Nestled in Jacob’s journey back to Caanan is the story where Jacob prepares to meet Esau, and in this story Jacob is scared. Maybe a better phrase is full of fear. He had sent word to Esau that he was passing through only to find that Esau was still desiring to kill him for what had happened over the birthright and blessing of their family. In this story we see him moving past his fear and can gain some insight into how we can move past our fear as well.
Before he finds out that Esau is still out for his blood, we are told that the angels of God met him after he went on his way from his last dealing with Laban. Matthew Henry in his commentary, points out that God’s protection was all around Jacob, going both before them and following behind. The chapter before tells us of how God warned Laban about how he should handle himself towards Jacob.
Jacob does know they are angels of God who meet him on his way, but he is still scared when his servants come back with the news that Esau is on his way with 400 men. This fear and how he responds to it is pretty amazing.
First, he acts and considers how to best save his family, probably not knowing exactly how close Esau was to their camp. Once he felt that his family was taken care of, he then prays. But he doesn’t just pray for protection, or even pray for that first! What he does first is acknowledge the longstanding relationship God has had with his family and then remind God that he was here obeying what He had commanded him to do. He acknowledges all that God has done for him since he left Caanan with just a staff. After all that, then he asks God to save him from his brother and voices the reason for his fear. He closes his prayer then with repeating the promise God had given to him, his father and grandfather.
In essence he’s saying he doesn’t understand. He and his family have this promise from God and God has blessed him in line with that promise and yet it currently looked like both he and his family were going to be wiped out there pretty soon.
Again we see as we did with Abraham, conversation with God and it is so beautiful! Jacob lays it all out to God before asking for protection rather than just giving God a request. This shows us that there is relationship there- trust, communication and value. He personally knows the one with whom he speaks.
After he prays, he then prepares a gift for Esau and strategically plans out how it will be presented. Jacob did his best to secure his family and keep them safe by location and then doing what he could to diffuse his brother’s anger while talking with God and putting his trust in Him.
What an awesome example set for us in how to handle difficult even dangerous situations! Like Jacob, we can use the brains God gave us to take action and at the same time converse with God about the situation we are facing and leave the outcome in His hands.
I love what Matthew Henry says about people designed for extraordinary trials:
When God designs his people for extraordinary trials, he prepares them by extraordinary comforts. We should think it had been more seasonable for these angels to have appeared to him amidst the perplexity and agitation occasioned first by Laban, and afterwards by Esau, than in this calm and quiet interval, when he saw not himself in any imminent peril; but God will have us, when we are in peace, to provide for trouble, and, when trouble comes, to live upon former observations and experiences; for we walk by faith, not by sight.
~Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis 32
Jacob was for sure designed for extraordinary trials. Here with in a short period of time, two people have wanted to take his life and all that he has been given. Interestingly, God used Jacob’s personality flaws to bring about his will. The means to which God brought about His will, made for some very dangerous circumstances in Jacob’s life and all of this trial was necessary in his life for God’s glory in the end!
Jacob couldn’t see that, just as we can’t see past the circumstances we are faced with in our lives. But we can follow Jacob’s example and move past our fear by using the knowledge and skills God has given us, trust that he has not made a mistake with how he created us, cultivate a relationship with Him through prayer and then trust Him for the outcome.
As his children we are under his protection, much like Jacob was surrounded by angels of God. We can walk by faith in this life by drawing on our own past experiences and by the experiences of the great men and women in the Bible.
Jacob’s journey found in Genesis 32 is one incredible story that will help us move past our fears and walk by faith as we live our life. Do you have a story that brings you courage and comforts you when you are afraid? Leave it as a comments below!