January 25

Genesis 32:27-28 (NIV) 27The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 28Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

After Jacob recognized his dependence on God, he was met by an "angel" that he later called "God". He wrestled with this angel all night. He had really been "wrestling" all his life, wrestling with his own will and ways against God's will and ways. That wrestling had not produced a winner. God continued to bless him but not like Jacob could have been blessed if he would have let God win. Still, Jacob had never walked away or quit wrestling. This is what the conversation in this passage is about.

In that age, a name implied the person's character. It was almost as if it was your destiny to fulfill its meaning. Since Jacob had come to this turning point in his life, God changed his name, implying that he was a new person. Jacob meant 'laughter' or could also mean 'deceiver'. His new name implied that he was enduring with God. In other words, he had not given up but continued to allow God to be a source of conflict and change in his life.

When you come to Jesus and allow Him to be your Savior and Lord, he changes your destiny too. As you wrestle with Him through life, you become an overcomer also. As He wins more and more of the battles over your will, you become dependent upon Him. You learn that God's will and ways are really better for you than you could desire for yourself.

God calls us to see what we are and where we are headed, "What is your name?" Then He changes our name and destiny. God crippled Jacob's hip to cause an additional dependency and reinforce the lesson.

Encouragement: Has God blessed you with a crippling of some kind? Keep enduring with God, overcomer. He has good things planned for you. Learn to depend on Him alone.

January 25

Matthew 3:1-3 (NIV) 1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"

Matthew keeps connecting the events of his day with the prophecies of the Old Testament. John the Baptist was the one that was foretold to come in the spirit of Elijah, to prepare the way for the Messiah. He was actually a distant relative of Jesus, and only about 6 months older. We don't know if they had any contact in their youth, but we do know Mary visited John's mother, Elizabeth, before John was born (Luke 2:39-56).

There had been no prophetic voice for the last 400 years, so the people rushed out to hear him. It was a good day or two journey from most cities to the wilderness area where John was preaching. His message was simple, "Repent! The kingdom of heaven is coming and you'd better get your heart ready for it." Repent means to change your way of thinking. John was telling them that the way they looked at the world was not God's way. Their thoughts were not in line with God's. They needed a new perspective. There were roadblocks in their hearts that would keep the Messiah from entering in. If they didn't move them now, they were going to miss Him.

His message is one that can be preached until the day of Jesus return. Is our thought life in line with God's? Are we seeing things from His perspective? Do we value the things He values, or do we have selfish priorities that have nothing to do with what matters?

Consider: Stop for a moment, and look down the roadway of your heart. Is it a smooth highway prepared for Him? Are the welcome banners out along the side of your road, or are there signs that say, "No entry without permission"? Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for Him.