Genesis 35:9 God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he was called Israel. 11 God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.
Jacob is Abraham’s grandson through whom God will fulfill the giving of a “Promised Land” and “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky”. So just as God changed Abram’s name to Abraham so God here changes Jacob’s name to Israel.
The name change is a reminder to Jacob and to others that he has a new identity with God.
When my wife Jana and I were married she changed her name to mine as a sign of covenant with me, her husband. Our two lives became intertwined into one. Our children have become a physical manifestation of this covenant reality begun years before any of them were born.
Fortunately, God made a covenant with believers through Jesus Christ. By his sacrifice we have been given the promise of eternal life beginning now and into eternity. I didn’t deserve this any more than Jacob in his day. Thank you Lord Jesus for making a way for us sinners to be claimed as children of God. Amen.