4. From Jacob to Israel.

Twenty years had passed by since Jacob had his first encounter with God at Bethel in a dream, as he was fleeing from his brother (Genesis 28 : 12 – 17 ) and then he had this strange night time encounter with God at Jabbok, on his way back home. He wrestled with God till daybreak and was told, “Your name will no longer be Jacob ( his name in Hebrew meant ‘he grasps the heel’ or figuratively, ‘he deceives’ ) but Israel, because you have struggled with God and men and have overcome.” ( Genesis 32 : 24 – 28 )
Jacob had been scheming all his life to appropriate the blessings of God. He had cheated his brother and deceived his father to inherit the blessing. And in doing so, he had incurred the wrath of his brother and had to flee for his life. But after his first encounter with God, he strived to be an honest person, while working for his Uncle Laban, who cheated him ten times by playing on his love for Rachel. ( Genesis 31 : 38 – 42 ) He ran off with his family and possessions, only to be caught up by Laban with whom he made a treaty at Mizpah. But soon after Jacob made peace with Laban, the news came that his brother Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men. In great fear and distress, Jacob prayed to God, but found no comfort. (Genesis 32 : 6 – 12 )
He had once played on the love his brother had for food and cheated him of his birth right. Then when he realized that his father still wanted to bless the elder, he deceived his father and swindled the blessing from his brother. But now his past was soon catching up with him ! He thought of pacifying his brother with gifts and making restitution for his sin. But not assured of forgiveness, he sent his family across the ford of Jabbok and spent the night alone, wrestling with God and emerged as a ‘new man’ at daybreak! Herein you see the travail of a man to become a ‘new creation’.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; the old is gone, the new has come! ( 2 Corinthians 5 : 17 )
( Just as it takes nine months for a woman to conceive and deliver a new born, so also the process of rebirth takes time. )
Speaking of his travails, Paul said, “My dear children, I am again in the pains of Childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” ( Galatians 4 : 19 )
God had planted the incorruptible seed of his word in Jacob’s heart when he was told at Bethel, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” ( Genesis 28 : 15 )
Even so, ‘he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.’ (Philippians 1 : 6 )
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1Peter 1 : 23 )
Just as it took twenty years for Jacob to become Israel; to go from ‘Bethel’ ( which means ‘the house of God’ ) to seeing ‘Peniel’ ( which means ‘the face of God’ ), so also every man will go through the process of rebirth, before Christ is formed in them. Amen.

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