Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 4-7-03


Title: A Name Change

Text: “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no linger be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with god and with men and have overcome’” (Gen. 32:28, NIV).

Scripture Reading: Genesis 32:22-32

 

Occasionally, people become dissatisfied with the names their parents have given them. 

Many years ago, the country singer Johnny Cash recorded a popular song called, “A Boy Named Sue.” 

You could not blame a boy named Sue for wanting to change his name.

I worked in a plant in Iowa where everyone was given a nick name that would be expressive of some physical characteristic.

I was told that I had a nick name, but I never found out what it was.

I am probably better off, not knowing. 

But in high school, I was called mouse, because I had a unique talent; I could wiggle my nose. 

We named our daughter after her grandmothers; Mary for Sierra’s mom, and Alice for my mom.

That pleased them both.

However, for the most part, names don’t mean much today; they are chosen because the parents like the way they sound, and many names are picked out of books that list every conceivable name.

But that’s not how it was in the Old Testament.

Names were significant in the Old Testament. 

Often they describe a person’s character. 

The name Jacob, for example, meant “deceiver” or “supplanter.” 

He definitely needed a name change! 

The story of Jacob is about a person taking on a new nature and then taking on a new name to describe that new nature. 

Genesis 32:28 says, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” 

Let’s examine the insights into Jacob’s story of change, beginning with a wrestling match that he was involved in; it’s recorded in Genesis 32:22-32.

22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.
23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.
25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.”
28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

First, let me say, “All of us need a name change.”

The story of every human being is one of rebellion against God. 

Therefore, everyone needs a name change.

The life story of Jacob, is the story of a man who had a sinful nature. 

Jacob’s character is first reflected in his name. 

Throughout his life the meaning of his name matched his reputation as a trickster. 

He cheated his brother, Esau, out of his birthright. 

Then he tricked his father, Isaac, into blessing him rather than Esau. 

When Isaac and Esau realized they had been tricked, Jacob had to flee to his Uncle Laban in Haran. 

But living with his uncle didn’t change him; Jacob continued to be a man of deception.

So far, nothing good can be said about this man; but unfortunately, Jacob’s sinful nature represents every human being’s nature.

A French writer once said, “I never examined the heart of a wicked man.  I once became acquainted with the heart of a good man: I was shocked.”

Even the best of us sin, and it doesn’t stop when we are saved, because we still have our old nature.

The new nature that God gives to us must always contend with that old nature, and sometimes the old nature emerges and leads us to sin.

Confronting our sinful nature causes us to conclude, “All have sinned.” 

We desperately need a new nature.

But I have some good news, and the good news is, all of us can have a new nature.

The theme of the Bible is that every human being can have a new nature. 

No one needs to remain trapped in sin. 

Our character can be changed.

In the case of Jacob, when his name was changed it required submission on his part.

Jacob was led to submission in an unusual manner. 

On his return to Canaan from Laban’s home in Haran, he came to a stream called the Jabbok. 

He knew that he would encounter Esau, so he made preparations to appease his brother by sending flocks ahead as gifts.

Having sent his flocks, servants, and family ahead, he spent the night alone beside the Jabbok. 

That was a very desolate place, right down between two hills, in a very mountainous and very rugged country. 

Here is where he spent the night. 

He is not a happy man, and he is filled with fear and doubts. 

You see, chickens are coming home to roost. 

He had mistreated Esau. 

God had never told him to get the birthright or the blessing the way he did it. 

God would have gotten it for him. 

That night Jacob sends all that he has across the Brook Jabbok, but he stays on the other side so that, if his brother Esau comes, he might kill Jacob but spare his family. 

And so Jacob is left alone. 

There are several things I would like to get straight about this wrestling match, which we are about to read about. 

I have heard it said that Jacob did the wrestling. 

Actually, Jacob didn’t want to wrestle anybody. 

He has Uncle Laban in back of him who doesn’t mean good at all, and he has his brother Esau ahead of him. 

Jacob is no match for either one. 

He is caught now between a rock and a hard place, and he doesn’t know which way to turn. 

Do you think he wanted to take on a third opponent that night?

Years ago Time magazine, reporting in the sports section concerning the votes for the greatest wrestler of all time, said that not a vote went to the most famous athlete in history, wrestling Jacob. 

Low and behold, the magazine received a letter from someone who wrote asking them to tell something more about this wrestler Jacob. 

The writer of the letter had never heard of him before! 

And evidentially, he had never read his Bible at all. 

Jacob is no wrestler-let’s make that very clear here at the beginning. 

That night he was alone because he wanted to be alone, and he wasn’t looking for a fight. 

During the night he experienced a turning point in his life. 

Verse 24 says, “…Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” 

Old Jacob was not going to give up easily; he is not that kind of man-and so he struggled against Him. 

Finally, the one who wrestled with him crippled him. 

Then the thought came to Jacob that his real antagonist was not Esau or Laban, but it was the Lord. 

Look at what happens now? 

Jacob is just holding on; he is not wrestling. 

He is just holding on to this One, who is wrestling with him. 

He found out that you don’t get anywhere with God by struggling and wrestling. 

The only way you are going to get anywhere with Him is by yielding, and just holding on to Him. 

Abraham had learned that, and that is why he said amen to God. 

He believed God, and God counted it to him for righteousness. 

Abraham reached the end of his rope and put his arms around God. 

When you get to that condition, then you trust God. 

When you are willing to hold on, He is there ready to help you. 

The Lord wrestled with Jacob until Jacob yielded in submission. 

When Jacob met God, he got a new nature and a new name.

