“So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ 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.’” (Genesis 32:27,28) Jacob means “supplanter” or “deceiver”, but Israel means “Prince with God”.
Jacob suffered from an identity crisis with his fathers favoritism toward his twin brother Essau. The blessing of his father fell upon his brother who was born only seconds before Jacob. In these days the fathers “double portion” blessing was pronounced upon the first-born son in the family.
As a young boy, Jacob became jealous of his fathers attention toward Essau. Jacob, with the help of his mother, who loved him, hatched a plan to deceive his father Isaac into pronouncing the blessing over him instead of over Essau. The deception worked and his father gave him the birthright inheritance that was due to his older twin brother. This act created an intense sibling rivalry and Essau turned against his brother Jacob and Jacob had to go on the run to avoid his brothers wrath. Jacob had fulfilled the meaning of his name “supplanter” and “deceiver”.
We find in the scripture that God often renamed people, aligning their names with their identities in Him. Abram was 90 years old when God made a covenant with him that he would become a father of many nations. The name Abram meant “exalted father”. When God revealed his destiny He named him Abraham which means “father of a multitude”.
God brought Abraham’s wife into the covenant relationship as well when He changed her name. His wife’s name was Sarai which means “bitter”, but Sarah means “beautiful mother of princes”. Their new names would always remind them of God’s covenant promise and their true identities in Him.
Jesus called Peter by the name of “Simon the son of Jonah”. Simon means “reed”. Reeds bent and vacillated easily whenever the wind blew. In (John 1:42) Jesus said, “You shall be called Cephas (which is translated “a stone”).” Jesus was predicting Peter’s destiny as a foundation stone in the early beginnings of the church. Peter had struggles in changing from a reed to a stone but as he moved into his future destiny, his rock-like identity was becoming recognized.
To each and every one of us Jesus gives a new name, a new identity, and a new destiny. I’m not talking about changing your given name but I’m talking about the name that God has given you which is what He calls you. The name He gives you speaks His destiny over your future as you become exactly the person God has ordained you to be.
He who named every star in the heavens also calls His children by name. Each one of us has our own gifts and callings, so each name is different. It’s this name and identity with which Jesus will greet us when we meet Him face to face. “And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Rev 2:17)
Happy 4th of July,