“What is your name?” This was the question God asked Jacob after they wrestled all night long in the desert in Genesis 32. Jacob had been living in the middle of an identity crisis since the day he was born with his tiny infant fingers latched tightly onto the foot of his firstborn twin brother, Esau. His parents gave him the name “Jacob” which meant “schemer or deceiver.” As he grew up, his life was shoved tightly into a mold like beach sand into a cup. The problem was that mold wasn’t the one his Creator had in mind.
Jacob slipped further and further into a false identity as he grew. While Esau lived out his interests in the outdoors hunting and working, Jacob spent the majority of his time becoming a great cook at the side of his mother. She eventually became a huge negative influence in his life. This culminated with Jacob tricking his elderly blind father into giving him the firstborn rights and blessing. He spent the next few decades on the run from Esau while having several misadventures, including a 14 year job trying to get the woman he wanted as a wife.
Jacob’s lack of a God given identity led to an exhausting life of insecurity and mistakes. It was at this point in his life that Jacob got the wrestling match of a lifetime with his God, and got the penetrating question that all of us need to answer: who are you?
God wanted Jacob, and us, to answer this question. We must admit that we’ve created false identities so that He can give us the true one. Only God can tell us who we really are. He created us. He knit us together in our mother’s wombs. He alone can speak to our deepest needs, and there are few deeper than that of knowing who we are.
As people, we chase the answer to this question like gold at the end of a rainbow. We chase it in places where the answer can never be found. Our spouses, careers, net worths and hobbies can’t fix this crisis. Our souls long to be defined by the One who called them to be in the first place. The destruction that results in avoiding His answer to our longing can be devastating.
Jacob answered that he was simply “Jacob,” the schemer and deciever who lived up to his name. He had allowed his past to define him. God, however, had a different plan. God changed Jacob’s identity that night in the deepest way. He named him Israel, which meant overcomer and son/child of God. What a difference hearing the truth from God can make!!
Jacob walked with the physical scars from that fight the rest of his life, but he never had to doubt his identity again. He belonged to God. He had a heavenly father who loved him enough to wrestle him down. He had a God who was willing to wound him so He could name him. God wants to do the same for you. Through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we can find our deepest identity and security.
The message of the Gospel is one of reconciliation. Through Jesus we are made RIGHT with God. Through Jesus our identity becomes children of the Most High. God wounded Jesus so He could name you! Stop looking for it where it can’t be found. Turn to God and hear His voice. Hear Him tell you who you really are. He’s the only one who can.