Cowboy Bob Kelly, the Blue Yankee, the Hippie Mike Boyette and others put on quite a show!
Jacob was a wrestler himself. He came out of the womb grasping his twin brother’s heel. He was a deceiver and schemer, always doing what he thought he needed to do to get ahead. But the wrestling match Jacob had in Genesis 32 was unlike any other of his life. He was a participant in the greatest wrestling match ever. Jacob wrestled with God!
This encounter changed the direction of Jacob’s life. He learned to listen to God and walk with Him. He desired to please God rather than simply doing what he wanted to do. Jacob told God he would not let Him go until He blessed him. God did bless Jacob and, in the process, gave him a new name. No longer would his name mean deceiver or schemer; now his name would be Israel meaning “he struggles with God.” In the struggle God touched Jacob’s hip socket and Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life, a visible reminder of this life-changing encounter.
Have you ever wrestled with God? I have. I remember an encounter with God at Lake Tiak O’ Khata in the fall of 1991. My fellow youth ministers went to play golf, but I spent the afternoon in prayer crying out to God to help me change and be the man He wanted me to be. It was a tough afternoon. There was weeping and wondering. However, I came out of those woods around the lake a changed man! God spoke to me clearly. It was a blessed day. I keep a rock with the words “Lake Tiak O’ Khata” in my office as a reminder of that life-changing encounter.
Do you have some things in your life you need to wrestle with God about? Go ahead, cry out to Him. Lay it all on the line. Ask Him to bless you. Who knows, you may come out with a new name and a new character.