Alfred Place Baptist Church

Jacob's Fears, Prayers and Plans

Genesis 32:2-23 “Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: ‘This is what you are to say to my master Esau:`Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favour in your eyes.’” [and on to verse 23]

 

Throughout these past chapter we have been shown how God has been working in Jacob’s life, as God indeed continually works in the lives of every Christian, in order to teach us to trust in the Lord alone. “Trust me . . . you must keep trusting me . . .” he has been saying to Jacob, and that he should acknowledge that the Lord alone is the Sovereign God. When you have behaved disastrously as Jacob had, cheating your brother, deceiving your father, marrying two women and taking two more as concubines then how amazing that God doesn’t give up on such a man whose actions are as sub-Christian as that. Aren’t we mighty glad of that? “Then,” you think, “God may not be giving up on me though my life has had it outbursts of shocking defiance and wretched sin. I must not despair. I must keep trusting in him. His love did not let go of Jacob, and it will not let go of me.”

 

So Jacob is moving on, and if satellite navigation systems had been available 4,000 years ago then Jacob wouldn’t have been directed to take this route to his old home in the Promised Land.  There was absolutely no geographical reason at all for Jacob to go this way. The land of Seir (v.3) was in the far south while Bethel was in the north. There was no point in him gong through the territory farmed by Esau. The Promised Land at this time was the size of England, and Jacob could have found fertile plains and rivers far away from the place where his brother Esau lived. They might never have bumped into one another again, but Jacob had other reasons for taking this route. He had determined to meet his brother. It was a settled and costly choice, full of uncertainty and danger. Could Jacob achieve reconciliation with the brother he had wronged?

 

You see there’s a simple pattern in these Scriptures, how Jacob first went to make peace with the brother he had wronged, and then in the next two chapters he received the blessing of God. Then you measure those actions by the words of the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew five, that if you are on your way to offer sacrifice to God, but then remember that your brother has something against you, that first of all you go and are reconciled with your brother. Apologize; make restitution; humble yourself before him and beg his pardon, then go on and worship God. That is exactly what Jacob was doing here. The fact that Jacob was thinking like this shows us that his twenty years working under Laban had not been a spiritually barren time. Jacob had grown; pleasing God was more important to him than twenty years earlier when he had left the Promised Land. At that time God had met with him at Bethel with angels, and now God is meeting with him again. “Well done,” God is saying to this repenting sinner. “Though you have not been a blameless man I’ve not forgotten the promise I made to you at Bethel that I would stick with you and would take you home.”

 

Please notice that this encounter with the angels came to Jacob while he was already on his way. God had told him back in Haran to get out
of that place and move back home and Jacob had obeyed. He was going on in the way of obedience and God took note of it. Then, that day, as all the angels of God gathered around his throne to receive their instructions, God commissioned some of his angels, “Go and meet with Jacob and his family. Go and encourage my servant Jacob.” That is why angels were here waiting for Jacob. It was not that Jacob had dillydallied and plaintively asked God for a fleece; “Give me a vision of angels as a sign, and then I’ll go forward.” No. The word of God was enough for him. He had been commanded by the Lord to return and Jacob had returned. We do not need the sight of angels to make our hearts obey. But there have been messengers that God has brought into our lives at various times as we’ve been doing God’s will and they have been our comfort, and assurance, and peace. That is the pattern in the gospels. Jesus tells two lepers to go to the priest to reveal to him the evidence of their healing. They go with their leprosy still upon them, but it was as they went that they were healed. Again a royal official tells Jesus that his son was desperately ill. “Come down before my child dies” he pleads (Jn.4:49), and Jesus told him he could go because the son lived. He took Jesus at his word and went, and while he was returning to Capernaum his servants came running towards him to tell him the good news that his son was fully recovered.  He heard the word from the Lord and he believed and obeyed and then God did what he said he’d do. So it is here; “Go home Jacob, and I will be with you.” Jacob went home and, lo and behold, God’s messengers were there before him to greet him. Their presence strengthened his faith to believe that God would certainly continue to be with him, even when he faced Esau. Then when the meeting with Esau was over and there’d been reconciliation Jacob could look back and think, “God promised he would be with me; I trusted him, and he was with me . . . in a most wonderful way.”

