“And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.” (Genesis 35:10, ESV).
When Jacob fled from Esau he went to find a wife from his father’s kinfolk. I know it sounds creepy, but this was how things were done in his day. As we saw yesterday, God spoke to him in a dream reminding him of the promise that He made to Abraham. Jacob wasn’t convinced, though. So he made an oath to God that if he was kept with food and clothing, and was able to go back home safely (without Esau killing him), then he would serve Him. Apparently Isaac hadn’t done a very good job of teaching him in the way he should go.
God prospered Jacob though he continued his crooked ways. It didn’t help that his new father-in-law was a cheat too. Eventually he packs up his family and belongings and sets out for home.
When Jacob came to the ford of the river Jabbok he sent his family across, but remained for the night on the far side alone. I suspect that he was pretty apprehensive about returning to the land where his brother had determined to kill him. Here, scripture tells us, he wrestled with a man until dawn was breaking. He refused to yield until he had been blessed.
When morning came, his adversary—although perhaps more like a friend in some ways—dislocated Jacob’s thigh to end the struggle. But Jacob held on until he received a blessing. “Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’” (Genesis 32:28, ESV).
Then name Israel means “God prevails.” For someone with the name “cheater,” this was indeed a powerful blessing. I wonder what would have happened had Jacob decided to quit his wrestling match, instead of holding on.
Shortly after this, Jacob returned to Bethel and, following God’s instructions, he built an altar. Then he received another vision where God appeared to him and renewed His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
When Elijah told Elisha to remain in Gilgal instead of following him to Bethel—the place of vision—Elisha had a big decision to make. He could remain in the place of “salvation,” or he could continue the journey he had begun when Elijah first threw his cloak upon his shoulders.
We all face the same decision. We have found our salvation in God through Jesus. We can remain there, going to church, reading the Bible, feasting on Chic-Fil-A, or we can decide that going wherever God wants us to go is just where we need to be. We will never begin to understand what God can do through us until we commit to leave the neatly manicured lives our 21st Century churches provide, and we begin to seek God at the Place of Vision. (This is not a call to leave the fellowship and accountability of the church, rather to find and fulfill our calling through the Church).
Tomorrow we will wrap up our look at Bethel by looking at how we should respond to the visions that God has given us.
Blessings on your day!