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And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 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. (Genesis 32:26~28)
As we talked about last time, Jacob became very afraid upon hearing that his brother Esau was bringing 400 men with him. He thought, “How am I going to stop my older brother, Esau?” and divided his family and cattle into companies, saying, “If he strikes one, the other will get away.” Then he prayed to God. “God, didn’t you say that you will protect me? Didn’t you say that you will bestow grace upon me?” Still he had no peace or freedom in his heart, and then he tried to melt his brother’s heart through preparing gifts to give Esau. Jacob used these methods but these human methods could not bring peace to his heart. That is how spiritual life always is. Many think, “I will do some good. I will do better to come before God,” but people are always afraid, insecure, and uneasy when standing before God through these things. The only way for us to stand before God is to rely on the clear promise of God. Because God does not lie, if Jacob relied on what God promised He would do and came before Him, this is the safest way and it would bring about the most peace in his heart.
Jacob Who Became Israel
On his way to the land of Canaan, Jacob came to the ford of Jabbok. He needed to cross this river, but he was afraid to cross it. If his older brother, Esau, brought 400 men and attacked him, it would be difficult for him to get away if he has already crossed the river. Therefore, Jacob first had all his people cross while he remained behind by himself. In verse 22, And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two women-servants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. Jacob crossed the ford at night because he was afraid of crossing and hesitated until it became night. Then when it became night, he had no choice but to cross. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone. Jacob was now alone on the other side of the river. And there wrestled a man with him, until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh: and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. A certain man wrestled with Jacob all night long and when the day was breaking, the man said, “Let me go.” Jacob answered, “I will not let you go, except you bless me.” This man then asked Jacob, “What is your name?” “Jacob.” “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. For you have wrestled with God and have prevailed.” This is the process of Jacob becoming Israel. Jacob became Israel not because he did something well. God, by grace, had given him the name Israel. The name Jacob means, “Grabbed the brother’s heel, crooked, bent, and twisted.” Calling, “Jacob!” is saying, “Hey you crooked man! You’re bent! You’re twisted!” But God gave Jacob the name Israel. “Israel” means, “wrestled with God and prevailed.” Is it that God does not have strength that He could not defeat Jacob? By grace, God gave Jacob the name Israel. From then on, Jacob was Israel, and the name of the country of Israel is from this name given to Jacob.
I Am Jacob!
Jacob became Israel. The crooked, bent, twisted, and entangled man Jacob of the past became the new Israel through God. It is not that Jacob straightened his twisted self to become Israel. This may seem like an ordinary story but it is actually telling us in depth about the world of our spiritual life. I did not know that I was a twisted person. I did not know that I was Jacob. I always thought, “I made mistakes, but I am an okay person. I sinned, but nothing too big. I never did anything that crossed the line too much. I did lie, but who doesn’t lie? However, I lived as an honest person.” Because I lived that way, I never once said, “I am Jacob.” I was just Ock Soo Park; I was never Jacob. “I truly am a crooked person. I am bent and twisted. I am terribly wrong.” I had never once said this. I did not think that I was crooked. But I, who claimed not to be crooked, lived a crooked life. It was like a crab claiming not to be a crab, yet walking exactly like one. A crab may think that it can walk upright, but it cannot when it tries to. Although I lived a life of doing evil things, lying, fighting, and making my father worry, I did not precisely know myself and did not think that I was that evil of a person. I always lived thinking in my heart, “I only have to be honest. I only need to keep the law. All I have to do is not sin.” With my lips I repeated, “Lord, I’m a sinner,” but had never said from the core of my heart, “I am the dirty, filthy, evil Jacob!” But one day, God bestowed grace upon me. When I look back, I feel that at the time God allowed me to borrow His eyes. Right then I saw myself, not through my eyes which I had been seeing through till now, but through the eyes of God. Do you know how I appeared? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Man seen in the eyes of God and myself seen in the eyes of God were deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. There was nothing as rotten as my heart anywhere in this world. Nothing is as deceitful as my heart; nothing as evil as my heart; and nothing as dirty as my heart. I came to realize this fact in my heart. “Ah! I truly am dirty!” Right then, for the first time in my heart, I confessed, “God, I am a sinner.” Of course I had said that I was a sinner in the past as well. I had thought of myself as someone who did have sin, but not a sinner worthy of being destroyed. However, this time, I came to know, “I am a person whose nature itself is twisted, crooked, and evil.” I discovered that I could not become good.
You Are Israel
Once we realize this, it is important to realize the next step. In my eyes, clearly I was Jacob so I said to God, “God, I am Jacob!” But God was seeing me and calling me Israel. This was so confusing. “God, how can I be Israel? I am not Israel. I am Jacob! I am a crooked human being. I am a dirty, filthy, and evil human being.” “No. You are Israel. You are Israel!” “God, how can I be Israel? I am a filthy, evil, and dirty human being.” “You are Israel.” A long time ago, I thought of myself as a good person, but I realized the fact that I am truly a filthy, dirty, and evil human being. But afterwards, God looked at me and clearly said, “You are righteous. Holy. Clean.” Ah, this was so hard to believe. “God, how can I be righteous? How can I be holy and clean? I’m not. I am filthy and dirty.” “No. You are righteous, holy, and clean.” “God, no . . . . No . . . .” Regardless of who you may be, all people have to go through these two processes. First, they have to realize through the grace of God that, “My nature is dirty! That is why filthy and dirty hearts arise within me!” from thinking that their deeds are good. Second, although they appear as dirty humans in their own eyes, they have to accept the words when God calls them righteous. But it is difficult to accept these words. “God, I am not righteous. I am full of lies, and am an evil, dirty human being.” However, God calls us righteous. In spiritual life, everyone must first realize that they are truly dirty and filthy. Next, we have to enter the process of having us, who are dirty and filthy, become righteous. It is difficult for people to realize they are true dirty sinners, and it is difficult to become righteous after becoming sinners. This is because the eyes God sees through and the eyes we see through always differ. People who believe in themselves say this: “God, how can I be Israel? How can I dare prevail against you? I am afraid, so don’t say that to me. I am Jacob. I am crooked. I am filthy and dirty.” But if God calls us righteous, we are righteous. If God calls us holy, we are holy.