 

  1. THE MEANS GOD USES TO STRENGTHEN OUR FAITH.

 

i] A message was sent. So Jacob continues his journey into the Promised Land and he sends out messengers, spies, to suss out the situation regarding brother Esau. Was he still alive? Was he fit? Was he strong? Did he have many men working for him? What was his mood? “Go and introduce yourselves to him,” he said to his servants, and he told them exactly what they were to say. “Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favour in your eyes” (vv.4&5). They were thus to tell Esau two things: firstly, where Jacob had been in the past decades. He had been with Laban, and scholars say that the Hebrew construction and mood is suggesting that his stay had become more protracted than had at first been intended. Jacob is telling his brother that he did not go out of Canaan in order to settle down in that land but that he had been detained there for many years. Then, secondly, Jacob wanted his servants to tell his brother of his wealth, his flocks and servants. He is not bragging; but he is letting Esau know that he is not returning to Canaan as an impecunious beggar looking to Esau to provide for him for the rest of his life. His desire to make contact with his brother and be reconciled to him has no ulterior motives of gain. He wants to be straight with Esau from the start because the man Esau knew twenty years earlier was not a straight man; he was a greedy man and a covetous man and a deceiver. So Jacob is subtly telling Esau that he has changed. “I am not the same avaricious rascal you knew to your cost twenty years ago.”

 

You notice particularly his language, “Your servant Jacob,” (v.4); that is how the message begins. And he refers to Esau as “my lord” (v.5) and he is humbling himself before Esau. That is a very different Jacob from the Jacob who took both the birthright and patriarchal blessing that should have been Esau’s. He wants Esau to know that he is seeing these matters now in a different light; birthright and blessing do not have the glory that they once had causing him to lie and cheat to have them for himself. “Esau, you are my ‘lord’ and henceforth I take the servant position.” There are marks of grace in Jacob. Yes, it can all be attributed to middle-east courtesy, but we cannot be too cynical when we read the amazing events of the next chapters.

 

Notice that Jacob appeals for a new attitude in Esau; “that I may find favour in your eyes” (v.5). That is how the speech of the delegation ends. Jacob was not going there insisting on his rights as the one who had the birthright and the father’s blessing. He was humbling himself before Esau because he had humbled himself before the Lord. He had changed; the old conniver had changed. Grace had made him a new man, and now he is asking Esau that he would show grace to him.

 

ii] A response was received from Esau. “When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (v.6). O dear! It was a very upsetting development for Jacob. It suggested that Esau had not forgiven his brother for his deceit, that he was still resentful with an old lingering hostility, and that this was payback time. There had been a menacing silence in response to his message; no courteous greetings – “Welcome back brother!”, but rather the frightening news that Esau was coming with the cavalry. 400 men would have been an overwhelming force for Jacob to resist. He had nothing compatible to fight them off. If they drew their swords and charged it would be a bloody massacre with no survivors. What is more, Esau was even that moment on his way. He had learned by the grapevine that Jacob had arrived in the area and immediately the army had been assembled and was at this time drawing near. So Jacob feared the worst and prepared for the worst.

 

iii] Jacob produced both an emotional and considered response. It was twofold:

 

A) Jacob’s emotional state. He was “in great fear and distress” (v.7). Have you as a Christian been there? Have you felt a twinge when you were there, “Where is my faith?” Have you reproached yourself and asked, “Can I be a Christian while feeling so afraid and worried?” Why did Jacob respond like that? Hasn’t he learned anything from his experience with Laban? He’d also been afraid of Laban you remember, that his father-in-law would come and take all that belonged to him, including his wives. But God had then appeared to Laban and told him, “Take care  . . . don’t say a word against Jacob . . .” God protected Jacob. Doesn’t Jacob have the confidence that God will do this again? But stop a moment! Isn’t there a crucial difference? Last time Jacob was in the right, or at least he thought he was in the right. God had given him the flocks. God had made him wealthy. God had told him to leave Haran and return to the Promised Land. Jacob believed that he had stolen nothing from Laban that was Laban’s. We know that his wife Rachel had stolen the household gods and had so brought sin into Jacob’s household, but Jacob was utterly artless and unsuspecting about that act of one who could do no wrong in his eyes. So, in his ignorance, he had foolishly paraded his righteousness before Laban, and he made a self-righteous speech about how God had vindicated him . . . la la la la la la . . . because he had served Laban well . . . la la la la la la . . . and done what was right . . . la la la la la la . . . He puffed himself up and put down father-in-law Laban. He used himself as the canon for criticizing his father-in-law. “I’m the better man of us two. You have cheated and deceived me and would have taken everything from me, if you could.” How the world loves to make speeches like that, boasting in its own integrity.

