Daily D – Genesis 32:6
When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau; he is coming to meet you—and he has four hundred men with him.” GENESIS 32:6 (CSB)
Jacob the swindler, cheater, and master manipulator was headed home to where he had started from. He was returning with everything he had gained through his tug of war with his similarly scheming Uncle Laban.
He was truly between a rock and a hard place. He and Laban had made a deal that Laban would not venture beyond a stone marker they set up, and neither would Jacob. In other words, there was no going back. Esau’s last communication regarding Jacob was that he was going to kill him.
Rock. Hard place.
Jake sent a peace offering to Big Red (Esau was also called Edom, meaning Red. See 25:25, 30). We see Big Red’s response in the verse above. He was on his way, in a hurry, with four hundred warriors.
Jacob began setting up defenses. He sent successive groups of servants with animals as gifts. Then he set the mothers with their children between Esau and him with a stream between everyone and himself as his last line of defense.
What one non-manipulative, cowardly action did he take? He prayed. He prayed the kind of prayer you and I have prayed on many occasions. He prayed desperately.
God answers desperate prayers.
Take a look at this prayer in verses 9 through 12. He began by addressing his prayer, “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Go back to your land and to your family, and I will cause you to prosper,” . . .
Pause there for a moment.
He talks to our Father in heaven as his grandfather’s God, his father’s God, and kinda sorta his own God. God rather dramatically spoke to Jacob on his way to Laban’s home and when it was time to leave there (28:10-22; 31:3). Jacob’s last words in the first encounter were couched in an If, Then statement: “and if I return safely to my father’s family, then the LORD will be my God,” (28:21).
Have you ever had an If, Then conversation with God?
He was almost back to his starting place with one giant hurdle to clear. He continued his desperate prayer, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” This is what is known in the business as a good answer. Jacob experienced an awakening. He realized what a manipulative man he had been for most of his life.
Jacob got real with God. “Indeed, I crossed over the Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two camps.” God held up his end of the bargain. Now it was time for Jake to live up to his end.
“Please rescue me from my brother Esau, for I am afraid of him; otherwise, he may come and attack me, the mothers, and their children.” Jacob named his fears. He told God his concerns.
“You have said, ‘I will cause you to prosper, and I will make your offspring like the sand of the sea, too numerous to be counted.’” Jake reminded God of his promises and that those promises were not yet completely fulfilled.
Reminders like these are more for our benefit than for God’s. It is good to remember all the good things God has done for us in the past. His character and nature never change. As he has been faithful in the past, so will he be faithful today.
How did God answer Jacob’s prayer? He went to him in person (verses 24-32). He gave him a warm embrace and then threw him to the ground. They wrestled all night long. Then God did two big things that changed everything for Jacob forever: He changed his name and he removed his ability to run from his problems.
Jacob became Israel. The man whose name meant Cheater gained a new name meaning Struggles with God. Jacob, Israel, also gained a limp. He walked from then on in weakness. He was dependent on others. He would never go anywhere in a hurry again.
How do you know God is all you need? First, discover that he is all you’ve got. Jacob was there.
Even if you have never read or heard the rest of the story, you can predict what happens next. God answers Jacob’s prayer, and Israel and Esau meet and part in peace. Check out 33:4:
But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept.
Esau ran; Israel limped.
They hugged, they kissed, they wept.
I’m not sure if Jacob was much of a hugger, at least when it came to other men and his brother in particular. The wrestling match would have most likely made him a little shy of that kind of male bonding. Now in his vulnerability, now in this moment of reunion and reconciliation, it turned out to be okay.
Prayer reshapes us, our circumstances, and our future. Prayer puts us in position to want what God wants and to cooperate with him in turning those desires into reality. Prayer also moves us at God’s pace, not ours. Prayer is dangerous and delightful.
I will pray about everything.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done in my life as it is in heaven. I will bring you all of my fears, worries, and concerns. I will thank you for all you have done and trust you to be true to your nature and character as you always have been and forever will be. You have my permission, as if you need it, to shape me for significance in whatever way you see fit. Amen.
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Psalm 123:1, 2 I lift my eyes to you, the one enthroned in heaven. Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the LORD our God until he shows us favor. (CSB)
2 Samuel 5:3, 4 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron. King David made a covenant with them at Hebron in the LORD’s presence, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty, years old when he began his reign; he reigned for forty years. (CSB)