Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jacob and the Angels of God -- Genesis 32:1-2

Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. And Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim.

At the end of chapter 31 we have Laban returning to his own land and now here we see Jacob continuing on his way to where his parents lived and where he grew up, the land of Canaan. I love the first sentence of this chapter, “Now as Jocob went on his way, the angels of God met him.” So often in times, as we go on our way, God arranges to meet us. There usually is no pre-arranged times for these visits. But when God comes, He comes to comfort or to guide. Sometimes, as we’ll see later on in this story of Jacob, He comes to correct an attitude. And His timing is perfect.

Sometimes He sends angels – as angels or as men. Other times, He speaks to us directly – either aloud or in our hearts. But there is no mistaking it -- it is God. Sometimes He comes in a dream at night and sometimes in a vision during the day.
In Jacob’s case, he actually sees the angels, although when and how we do not know. Once he sees them, he utters “This is God’s place.” Jacob’s attitude was not one of “God has come to me” but rather “God is here with me in His camp.” That’s exactly where we need to be as believers – in the presence of God; where He is. He should not have to come after us, although He would, but we should be moving towards Him and with Him, into His camp. The Hebrew word used for camp implies an army camp. Jacob was recognizing that with the presence of the angels (who by the way had been with him all along but were now visible) he was in the midst of God’s host of guardians sent there to protect him and his family.

As I often fly across the continent, and sometimes overseas, what a feeling of comfort and security I sense knowing that God’s host of angels is not only with me but also with my loved ones I leave behind. There is nothing that calms anyone’s flying jitters more than the realization that we are where God is, that he knows the purpose of what we are doing, and that we are living for Him.

Interestingly, Jacob names this place where he sees the angels ‘Mahanaim’ which literally translated means ‘two camps’. Why this name is not known for certain. Some believe it was a recognition of the two hosts of angels he imagined were involved in his life. First, those that were with him and protected him up to this point in and from the land that belonged to Laban. They delivered him safely to the second host of angels that would be protecting him in the land of Canaan. Another way to perceive this may be to think of it as one unit of angels guarding him from Laban behind him and another protecting him from Esau in front of him. We cannot be certain as to why Jacob used this word, but at least this explanation is a possible one.
What matters for each of us is the realization that God is with us and that He has available a host of angels that He places all around us as we walk in His ‘camp’.

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