Summary: Jacob was the man who entered into the promise given to Abraham. He became Israel and the father of the great nation. How did Jacob receive the promise of God?
Receiving the Promise
Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
4:He instructed them: "This is what you are to say to my master Esau: `Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.
5:I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favour in your eyes.’ "
6:When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, "We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him."
7:In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well.
8:He thought, "If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape."
9:Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, `Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’
10:I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.
11:Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children...
...21:So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.
22:That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
23:After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.
24:So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
25:When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
26:Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
27:The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.
28:Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."...
The chapter is all about Jacob setting off to meet with his brother Esau, and receiving Gods blessing on the way. This is where Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, and it becomes the start of the promise given to his grandfather Abraham. Abraham was promised that his descendants would be a great nation as numerous as the stars, and here we read about the beginning of that nation of Israel. That nation may not seem to be a great nation, but there is hardly any news channel across the world that doesn’t broadcast something about what is happening to this group of people. It is constantly the focus of the whole world.
I want to look at how Jacob entered into that promise, and to look at how we can enter into the promises of God. I have noted three things caused Jacob to receive Gods blessing. Firstly Jacob faced his fears and began to make recompense for the past. Secondly he entrusted everything he had to God in obedience to him. Thirdly he grabbed hold of God and wouldn’t let go until he had received that blessing.
He faced his fears and made recompense for the past.
Jacob had upset many people, sometime through no fault of his own and at other times because he practised deceit. But one thing that Jacob had always done was run away from his problems. Esau had sold Jacob his birth right, as the first born son. However when Jacob realised that it was Esau who was going to win his fathers blessing, he, in collaboration with his mother, tricked Isaac into ensuring that he got the blessing over his brother. Realising that he had outraged his brother, Jacob ran to his uncle Laban.
After 20 years of relative peace, Laban and his sons fall out with Jacob, who has become increasingly powerful. God tells Jacob to go back to his homeland, but instead of parting company properly from Laban, Jacob just runs away again. In fact, Jacob and Laban have only just made amends as we reach the start of chapter 32. So Jacob has spent his life running away from problems and they are finally starting to catch up on him. Jacob is loosing out of places to run.
It is in this chapter that we see a different Jacob. Now he is facing his problems head on. Jacob intends to make up with his brother after twenty years of hurt. Jacob is scared to death and yet in obedience to God is putting the past right. We can tell that Jacob is not expecting a good reception by the fact that he sends out gifts ahead of him. It is no coincidence that while Jacob trying to make amends with his brother that God meets with him. God is faithful and ensures that his brother is pleased to see him. Jacob’s fears are unfounded, and in chapter 33 we find the reunion of these two men.