There he was, wide awake with fear . This was the last sleep before seeing his long-estranged older brother, the one whose blessing he stole. These were the moments before he lay down to toss and turn his way into day-break, a deceiver by deed and by name. Jacob.
Here we are, approaching the close of the Lenten season. The season of self-denial. So many are doing the hard work of denying self. Maybe you’ve given up caffeine? How’s that going?
He was approaching a big day of hopeful reconciliation. See, he had a self-denial problem. He’d run away from his old life after purposefully deceiving his father and brother in his scheme for his family line’s blessing.Who else can identify with wanting to run away from themselves, at least from their past?
Here we are, face to face with ourselves and the sin we carry. We can let our sin go before us so much that we let it name us…Liar, Fake, Unloved, Failure. Here we are, so stuck in the truth of our sin, we can’t see ourselves for the fog. The truth of our sin isn’t the whole truth! God saw us – our need to deny ourselves and..HE CAME TO US!
He was stewing in fear when a man who was too much like God to ignore, showed up. Before he knew it, they were wrestling and in the desperate wrestle with the man, the Liar demanded a blessing. Jacob’s past weighed so heavily on him this night before seeing the face of his brother. He had longed for blessings from the start of his life to this very point. So, there he was, holding onto the man steadfastly and demanding he be blessed. First, the man asked Jacob who he was. So often, when God asks us who we are, it’s for our benefit. God already knows exactly who we are.
In this season of wrestling with self-denial, we are confronted with the failings we allow to define us. And here we are, in our own way, looking for a blessing. The Lord sees our struggle to deny ourselves – to become those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. So he comes to us and he asks us to tell him who we are.
In that moment, Jacob answered with the only identity he knew. He was wrestling for his blessing and paused to make a confession. He answered, “I am Jacob. (I am deceiver.)” This is that point in the story where God turns everything on its head. “Your name shall no longer be Jacob (Deceiver), but Israel (God wins)…” And from then on, Israel (God Wins) called that place where they wrestled “Peniel” (the face of God).
We can deny ourselves all the social media, all the red meat, all the coffee or all the things we want and completely miss the point. We see in the self-denial that we are made complete in Christ and in Christ alone. That he is the only on who truly satisfies not only our needs, but our deepest desires. If our self-denial doesn’t lead to His winning and our seeing the Face of God, then of what worth is it?
As we confess the identity our sin has us carry, we receive the blessing of a new name won with the victory of God. We receive His victory when we seek His face. When He calls us by our new name, we have got to get on board with that word – got to let it in to our inner-most being.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
:: Hebrews 4:12 ::
Jacob physically felt that encounter with God and was marked by it as he went on to meet his brother. From a long way off, Esau could see the man who used to be “Liar” coming toward him after having seen the face of God. There he was, limping, but claiming the blessing he received…”God wins”.