Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Genesis 32:1-12

Today’s section of Genesis is one I think many of us can relate to! If you have ever had a difficult relationship or had one in which you have made mistakes, you may understand the anticipation Jacob feels as he heads for home and prepares for a reunion with his estranged brother, Esau. From the very beginning, God makes sure that Jacob is reminded that God is with him:

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. (Gen. 32:1)

However, Jacob still maintains much of his old character, and feels the need to manipulate the meeting with Esau. He sends messengers ahead to try to scope out the situation. They return with news that sends Jacob into a panic!

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.” (vs. 6)

Whoa! Esau is coming with 400 of his closest friends??? This is the brother who promised to kill Jacob for stealing the blessing. Jacob responds in a way that many of us would:

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.” (vs. 7-8)

Jacob figures that Esau is coming for revenge, so if he splits his family, he may be able to save half of them! Can you imagine the fear he feels – and the guilt, knowing that he indeed deceived his father to get the blessing that Esau expected. I know that feeling of dread when you know you are going to finally be confronted with someone with whom you have had a falling out. It’s scary! You do everything you can to delay the phone call or the meeting. I can also identify with Jacob’s feeling that he needs to make a defensive plan. When we have wronged someone, we can come up with all kinds of ways to defend our actions and protect ourselves. The good news? Jacob remembers to turn to God!

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.’” (vs. 9-12)

Did you notice how he still addresses God as the “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac”, rather than as “my God?” (see Gen 31:42) He hasn’t quite reached that understanding of a personal relationship with God. However, he does remind God twice of the promise He has made to Jacob, and he acknowledges that his relationship with God is one based on God’s grace, and not Jacob’s worthiness. That shows a growing faith. I think it’s funny and maybe somewhat telling that he nonetheless thinks about himself first: “Save me. . . and also the mothers with their children.”

So, he has honestly laid out his requests before God, exactly as he should. BUT . . . tomorrow we’ll see how this old schemer still feels the need to come up with his own back-up plan in case God doesn’t come through! Stay tuned!


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