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Gen. 32:1-32 - Wrestling with God - Part 1
As a review, here is what’s been happening the last few weeks:
- Labon’s sons were accusing Jacob of ripping off Labon.
- Lord showed up again and told Jacob to go back to the old country.
- Confided in his wives and wives agreed to leave.
- Took off without telling Labon, and Rachel has stolen her fathers gods (idols.)
- Labon took off after them, and before he caught up with them God came to him and told him not to mess with Jacob.
- Labon confronts Jaco putting on a false front, but soon the real reason he pursued them came out: He was after his gods.
- What followed is the measure an idolater will go through to get his stuff.
- Labon and Jacob made a covenant that Jacob better not cross the line back into his country.
Jacob has reason now to be encouraged. Laban and Mesopotamia were history! Labon’s parting words to Jacob in our last message was: “The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight...” was not a benediction but a threat. And it was probably music to Jacob’s ears because never again would he have to deal with this harsh, manipulating father-in-law. Jacob was going home victoriously with 11 sons and immense wealth!
Now, as he returned to Canaan, the sighting of angels was a visual confirmation of a deeper reality - that Jacob had been and would continue to be the object of God’s relentless grace - than an intrusive, contending, renovating grace was at work in his life to make him to be the man that God intended him to be. This grace could not be shut out, would not let him go, and fought with him and for him at every turn.
Vs. 1-21 - “Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.
Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 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. 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.’”
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.”
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.”
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,’ 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. 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.’”
He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 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.”
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?’ 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.’”
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. 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.” So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.
If ya remember, Jacob has ripped his brother off of the birthright, that he and his mother also swindled Esau out of the patriarchal blessing as well. You remember Esau blew a gasket and comforted himself by saying: I’m gonna kill this guy,” back in Gen. 27. Interestingly 21 years have passed so Esau had a couple decades to cool off. And that period of time can bring about a real change, and hopefully a real degree of maturity within an individual, and that’s exactly what we’re going to discover when we get to Ch. 33.
But Jacob, he’s sort of holding on to this fear. It’s this fear that is capturing him, and given the amount of time that has passed, what’s going to be confirmed? That this is a totally irrational fear on Jacob’s part!
And the same thing can happen to us, that when we are walking without faith. One of the fruits of walking without faith is that we can hold onto a number of irrational fears. People that study these things tell us 90% of the stuff that you're afraid of simply never come to pass.
As we take this text in, what we find Jacob continuing to do is he is continuing to operate in fear. Even having the promises of God’s provision and protection, and in vs. 1 he’s running into all these Angels, you would thing that would be quite the shot of adrenaline.
And yet what the text is telling us is that Jacob is still scheming, trying to figure out a way to butter his brother up. He designs the confrontation is such a way that he hangs back for a bit while he parades all these gifts before his brother, hoping to somehow sweeten what he thinks has gone sour. Then he designs an escape route if the deal goes south.
I want you to notice in vs. 9 that, to his credit, Jacob does go to prayer. As you read this prayer, it seems like a good prayer. But there is a real problem.
George Meuller says: “The most important aspect of a prayer is what you do 15 minutes after you pray.” In other words, you can pray this great prayer of faith, but what are you are doing 15 minutes after that prayer? That will be an indicator of the sincerity of the prayer.
So Jacob has just prayed this prayer, but what is he doing immediately after his prayer - but scheming to get the favor of his brother. He is trusting in self, not trusting in God. He’s ruled by self, not by God. He’s given away his sheep, the camels, the mules, the family farm, but there is one thing he has not given away - and that is himself! And that is what God wants, that’s what God is after.
The Lord has orchestrated a situation where He’s got him in a corner and he is going to have to totally commit himself unto the Lord.
That’s where God has brought this, and next week where we pick it up, things get very interesting.
Blessings to you all.