Lord, my God, how great You are! You order the beginning, the present, and the future of all things.
Read Genesis 32:1-21
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We need to keep that in mind always!
I heard recently of a man who made elaborate preparations for a marriage proposal involving a multi-course meal with the request appearing between each course on the menu. (She accepted!) Jacob’s elaborate preparations to meet the brother he had swindled out of birthright and blessing went in a similar way but had a different motivation. The size of the gift indicated just how wealthy Jacob had become. Because he misinterpreted what his messengers reported back (6), Jacob assumed his brother was coming in anger to exact the retribution he deserved, rather than the reconciliation he desired. No doubt he hoped that repeated gifts and messages would soften Esau’s heart, calm him down and make Jacob acceptable to him once more. His motivation was one of “great fear and distress” for himself and his large, extended family (7). Having first put a divide-and-conquer strategy in motion, however, he turned to God and prayed with humility and with a recognition that his success was God’s doing; then he asked for God’s protection. He put his plea for safety from Esau’s expected violence in the center of his prayer, surrounded by reminders of God’s promises to him (9-12).
Jacob could be accused of hedging his bets and, by the generosity of his gifts, showing a lack of faith in God, but “Scripture approves of strategy when it is a tool rather than a substitute for God” (D. Kidner, referring also to examples from Joshua and Nehemiah). My mother would call this using divine common sense, or as has been said, “Pray as if everything depended on God, work as if everything depended on you.” Perhaps for the first time, Jacob is acting not just out of self-interest but for the good of all with him and their future prospects; his prayers and plans go hand in hand.
Think about how you approach tricky situations. What comes first–prayer, or action? What changes might need to be made in the future?
Lord, it is such a fine line knowing how much to do and how much to let You do for me. I pray for discernment as I face every day.
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