Genesis Chapter 32 Deliverance from Fear

            The chapter begins with the angels of God appearing to Jacob.  This is the second experience that Jacob had with the angels of God.  Jacob had seen the angels of God ascending and descending between heaven and earth upon a ladder.  This had been a part of a life changing experience of Jacob as the LORD had manifest himself unto Jacob. 

            The LORD had previously told Jacob to return unto the land of Canaan and Jacob was preparing to do this very thing.  This brings us back to the reason that Jacob had left Canaan in the beginning.  Esau, Jacob’s elder brother, had purposed to kill Jacob because Jacob had stolen away his blessing from their father, Isaac, and had disrespected Esau both in the matter of the blessing and in the birthright.  So long as Jacob was in Padanaram, Jacob had no reason to fear Esau, but now the LORD was sending Jacob back to Canaan and Jacob’s fears of Esau returned. 

            How Jacob was able to overcome his fears of Esau is a great lesson for every child of God.  We all have things that we are greatly afraid of in this life.  Further there are times that we must come to grips with our fears.  These fears can be a real torment unto us if we do not properly overcome them.  Jacob’s experience is a great lesson to us in overcoming the exceeding fears of our lives.

            Jacob could look back upon the life changing experience on the journey to Padanaram and be encouraged by both the things he had experienced at the hands of the LORD and by the promises of the LORD.  The appearance of the angels of God, no doubt, reminded Jacob of the LORD’s blessings and how the LORD had kept his promises. 

            Gen. 32:3 “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: 5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.”  Jacob, out of necessity had to deal with his fear of Esau.  Jacob, by his example, met his fear directly.  He sent messengers to Esau telling him of his coming.  Jacob could have been silent and hoped that Esau would not find out, but his fear of Esau would have remained.  This teaches us that we need to be direct in dealing with our fears.

            Gen. 32:6 “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.”  Sometimes our fears are just in our mind, but often they are real.  The fact that Esau was coming with four hundred men meant that Esau was serious in his desire to kill Jacob.  The number four hundred in the scriptures is associated with the grave.  Apparently Esau’s intent was that Jacob be sent to the grave. 

            Gen. 32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; 8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.”   Once again, Jacob was flooded with great fear of Esau and was distressed by what he feared Esau would do.  Jacob’s initial thought was damage control.  Perhaps he could figure out a way to save half of the people by dividing them into two bands.  This thought was before Jacob went to the LORD in prayer. 

            Gen. 32:9 “And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. 11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. 12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”  The real and best solution for dealing with our fears is to take them to the LORD in prayer.  Rather than trying to solve our fears with worldly reason and a rational mind, we need to go the One who has both the wisdom and ability to overcome our fears. 

            Jacob’s prayer, though very short, has many lessons for us in approaching our God in prayer.  First, Jacob addressed God as the “God of my father Abraham and the God of my father, Isaac…”  Jacob honored God for his promises, blessings, and deliverances of both his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac.  God had made several promises to both of these men and had fulfilled his promises and greatly blessed these men in every way.  Not only did Jacob honor God in this manner, but also encouraged himself that God was able to fulfill his promises towards Jacob and to bless Jacob.

            Next, Jacob referred to God as “the LORD which sadist unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee…”  The term, LORD, used to describe God is the most commonly used term to describe God in the Old Testament as there are over 6500 times it appears in the Old Testament.  It literally means a “covenant making; covenant keeping God.”  Thus, God both makes and keeps covenants.  God had both instructed Jacob and promised Jacob that he would deal well with him.  A God, who cannot lie, and who promises his servant that he will deal well with him, will surely deal well with him.  This too was a great encouragement unto Jacob.  He could encourage himself that God had promised unto him that he would deal well with him.  Now, if in returning to Canaan, Jacob were killed by Esau, then how would it be that the LORD had dealt well with Jacob?  Likewise, we can be encouraged by both the direction of the LORD in our lives and the promises of God toward us as we attempt to overcome our fears. 

