Genesis 35:1-4; 35: 9-12
Jacob led a life of constant wrestling with God. It was a life filled with schemes that often met his desires by hook or by crook. By the time Jacob yielded to God completely, he had been through many agonizing experiences that brought him sorrow and depression. He had lost his wife Rachel, and his daughter Dina was raped. His other sons pillaged and terrorized a community. In his old age, his sorrow was great because of a long rift from his brother Esau whom he tricked to get Isaac’s blessing.
Despite the life he led, God blessed him, and changed his name to Israel, which means, “Triumphant with God.” This name change effectively erased his own estimate of himself. From God’s point of view, the covenant with Abraham will not be broken. Jacob is blessed because His God is not any other god or himself, but the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac. This is evident in his acknowledgement that in all his distress God never left him. Thus in Paddam Aram – he builds another altar to mark this milestone in his faith journey. God changing his name to Israel fortifies the covenant, extending to him the blessings due to Abraham’s descendants.
In acknowledging God to be His ever present companion “in the way I went”, Jacob witnessed to God’s faithfulness, which did not depend on his good acts or right conduct. God was faithful to him because that is God’s character. It is who God is. God is faithful.
How many times have I failed, or refused, or forgotten to build those altars of praise, thanksgiving, and worship that should have commemorated His grace, goodness and glory? Yet God is faithful.
Today, I praise God for every gift of peace and gladness in my heart; for every sadness that led me to Him; for every twenty-four hours of breath and health; for every problem which made me strong; for every failure which humbled me; for every timely and exact provision; for his shield and protection against evil and man’s cruel intentions; for every precious moment of the living Word which is my guide and strength; and for the imperfections of family, friends, community and country which make me kneel before Him in intercession.
Today, I am building an altar of praise through this expressed witness of thanksgiving. As I do so, I will remember those milestones in my faith journey and thank God for my blessings. This is indeed a Merry Christmas, and my golden year, a Happy New Year.