Now there’s a lot of great motivators in this world – achievement, rewards, guilt, etc. But one of the best motivators for some people is fear. Fear can really get your attention.
- fear of consequences
- fear of failure
- fear of pain
- fear of embarrassment
[Dave and I “ministry of shame” at Uhaul.]
But for the Christian fear should motivate us to pray. We know that God will never leave us or forsake us. We know He loves us and will provide for us. Yes, fear will come into our lives. But we need to face our fears with our faith.
In Genesis 32 Jacob is about to go through some serious fear. He’s finally on his way back home with all of his family and fortune. But the closer he gets to home the more the more he’s concerned about what was waiting for him. He starts to wonder if Esau was still mad at him for taking away his birthright and his blessing. Remember, Jacob left home mainly because Esau had vowed to kill him. Now it’s 20 years later and Jacob is headed back home. Was Esau waiting there to kill him?
What we’re going to see in the next couple of chapters is an amazing story of a man so gripped with fear that he literally wrestles with God in order to gain His protection. (Even though all he had to do was trust.)
I. Fear moves Jacob to pray and plan
[Read Genesis 32:1-2.]
As Jacob makes his way back home God sends angels to Jacob. Jacob knew they were angels because he names the place Mahanaim which means “two camps”, (his camp and God’s camp). And of course this wasn’t the first time that Jacob had seen angels. On His way away from home he saw the angels at Bethel – now on his was back home the angels appear again.
They were sent to encourage Jacob and to equip him for the journey. To equip Jacob spiritually for what lay ahead. God knew the fear that was welling up in Jacob so the angels are dispatched in an attempt to strengthen Jacob’s resolve to trust the Lord in this matter.
But the fear Jacob had of his brother was so intense that he made plans to appease his brother’s wrath.
[Read Genesis 32:3-8.]
Jacob finds himself in a heap of trouble here. He send out this kind message to his brother only to find out that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men! Jacob must have thought the worst. (But you know, Esau might have thought the same thing!)
Anyway, Jacob is scared out of his mind, so he does what he should have done in the first place – pray!
[Read Genesis 32:9-12.]
What an amazing prayer. Several things we can point out here that model right praying for us when we go through fearful things.
- recites God’s promises
- shows humility
- praise to God for His faithfulness and His blessings
- requests, (safety for himself and his family)
- transparency, (fear)
Jacob shows a real trust in the Lord here. So he gets up the next morning and goes
ahead with his plans to appease Esau hoping the Lord would use those efforts for his good.
[Read Genesis 32:13-23.]
The plan has been put in motion. Jacob’s servants have gone ahead of him and his family to present these hundreds of animals to Esau hoping that he would accept the gifts and change his mind about killing Jacob.
I do believe Jacob was trusting God in this, but not as much as he should have. He was trusting God would use his efforts to accomplish His will. Now sometimes the Lord does this – but not because He has to! God doesn’t need our help. God exists independently of man which also means He can accomplish His will independent of man’s efforts. But out of His grace He chooses to use man to accomplish His will.
I think that’s why God shows up and visits Jacob the night before he met Esau.
[Read Genesis 32:24.]
Out of God’s grace He shows up to meet with Jacob. God knew Jacob was still trapped in his fears so He comes to earth and visits with Jacob. Now I believe that at first Jacob thought this was simply an angel of God like the others. But that was alright with him. After all, who gets to meet directly with God? So while he has the angel there he won’t let him go until he’s received his blessing, (or his assurance that he’ll be protected from Esau).
II. Fear moves Jacob to persist in prayer
[Read Genesis 32:24-32.]
Amazing. Jacob wrestles with the Angel, who obviously was the preincarnate Christ, until the Angel blesses him. It was a wrestling match that lasted all night. It only ended when the Angel used His supernatural powers to dislocate Jacob’s hip.