God’s Faithfulness

‘God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” Genesis 35:10

More than twenty years had passed since Jacob left his father and mother in fear for his life from his twin brother, Esau. In that time his experiences with his uncle, Laban, and his meeting with the Lord on the return journey prior to meeting Esau had made him a much changed man.

Before he left the promised land the Lord appeared to him at Bethel and affirmed that the covenant He had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob in all three aspects; land, descendants and a blessing to the nations (Genesis 28:13-14).

At a time when Jacob was unsettled in his relationship with Laban and began to fear him, the Lord called him back to his father, Isaac. Interestingly it was again fear that disposed Jacob to have a listening ear toward God. That remains a provocation for people to have an ear toward God still. At this time the Lord reminded Jacob of their previous meeting and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:20-22; 31:13).

The incident at Shechem (Genesis 34) again stirred up fear in Jacob which apparently disposed him again to have an ear toward the Lord. By commanding Jacob to return to Bethel, the Lord was again reminding him of his vow (Genesis 35:1).

Jacob obeyed all that the Lord said and again the Lord affirmed that the covenant that he had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob and his descendants. The message to Jacob and to us is that God is faithful to His word no matter how circumstances may appear.

The seal of this affirmation came from the Lord in the new name given to Jacob. First mention of the change of name was given by the Lord after the night long encounter Jacob had with Him (Genesis 32:28) but it was not applied until Jacob had fully returned, built an altar to the Lord and removed all association with false gods. At this time the Lord now called him Israel (Genesis 35:10) and affirmed the three key aspects of the covenant made with Abraham. This name became the name for all Israel’s descendants and remains so to this day and forevermore.

The name means, “Prince with God” and that is what Israel is and shall always be (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). The very name, Israel, shouts the faithfulness of God to His word.

A More Complete Walk

“Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” (Genesis 32:24)

All too often we say, or hear another say, that we are struggling in our walk with the Lord. In the Bible we see that it is true that there is an adversary to that walk but we will do well to realise that his greatest ally is ourselves. One thing that is evident in human nature ever since Adam believed the lie of the great deceiver is that people will create a god in their own image.

God created man in His own image and now fallen man is creating gods in his own image. This is perhaps the reason there have been, and are, so many gods – and even so many caricatures of Jesus Christ and God among people who call themselves Christian. This is often the ammunition of ungodly people in resisting the Gospel.

The fact is that all Christians, including genuinely born-of-God believers, are dysfunctional to some degree in their representation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we sing songs like, “To Be Like Jesus.” A great deception is to think that our own view of Jesus is the correct one and therefore everyone else must have an imperfect or wrong perception of Him.

Jacob struggled with God (v28) because he held to his own view of God and resisted more revelation. It was only when in great pain he surrendered (v 25) to God and clung to God (v 26) that things changed. God did not conform to Jacob’s image of God but Jacob’s image of God was revealed for its short-fall of reality; and this very event would improve that image greatly.

The reason Christians struggle and find the Christian life hard is often because we have a very limited comprehension of our God. A common fault among all people is that when we know something on a subject we think we know it all. After all, it is all we know and we can’t be aware of what we don’t know – or else we would know it!

The same is true of our knowledge of God. Just when we think we know Him He injects something into our lives that throws us into confusion. As you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry you will notice this quite often in the disciples’ walk with Him. They were frequently at a loss to understand what He was doing. The same is true for those of us who are His disciples today.

He delights to reveal Himself to the one who will receive it and that will mean wrecking any idolatrous image that we have created in our minds of Him. The tendency is to make God in our own image and that will put us where Jacob was at sundown, struggling and in the dark. May it be as the light dawns we will do as Jacob did and cease the struggle and just cling to God and let God be Himself. Like Jacob, that may mean that most of us, if not all, will have to be put out of joint in some way; but so be it for the glory of God and our more complete walk with the Lord.