If we are totally honest with ourselves, it can be easy for many of us to have an element of selfishness in our lives. The expression “What’s in it for me” although not audibly spoken is certainly being calculated in our minds. We can face a request, a transaction, even a nudging from the Lord and in the back of our minds be calculating, “Where does that leave me?” Jacob was extremely selfish. Even his name has come to mean deceiver. When a person is selfish, they use deception to stack the odds in their favor. Jacob was stacking the odds for his own benefit when he used Esau’s hunger to steal away his brother’s birthright. He was stacking the odds in his favor when he used deception to steal away the blessing which his father Isaac was to give to his older brother. In both of these instances he had carefully calculated what was in it for him. Because of his selfishness, he used deception to better himself at the expense of his own brother.
It almost seems fitting that the deceiver more than met his match in deception when he arrived at Uncle Laban’s house. Uncle Laban was one of the most self-centered, lying, deceivers that you will find in the Bible. It is apparent that he cares more about himself than he does about his daughters or his nephew Jacob. Jacob spends twenty years of his life having to be on the receiving end of lies and deception.
On his way back to his homeland and a reunion with his brother Esau, God in his love for Jacob, meets him at a place that would end up being called Peniel which means face of God. It was here that God does his part of severing his past of deceit and selfishness from Jacob and setting a new course of life. To help establish this change, God gives him a new name. Instead of being called Jacob, deceiver, he would now be known and called by God as Israel, the one who struggles with God and overcomes.
As we read this the questions that we need to be asking ourselves are, “Am I a selfish person? Is there any hint of deception in how I interact with other people? Have I become accustomed to stacking the deck in my favor? Is my life about what I bring to other people or is it about what I bring to myself?
God wants us to be shaped by His Word. Jacob isn’t the only one of God’s people who has to have some rough edges removed. I encourage every one of us, even if we don’t change our names, to allow God to make the changes He sees fit. When that happens, we can let God stack the deck in His favor.