Lord, in You I’m united with all Your people, past and present. They spur me on to live a godly life for You.
Read GENESIS 32:1–21
Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”
6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups,[c] and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group,[d] the group[e] that is left may escape.”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 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 camps. 11 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. 12 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.’”
13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”
17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’”
19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘God hath not promised smooth roads and wide, / swift, easy travel, needing no guide’.1 But He has promised His presence. Tell Him about the rough road you are on.
Jacob has come through his confrontation with Laban. In the process, he has found God to be his shield of protection, as his grandfather Abraham discovered.2 We too are called to take up the shield of faith as part of a defense against discouragement.3 The next challenge is always just around the corner, and for Jacob it is to be an even bigger challenge, partly because it involves his brother, partly because, unlike with Laban, here he has no justification to offer. No surprise then that Jacob feels fearful and distressed (7). Behind that fear and adding to its intensity is the distrust of human nature that must have been bred through living and jostling with Laban. Esau is bound to hate him ,to be angry and revengeful. Preparing for the worst, he employs strategies to soften up Esau with lavish gifts which in the end are unnecessary.
Jacob’s fear is understandable. The question is whether it is justifiable. It’s a question we too need to address in a hostile world. The causes of Jacob’s fear are real – but they are not the entire picture. He and we need to be alert to the reasons for confidence that counter our temptation to fear. Jacob looks to his previous experience of protection, now graciously reinforced by the appearance of angels of God (1). He turns to call on God (9–12) in something of a model prayer, focusing on God’s kind and faithful promises, his own unworthiness, the reality of his fear, and a cry for help. He adopts the common practice of reminding the Lord of His promises (12) – not that they slip God’s memory! We bolster our own hearts against a fear that diverts us from obedience by reassuring ourselves that God is for us.
What causes you the most fear? Having to face past failure? Thinking others are bound to be negative towards you? Use Jacob’s prayer to bring your fears to the Lord.
Mighty God, I need to take to heart the words of Paul to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control” (2Tim. 1:7, ESV). Dear Lord, I pray for power, love and self control in my life.
1 Annie Johnson Flint, 1866–1932, ‘God hath not promised’ 2 Gen 15:1 3 Eph 6:16