November 06, 2019

Why Do You Ask My Name?

Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

—  Genesis 32:29

A strange wrestling match took place one night at the Jabbok River. Jacob had been preparing to meet with his twin brother, Esau, on the next day. It would be Jacob’s first visit with Esau since running away after stealing his brother’s birthright (Genesis 27).

But on this night, Jacob wrestled in the dark with someone he couldn’t see. We aren’t told much about this wrestler, but we know he struggled with Jacob till dawn, and their match ended as a draw until the opponent wrenched Jacob’s hip.

Jacob held on, though, saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And the wrestler gave Jacob a new name, Israel, which means “he struggles with God.” This name fit Jacob well, for he had a long history of struggling to choose right from wrong (see Genesis 27-35). It was often difficult for Jacob to try to live God’s way.

Like Jacob, we too struggle with God. And yet, despite trying to go our own way, we are blessed. God comes to bless us who have tried to scheme our way into life’s blessings. He confronts us, but instead of giving us what we deserve, he grants salvation and life.

Jacob ended up with a limp from his encounter. Do we have scars from our wrestling with God? Maybe not visible ones, but we know there is One who bears the scars of laying down his life for us: the Lord and Savior, Jesus (John 20:24-29). Do you know him?

Lord Jesus, thank you for fighting to redeem and restore us to be all you have called us to be. Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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