Acts of grace come in all shapes and sizes. In Genesis 35 we witness an act of grace that truly transformed a young man’s life. In Genesis 35:16-18, Rachel, the favorite wife of Jacob/Israel, is finally having her long enduring prayer of 30:24 answered, where when her first son Joseph was born, she asked God for another son. But the fulfillment of her prayer request didn’t unfold quite the way she expected, because giving birth to her second son literally killed her. As her condition worsened and she knew that her life was slipping away, she gave her newly born second son a name, Ben-oni. It might not strike us as too bad, but the name actually meant “son of my sorrow”. The poor kid would traverse through life with a name that reminded him he was the cause of killer pain, a label sure to become an on-going fulfilling prophecy, for him and others.
So his father, Israel, faced a hard decision. His beloved wife, the one that truly possessed his heart, as her final earthly act, had given their second son a name. Out of fidelity to his wife’s memory and legacy, Israel could honor her choice, and affirm the boy’s name as Ben-oni. But in an act of tremendous grace, an act surely entailing some great personal pain, he overrides his beloved, deceased wife’s final request and name his second son Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand”. Now the position of “right hand” was an honored, privileged post. Therefore the name Benjamin was a name of prestige, a badge of honor. And in one gracious act, Israel not only honored his wife Rachel, referring to her as his “right hand”, but he also transformed the identity of his second son as contained in his name. His name went from a being a burden to a blessing.
Now, I don’t mean to be “sappy”, but I see a great picture of the impact of redemption on our lives in this gracious, loving, difficult act of Israel. By our actions…from our simple neglect of God to our concerted rejection of God, we had developed a well-earned reputation before God by which our names had become a burden and a sorrow. But in God’s gracious act in Christ, THE redemptive act, He transforms our name to Jesus’s, making ours a name of honor and privilege, and elevating us to a position of being blessed. So as those who have come to bear the name of Christ by faith in His Name, let us let our new name transform us as Benjamin’s new name did him.