Scripture Text – Genesis 32-34
As we study Jacob’s actions during this crisis time in his life, we’ll see illustrated the conflicts all of us occasionally experience between faith and fear, trusting God and scheming, asking God for help and then acting as though we don’t even know God. The lessons that Jacob learned are going to demonstrate to us that a crisis doesn’t make a man; it shows what a man is made of.
Please read Genesis 32:9-12 for the background to this section.
Jacob’s prayer is one of the great prayers recorded in Scripture, and yet it was prayed by a man whose faith was very weak. He was like the father of the demonized child who cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24. Every statement in this prayer indicates that Jacob had a profound knowledge of God’s ways and God’s character, and yet he was praying in desperation and not in confidence. Note the arguments he presented to God as to why the Lord should deliver him from Esau.
God’s covenant. God in His grace had called Abraham and made a covenant with him (Genesis 12:1–3), and that covenant was affirmed both to Isaac and to Jacob. It was on the basis of that covenant that Jacob asked God for the help he desperately needed. God’s people today approach the throne of grace through Jesus Christ on the basis of the new covenant that He made through His own blood (Hebrews 8:6–13; 12:22–24).
God’s command. Jacob certainly was happy to get out from under Laban’s control, but it was God’s idea that he leave Padan Aram and return to his own land (Genesis 31:13). Jacob forgot that God’s commandment always involves God’s enablement, for the will of God will never lead us where the power of God can’t protect us and provide for us. But Jacob’s imagination ran ahead of his theology, and he was sure Esau was coming to destroy him.
God’s care. As Jacob reviewed the past twenty years, he reminded God of the wonderful way He had cared for him. In every trial and burden that came to Jacob, God had been faithful and kind to care for him. When Jacob arrived at Laban’s home, all he owned was his pilgrim staff; and now, by the blessing of God, he was a wealthy man. Why would God care for him for twenty years and then allow him to be murdered by his brother?
God’s purposes. Jacob wasn’t thinking only of himself, but he had his family and God’s great plan in mind as well. Jacob’s sons would multiply and become the nation of Israel; and through Israel, God would bring blessing to all humankind. The Savior would come from the tribe of Judah and die for the sins of the world, and Paul would come from the tribe of Benjamin and carry the Gospel to the Gentiles. Was this eternal purpose destined to fail because of the anger of one man?
God’s promise. Jacob reminded the Lord of the promises He had made to him at Bethel (Genesis 28:12–15), especially that He would do him good and multiply his descendants. God told Jacob that He would be with him and bring him back to Bethel, and that He would accomplish His purposes in and through him. If God allowed Esau and his men to kill Jacob and his family, none of those promises would be fulfilled.
While we don’t want to imitate Jacob’s fear, unbelief, scheming, and his proneness to jump to conclusions, we would do well to pray the way he prayed. He claimed God’s promises, remembered God’s goodness, and rested completely on God’s character and covenant. No matter what circumstances we may face or what fears may grip our hearts, we can trust God to be faithful to His character and His Word. “I will trust and not be afraid.” – Isaiah 12:2.
To Be Continued