He who Overcomes
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. (Gen 32:24-29)
Jacob had a vague idea of the God whom he met. So he wanted to know the name of this God. To know one’s name means to completely dominate him. That is why when kings meet their servants or people, they don’t say, “I am such and such”. Instead, they ask, “What is your name?” In fact, before the king even asks, they have to inform who they are. In doing so, they put themselves in the king’s hand. When we come to know a person’s name, we are able to commend that person or offend. They become objectified. They are placed in our hands.
However, when we don’t know a person’s name, everything is vague and obscure. We don’t know that person yet. At times when we receive letters from China seeking help from us, some people don’t disclose their names. And even though they sought for our help, their identity is obscure; it is unclear who they are, where they live, and what they do. So we always ask for their names. And once they disclose their full name to us, they become real people to us. We are able to then refer to them by name. Hence if anyone wants to receive help, what he needs to do first is disclose his name. Yet some people do not disclose their names and keep hiding them. And we don’t provide any support to such people. At least I don’t. And even if we wanted to help, we can’t because we don’t know who they are.
Thus to disclose my name to another means to present myself to them and furthermore, it is the same as submitting myself to them. So for Jacob to ask God, “What is Your name?” was a very bold action. But God said, “Why do you ask My name?” and disregarded his question. Instead, God gave him a new name, Israel. Though he already had the name Jacob, God named him Israel. To give a name to somebody means that I determine that person’s being. But who can do that? It’s normally the parents that name their children. When they have a baby, they determine what will become of the baby, that is, they ascribe certain meanings to the name. “Become such and such person”. For example, “Sung-hyun” is a name meaning “Become the man who makes God work”. The name contains their faith and hope for the child. And according to their faith, it is fulfilled.
Since even the unbelievers experienced this themselves, some even seek naming centres to get names for their children that bear good and significant meaning. In the Bible, the names of people since Adam or even Abraham contained God’s will. So their names were a kind of prophecy; a kind of command; a kind of promise. Their names were like God’s word, especially the names that God gave. For example, God gave the name Abraham, didn’t He? And his name revealed God’s plan and will for him; it also contained God’s promise and command. This is the same for Isaac, for He said, “You will call his name Isaac”. Again when God said, “Your name will be Israel”, He meant, “from now on, this is who you are. You struggled against God and have won. So you will be called Israel. Not only are you Israel because you overcame in the past, but from now on, you are Israel forever. You struggled against God and have won. In other words, you are the one who makes God work.” If he struggled and won against God, who will he not overcome? So God gave him the name Israel meaning, “You have won. You will overcome forever”. This was also God’s command and promise.
Why was he able to overcome it? He had the blessing which God had given to Abraham which is why he could overcome. He had received that blessing. What is that blessing? God – Immanuel – is with us. “Because God is with you, you will overcome.” Who is this God that I can overcome? So Jacob asked God’s name. “What is Your name?” Though God didn’t reveal His name to him, he got a hint of what God’s name will be. Why? He says, “You will overcome. Why? Because I am with you. Because God is with you.” So then Who is God? He is the One that gives victory. That is God’s name. So the name Jesus which has been from eternity past means the God of salvation. God of salvation. That is, He is God who allows us to overcome. God who delivers. God who gives victory. That is why all the works of God are about deliverance.
So one might ask, “Did God’s name exist before man came into being?” God’s name did exist before man ever came to be. Even then, God was the God of salvation. Why? In terms of God’s relationship with His Son. Before the creation of the world, God already planned to create heaven and earth for His Son. In the eternity past, God already willed for His Son to be lowered to Hades and be delivered by the Father to inherit heaven. Because this was God’s plan, even if a man does not exist, God is already the God of salvation. He has been the God of salvation since the eternity past. The name was later revealed to be the God of salvation for mankind as well. But even before that time, when Israel was rescued from Egypt, it was the God of salvation whom they experienced. Wasn’t Moses also delivered from the water? All of them experienced the God of deliverance, the God who gives victory.
Though God did not reveal His name back in those times, God said, “You will overcome.” So what would be God’s name? He who makes us overcome. Hence what is our faith life? Is faith life about being good to others? No. It is about self-cultivation? No. God simply said, “Israel”, meaning “he who overcomes”. So what is our faith life? It is a life of victory. That is why in the Book of Revelation, the words that come up most? “He who overcomes. He who overcomes. He who overcomes”. So how can we overcome it? “He who has ears, hear what the Holy Spirit says to the churches”. These words are repeated seven times. Therefore one must be able to hear the words of the Holy Spirit to overcome. But who hears the words of the Holy Spirit? The one who has Immanuel. Whoever believes God is with us, who possesses the blessing of Abraham is the one who overcomes. He will be victorious in all his ways. Even if God said no, we have to have the fervor and effort to forcefully advance and win against God to make Him work. Hence if anybody thinks “Has God abandoned me? What do I do? Did He leave me?” is far from knowing God’s nature or God’s expectations.
