Genesis 27:36 (ESV) “Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

The name Jacob means supplanter, one who schemes or deceives others.  In his youth Jacob schemed and manipulated to get what he wanted and in the process hurt those close to him and proved himself to be a man not to be trusted.  Along the way, he had an incredible encounter with God who changed his name and identity from Jacob to Israel (see Genesis 35).  The deceiver became known as the man wrestles with God.  The nation of God’s chosen people would carry the name of Israel, the former deceiver.

The story of Jacob is a lesson that a life of blessing can arise from an inauspicious beginning.  Other people in the Bible illustrate the same principle.  Moses spent 40 years on the back side of a desert thinking the sins of his youth had disqualified him from significant service for God.  On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter wept in the agony of shame for publicly denying his relationship with Jesus.  Days later we find Thomas isolating himself from friends and family because unanswered questions brought him to a place where he questioned his faith.  These four men overcame great challenges and finished their lives with distinction.  Coincidentally, the defining moment in their lives was a personal encounter with God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)