We talked before about God’s pattern of changing names, and here’s another good example from which we can learn some things.
Jacob didn't start out well in scripture. His first recorded act was in grabbing his brother’s heel--in fact, that’s what “Jacob” means: “He grabs the heel.” This could be a good connotation or a bad one, depending on the context. “Grabbing the heel” could be figuratively used in the sense of usurpation or deceit, taking something that doesn’t belong to you; Jacob certainly did that when he deceived his father and stole his brother’s blessing. Esau specifically pointed to Jacob’s name as being indicative of his character. On the other hand, it could be used in the best sense of opportunism, creatively making the most of one’s resources. Jacob certainly displayed that when he started working for his uncle Laban.
When God met Jacob, however, the whole course of his life changed. Jacob spent an entire night wrestling a “man,” and although the Lord could've disintegrated him with a thought, he recognized the dogged determination of his “opponent.” As before with Abram, God changed his name and promoted him from “he grabs the heel” to “he struggles with God.” How can this be a good change? Two reasons. First, instead of trusting in his own efforts and resources to get ahead and succeed, his new name assumes that from now on Jacob will “wrestle” his blessing away from the Lord. Second, it’s a blessed name because every true believer struggles with God from time to time--lost people don’t “wrestle” with the Lord in this sense, since they don’t have the intimate relationship with him that we do through Christ. We’ll talk more about struggling with him once we get to the Psalms, but in the meantime, know this: Wrestling with God is not a sign of distrust or lack of faith. Instead, it’s a sign that we know who the source of blessing is, and we’re going to him.
Father God, even in my “struggles” with you, you're always displaying your grace and mercy. Help me to trust you.