Summary: God will do whatever he must to make the vessel of his grace prepared to receive his grace.
Read Psalm 34 to start the service
Read Genesis Chapter 32.
This is a story about coming to the end of yourself - so that God is finally free to work. It’s also a story about reconciliation. As a man, Jacob was still quite self sufficient, and he still retained much of the old nature in his life. He had already acknowledged that God was working for him as he talked with Laban. So we might look at that as his salvation moment but it’s easy to talk about God when you’re comfortable and quite another to trust him in the midst of a great trial. And Jacob was about to enter in to one of the greatest trials he had faced yet. He had left home as a deceiver without regard for God. He was returning in obedience to God - returning to who knows what may happen.
To no small extent, Jacob is preparing to die; he hasn’t forgotten that Esau had Sworn to kill him. In the face of this problem Jacob teaches us the answer to two questions that we face continually.
The first question is:
"Will God protect and deliver when he has sworn to?"
and second to that is the question,
"What will it take for God to protect and deliver?"
The answer to the first question comes in the next chapter at the meeting of Esau; it’s a resounding YES.
The answer to the second question is, God’s word combined with humble faith. If God has sworn to do something than he will do whatever he must to make the vessel of his grace prepared to receive his grace - even if that means breaking your hip (Gen32:25, 31) or some other form of discipline (Hebrews 12:6,10) even death (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).
Jacob is forced to come to the end of himself – and to throw himself exclusively upon God. God is not content to let Jacob remain a waffler who may find himself once again capable to defending himself – so God will in fact cripple him to make him dependant. And he accomplishes his work in three days.
The passage is a type of mankind’s struggle in the transforming burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For three days Jacob descends into despair and hopelessness, yet as dawn breaks on the third day - he prevails with God and receives a new name - even as we receive a new name from Christ.
And it begins on the first day with a sacred meeting…
Day 1 (v1-12)
A sacred Meeting with God’s Messengers (v1-2)
Remember Psalm 34:7 which we read at the beginning of the service. As Jacob meets these angels, it’s as if their appearance was given to Jacob in order to buttress the idea that God is going to surround and protect him even in the most trying circumstances. As far as Jacob is concerned those circumstances are about to come upon him when he finally meets his brother.
Jacob Meets up with these angels on his return trip to Canaan. You can see on the map the location is to the East and center of the Land of Israel.
Jacob’s name for the place (Mahanaim) means "Two camps" apparently Gods’ camp as Jacob states here, and also his own is in mind. But in just a few verses we’ll see that two camp theme continues as Jacob divides his people into two groups or camps, using the same Hebrew word. That juxtaposition is intentional as it’s meant to bring Focus to God’s power on Jacob’s behalf (v10) which is a major theme of this growth experience for Jacob.
The Meeting he has with the angels however is set directly against the meeting he is preparing to have with Esau a meeting brought on by his own messengers, which he sent to his brother.
An Unwelcome Meeting Because of Jacob’s Messengers (v3-12)
Before he even sends the messengers he starts trying to grovel before his brother. He calls him "lord" as a desperate attempt to buy favor. When he sends them off he doesn’t expect his brother to come and visit him with gladness. So when he hears Esau is coming he immediately assumes the worst and starts running through in his mind all the terrible things that are no doubt going to happen to him.
We all know what that’s like, and on our part it typically shows the same weaknesses of Jacob. We worry about the unknown by painting and repainting the scenario in our head over and over again, primarily because we don’t trust in God’s deliverance.
Jacob wasn’t taking any chances, he separates the camp into two groups and then realizing he hasn’t got much choice he turns in verse nine to prayer.
Everyone of us here could testify, that there’s nothing like a little stress in life to improve your prayers.