Gen. 32:27-28 "And he said unto him What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
At this point we have on record that God had at various times spoken to Jacob. It was not as if God had suddenly developed amnesia to have forgotten Jacob's name neither was He meeting him for the first time. He had known Jacob before and He knew exactly what he was called. But He still asked what his name was.
In other words it was like God asking him what he knew about himself--what is your true identity? He asked him: what do you call yourself because it means God actually detected that there was a problem in the identity of Jacob. Jacob was suffering from identity crisis. And quite a number of people are suffering from identity crisis because of their experiences in life occasioned by the influence of the people around them.
Somebody might be wondering; what's in a name? Why was God interested in wanting to know what Jacob called himself? Is a name important? God wants to know if you truly know your name. The same question is being asked of you today: what's your name? Until you know your true identity, you may not be able to fulfil your destiny or maximise your potential. You have to know what truly defines you. It is common for people to define themselves by their circumstances or challenges because that is the way society looks at them.
Why was it necessary to deal with this issue? Because Jacob, we know, means 'supplanter' (cheat) and he had lived a major part of his life by the name cheat--deceiver. He not only lived by that name, he behaved the name. He went about getting what he wanted by swindling people and he got the taste of his own medicine too. That name was given to him by men; men were calling him that name.
When he grew up, he had no choice going about with that name though he resented it. At this time God was about to do something in his life and He had to deal with this issue--an identity crisis. It was like he was already a successful man. He had married two sisters with their handmaids and he had had 12 children that he had gathered from different sources; but God had forgiven him.
When God decides to forgive a man who are you to hold anything against him? It is completely none of your business. I don't care what you have done, if God declares you forgiven, you are forgiven. By every standard, Jacob was already a successful man but God was about to show to him that though he had money, he still had an issue with his identity. Until you settle your identity crisis, you cannot become what God wants you to become. This means, it is not what men call you but what God calls you that you should answer. It is not the opinion of men that counts but the opinion of God in your life.
They called him cheat, deceiver, and so on and it was like he was growing up to begin to accept it. He was leaping between two opinions. He admitted that he was Jacob. And many people have been leaping between two opinions. Today you believe you are a saint but tomorrow you believe that you are a sinner. On one occasion you believe you are a saint, you believe that Jesus died for you and that your sins are cleansed. On another occasion you think of the wrongs you have done and you condemn yourself to be a sinner. After all if you are not, why do you do the bad things you do? You get confused.
Jacob left Padan-aram confused. His fear of his brother, Esau was another threat to him and his family. He was not sure if his brother would not kill him in revenge for taking his birthright. He nursed the fear of losing his life and his family. In that particular place, God isolated him. Don't you thank God that He sometimes isolates you? When He wants to deal with you He takes everybody away from you and allows you to stand alone--Nobody to comfort you; nobody to counsel with you; nobody to advise you. You might be surrounded by people but you don't know where to go to.
What do you call yourself; a loser, a failure, a grasshopper, one of the masses or what? I am not concerned about what people call you because that doesn't count like what you call yourself. This is why you have to be very careful who you hang around with because you may eventually accept what they call you. If the people you hang around with have negative opinion about you and confess it over you for a very long time you begin to assume that is what you really are.
Jacob accepted that he was a cheat because that was what people called him. When God asked him who he was he said, "I am Jacob." He must have thought to himself 'After all, I cheated my brother, I have done bad things--so I am a cheat'. God shut him up and introduced him to himself. God gave him a new identify or made him to discover his real identity from the perspective of God. May God introduce you to you! May you discover your real you!
Rev (Dr) Olowojoba is Snr. Pastor of Dayspring Bible Church, Sabon-Lugbe, Abuja & President, Dayspring Christian Ministries Int'l.