What happens when your past catches up to you? How do you handle facing the music? Our past mistakes have consequences that we wish we didn’t have to face, especially when we’ve learned our lesson. Jacob, in Genesis 32, was about to come face to face with his past. He was about to meet his twin brother whom he had cheated and knew that the time had come to quit running. He was afraid, paranoid and stressed out. He tried to think of every solution he could to minimize the price he’d have to pay.
Since they were born, he had cheated his brother. In fact, his mom named him Jacob which meant supplanter. thefreedictionary.com defines supplanter as, “One who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another.” He lived up to that definition and now he had to face the music. He sent gifts ahead to his brother whom he would meet the next day. He separated all his belongings in case his brother attacked. That way one group would survive. He separated his kids and his wives. But that night, he spent alone because he wanted to beg God for mercy.
He stayed on the opposite side of the Jabbok River from his family. Jabbok interestingly means, “emptying”. I believe that night he emptied himself of all his past sins and begged God for forgiveness and for mercy. While he was praying, an angel met him and they began to wrestle. They wrestled all night long until the morning’s first light. When the angel realized that he couldn’t beat Jacob, he popped his hip out of socket. Jacob still didn’t give up. He knew what would happen if he did. The angel asked to be released and Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you declare a blessing on me.”
The angel asked for his name. He replied, “Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]!” He told the angel not only his name, but how he had lived up to that name. He had let his name and his past define him. The angel’s blessing was that he would no longer be defined by a past that tricked people. He would now be called Israel [contender with God]. The angel said, “For you have contended and have power with God and with men and have prevailed.” He went from being a deceiver to a person of confidence and strength. He went from a person who hid from his past to a person who had God’s attention.
I asked in the beginning of this devotion what happens when your past catches up to you. For Jacob, it was the start of a new life. He no longer wanted to be the man he was or to be defined by the things he had done. He wanted a fresh start, a clean slate. He emptied himself of everything he had been and God filled him with who He wanted him to be. Today, if your past is haunting you or looming over you, empty yourself of the person who caused all of that. Ask God to bless you and to change who you are. When He does, your future will change too. You will be defined by who God says you are.