In Genesis 32:1-23 we continue on our journey with Jacob as he grows in relationship and trust with God. He is obeying God’s direction to return home, trusting in God despite his fear of Esau, who had been plotting to kill Jacob a long time ago when Jacob left.
3Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; 5I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.”’”
6The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; 8for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.”
9Jacob said, “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 relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11“Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12“For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’”
13So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.” 17He commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’ 18then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” 19Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, “After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.
22Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
How wonderful that God sent angels to encourage Jacob. That must have been quite some boost to his spirit… and he may have needed that reassurance from God when he heard that Esau was coming with 400 men to meet him. Surely Jacob remembered that Esau was plotting to kill him when he left, many years ago. They were not on good terms. Jacob clearly splits his group into multiple groups anticipating this possibility. He also puts in place a diplomatic strategy to help his relations with Esau… sending messengers, and gifts ahead of him, declaring he is Esau’s servant.
However, the most important part of the strategy for a righteous person is the prayer. Jacob, in his time of great anxiety, comes humbly before God with praise and thanksgiving, reminding himself of God’s promises and instruction, and asking God to protect him as he obeys God’s instruction to return home to a likely hostile and powerful brother. Jacob continues, faithful to God, despite his concerns.
We should take careful note that Jacob handles this situation as he did managing the flocks over the past 20 years. He comes humbly before God, asking help and protection and listening for instruction… obeying what God commands. Then he combines that with hard work, good strategy, and his own best efforts. He is not lazy, simply putting God to the test and saying God will take care of it all. Rather, Jacob prays for God to act and then does his own personal best to address the situation, trusting God to support Him.
We should model our own walk with God after this pattern. We should absolutely rely on God but also put forth our own hard work and good planning to accomplish what He tells us to do. We should do our part and trust God to bless it.
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.