Labels are used to identify and differentiate things from one another. Many times we know several people by their name but don’t know in person, while some are recognized by their way of living rather than their names. Similarly, in a grocery store we can find the same grocery product labelled in different types such as basic, from a different brand, organic etc.. Several products are recognized by their labels rather than the product itself. Thus labels play a greater role in identifying and differentiating things and even people.
In the Book of Genesis chapters 25-33 in the Bible, we see a prominent figure named Jacob. Jacob the name itself defines ‘deceiver.’ This was his label! No matter what good thing he do he was known as a deceiver. He had a twin brother named Esau. At the time of birth Esau was coming out from the mother’s womb, but he pushed him aside and Jacob came out first! Since then he was named Jacob -deceiver. Later in his life he deceived his elder brother twice, once for getting the elder brother’s inheritance by trading food for inheritance and later he deceived his brother by disguising himself as Esau and getting blessed from his father Issac during his old age!
After the second incident, Jacob could no longer stay in his house for his elder brother became furious and tried to kill him. Jacob fled to his mother’s house in Paddan Aram. There Jacob stays with his Uncle Laban for twenty years. He served him for twenty years and Jacob had to undergo several difficulties in his life during those twenty years. When he deceived his elder brother Esau twice Jacob was deceived ten times from Laban! Finally, at the end of those twenty years God appeared to Jacob and asked him to return back to his father’s house and Jacob obeyed and left to his father’s house.
Now, God has blessed him very well that when he went to Laban, he had only a staff with him, but now God has blessed him so much that he became two camps!
‘I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.’ (Genesis 32:10 NIV). When he reached the shores of Jabbok he was afraid to meet his brother Esau for he heard his brother is coming with 400 people to meet him and Jacob was terrified Esau might kill him. So Jacob separated all his wealth and possessions, and made them into small, small groups and send ahead of him as a gift to Esau to make him happy and calm down and he alone remained at the shore of Jabbok.
There he cried to God and God appeared in the form of a man and wrestled with Jacob the whole night. As it was becoming dawn, God asked him to leave him, but Jacob replied ‘I will not leave you until you bless me.’ The Man asked him what is his name and he replied ‘Jacob’ and the man said ‘you are no longer Jacob, but will be called ‘Israel.” Which means ‘Prevailing with God!’ His old label of the deceiver was ripped right over there and a new label was given to him ‘Prevailing with God!’
Later, his descendants became the great descendants of the nation of Israel! God blessed him so great that from a deceiver he became a nation! His old label was taken off forever!
In another portion in 1 Chronicles 4:9 we see a man named ‘Jabez.’ ‘His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”’ (1 Chronicles 4:9 NIV).
He was labeled ‘Pain!’ From his birth, his mother called him pain! There is nothing much written about him who he was or anything, but Bible scholars suggest he might be disabled or deformed anyway as the name suggest he was undergoing great pain. He was a pain to his mother and himself. He was not honorable. But he was not ready to contain in his label. He cried out to God and God answered his cry and changed his label of pain to be an honorable man than his brothers. Not only that, but God blessed Jabez more as per his request!
‘Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.’ (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NIV).
What a blessing! His label of ‘pain’ was changed forever! He got a new label ‘blessing!’ God blessed him so much that a city was made in his name where the great scientists of those days lived!
‘And the clans of scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, Shimeathites and Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the Rekabites.’ (1 Chronicles 2:55 NIV)
So what is your label today? It doesn’t matter if you are labelled a loser, failure, deceiver, ugly, stupid, defeat, wretch, dirt, garbage, mistake, regret or anything but if you cry to God as Jacob and Jabez, God will surely hear your earnest cry and change your label of shame to a label of honor! It doesn’t matter what you are and what you did, but if you call to God, he will remove all the old things in your life and make everything new that it will be a blessing not only for you but also to many others for the glory of his name!
‘“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.’ (Isaiah 43:18-21 NIV)
‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)