“The man knew who he was wrestling with … didn’t he? And if this God’s agent (and we believe it is) shouldn’t he already know the man’s name without having to ask it? Listen to Ravi Zacharias as he explains this:
Think of all that God could have said by way of reprimand. Instead He merely asks for Jacob’s name. God’s purpose in raising this question contains a lesson for all of us, too profound to ignore. In fact, it dramatically altered Old Testament history. In asking for the blessing from God, Jacob was compelled by God’s question to relive the last time he had asked for a blessing, the one he had stolen from his brother.
The last time Jacob was asked for his name, the question had come from his earthly father. Jacob had lied on that occasion and said, “I am Esau,” and stole the blessing. Now he found himself, after many wasted years of running through life looking over his shoulder, before an all-knowing, all-seeing heavenly Father, once more seeking a blessing, Jacob fully understood the reason and the indictment behind God’s question and he answered, “My name is Jacob.” “You have spoken the truth,” God said, “and you know very well what your name signifies. You have been a duplicitous man, deceiving everyone everywhere you went. But now that you acknowledge the real you, I can change you, and I will make a great nation out of you.”
Greatness in the eyes of God is always preceded by humility before Him. There is no way for you or me or anyone else to attain greatness until we have come to Him. [Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God p 144,145)
God asked Jacob his name not because He didn’t know it … He wanted to know if Jacob knew it. He wanted to know if Jacob was ready to come to grips with who he really was or whether he was going to continue to fight the Lord.
This is the point everyone needs to arrive at. We need to realize that we are the problem and we need someone to change us. It is then, and only then, that we receive our new name. In Jacob’s case he was given the name “Israel” which means “He struggles with God” or “God Prevails”. His new name was a reminder of this encounter and the lesson that we need God.
And to everyone who believes today God gives a new name also. We are changed from “sinner” to “saint”. From “rebel” to “friend”. From “enemy” to “son”.