Summary: Jacob must soon face Esau. Let’s see what his prayer teaches about the Lord’s blessing and thanksgiving. Parts: A. I confess my total unworthiness. B. I cling only to your promises.
Text: Genesis 32:9-12
Theme: O Lord, How Great Your Blessing Is!
A. I confess my total unworthiness
B. I cling only to your promises
Season: Thanksgiving Eve
Date: November 25, 2009
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/O-Lord,-How-Great-Your-Blessing-Is_-Genesis32_9-12.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit stirs thanks to our God and Savior is Genesis 32:9-12
"Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ’Return to your land and your relatives and I will make it go well with you.’ I don’t measure up to any of the mercies or any of the faithfulness you have shown your servant. For I crossed this Jordan with only my staff, and now I have become two encampments. Oh, save me from the hand of Esau, my brother, for I’m afraid of him that he will come and strike us, both mother and children. But you indeed have said, ’I will certainly make it go well with you, and I will make your seed as the sand of the sea, too many to count.’"" (Genesis 32:9-12)
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
"God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11 NIV). I suppose some might call that a prayer of thanks. It uses the word "thank." But I’m sure all of you recognize it as anything but. As Jesus told this parable, he made it clear that the Pharisee was praying about himself.
But how often does our thanks fall short? The Pharisee at least used the word "thank." Do we think of tomorrow more as "Turkey Day" rather than Thanksgiving Day? I realize some people say Turkey Day for humor or variety, not intending to deny giving thanks. But where is your focus tomorrow? Is it more on the gift rather than the Giver? Do we focus on the food that fills our bellies and the family that fills our home, rather than on the One who alone can fill our souls?
William Reid recognized how far our thankfulness falls short. He wrote, "Forgive us, Lord, for shallow thankfulness, For dull content with warmth and sheltered care, For songs of praise for worldly wealthiness, While of your richer gifts we’re unaware" (Christians Worship, 482:1, "Forgive Us, Lord," ©1965. Renewal 1993 by the Hymn Society, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth TX 76129).
Tonight, may the Holy Spirit stir in us true thankfulness to our God and Savior, the Giver of all good. May he work in us through his word, as we take to heart this prayer that Jacob prayed when he returned to the land of Canaan. Then we will call out this Thanksgiving Day: O Lord, how great your blessing is!
A. I confess my total unworthiness
1. Whom did Jacob direct his pray to?
From the very beginning of the prayer, Jacob knows from whom he has received all that is good. His thanks is not a generic attitude of gratitude that even an atheist can manufacture. He’s not thanking an unnamed god or a higher power or something beyond himself. He knows that he owes all that he has and all that he is to the Lord, the God who keeps his promises, the God who spoke to his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac. The Lord had promised to send the Savior through them to crush Satan’s power and reconcile sinners to God. To the Lord, Jacob raises his prayer as he says, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD" (Genesis 32:9).
2. What did Jacob realize about himself as he prayed?
When our thanks is directed to the true God, the Lord who keeps his promises, what do we realize about ourselves? The same thing Jacob confesses as he prays: "I don’t measure up to any of the mercies or any of the faithfulness you have shown your servant" (Genesis 32:10).
Do you remember why Jacob had left? He had tricked his father into giving him the blessing instead of his older twin brother Esau. Esau was furious. He planned to kill Jacob as soon as their father died. So his mother, Rebekah, sent Jacob to her brother, Laban, in the land of Haran. Jacob left with nothing except the staff in his hand. We might say he fled with only the shirt on his back.
But how the Lord had blessed him during those twenty years at Laban’s! He returns with cattle and donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. He now had family with him as well. In fact they were able to camp as two groups, so greatly had the Lord blessed him.