Why did the angel ask Jacob his name before blessing him? He was an angel so I imagine he knew who he’d been wrestling with all night. I believe there is a lesson in the question.
Fast forward a few thousand years. Jesus is in the middle of His short ministry as a human on Earth. He healed thousands. He forgave sins.
Take Bartimaeus for example. He was obviously blind, yet Jesus asked him to state his request. To the paralytic at the pool Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” When a woman touched the hem of his garment, Jesus demanded she identify herself.
Do you see the pattern? Very often in Scripture, we see Jesus requiring people to state their need. Say the words. We see the necessity of confession. It’s not so God is informed of our need. It’s so we know exactly what we need, admit it, and go to the only one who can meet it.
Here in Genesis we see Jacob wrestling with God. Who hasn’t, right? We know what is right, but we want to have our own way instead. A battle ensues. It’s a tug-of-war until we do what? Admit our sin and allow God to change our wants to His.
In my experience – and in Jacob’s – God won’t bless until I confess. When the angel asked Jacob his name, he had to reply: “I’m the deceiver, the holder of the heel, the supplanter.” That’s what his name meant. And we know Jacob had lived up to his name.
Jacob had to admit who he had been before God could give him a new name: Israel. According to the Abarim Publications, Israel means “He retains God,” or “God is upright.” Jacob’s new name reflected God. His new identity honored God.
Jacob received a new beginning, as do all of us who confess our sins and allow God to forgive us and give us new life. Jacob had lived for himself and had committed sins to fulfill his own desires. God was giving him a chance to turn that all around, to live for God and make choices that fulfilled God’s desires for him. That’s awesome!
May that be true in all of us. Some people think they are Christians because they go to church and live good lives. That’s not true. Being a Christian involves a change of heart, saying the words, admitting guilt. And receiving God’s amazing grace.
If God has laid a finger on any sin, if you (or I) are wrestling with that sin, hear God ask “What is your name? What do you want me to do for you?” Then confess. Repent. Be forgiven, and receive a new beginning!