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Who do you call yourself?

Telling God your name...

Further thoughts on Parashat Vayishlach

by John J. Parsons
www.hebrew4christians.com

Some people make it the business of theology to know God's Name, but God begins by first asking for ours instead...  Recall that Jacob had disguised who he really was in the hope of obtaining the blessing (Gen. 27), though his duplicity forced him into an exile that lasted until he was finally willing to be honest with himself.  And like Jacob, each of us must answer God's question: "What is your name?" (Gen. 32:27). When we "wrestle through" this question to face who we really are, we encounter God and find our blessing, that is, our true name and identity. Each of us has to go through the process of being renamed from "manipulator" (i.e., Yaakov) to "one in whom God rules" (i.e., Israel). But note the order: it is only when we "tell God our name," that is, own who we really are, that He meets with us "face to face" at Peniel (Gen. 32:30). You will not be able to say, "I will not let you go unless you bless me," until you are willing tell God your name (Gen. 32:26-27).

Let me add that while "telling God your name" can be painful and even frightening, it is not the last word about who you really are. We are faced with an inner dualism as we struggle to take account of our lives. On the one hand, we need to confess the truth of our radical sinfulness, our depravity, our brokenness, and so on, while on the other we must endure ourselves and find faith that God's blessing nevertheless belongs to us, and that Yeshua gave his life for us and loves us -- despite ourselves. We have to be willing to take God's new name for us and believe that God will transform our inner nature for eternal good. We have to be renamed from Yaakov to Israel, and yet we know ourselves as both.


Note: Some people may need help learning to "endure themselves." Many are able, it seems, to receive the hope that they are forgiven for their past sins, but they are subsequently scandalized by encountering their own inner struggles, and they eventually despair over their ongoing weakness... Tragically, some are even tempted to regard the warfare within the heart as a sign of being devoid of all saving grace! We must remember, however, that there is a real struggle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). We must never move away from simple trust in the message of God's unconditional love demonstrated at the cross; we must never seek to legitimize our place in God's heart. When we walk by the Spirit, we are no longer under the law (Gal. 5:18), which is to say, we no longer need to justify ourselves but instead trust in God's power to transform us. Just as we are saved by the love of God, so are we changed, so do we grow...


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