Jacob’s story portrays what can happen to every human being. 

Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor for many years at Riverside Church in New York City, preached a sermon entitled “No Man Need Stay the Way He Is.” 

If we don’t like ourselves the way we are, we can change. 

That is what happened to Jacob at Jabbok-a deceiver became a good man. 

He is not Jacob anymore-the one who is usurper, the trickster-but is now called Israel. 

Now the new nature of Israel will be seen in the life of this man.

God had crippled Jacob in order to get him, but He got him. 

This man Jacob refused to give in at first-that was typical of him. 

He knows a few holds, and he thought that after a while he would be able to overcome. 

Finally, he found out he couldn’t overcome, but he would not surrender. 

And so what did God do? 

Certainly, with His superior strength, it would only have taken a moment for God to pin down Jacob’s shoulders-but He wouldn’t have pinned down his will. 

Jacob was like a little boy whose mama made him sit in a corner in his room. 

After awhile she heard a noise in there, and she called to him, “Willie, are you sitting down?” 

He said, “Yes, I’m sitting down, but I’m standing up on the inside of me!” 

That is precisely what would have happened to Jacob. 

He would have been standing up on the inside of himself-he wasn’t ready to yield.

Notice how God deals with him. 

He touches the hollow of Jacob’s thigh. 

Just the touch of the finger of God, and this man becomes helpless. 

But you see, God is not pinning down his shoulders. 

And now Jacob holds on to Him. 

The Man says, “Let Me go,” and Jacob says, “No, I want Your blessing.” 

He’s clinging to God now. 

The struggling and striving are over, and from here on Jacob is going to exhibit a spiritual nature; dependence upon God. 

You will not find the change happening in a moment’s notice. 

Psychologists tell us that certain synaptic connections are set up in our nervous systems so that we do things by habit. 

We are creatures of habit. 

This man Israel, will lapse back into his old ways many times, but we begin to see something different in him now. 

Before we are through with him, we will find he is a real man of God.

First, we saw him at his home, and then in the land of Haran where he was a man of the flesh. 

He was selfish, and he was only concerned about himself.

Here at Peniel, at the brook Jabbok, we find him fighting. 

After this, and all the way through down into Egypt, we see him as a man of faith. 

First, a man of the flesh, then a man who is fighting and struggling, and finally a man if faith.

A change in nature results from submission to God’s will. 

Instead of trying to run our own lives, we must allow God to control our lives.

Now here’s what I want you to see, “all of us are changed to serve the Lord.”

Having our natures changed is not a submissive matter. 

It means a change in lifestyle. 

When we are changed, we are led to service.

Jacob’s story reflects a new lifestyle.

Jacob became a new man when the Lord prevailed in his life. 

His name was changed from “Jacob the deceiver” to “Israel,” which means “prince or perseverer with God.” 

He changed his relationship with Esau, his brother. 

In previous years he had cheated and exploited Esau; but after Jacob’s encounter with God, he made every effort to seek reconciliation with Esau.

Jacob’s service indicates that every life-changing encounter should result in service.

Being saved and serving others goes hand in hand. 

Serving others keeps us from a destructive preoccupation with our selves. 

In the 1700’s a man named John Newton traveled to Africa. 

He got involved in the slave trade and truly made a mess of his life. 

But then John Newton had a life-changing encounter with the Lord and wrote the words to “Amazing Grace.”

Jacob desperately needed a change. 

His change in nature came when he allowed the Lord to prevail in his life. 

When the Lord prevailed, Jacob became a profitable servant of the Lord. 

Do you acknowledge that you need a new nature? 

Will you allow God to change your life?

In the New Testament another young man, a son of Jacob by the name of Saul of Tarsus tells us of his struggle in chapter 7 of Romans. 

There were three periods in his life. 

When he was converted, he thought he could live the Christian life. 

He thought that it would be easy, but he was wrong because he couldn’t do it. 

He said, “For the good that I would, I do not: But the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:19). 

Paul found out, not only was there no good in his old nature, but there was also no strength or power in the new nature. 

Finally, we hear him crying out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). 

Then something happened, and in verse 25 he says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” 

He is the one you are going to have to thank, because that is where your help is going to come from-through Him. 

And Paul went on to say, “…So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). 

That is the way it is with all of us. 

We have that old nature, and it cannot do anything that will please God. 

In fact, Paul went on to say that it was against God.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8). 

We cannot please God in the flesh. 

Paul found victory by yielding to the Spirit of God. 

What the law could not do, the Spirit is now able to do in our lives. 

How does one do it? 

It is not until you and I yield to Him that we can please Him. 

To yield, is an act of the will of a born again Christian, who is submitting himself to the will of God. 

And that is exactly what Jacob did. 

Jacob won, but he got the victory, not by fighting and struggling, but by yielding. 

What a picture we have here in him, and we are told that all these things happened to those we read about in the Bible, for examples to us.

That’s what it says in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “All these things happened to them as examples--as object lessons to us--to warn us against doing the same things; they were written down so that we could read about them and learn from them in these last days as the world nears its end. (Living)
 
So let’s learn from the story of Jacob, and the experience of Paul and yield ourselves to Christ first to Salvation and then to service.

Amen.

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harmonyofthegospels.yolasite.com (Life of Christ)

teachingsermonsforpastorsandlaymen.yolasite.com (sermons)

theepistlesofpaul.yolasite.com (Titus and Jude)

paulsepistletotheromans.yolasite.com (Romans)

theperiodofthejudges.yolasite.com (Judges)

 

Please review them and use them as the Lord leads you.

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