Three People Given a New Name by God

In the book of Genesis, God gives new names to three people.

In doing so, God is effectively saying, I’m giving you a new identity. You may see yourself according to your old name, but I see you differently. I’m giving you a new name and a new future.

Abram becomes Abraham
Sarai becomes Sarah
Jacob becomes Israel

The Amplified Bible tells us the meaning for five of these names:

Abram means “high, exalted father,” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5).

The meaning of Sarai is not given, but Sarah means “Princess” (Genesis 17:15).

Jacob means “supplanter” (one who usurps or replaces another), whereas Israel means “contender with God” (Genesis 32:28).

Would you like God to give you a new name? Just ask.

Watering Animals is a Prelude to Marriage

In the Bible there’s the story of Jacob, who rolls away the stone from the well to water Rachel’s sheep. They get married.

Then there’s Moses. He rescues some shepherd girls when they are being harassed and provides water for their flocks. He marries one of them.

It’s just not a guy thing, either. Rebekah provides water for a stranger and his camels, showing herself to be the one for Isaac, son of the stranger’s master. They get married.

Sometimes performing simple acts of service result in some most amazing things.

[Genesis 29:10, Exodus 2:16-21, and Genesis 24:15-20]

A Love Story: Life Sustaining Water

In a love story, culturally distant and a bit strange to us, Jacob is enamored by the fetching Rachel. In an act of service, to garner her attention, he rolls away a stone from the mouth of a well to provide life-sustaining water for her sheep. It works and she becomes his bride.

In another love story, also culturally distant and a bit strange, Jesus, in an act of service sacrifices himself for those he loves. Three days later Jesus is resurrected and an angel rolls away the stone that sealed his tomb, effectively providing living water for his sheep; that would be us. It works and symbolically we become his bride.

The water is provided as an act of love. We drink the water to accept the love.

[Genesis 29:10, Matthew 28:2, and Mark 16:1-6]

Joseph, the Dreamer

In the story of Jacob’s son Joseph, we read that Joseph had a couple of dreams.

The implicit meaning of his dreams was that his older brothers would become subservient to him, as would his father and mother. To his family this no doubt seemed to be mere wishful thinking of a young boy who was tired of being last and wanted some attention.

The dream, however, was correct and its predictions did eventually happen. In these two dreams, it was later confirmed that Joseph had heard from God and that he heard correctly.

It may not, however, have been a good idea to share the dreams with this family. His father was insulted and chastised him for his impudent remarks. His ill-advised revelation also fueled his brothers’ jealousy towards him, no doubt hastening their selling him off as a slave.

The lesson to be learned from Joseph is that just because God has revealed something to us, does not mean that it is prudent to share it.

While it is often helpful to tell others what God is doing in our lives or teaching us, sometimes his words to us are for our ears only.

Jacob’s Twelve Sons…and Their Four Moms

In Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, a reoccurring theme is Jacob’s twelve sons.  What isn’t apparent from Dreamcoat is many of the sons were half brothers; Jacob was indeed the father of all, but there were four different moms.

Here is how this convoluted family tree happened:

Jacob fell in love with Rachel (his uncle’s daughter, that is, his first cousin). Since he had no dowry, he agreed to work for his uncle seven years for her hand in marriage. The morning after the wedding, he discovered that his veiled bride was actually Leah, Rachel’s older sister.  He had been duped by his Uncle Laban. After protesting, Laban also gives Jacob Rachel’s hand in exchange for another seven years of labor.

Leah begins having children (six sons in all), but Rachel is childless — so she has her husband sleep with their maid, Bilhah, to produce children in her stead; Bilhah has two sons. In an escalating competition, Leah follows suit, giving her maid, Zilpah, to sleep with Jacob; Zilpah also has two sons.

Finally, Rachel gets pregnant and has Joseph. As the first-born of Jacob’s favorite wife, Joseph is doted upon by his father; hence he is given the infamous coat of many colors, thereby earning the wrath of his brothers. Later, Rachel also gives birth to Benjamin, the youngest of the twelve; sadly Rachel dies in childbirth.

Although the nation of Israel is launched through these twelve sons, Jacob’s family life is a lesson of everything not to do.

[Genesis, chapters 27 through 29]