Summary: After Jacob gave his heart to God, and saw the Lord change his character, there was a point where God needed to break Jacob so that he would be fully devoted. God does that in our lives as well - what does it mean?
You give your heart to the Lord - saying "I’m yours, be my Lord and Savior." Then the Father begins a process of transformation. The Apostle Paul put it this way: "being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory" (1 Cor 3:18). That transformation process often involves the tearing away of our old self and the creation of a new self - one that reflects God’s character.
But there comes a time when God calls us to go beyond merely belonging to Him or being changed by Him - a time when we face a terrible trial or must give up something really big that is holding us back from fully serving Him. God does this through brokenness.
Paul experienced it on the road to Emmaus, Peter in the courtyard of the high priest. Jesus was so anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane that His sweat was like drops of blood as He faced the cross.
Such a time now faces Jacob. We have seen Jacob go from master deceiver at home to convert at Bethel - to husband in the land of his fathers and finally father - and a changed man. God mirrored a "super Jacob" in Laban - what Jacob could have become had not God entered his life. Jacob made choices to serve God - by acknowledging that God is the source of all blessing - and to serve and protect his family.
Last week we saw the final meeting of these two - as Laban (like the enemy) pulled out all the stops to get at Jacob. We learn that he never intended to let Jacob leave with anything - even as Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But God was with Jacob - protecting him from harm and getting him safely away.
Now he faces his most difficult task yet - going back home he must face the man who he cheated - twice - first out of the birthright over a bowl of stew, and second out of the blessing by a little play. Essau, his brother, threatened to kill Jacob so Rachael, his mom, sent him away on the journey he is now completing.
What will Jacob encounter - a jealous brother who has had 20 years to build up his hatred? Will he find a massive army, all bent on wiping Jacob and everything he owns off the face of the earth?
Jacob doesn’t know - but God does. And before Jacob meets Essau he will face an adversary worse than any he has ever known - God Himself, who will break Jacob - the Deceiver, and make him into Israel - governed by God.
Verse 1 - 2
The first thing Jacob sees after leaving Laban is not Essau - but the angels of God. What did they tell Jacob? We don’t know. But he says "this is the camp of God" and names the place "Mahanaim" which means "two hosts."
They could have encouraged Jacob that God was with him. They could have given him strict orders as to what to do (we see this later in the text). They could have said nothing, but Jacob knew who they were - and their presence must have impacted him.
Hebrews 1:14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
There are angels all around us - on orders from the Most High God to serve us. We will probably never see one - but their affects are widespread - moving cars out of our way, holding planes in the air, fighting against demons who would attack us.
By calling it the "camp of God" it sounds to me like a military encampment, where two hosts met - Jacob’s ragtag family, and the army of the God Almighty.
Verses 3 - 5
Jacob is saying several very important things by these messengers:
1 - He is taking a subservient role by referring to Essau as "my master" and himself as a "servant." Jacob might have assumed that Jacob was now dead, and Essau was the master of the house. "I’m not going to try to take any of your power from you, Essau."
2 - He tells Essau that he was in Aran the whole time - he wasn’t sneaking around behind Essau’s back, scheming.
3 - He is telling Essau that he has gained possessions and wealth - "I’m not going to take anything from you, Essau."
4 - "found favor" can’t we put the past behind us?
Verses 6 - 8
What would you think if after an entreaty of peace your brother was said to be coming with 400 men? Jacob must have thought - it’s over - he’s going to kill me after all. We should feel his fear here.