Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Genesis 32:7-12 Jacob's Worst Fear and Best Position
"In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, 'If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.' (Genesis 32:7-8 NIV)
How Jacob must have wished that he had never stolen Esau's blessing! After all, before Jacob had even been born, his mother had been informed by God that she was having twins and that "the older [Esau] will serve the younger [Jacob]." (Genesis 25:23) God would have brought about Jacob's preeminence without the deception, separation, and anxiety which had resulted from his trying to grab it on his own. Now, even twenty years later, Jacob was facing the consequences of his actions. It is worth mentioning that his mother Rebekah, who helped planned the deception and probably thought she would be separated from Jacob for only a short season, had already died. Now Jacob was wondering if all of his family and his wealth would be destroyed by Esau and the four hundred men who were coming to meet him.
However, Jacob does one thing right. He prays to God for help. Here is his prayer:
"O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me,
'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,'
I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.
I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan,
but now I have become two groups.
Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau,
for I am afraid he will come and attack me,
and also the mothers with their children.
But you have said, 'I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea,
which cannot be counted.' "
(Genesis 32:9-12 NIV)
I love the simple directness of this prayer. Jacob does not try to hide his fear, or pretend to be more holy than he actually is. He does not even claim that God is his God, although by his actions we know that there is a change going on in his heart. He has been obedient by coming back to Canaan, as God had directed him to do. He also indicates that he believes God will help him, for he mentions the fact that God had promised to bless and prosper him, and increase his descendants. The unspoken thought behind this statement is that he believes that God will deliver him now, or else there would not be any descendants (or even himself, for that matter) to prosper and increase. Despite the grimness of his situation, Jacob is actually in the best place he could be -- walking in obedience to the God who created the universe.