It’s Wine Now
Jesus went to the wedding at Cana of Galilee when He was in this world. That feast was in need of wine and Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the water pots with water.” The servants filled six water pots to the brim with water. Do you know what Jesus then said? “Draw out now and serve to the governor of the feast.” It meant that the water had turned into wine. The servants could not understand. “How could this be wine? It’s water. I just poured water in.” “Master, this is not wine. It is water. We should not serve water. We will be scolded by the master.” That was what the servants thought. But Jesus said, “No. It’s wine. Go serve it.” It was surely water in the servants’ eyes, but Jesus was calling it wine. Everyone, this process has to take place for all those who live spiritual life. When Jacob saw himself, he was truly crooked, bent, and twisted, but God was saying that he wasn’t so. “You are Israel. You are no longer crooked. You are not a twisted man anymore. Now, you are no more Jacob. You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.” “God, are you calling me Israel? That makes no sense. How can I prevail against you? I am Jacob. Do you know how many twisted things I’ve done? I stole my brother’s birthright, and deceived Laban. You know, I’ve done all kinds of things. I am not Israel. I am a crooked person. It’s fitting that I’m called Jacob. Call me Jacob, God!” That must have been Jacob’s heart, but God spoke. “You are no longer Jacob. You are Israel. A little while ago you were a crooked person. You were Jacob, but you are now Israel. Do not call yourself Jacob anymore. You are Israel.” Jesus was saying the exact same thing to the servants of the feast when they thought, “Master, this is not wine. This is water. I poured the water from the well here.” “It’s not water anymore. Draw out now and serve it. It’s wine now.”
God Who Prepared for Thousands of Years to Call Us Righteous
God is saying the same thing to us. “It is right that you are a sinner. You lied. You committed wickedness. You hated others. You are a sinner. But now you are righteous!” For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:23-24) “Now you are righteous!” God saw Jacob and said, “You are Israel.” Jesus saw the water and said, “This is wine.” God saw us, the sinners, and said, “You are righteous.” Today, many people fight against God. “God, it is not so. I am a sinner. I have many sins.” I, too, could not believe the Word of God that called me righteous. “How could I be righteous? I’m afraid to dare call myself righteous. How could I say I have no sins? How could I say I am holy? That’s nonsense.” So I read the Bible. I read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus . . . . As I read the Bible, chapter by chapter, I could see that God had done many things to make us righteous; we who are dirty, evil, and filthy. God did not only say with His lips that He made us righteous, but prepared for thousands of years beforehand to make us righteous. Even in what we are talking about today, as a part of that, God told Abraham, “All of mankind will be blessed through your seed,” and that seed represents Jesus. God sent His son, Jesus, 2,000 years ago to this earth to forgive our sins according to His promise. God could not simply call us righteous. To make us righteous, He had to wash our sins away, and to do so, God had Jesus crucified. Jesus prayed at the village of, Gethsemane, “My Father, if you will, take this cup from me. But not as I will, but the will of the father.” God knew that Jesus could not avoid the cup in order to make us righteous and had Jesus crucified. Jesus shouted, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” at the cross. God forsook Jesus once. Why did He do so? It was because Jesus was carrying our sins. All those sins were resolved at the cross. All our sins were taken care of through Jesus’ receiving the punishment for all those sins and the judgment for our sins completely ended there. God sees that cross and says to us, “Now you are righteous. You are holy. All your sins are washed away.”
Yes, I Am Righteous!
If we take the cross lightly and think only of the sins we committed, we can only say, “How can I say I am righteous? I am not righteous. I am dirty. I am filthy.” But now we believe the promise of God. “Ah, all my sins are washed away! Now I am righteous! I am clean!” “That’s right, God. I am righteous!” Jacob could not believe it when God called him Israel. “God, I am Jacob. I am not Israel. I am crooked and twisted. I deceived my older brother to steal his birthright, and again deceived my father saying that I was Esau to steal the blessing. And also to take Laban’s sheep, I took rods of green poplar, hazel, and chestnut, and pilled white streaks to make spotted sheep. I committed these kinds of sins. This is how evil and dirty I am. God, I am Jacob, not Israel!” Jacob could only say this. But God was different from Jacob. “You are no longer Jacob, but Israel!” According to the Word of God, from that day on, Jacob became Israel. The works of the Bible are the same. It was clearly water the servants at the wedding of the Cana of Galilee poured, but Jesus said, “Now it is not water anymore. It’s wine.” The water turned into wine through Jesus. Likewise, God changed us who are dirty. “You are no longer a sinner. You are righteous!” That is what God said. Being justified freely by his grace. “Yes, God, I am righteous! I am sanctified!” It is believing the Word of God. It is coming forth with the promise. The promise has nothing to do with my works. Becoming righteous is not because you have done something good, kind, or truthful. God, through His grace, has freely made us righteous. In our eyes he is Jacob, but in God’s eyes he is Israel. In our eyes it is water, but in Jesus’ eyes it is wine. In our eyes we are sinners, but we are righteous in God’s eyes. God’s eyes are different from ours. Now do not believe in your eyes anymore but believe the eyes God sees through. When God calls you righteous, say, “I am righteous.” When Jesus says that it is wine, say, “It is wine.” When God says you are Israel, say, “I am Israel.” Saying this and accepting it is true faith.