John Markum

Curious thought on the Name of God…

Recently I’ve been preaching a message series at Edgewood’s Sunday night service on The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Specifically, I’ve been focusing on the implications of God referring to Himself through the Scriptures as the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Last night I preached on a particularly favorite story of mine among the patriarchs: Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. Yes, God. Not an angel, but the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ Himself, in this preachers humble opinion (Gen. 32:30).

In order for Jacob to receive the blessing from this peculiar visitor that he had so desperately been seeking his whole life, really, the “Man” asks Jacob, “What is your name?”

For real?!? Don’t you know who you’ve been wrestling with all night? Of course He does. When God asks us a question, it isn’t because He doesn’t know the answer, it’s because He wants us to think about something. Jacob had to relive the last time he asked a different man for a blessing… his father, 20 years earlier. Only, that time He lied to his father and duped him into thinking that He was his older brother, Esau – who under normal circumstances would receive his fathers blessing, not Jacob.

But as Jacob confesses his true identity, simultaneously admitting to being the “heal-cather,” or “trickster” that his name implies, God tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. God gave Jacob a new name. This one exchange alone changes the rest of the Bible! Israel would become the name of God’s people, Jacob’s descendents – ironically, of whom Christ would be incarnated into.

Then Jacob – very humbled and curious, I believe – returns the question, “Tell me your name, I pray.” And the Man, a.k.a. Christ, simply says, “Why is it that you ask about my name?” and then He blessed him.

Interestingly, God would later reveal Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… Not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Why? Is it even important? I think so. Though God took away Jacob’s old identity as the “heal-catcher” which would have betrayed his past life, and gave him a new name, representing his new identity in Christ, He kept the name of Jacob’s past for Himself. But why?

I believe that as Romans 5:8 tells us that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” this name exchange is a beautiful portrayal of Gods love toward all “Jacobs”. By identifying Himself as the God of Jacob, It’s as if God is declaring His love for us in our imperfect, broken, sinful state. He is not just the God of the forgiven, healed, and whole. He doesn’t just love us once we’ve come to His Son in faith. He loves us when we are lost in our sin, held hostage by our past, and empty on the inside… just like Jacob.

God took for Himself the name of Jacob’s past and gave Jacob a new name representing his future. Just like Christ took our old life with Him to the grave, rising again to give us a new life, a new future, and a new identity. And one day, He will give us a new name as well. Jacob just got his early – a promise to all of us who confess to God our brokenness in sin and our need for Him who can change us.

I’m grateful that He is not just the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the God of other sinners, too. Like me.

Where Religion Fails

The biggest thing that God has taught me in 20+ years of following Jesus, is the most basic:

It’s not about what I do. It’s about who He is.

The implications of this simple thought, however, are far-reaching and profound. You see, religion, of any flavor, is a human attempt to appease a Deity(ies). It’s biggest question ultimately is “How do I not get in trouble?” This is why getting churched-up doesn’t change your life for the positive.

Getting religious only demonstrates how broken and far from God we are. It accentuates our failures and minimizes our successes. And no one stays in that situation for long… unless they fake it. And those who are not willing to fake it begin to see the hypocrisy of those who are. Eventually they come to the conclusion that religion is full of fakers. Sadly, they are correct.

But God knew our broken status and our inability to affect lasting change. His solution was not “do these things and not those things.” Instead it was “Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy burdened… You’ll find rest for your soul.” You see, it’s not about what you do. It’s about who He is. The best thing we can do, is get close to the Person who makes change happen in our lives for His glory and our good.

Try as you may, you can’t chase away the shadows from your life. So stop attempting to clean your act up and just open the blinds and let the Light come pouring in. And interestingly enough, as we get closer to Jesus, and farther from a list of Do’s-and-Do-Not’s, the darkness that once entangled us becomes far less appealing. We do not overcome our faults by trying harder than we’ve ever tried. We overcome by drawing close to the One who overcame for us.



Power of Sin

This past Saturday, I preached a message from Judge 16 on Samson to begin our new series, I Am Sin. Below is a synopsis of the message, just in case you missed it:

  1. Sin is Attractive: You and I don’t stumble over things that we dislike. We stumble over things that are very appealing to us. Scripture tells us that sin is “sweet for a season.” But sin is a lie. It never says, “Come on, have an ugly, bitter divorced because you had an affair.” Instead it says, “Your spouse doesn’t care for you like this person.” It never says, “Become codependent on substance abuse. Ruin your career, and hurt everyone that loves you.” Instead it says, “You need an escape from all this chaos.” Sin lies to hide what it really is.
  2. Sin is Creatively Unoriginal: Samson stumbled every time over the same thing: women. And sin knows your weak spot also. It’s not so much that sin throws us curve-balls; it just finds new ways to throw the same pitch that we can’t seem to hit.
  3. Sin desires to leave you Powerless: The saddest part of this passage is in verses 19-20, where it says, “In this way, she began to being him down, and his strength left him… he didn’t realize that the Lord had left him.” Sin wants to rob you of your power, and leave you empty and broken. Like Samson, sin wants to make you an example of something once very powerful, not humiliated by your lack of strength.

Samson thought that his hair was the source of his strength. And his disobedience to God brought him down. Sometimes we think that if we try really hard, that we can defeat our sin on our own. But our willpower is not the source of our strength to defeating sin: Jesus is. He beat sin on the cross, and He gives us the power to overcome sin from day-to-day.

Join us next week, 5pm for our second message in the series, “There to Here.”




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