Friday, December 18, 2009

Jacob Prepares To Defend Himself -- Genesis 32:6-8

And the 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.” Then 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; for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.”

What I find interesting is that we have no record of the actual conversation between Jacob’s messengers and his brother Esau. Clearly God and the human author He used for this portion of scripture wanted the focus to remain on Jacob. The messengers reported just three things. First, they got to Esau personally. Second, Esau is coming to meet you. Third, he’s bringing four hundred men with him. That’s all they said. When you consider how ‘lords’ traveled in those days, was there anything in any of those three short messages to warrant Jacob’s reaction? Jacob wanted the men to meet Esau. Esau was willing to meet him and would even come to him (remember Jacob’s route and destination did not have him going directly through Esau’s place of residence). And yes, he was bringing lots of men with him, but could that not have been for the sake of welcoming Jacob, taking care of Esau, and doing whatever needed to be done with respect to their customs and reconnection? Why did Jacob react the way he did?

The Bible says that Jacob “was greatly afraid and distressed” when he heard what his messengers told him. Thoughts of fear came right away regardless of his knowledge of God’s covenant with him. As much as someone has done well and has become wealthy and mighty in a distant country, when he/she finally comes back to the place of their sin, there is always the fear that they will not be forgiven by those that they had offended. Like any one of us who has committed a serious sin, its memory often continues to haunt us, even if we know both God and some of those involved have forgiven us. The comfort of God’s promises does not easily come to mind when that fear sets in. That perhaps is natural. What really matters once again is what we do with that fear and how quickly we turn to the God that has made a covenant with us.

In Jacob’s case, he took serious human steps to avoid potential military-type defeat. He divided all those that were with him, including all the animals into two parts. He felt that Esau could only attack one part and the other would escape in the process. Man fears, man plans, man hopes; but only God can save.

As I write these words, Canada and the world are in the midst of the greatest inoculation program we have ever experienced to date. The race is in to produce enough ‘swine flu vaccine’ to protect us all from the now famous H1N1 virus. There is great controversy over the vaccine’s ability to protect and whether or not its side effects, including possible death, are worse than the H1N1 flu itself. To date, there have been deaths both from the flu and from the vaccine. Many, my family included are not taking it. But here’s what’s interesting: out of fear, men make the best laid plans, and then they sit and hope, remaining in fear until the danger totally passes. Yet God provides us all with assurances about the things that really matter in life so that we need not fear, we need not plan outside of His will, and we need not just hope, but we can know what our ultimate future holds.

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