‘Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face.”’ Genesis 32:30 NIV
Change happens through cooperation. God started changing Jacob the moment he admitted who he was and began to cooperate with His plan. Jacob named the place where he wrestled with the angel ‘Peniel’, meaning ‘the face of God’. Each of us must eventually come face to face with God, and when we do He can change us.
In essence God told Jacob, ‘Now we can get down to business. Cooperate, and trust Me. I’ll make the changes you want, and I’ll bless you.’ Notice: God didn’t say, ‘Try hard and use your willpower to become perfect.’ That doesn’t work, and God knows it. Willpower alone doesn’t bring lasting change in our lives. It just deals with the outward circumstances. Internal motivation brings about lasting change, and that’s what God works on. He told Jacob, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.’ (Genesis 32:28 NIV)
Jacob would never be the same. Once you have a personal encounter with the living God, He changes you. He changed Jacob from a ‘cheater’ to a ‘prince’.
God saw his potential. He looked beyond the tough exterior of a guy who portrayed himself as hardened and worldly-wise. God saw all Jacob’s weaknesses, but He also saw beneath the surface: ‘That’s not the real you, Jacob; you’re actually an Israel—a prince.’
And the same goes for each of us: ‘We are…heirs…and joint heirs with Christ…that we may…be glorified together.’ (Romans 8:16–17 NKJV) In the words of Paul: ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.’ (Philippians 1:6 NIV)