Summary: Only God can break the barriers of guilt, fear, anxiety and sin.

Genesis 32:22-31

“A Dark Night Of The Soul”

By: Rev. Kenneth E. Sauer,

Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA

Jacob had fled from his home after stealing his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing.

He had gotten a safe distance away and had stayed away for a long time.

He must have tried to forget about Esau, or at any rate to act as if Esau had not vowed to kill him.

Now, after many years, Jacob was coming back home with wives, children, servants.

Outwardly Jacob was a very prosperous man, but inwardly he was a terribly troubled soul.

Soon he would meet up, again, with his brother Esau.

How many of us appear to have it all together on the outside—but inside we are filled with anxiety, guilt, and fear?

Maybe we are terribly unhappy with our lives.

Maybe we are afraid we will meet a horrible end—due to the many horrible deeds we have done.

This is the way Jacob felt.

Genesis Chapter 32:1-21, gives us a picture of a very worried Jacob.

He knew he had wronged his brother, so he feared for his life and for the life of his family.

Little did Jacob know that Esau had not held a grudge against him at all.

He had not forgotten what Jacob had done to him, but he had stopped bothering himself about it.

As Chapter 33 tells us, Esau would meet Jacob with the generosity of a big man who lets bygones be bygones.

But not only did Jacob not know this would happen…

…what he thought he knew was the exact opposite of the truth.

Jacob thought Esau would try and kill him.

Therefore Jacob plans how he can prevent trouble with Esau.

He will send Esau an ingratiating message.

He will pretend to trust what he doesn’t really dare believe “that I may find favor in your eyes.”

Jacob waits for his messengers to come back, and when they do, he is panic-stricken…

…because they tell him that Esau is not just coming by himself, but with four hundred men, and in Jacob’s imagination they all had swords in their hands!!!

So desperately, Jacob divides his convoy into two groups, with one contingent on the front lines.

His wives, children and flocks stay back with him.

If the first line were attacked, Jacob may be able to escape with his family.

Meanwhile, Esau had no plan to attack anybody.

As Proverbs 28:1 tells us: “The wicked man flees though no one pursues…”

Jacob had a guilty conscience, and knew he deserved retribution…

…therefore he was overcome with paranoia.

How many of us live with a guilty conscience, and therefore live life on the run from demons and persons who we think are out to get us—but in reality, do not exist?

How many of us have trouble looking others in the eyes because we are afraid they will be able to see what we are hiding or hiding from?

And the irony is that these anxieties, these nightmares, these things which can make the living of our days nearly intolerable are truly unnecessary.

No one is out to get us.

No one is trying to figure us out.

And God is big enough to handle and wipe clean any and all things which cause us to feel guilty.

Every human being is in the same boat.

Robert Plant has a song in which he sings: “I’m crazy on a ship of fools.”

I’m not sure what he means by that, but there can be no doubt that the ship upon which we ride is filled with passengers.

What that song means to me is, we are crazy, when, knowing the truth of salvation and forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ…

…we forsake the kingdom and continue to ride along as if we are foolish…

…in order to continue in our sins.

Are any of us doing that?

Are any of us forsaking the peace…forfeiting the peace of Christ for the so-called pleasures of the world…

…are we headed toward destruction…

…and know it…

…and know how to be rescued…

…but have decided to sink with the ship despite it all?

What I’m trying to say is: We are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory!!!!

Therefore, let’s acknowledge this, get over ourselves, embrace God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and become instruments of God’s Kingdom!!!

There is no need to be paranoid!!!

Back to Jacob.

Jacob decides to send gifts to try and pacify his brother.

We are told that “Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but Jacob spent the night in the camp.”

And “that night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbock. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”

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