MAGIC WORDS—FOR GOOD OR FOR EVIL
What do you call a man who, when asked for food and drink by an army of 400 warriors, deliberately refuses them and then insults them?
How about “fool”?
Coincidently, that was the meaning of the name of Abigail’s husband, Nabal. Backstory (I Sam. 25): David and his mighty men, hungry and thirsty, had come upon Nabal’s men shearing his hundreds of sheep (Nabal was rich) and asked them for food and drink. Since David and his men had often protected Nabal’s herdsmen from danger, it therefore wasn’t asking too much for David to make such a request. What was unusual was for Nabal to refuse David—especially considering that Nabal was plenty rich enough to provide food for David and his men. And most especially considering that it was – well, David and his men. Four hundred of them. With swords.
But—was Nabal’s foolish behavior really so coincidental?
Perhaps not. It’s difficult to imagine the impact of growing up and hearing yourself called “fool” every time anyone mentioned your name. Consequently, Nabal might simply have become convinced that that’s all he would ever be—whether he tried otherwise or not. So (I’m speculating), consciously or not, Nabal began to act the fool.
That’s what’s known as a “word curse”; we tend to become what we’re told we are. Jesus referred to such words as “idle words” and said that we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak. Why? Because people believe what they hear about themselves—for good or for evil.
Take Jacob, for example, who was born grasping his twin brother’s heel (Gen. 25). His parents named him Jacob, meaning “one who takes by the heel” or “supplants”. They must (I speculate) have jokingly surmised that, at birth, Jacob was trying to pull his brother back so he could be the first out the door, the firstborn. Thus, he was trying to “supplant” his brother, which means “to trip up or overthrow”. Now, imagine Jacob hearing that story his whole life; possibly he came to feel that one day he would, in fact, supplant or replace his brother. By the time he did deliberately set out to steal his brother’s first-born status, was it really a surprise to anyone?
So—what are you saying about yourself? About your goals and visions? Are you saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? Or are you saying, “I’m not good enough or smart enough or attractive enough or financially stable enough or experienced enough or—whatever—enough?”
What are you hearing you call yourself?
Is it fool? Or liar/deceiver? How about stupid? Ugly? Loser? Worthless? Evil? Failure? Hopeless? If so, you need to get a new vision of yourself.
“Yeah,” you say, “been there, heard that. But I just can’t.”
Why? Jesus died to give you a new vision of yourself. And if His death isn’t powerful enough to re-write your identity, then Christ died for nothing.
Of course, you don’t believe that. So do you really believe then that there is any “case” too impossible for the Lord to re-define, to make new? Of course not. But you have to believe that that power applies to you. Is that always easy? No—as Jacob proves…
I should point out here that Jacob was not a nice person. Not only does he deliberately deceive his father and steal his brother’s birthright (Gen. 27) but, after a nasty conflict with his father-in-law over wages, he decides to take all his wives and children and return to his homeland. Fair enough. However, on the way, he’s afraid of running into his brother Esau (!) and so packs up a bunch of presents for him and sends all of them, along with his wives and children, across the river ahead of him.
Not exactly a model of integrity.
But what happens next always kind of baffled me. Jacob is all by himself at camp when God appears as a man and wrestles with him until dawn. Jacob refuses to let the man go until he blesses Jacob—which he does, giving Jacob a new name: Israel, “he who struggles with God” because, the man says, “you’ve wrestled with God and won.”
So Jacob wrestled with God. But why?
Given the circumstances, I doubt Jacob was wrestling for the sport of it. He was angry; he was desperate. Perhaps he had a few questions for God and he wasn’t letting go until he got some answers:
“Why did You let them name me ‘deceiver’? Why does dad love Esau more than me? Why did You let Laban trick me into marrying Leah when I’d worked seven years to marry Rachel? Why did You let Laban try to cheat me out of my wages? What if Esau wants to kill me??” And on and on.
The fact is, Jacob had some issues with God. Proof of this is that in all the years prior to that night, Jacob had always addressed God as “the God of my grandfather Abraham and my father Isaac;” he never called God his God.
Until that night. That’s the night Jacob finally met the Lord personally, and God immediately changed his name to Israel, “the prince of God”. Jacob needed to get a new image of himself, a new identity, and a new vision.
At the end of his journey, Jacob built an altar to the Lord called, “El-Elohe-Israel,” meaning “God, the God of Israel”. His God. Jacob finally knew God for himself and had grabbed hold of the vision of himself that God had of him. And it was after that happened that Israel began to fulfill his destiny.
Stop looking at the old you. Stop thinking and saying that Jesus’ death can’t “fix” or change you.
If you can’t believe the good things God says about you, wrestle with Him until you can. Don’t let go of God until His vision of you becomes your vision of you.
The most important vision you will ever have is the vision God has, not just for you, but of you.