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August 2nd, 2020

Genesis 32:22-31

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

Upper St. Croix Parish UMC


 “Is it Not Enough?”

Have you ever heard how your parents named you? And do you know what your name means?  Every name may have meaning. My guess is that you had time to contemplate about giving your children proper names. Most parents consider what name they choose for their children. For example, my elder sister gave her son a famous sports man’s name wishing him to be a good sportsman. My elder brother gave his daughter a famous actress’s name wanting her to be a beautiful lady.

Some people change their name at some point in their life because they think their name leads to their destiny. What do you think about it? Do you think our names lead to our destiny? Somehow, it might be true because we may find many cases in the scriptures. Since people believe in God, they are given new names. For example, we may find, Abram to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Saul to the Apostle Paul; Simon to the disciple Peter and more. I see many American names cite the biblical names.

Above all, we have a common name since we believe in God and accepted Jesus Christ as our savior. Do you know what it is? Yes, we are all called “the child of God”. That is our new name. God gives us a new name being the child of God. Romans chapter 8, verse 14, says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  Also, the Gospel of John 3:16 says, “Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Our name, the children of God, might lead to our destiny, which is eternal life. Is it not enough for you? In other words, is the love of God not enough?  Again, “for God so loved the world that He give His only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). And also, Jesus Christ became obedient to God to death-even death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). The name the children of God are given us by God’s grace, the love of Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I bless you, the love of God, and the love of Jesus Christ are full of your lives, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit lead you to your wish and God’s wish.

Israelites seemed to be mindful of their names. As we talked about Jacob’s name, the name “Jacob” means “a supplanter,” “a cheater,” and “heel-catcher.”  That name was given to him when he was born because he was grasping Esau’s heel with his hands. For Jacob, he lived like his name, as a cheater. He cheated his brother Esau for the firstborn’s birthright. He cheated his father, Isaac, for the firstborn’s blessing. And then he became a runner from his brother. At his mother’s coaching, he came to his uncle Laban’s house. And, he lived there to serve Laban for twenty-one years in order to marry Rachel. Jacob and Laban cheated each other for twenty-one years. Laban tricked Jacob to use him as an unpaid employee regarding that Jacob loves Rachel. After Jacob married Rachel, he tried to leave Laban. But, Laban dealt with Jacob again for his compensation he wanted Jacob to take every speckled, spotted, or dark-colored lamb and goat among all new sheep and goats. And then, Laban removed all speckled, spotted, dark-colored sheep and goats from the flocks Jacob takes care of. Laban put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks. And Jacob cheated Laban of all healthy sheep and goats to bear new speckled, spotted, dark-colored sheep and goats. Finally, Jacob prospered with lots of sheep and goats. And he was afraid of Laban knowing of his cheating. Again, he ran away from Laban. He decided to go back to his father’s house.

Now, he is in the wilderness again. But it is different from when he ran away from his brother Esau. He was alone and had nothing at that time. But now he has four wives, eleven sons and a daughter, and a lot of servants and flocks. Also, he has more fear than before because of Esau. He made a great strategic plan to see Esau. In great fear and distress, Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups and flocks. He thought if Esau comes and attacks one group, the other group that is left may escape (Genesis 32:7-8). He asked his servants to meet Esau to tell him that all flocks and possession are gifts for Esau.

Nevertheless, Jacob’s fear and distress for Esau did not disappear. He sends his wives and children before him. Finally, he is left alone. As if he was alone in Bethel when he ran away from Esau, he is left alone without any possession. In the darkness, Jacob is alone. He might recall how he lived for twenty-one years: His cheating, running away, sleeping alone in the wilderness, and running away again, alone in the desert. Ashamedness, fear, and aloneness might lead Jacob to open his mind to God as perhaps at no other time. Maybe, since he met God in Bethel, it is the first time he prayed to God eagerly.  Verse 24 says, “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak” (32:24). We do not know who “a man” was exactly. But we may guess he might be an angel of God (32:28). Some scholars say, Jacob prayed eagerly and sincerely in Spirit. In the fear and loneness, he wrestled with God. He might hold God in his prayer as if he would die without God’s help.

Have you ever prayed like Jacob? It is like Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. Before Jesus dies on the cross, he prayed in Gethsemane. He said to his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). However, his disciples fell to sleep. Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My father, if possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus recognized God’s providence that salvation would be completed through his death on the cross and resurrection. Because Jesus felt enough in God’s love and his love for people, and he could obey God’s will.

Perhaps, it is like the Apostle Paul’s prayer. The Apostle Paul has a physical weakness. He prayed three times to remove his physical weakness, but God did not do it as his will. However, Paul confessed that even though God did not take away my physical weakness, God’s grace is enough for him because he realized God’s providence that his power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). I hope that his confession would be ours. Paul felt enough in the grace of God.

Jacob finally was given a new name from God as “Israel.” God says to him, “you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.” It means, even though he struggled with God and men, but he overcame.” It means that his new life begins, born again in God: No more a cheater’s life, but a sincere life in God. No more called the child of the world, but the child of God. He became weak physically after the wrestling, but he grew strong in Spirit as if he confesses, “for I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved,” and new sun rose in Penuel (32:30-31).

How about your life? Is the grace of God enough in your life? Like the Apostle Paul, or like Israel (Jacob’s new name), even though our physical body is weak, I bless that our Spirit grows strong enough by God’s grace. Although our life seems to be a small part of the world, if God holds us, we may transform into the world. Like a little boy’s lunch, five loaves of bread and two fish, if Jesus holds them, they are enough to feed five thousand people and have leftover food (Matthew 14:13-21). Even though our daily life seems boring, we live in a new day every day. Let us sense God’s amazing grace in our everyday life and give thanks to God at every moment. I hope that we may experience God’s miracle in our daily life. God’s grace and love are filled with our life more than enough.

Thanks be to God. Amen!