It was the third month since Israel had left Egypt. At the foot of Mount Sinai, six hundred thousand plus Israelites set up camp according to tribes and families. They had heard about this mountain since Moses returned to Egypt and now they see it with their own eyes.
The topic on everyone's lips must have been Almighty God appearing to Moses in a burning bush on this mountain. Did God live here? What does He look like? Would they see God and hear Him speak? Would this be their permanent home?
In the days to follow, all Israel would have their answers.
A hush fell over the people as Moses climbed the mountain to converse with God. The Lord then gave him a message for the House of Jacob and children of Israel.
Why, were these not the same people?
Jacob or Israel was the father of twelve sons who, after four hundred years of slavery, had become twelve massive tribes. Long ago Jacob met and struggled with the Lord. This wrestling match came when his sons were very young, after Jacob took his family and fled the house of his uncle, Laban, in Padan Aram. It was just before he reentered Canaan, the land of his birth and home of his vengeful twin, Esau. This struggle was both physical and spiritual and in the end, God changed his name saying, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” God then blessed Jacob “and Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Gen. 32:28-30)
It was the pre-incarnate Jesus Jacob wrestled and these names, Jacob and Israel, were before and after names. Because he met the omnipotent, sovereign God, Jacob’s heart and life changed – he was a new man with a new name.
Nevertheless, the question is why God uses both names here at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:1-3)
I believe it is because God is addressing believers and unbelievers alike. Genetically all were descended from Jacob, but not all truly believed in the God to whom Jacob had surrendered. In comparison, the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people, those who believe and surrender as Jacob and those who reject Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Which one are you? Has He given you a new name? (Revelation 2:17)