What’s in a Name?
Today’s scripture selection: Genesis 32-35
Key verse: Genesis 35:10
“Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.”
Jacob was an interesting fellow, with an interesting history. He was a trickster; a deceiver from birth – his name, which means “he grasps the heel,” is also a Hebrew idiom for “he deceives.” His life, like many of the Biblical characters, had its dramatic ups and downs – not the least of which was wrestling one night with an angel.
Following that scuffle, he was given a new name – Israel. And, as I understand it, that word wrought with such great historical meaning – is not easily defined. One contemporary rabbi, Rabbi Emma Gottlieb, explains “Our movement’s most recent Torah commentary teaches that the original meaning of “Israel” is difficult to concisely define. It can be construed as “he struggles with God,” or “God struggles,” or “God rules,” or “his struggle is mighty,” and more. “
Well – I will let the rabbis and biblical scholars of the world argue about the exact meaning of the words “Jacob” and “Israel.” What I find most intriguing about the story is the name change itself. Names are important things. They help define us, at least to a certain extent. Just ask any kid who has grown up in a tough neighborhood and been daily teased about his moniker.
My name, Paul, means “little” – and interestingly enough, I was always the smallest kid in the class. As difficult as that sometimes was, I took comfort in that I was named after the apostle Paul; that and the fact that my grandfather assured me “great things come in small packages.”
So consider your name – if you can find out its meaning – and then think about how, regardless of its meaning, you are a unique individual in the eyes of God.
Jacob was a deceiver and a contender. But he was also the recipient of great blessing and spiritual destiny.
Maybe God has some special plans for you too – no matter what your name.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for my unique history and my equally unique destiny. May it be pleasing in your sight. AMEN.