When Jesus said to the woman, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs”, what did the woman reply? Most people in that situation would either walk away saying, “I’m offended”. Or because it’s God who has spoken to them, they would probably say, “Yes, okay”, and won’t be able to say anything more to His words. But this woman went further saying, “Even dogs eat the crumbs off the table”, and sought to receive what she asked for. To that Jesus didn’t say, “How rude of you to dare speak back to God?” Instead He gave her life. He gave her life. So she knew God’s will. He who overcomes. She knew that those who can overcome God is an Israelites. That is why the story of that woman is written in the Bible.
Thus before we think, “Oh has God abandoned me?” or even if God Himself says, “I rejected you”, we must cling to Him and plead with Him saying, “Save me!” and finally make God work. We shouldn’t harbor such weak thoughts. There was a king who was told he would die. But he struggled and clung to God that his life was extended by 15 years. The Bible is teaching us who God is. When God said He would destroy everyone and raise up a nation through Moses, in the end, Moses won God over. These are men who overcame.
Since we can win against God, how can the devil do anything to us? Though the devil attacks and tempts us, we can overcome it. Furthermore, even if my flesh torments me, makes me stumble over and over again and tries to attach me to the earth, I can still overcome that. Even if I might have failed up until yesterday, I cannot say that I am a failure. We may have fought up until yesterday and failed 99 times out of a hundred. Yet we have overcome. Do you know why? We can overcome this from now on. That is our God. He doesn’t remember the past. He tells us to forget about the past and start overcoming from today.
Therefore, he who overcomes goes before God to behold His face, kiss Him and be successful in worship. God wants us to overcome. In order to overcome, there is nothing else to it but Immanuel. God is with me. Those who believe that will listen to what the Holy Spirit says to them and overcome by those words. Jesus said of Nathanael that he is a true Israelite. Why? He held fast to the words. Such a person overcomes. Jesus overcame when the devil attempted to attack. He overcame. He overcame by saying, “It is written”. All the people that overcame couldn’t do so when they struggled using the strength of their flesh but with God’s word they were able to overcome. Thus all the people written about in the Bible are those who had overcome. Likewise, we must be the ones who overcome for only then, our names will not be erased from the book of life. It says that for him who overcomes, his name will not be blotted out from the book of life.
We believe in Jesus now and our names are written in the book of life. Thus we must not lose, for if we lose, our names could be blotted out. Hence we need to overcome this. Whoever overcomes will be granted to eat from the tree of life. We have to overcome to eat from it. Again, he who overcomes will be given a white stone with a new name written on it. But no one knows that name except him who receives it. We can receive it only when we overcome it. Let’s be the ones who overcome. The devil continues to attack. The fact that we need to overcome also means that the enemy is always on the attack. We shouldn’t think it strange when we are being attacked. It’s a matter of course. It’s obvious. When we are being attacked, there’s no need to be wondering why it is happening. If you do, you will fall into temptation. Do not think, “Why is this happening? Why is this happening to me? What’s the reason?” It’s a matter of course. The attack will always come. What we need to think about is how we can overcome it. If you dwell on why it’s happening, it will only lead you to think, “Did I do something wrong? Have I sinned?” and ultimately end in self-condemnation. So when you are being attacked, do not think about why but how you will overcome the attack.
If you are in a car accident, you don’t have time to think about why it happened. You first need to save your life. If a thief is coming after you, there’s no time to think about why he is coming after you. You first need to find a way to escape. Likewise, since we are in the midst of war and always engaged in a battle against the enemy, let us overcome. Some people try to fight against themselves. Unbelievers talk about overcoming their own selves and what they are saying is right based on their self-conviction. However, that is not what we are trying to do. People keep thinking they are fighting against their own selves. That’s why they say, “What is wrong with me?” But it is not me, it’s the enemy we are fighting against. We are fighting to overcome the enemy, not our own self. Let us pray that we will be approved as those who finally overcomes. Lord, help me to overcome. Help me to be a true Israelite. Let’s pray!
Thank you, God our Father, for pouring the Holy Spirit on us and giving us Jesus’ name to be the true Israelites. For we have the name of God within us that gives us victory, help us to rely on that name and rely on the Holy Spirit to always overcome unto the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center