Day 19

Jacob’s Covenant with Laban

from the Genesis reading plan

Genesis 31:1-55, Genesis 32:1-32

BY Missy Fuller

Text: Genesis 31:1-55, Genesis 32:1-32

I have two names. Okay, one is technically a nickname, but still—two names. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, in my life once called me Missy. But then I graduated from college and decided that, in order to be taken seriously as a professional, I needed to be called Melissa.  Thus began my constant identity battle.

Missy is the fun, energetic version of myself that my friends and family know and love. Melissa is the serious, won’t take slack from anyone, gets the work done professional. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have been shocked to learn my full name is Melissa. Or all the coworkers who’ve asked if they can call me Missy after finding me on Facebook.

Suffice it to say, I envy those of you with only one name.

I’d venture a guess that Jacob had struggles with his name too. Jacob’s name meant “he grasps the heel,” which is an idiom in Hebrew for “he deceives.” Can you imagine? “Hi, I’m ‘he deceives.’ Would you be interested in trading some camels for a few sheep?” Yeah, right.

Jacob’s name, however, was fitting. He was a deceiver. He manipulated his older brother Esau in order to gain Esau’s birthright (Genesis 26). He deceived his father Isaac and stole Esau’s blessing (Genesis 27).

But Jacob met his match in Laban, a deceiver in his own right. Laban schemed to marry off both his daughters to Jacob, and even managed to manipulate 20 years of hard labor out of his new son-in-law in the process (Genesis 31:38-41). Jacob got a taste of his own medicine, and he and Laban remained at odds from that point forward.

Their struggle for power continued throughout Jacob’s years in Paddan Aram, the two men taking turns cheating one another out of goats and lambs. When Jacob and his family fled, Laban came after him, and the two were left in a stalemate. They agreed on nothing, not even a name for their meeting place (Genesis 31:47). The men desired to make peace but they simply did not trust each other, so they built a mound to keep them apart (Genesis 31:48-53).

The covenant between Jacob and Laban further solidified Jacob’s identity: he was indeed a deceiver. His time in Paddan Aram was marked by the heap and pillar he and Laban set up—a constant reminder that they could never get past their own selfishness. Jacob traveled back home with the same identity he’d always known.

But then God stepped in.

That night as he wrestled with God, Jacob faced his identity once again when asked, “What is your name?” And once again he answered, “He Deceives.”

But there, in that moment, God gave Jacob a new identity.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
– Genesis 32:28

Jacob had deep roots in his old identity, but not too deep for the Lord. Though Jacob was entrenched in sin and selfishness, God reached in and called him to something greater—a new identity in Him.

This is God’s heart for us too. We are not unreachable in our sin, no matter how far gone we think we are. Jesus came to pursue our hearts through His life, death, and resurrection. He sacrificed everything while we were still dead in our sin and He did it all to call us sons and daughters, to birth in us a new identity inextricably rooted in Him (Ephesians 2:2-5).

Jacob received a new name and, in Christ, so have we. This is who we really are, Beloved: we are His. May we rest in our new identity that cost our Savior everything.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
– 2 Corinthians 5:17


Post Comments (26)

26 thoughts on "Jacob’s Covenant with Laban"

  1. Michelle says:

    My freshman year was full of sex and alcohol and I never thought I could pull away from it. I was in an abusive “relationship” that was selfish and undesirable. I never thought God would forgive me but at the same time I didn’t really think I was doing that much wrong. I was deceiving myself and those around me by calling myself a Christian and growing in my faith, when in reality I was running far away! I look back now and can’t believe how much God has used that part of my life to grow myself and to bring others closer to Him. Although I run into situations where people still judge me for that point in my life, I know my new identity is in Christ, and the”old has passed and the new has come”! Amen!

    1. Carrie B says:

      Amen!! And praise HIM!

    2. Phylicia says:

      Amen! Thank you for sharing! I can definitely relate.

  2. VioletSlats says:

    Thank JESUS for my new identity as child of the most high GOD!

  3. Christine says:

    “And you shall be called by a new name
    That the mouth of the Lord will give.
    You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    And a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
    You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    And your land shall no more be termed Desolate”
    Isaiah 62:2-4

  4. New identity! New creation! This is me! This is you all because of Christ! Praise HIM!

  5. Allison says:

    I love this! I volunteer at a camp for kids who are in or have been in the foster system with a past of abuse or neglect called Royal Family Kids. Many of our kids have stories about name changes because when they are adopted many get new names. One year she might be Anna and the next she is Grace. They have a new family, a new life and a new name…forever. How beautiful are the similarities between this and our relationship with God? One day you might be defeated, outcast, unloved, but the day when you choose to follow Christ, you are BELOVED, CHOSEN, REDEEMED, HOLY, RIGHTEOUS. You have a new family, a new life, and a new name. Oh how beautiful is that picture and how glorious is our God?!

  6. Kara-Anne says:

    Awesome! And also, how much a name just HOLDS. I never really embraced the Christian (we have Christian + Chinese name) name my parents gave me, and when I got baptized, I chose a new one that really spoke to me and was what I’ve used till today, especially in my business.

    When you are called constantly by your new name, it is a reminder everyday that you are reborn, you are renewed, you are no longer of the world, but what God calls you to be.

  7. Rachael G says:

    Wow. That’s what I needed to hear today. I’ve had a hard time lately feeling guilty about my past sin, even though I know I’m forgiven, it’s still hard to forgive myself. Not only do I need to see that Christ has claimed me, but I also need to see that it’s not who I am. I am new. Everyday I am new.

    1. Kailey says:

      I have been struggling with the same thing, I always want to take back what I have done , but I can’t. I have asked for forgiveness and need to continue on with life and not beat my self up over the past.

  8. Jaime says:

    A little off topic, but I have so enjoyed these SRT devotionals. They have really transformed my quiet time. I’m looking for a good devotional or reading plan for my 11 year old daughter. Any advice?

    1. Meg says:

      Have you looked through the plans on the YouVersion bible app/website?

      1. Jaime says:

        Thanks, I’ll try that.

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