            “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.”  Jacob approached the LORD in humility.  The scriptures tell us that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  Jacob approached the LORD in humility, owning that he was not worthy of even one of the mercies of God or of the truth shown unto him by the LORD.  He considered himself a servant of the LORD.  Jacob also recognized that it was by the grace of God that he had prospered into two bands.  This teaches us that we should honor and praise God for all our blessings and recognize that what we have is by the mercies and grace of God.  Moreover, we should recognize ourselves to be the servants of the LORD. 

            “Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.”  Jacob was very specific in what he requested from the LORD.  Sometimes, in people’s public prayers they pray in generalities.  This is appropriate as they are praying on behalf of a group of people.  However, in our private prayers we should pray in specifics for the things that we are asking from the LORD. 

            “And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.”  Again, Jacob reminded the LORD of his covenant promises towards him.  If Esau were to smite Jacob and all his family members, then how could these promises come to pass? 

            Notice that Jacob’s prayer was short.  It does not take a long prayer to be heard of the Lord or to be effective with the Lord.  Next, most of Jacob’s prayer was made to give glory and honor unto God and to encourage himself in the promises of God.  The actual request was only a single sentence, yet it was very specific as to what he hoped the Lord would do for him. 

            Gen. 22:13 “And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; 14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, 15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals. 16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee? 18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us. 19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him. 20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. 21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.” 

Some have thought that Jacob did the above to try to bring about a resolution with Esau out of his own efforts.  I do not agree with that assessment.  The above was done after Jacob’s prayer to God.  The Lord gave Jacob the answer to effectively remove Esau’s anger towards Jacob.  In Esau’s mind, Jacob had disrespected him and stolen from him.  With the presents and the acknowledgement of Jacob that he was Esau’s servant, Esau was being respected by his brother and, with the goods he was being repaid for what he believed was stolen from him.  This alleviated the anger of Esau.  God gave Jacob this answer when he needed it.  Likewise, the Lord gives us what we need when we need it. 

Gen. 32:22 “And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. 23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.”  There are times in our lives that we must get away for a little while from all other cares and be alone with the Lord.  This was such a time with Jacob. 

Gen. 32:24 “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. 27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. 29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.”

Jacob, that night wrestled with a man (the LORD) until the break of day.  There have been times in my life that I have in my mind wrestled with the Lord in an attempt to bargain a blessing from the Lord.  I have promised that I would give up something or do something if the Lord would do something for me.  I have learned that I cannot wrestle a blessing from the Lord.  We cannot possibly overcome the Lord by bargaining with him.  Jacob attempt to wrestle a blessing from the Lord all night, but was unsuccessful.  However, at the break of day, the Lord prepared the way for Jacob to receive a blessing.  He touched Jacob in the hollow of his thigh and the sinew shrank.  Jacob was now a cripple.  His own natural strength was abated.  He was left clinging unto the Lord rather than wrestling with the Lord.  When the Lord said “Let me go for the day breaketh,” Jacob answered “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”  This should be both how we see ourselves and how we interact with God for a blessing.  The only strength we have is in the Lord.  When we realize that we are crippled (without strength), then we are made to realize that our strength is in the Lord alone and that we need to cling to him for our blessings of life.  Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong.”  When we are weak in ourselves, then are we strong in the Lord. 

After Jacob was clinging to the Lord, the Lord said: “And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. 28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”  The word, Jacob, means supplanter.  As a supplanter, Jacob had tried to bargain or wrestle the Lord for a blessing.  The word, Israel, means prince of God.  As one who was cripple clinging unto the Lord, Jacob became a prince with God having power with God and with men and prevailed.  Likewise, we should consider ourselves a part of spiritual Israel and consider ourselves spiritual cripples clinging unto the Lord. 

Gen. 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.”  The fact that the children of Israel eat not of the sinew that shrank is a memorial to Jacob’s experience in being made a cripple of the Lord and clinging unto the Lord for a blessing.  It taught them that they should consider themselves likewise a cripple of the Lord, clinging unto the Lord for a blessing.