God did a pretty cool thing when He changed Jacob's name to Israel. He could have made it simpler and changed Jacob's name to Roller Coaster because Jacob's entire life story was filled with ups and downs.
Jacob started life in second place, but he didn't like it. He was the second twin out of the womb, but had his hand on his brother's heel. Before his first breath of oxygen, he was caught red-handed trying to cheat. He was meant to be second, but did everything he could to become first.
I do the same. Do you?
The name "Jacob" means "supplanter." To "supplant" is to try to force your way past someone else, even if they were there first. He was a line-jumper. He was a pusher and a shover. If you shop at all this Christmas season, you will be an eyewitness to supplanting. Jacob tried to get a hand up on life from the moment he was born.
I have the same nature. Do you?
Jacob's story follows a pattern. He would commit a low-down despicable act of selfishness and greed. Then he would follow that up with a surprising act of humility, brokenness, and self-sacrifice. One minute he was cheating, arguing, and fighting with his family and neighbors. The next minute he was blessing, worshipping, and obeying God.
Jacob is the worst and best of us.
Jacob IS us.
Israel IS us.
Isaac's twin boy is appropriately named both Jacob (supplanter) and Israel (prince with God). He had the capacity to walk deep within his lower nature and soar to great heights within his higher nature. He is the essence of the conflict that rages within us to battle our selfishness and surrender to God's dominance in our lives.
But that's not what I love most about Jacob. What I love most about Jacob is his limp. After his pivotal wrestling match with God ("The Rock" of Ages), Jacob received both a blessing and a limp.
We all limp. But oh, how we try to hide it. "What? Me? Limp? Ha! That's not a limp. It's a strut!"
You limp. I limp. I struggle with God. You struggle with God. I can be sadly supplantive. So can you. And yet, through God's personal touch, I can be surprisingly sincere.
"He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him" (Genesis 32:25). We cannot supplant God. When our selfishness soars to such heights, God pokes a finger in our hip and we forever limp. Then, when we humbly return to God and surrender our lives to His will and His ways, God touches our heart, and our spirit soars.
Just after Jacob received his blessing and his limp, he returned to his twin brother, Esau, from whom he had stolen the family inheritance. This time, Jacob didn't supplant. He surrendered. Forgiveness replaced bitterness. The broken bond between brothers was repaired with Jacob's brokenness.
Had an artist ever sat down with Jacob as his subject, we would have never noticed the Mona Lisa. Yet, I see the painting anyway in my mind's eye. Jacob forever stands (albeit a bit awkwardly) as the pinnacle pose of humanity.
And the subliminal message we would all do well to see in that portrait is this: Limping is okay.
I limp, therefore I'm blessed...or is it the other way around?