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Immerse: Beginnings, Week 3

Forever Changed

Several years ago, I participated in a Bible study on the Pentateuch taught by a Messianic Jew, Dr. Stephen Blender. Actually, he was not only Jewish, but also was a rabbi and had even written books for high school and college students about how NOT to become a Christian when going to college. However, one day while staying in a hotel, he cracked open the New Testament from his bedside table, and Jesus captured his heart and life.

I really enjoyed the class because Dr. Blender shared from a Jewish cultural and historical perspective. Things we as Christians, Americans and Gentiles wouldn’t necessarily pick up on as we read through the Bible, were obvious to him. He knew Hebrew, so even the title of each of those first five books of the Bible meant more to him than to me. For instance, the Hebrew word for the book of Genesis, literally means “In the beginning,” and as we know, the first phrase of Genesis is “In the beginning….” It doesn’t seem life altering at first, but little nuggets of insight like this were peppered throughout the six-week course.

For example, Dr. Blender noted, “When you’ve met God face to face, you leave His presence forever changed.” Jacob met God face to face. In Genesis 32 (Immerse: Beginnings, page 51) following Jacob’s wrestling match with God, we know two things changed in his life.

1. He had an injury in his hip which left him with a limp.
2. He had a new name – “’Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel….’”
While Jacob’s encounter with God was a private matter, the changes in his life were public. His family could most likely see he was walking with a limp. Additionally, while we don’t know if he started introducing himself as “Israel,” a name change is a pretty public amendment to one’s life. Just ask any recent bride about the rigmarole required for a legal name change. I imagine it would certainly be easier and less hassle to skip that part. But a name change indicates entering a new family and covenant relationship. It’s a public declaration that everything is different now.

The same is true for us in our relationship with Christ. We meet Him personally and privately. Some of us wrestle with Him in surrender perhaps more than others, but all of us should walk away forever changed. This change “should be obvious to others. We should have a testimony of how God has changed us and the change is lasting” (Blender).

Just like Jacob changed when he met God, so we should change. In fact, the more we meet with Him, the more we change. It’s a process of change. It’s a process of becoming more and more like Jesus.  “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

One last thought. I noticed on page 54 God tells Jacob/Israel again, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” The fact that God brings it up again, gives me hope and encouragement. God loves us enough to remind us that no matter what happens in our lives (like our sons making a mess with the neighbors), we are still in the family. We still have a calling and purpose. We are still invited to be forever changed.

Angela Hastings