Last week we witnessed an important event in Jacob’s life, on how his name was changed from a person named Jacob to Israel (Chapter 32 verse 28) where it stated “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
The name Jacob means he struggles with his own strength, his own strategy and his own cunning with his brother Esau, his father Isaac and to deceive Laban that his efforts appeared to succeed, and he got what he wanted. However, his efforts were also compromised, that fundamentally, and spiritually as well as his relationship with people closest to him became ruined. The change of name of Jacob to Israel was made by God Himself, that he struggled with God and he appeared to emerge victorious and God blessed him. He came and struggled with God not with his own strategy, not with his own cunning, but he came to struggle with God based on His mercy. When we read narrative of Jacob’s next chapter in his life, Jacob was still being called as Jacob as well as Israel. Jacob is a man of grace, we learned on how God’s grace was given to Jacob who was helpless, sinned, so many weaknesses but God’s grace that is sovereign was stated upon Jacob.
Jacob’s life can be pictured as our lives, as Martin Luther once said that the lives of Christian people is “simul justus et peccator” which means “at the same time, justified and a sinner”. We, who have been corrected but at the same time that we will forever be sinners until Christ came for the second time that we meet Him face to face. We are sinners saved by grace, only by God’s grace. The real change has happened to Jacob that is described as true repentance that his arrogance has been squashed, and no longer using his own strategy and he humble himself and willing to accept any consequence for the sins he committed. The character of people who admitted their true repentance that there will be fundamental change, that there will be confession of sin and ready to accept whatever the consequence is. Like in Psalm 51 that David’s prayer that he confessed to his sins and repentance.
There have been issues where people have confessed to their sins, but they only accept the consequences to their likings, but in the end their mistakes and sins have been uncovered, but when they received their sentence that they will only ask why they have been disciplined harshly. One of the characteristics of people that repented that they would accept anything that has happened. They realised that they deserve to die like David realised that he deserved to die accepting God’s wrath, but he only asked for mercy from God. True repentance is when we really repent of our sins and mistakes, in which this will actually result a big relief not because of our readiness to accept anything, that there is none greater than to accept the worse consequence (that is death). This was what Jacob has experienced that he really repented and ready to accept whatever the consequence is when he is about to see his older brother Esau. Upon seeing Esau that Jacob was surprised from Esau’s response, “Wonderful surprise” that Esau shown his kindness towards Jacob. Then Jacob realised that his success and efforts have been because of the grace of God and God’s kindness in his life.
Should we become Jacob, realising and truly believing that our success and all that we own today, these are because of the grace of God, because of God’s kindness. Therefore, the consequence is that when we will realise one day that God taken it from our lives, that we must be ready. God has the rights to take away anything from our lives. Jacob’s life can be a lesson for all of us because it pictured us as the children of God. We, as the children of God, sometimes we cannot fully follow God like Jacob. There must be true repentance in us fundamentally that we must change, from the moment we confessed and believed in God. However there have been many of us who have faith in God, there have been changes in us that only made possible by God. But also, there have been so many temptations in this city we lived in, where we can do whatever we like without anyone knowing what we do – that made us our faith weaker. This world deceived us, brought us into the world’s will that has been an enjoyment and easiness. To live in a world’s will is easy, but to live in God’s will is hard – full of challenges and price that must be paid.
Let us be reminded that we need to grow in our faith and to invite our friends whose faith have drawn to go back into Christ that we will come together into this Good Friday’s service which it will be an excellent opportunity for us to show our care and to pray for them and to pray for ourselves. We know that God died to take away our sins, not just the past sins, but also the future sins.