New Names

I was listening to someone speak about a passage in the Hebrew Bible, in the earlier part of Genesis that describes how God changed Jacob’s name. The speaker did not say this but it came to me–and I’ve likely heard this before in someone’s sermon–that God was offering Jacob a wonderful gift in that passage.

When the angel of God inquired about the man’s name, the answer was “My name is Jacob.” Of course that’s what he said. The angel or God, whichever you choose, then, told Jacob that his name wasn’t Jacob but Israel.

In a sense, God changed Jacob’s name. It was the only name Jacob knew to that point. In another way, God gave Jacob his real name, the name he always had, the name Jacob wasn’t aware of, the name Jacob hadn’t been used to using.

And I ask, Was it God or Jacob who needed to know the new name? It wasn’t God, right? Hadn’t God already had a name for Jacob who was known by some other title?

God gave Jacob the name he always had but had not been called. Rather than call him a con, God called the man royal. The naming was a true naming and a truer knowing of who Jacob was (i.e., Israel).

Perhaps it’s worth holding onto the truth that God knows who you are and calls you who you are. It may not be in fashion and it may not be common speech, your name, and it can still be true. In other words, even if others call you something else, you can take your real name as truth.

Maybe you did earn the other, more common label. Maybe that name, Jacob say, fits. And still, the Divine comes to say something about you that fits better. God names you Israel. Try that on.

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