Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. (2 Kings 2)
“Our own self-talk has more power over us than any other influence because we’re talking to ourselves 16 hours a day.” (David A. Dunn, Get Life Right)
Elijah and Elisha are leaving Gilgal, “the place of turning,” it is the place where faith begins and the past ceases to control us. Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind while he goes to Bethel. Why? It is a test, and three more are coming. He is testing Elisha to see if he is really ready to move the next level of spiritual growth. Elisha will have to work at it; the next level must be earned.
The story is found in Genesis chapter 32. Jacob means “the one who trips” or “the deceiver.” All his life he has lied to get ahead, perhaps most famously by stealing his brother Esau’s birthright. When Esau realizes he has been tricked he claims Jacob is living up to his name, he is a liar and deceiver.
Jacob flees from his brother’s wrath and lives with his uncle. But old habits die hard and he and his uncle spend years trying to cheat one another to get ahead.
Many years later Esau and an army find Jacob. Jacob then wrestles all night with God pleading to be saved from Esau’s wrath. It is here that one of the most important moments in the history of the Old Testament happens.
As Jacob wrestles with God he is asked, “What is your name?” Finally in exhaustion the patriarch answers, “Jacob, I am Jacob.” It is the first time he has been honest. He is confessing, “I am the deceiver.”
Then a miracle happens and God says, “You will no longer be called Jacob, you will be called Israel.” It is a defining moment in all of history, and for us to go to the next level of spiritual growth; it is our defining moment as well.
When we can answer honestly, “I am the deceiver,” God proclaims by his grace, “Not any longer, you are now Israel.” Israel means “Prince of God” or “She who sees God.”
It is a moment of surrender, it is a moment of honesty, it is a moment of confession that says, “God, I am broken and I can’t be perfect.” It is where our self-talk ceases to always be about us, and his still small voice begins to lead us. He tells us by his grace, “In Christ you are made perfect, you are no longer the deceiver, you are a Prince of God.”
Bethel is where we die to self, no longer placing our ego on the throne, but instead placing God over our life. As Benny Hinn shares, many stay here for life, but it is not God’s best. To move to the next level requires warfare in a place called Jericho.