why would someone ever be named with a word implying “wrestling?” certainly, it is not flattering.
wrestling has a broader context. on a daily basis, our lives are filled with wrestling. from getting up to going back to sleep, we must wrestle with others. we wrestle with our loved ones, with our families, and with our friends. we wrestle with others as we commute to and from work or school. we wrestle with bosses and co-workers. we wrestle with our teachers and fellow classmates.
in the torah, jacob wrestled with everybody as well. notably, he did so famously with his father isaac and his father-in-law, laban.
before jacob’s ultimate conflict, confronting the brother he wronged, he wrestled with a mysterious man throughout the night. he demanded to be blessed. impliedly, perhaps he wished to be assured that he would carry on the legacy of abraham and his father isaac. because of his many conflicts, he needed to have a sense of faith that things would work out. genesis 32: 25-30.
the cost of jacob’s struggle throughout the night with the man was a broken hip. with the painful cost of engagement, he also received his new name, israel. israel means to wrestle with god.
like jacob, we are all beset with life conflicts. no person, even with successes, is not without angst. too often we get lost within our own struggles and cannot appreciate that, for the most part, everyone else is struggling as well. we are not so special in the grand scheme. thus, jacob’s name israel and its use to describe a people is a reminder to the world that struggling and conflict is part and parcel about existence. it symbolizes there are times in which one’s faith will be challenged.
the practical message from this is that we need to take time to appreciate the struggles of others. as much as we can appreciate jacob’s hip pain, we too can appreciate that the people we encounter from day to day carry with them their own struggles. in other words, it’s not always about us.
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