Friday, August 28, 2015

All Things New: Jacob: the 'Face the Music' Road - Part 1

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

With Laban's reluctant blessing, or at least his promise not to do anything that would cause him or his family problems, Jacob was now able to quit looking over his shoulder for pursuit.

But now he had to face the very threat from which he fled twentyish years earlier.


If he were to return to his inheritance, to the land of his fathers,  he was going to have to make peace with Esau.

But he had God's instruction, so he put his camp in motion again and continued moving south.

In Geneses 32 today; my ESV is the translation that's handy....

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.  And when Jacob saw them, he said, "This is God's camp!  So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

(Gen 32: 1- 3, ESV)

Jacob has an angelic escort waiting for him as he approached  home.

Do you suppose they were there to encourage him?  Protect him? Warn him?

Maybe all of the above?

Jacob saw them and, to all appearances, camped there for a while.  The atlas I consulted said the exact location of Mahanaim is unknown, but it was definitely to the east of the Jordan and the north of the Jabbok. 

Before he crossed any rivers, he wanted to get an idea of what kind of welcome he would get.  I don't know how he knew to send his messengers to Seir in order to find his brother; maybe word of Esau's move had come back to the family while he was in Paddan-aram...maybe he just did some asking around in the area after he stopped.  But he parked his flocks, herds, servants and family there until he heard back from his messengers.

And the word they brought him was not exactly what he was hoping to hear.

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him." (v. 6)

Apparently Esau had already heard of Jacob's journey home and was headed his way.  Four hundred men...that was a small army.

Jacob had flocks and herds and women and children...there was no way to run from his brother, even if he had had anywhere to go.

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed (v.7)

'Greatly afraid and distressed' is probably a gross understatement.  Jacob had God's promises, he was acting under God's instruction...and he was terrified.  That's not weak faith, that's just being a real human being.  There was an army coming to possibly annihilate him and his family.   He'd seen the angels earlier..where were they now?  He had run from Esau once; he could not run a second time.

So he began to plan.  The first thing he did was to split his entire entourage into two parts and sent them to camp well away from each other.  If Esau attacked him in the night, Jacob reasoned, he would not expect two camps and might only wipe out one...and at least some of his people and possessions would survive.

Then he stayed at Mahanaim and prayed.  There's no time frame on it, but I kinda think he prayed all night.  Part of what he prayed is included in the narrative...or maybe he just repeated the same prayer over and over, in various iterations.

O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good.'  I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I  crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.  Please deliver me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.  But you said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.  (vs. 9  - 12)

Jacob reminded God...and, incidentally, himself...that he was here in this threatening place because he had obeyed God.  He told God what he was afraid of,  asked for deliverance from that threat, and reiterated God's promise.

It was a long night, but when the day dawned Esau had not attacked.

So Jacob came up with another strategy.  Now, I don't think the fact that he did this indicates he did not trust God to take care of may have been that God inspired him to deal generously with his brother.  Esau had been angry with Jacob for what he took...Jacob decided to counter that by giving.

And he seriously gave.  I don't know what percentage of his flocks and herds that all worked out to be, but it was a substantial number of animals that he selected:  goats and sheep and camels and cattle and donkeys.  And he split them up into droves, with distance between, so that Esau would encounter massive gift after massive gift as his army drew closer to his brother.

Then, Jacob took his wives and their maids and all his children and all the rest of his goods and sent them across the Jabbok.  Whether by design or by accident, Jacob was the last one left to cross the stream.

Tomorrow would be the day.

How do I encourage myself in the face of an unknown or fearful situation?  Where have I recorded God's promises and instructions and past blessings, so that I can remind myself of them in a critical moment?  How ready am I to believe that when I ask God for wisdom in a particular situation, He will give it to me?

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