 

This is just a few days later, and again Jacob is “in great fear and distress.” Where is your boasting, pomp and show now Jacob? It has vanished like a vapour because Jacob only has to give ten seconds’ thought to his relationship with Esau and he is a guilty and condemned man. Esau has every right to make that same speech against him that Jacob had made against Laban; “I’m the better man of us two . . .” How threadbare is our own righteousness when we compare it to our neighbour’s, let alone the Lord’s. Are we sure we are better than any person? I can look at the life of King David and I think, “I am no better than him. I may be far worse.” This time Jacob is guilty. Why is Jacob a wealthy man? Because of the Lord’s blessing. How did he receive that blessing? He stole it from his brother Esau. Jacob has no self-righteousness to parade before him. He is guilty and he knows it. What a fearful situation he is in. He had been convinced as he spoke to Laban and all their relatives as they stood facing one another at the covenant making time in Mizpah that God was favouring him because he was a righteous man. Now there’s a sea change! Jacob is full of fear and distress believing that God will not favour him because he is guilty.

 

Are you ever guilty of thinking like that? You have done something especially self-sacrificial and kind and good, or you have consistently followed the Lord for many years, and you feel that God loves you more because of this and that you are certainly ‘saved,’ but then you later have done something selfish and mean and wretched and so you have thought that God was angry with you and you were a lost man. “O Jacob  . . . O Jacob . . . and all of you who think like Jacob, you have to learn what it is to be justified by faith in the Lord apart from your own works, like our father Abraham. O Jacob, you must learn what it is to be justified by trusting in the Lord in spite of your sins. You must know the grace of God who chose you before you had done anything right or wrong, and loved you even when you showed what a desperately wicked heart you had. Only then can you conquer being overwhelmed with great fear and distress.”

 

Let me come right up to you and hold your hand and say these things just to you today. How often do you speak of God blessing you, and yet you have secret thoughts that you’ve some right to that blessing because of your years of following the Lord? Your house and salary and possessions and secure marriage are secretly considered God’s reward for your hard work. Your security in life you think is based on your common sense and intelligence. I know you say that you are giving God the glory for these things but isn’t there a touch of the old Jacob about it as when he told Laban, “God has seen my affliction and the labour of my hands and God has rewarded me.” There is just some smugness there; some vanity; some self-righteousness. If that is the case beware, because there comes another time . . . always there comes another different time when you and I behaved abominably, and people know, the people you love the most, they know. So why should God bless you then? You have sinned. Why shouldn’t men – even your brothers    exact revenge on you because it is only what you deserve? This is where Jacob was that day, and he became very fearful and distressed. This will always be your position when you fail to rely entirely on Jesus Christ for salvation, when he is not all your plea. So I would say to you, “Please make two great bundles, one of all your sins, and the other of all your good works and set them all alight and run from those bonfires to hide for shelter in the wounded side of Christ.” So there was Jacob’s emotional state.

 

B) Jacob’s wise thinking. He planned as well as prayed. He was not paralyzed by his fear. He screwed up every little bit of faith he had in God and his promises and his dealings with him. Jacob thought and he made plans: he “divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape’” (vv. 7&8). Dividing the people and flocks into two camps was sensible strategy. It made it more difficult for Esau to destroy the entire camp. It was good strategy; God expects us to use our common sense in conducting our lives. If danger is present he expects us to take due caution. There was little time to lose. The messengers said that Esau and his army were on the march. The danger was imminent. When that happens to us let us not be presumptive. Let act quickly to provide protection for ourselves and our families. There are government warnings of blizzards and ice. “Don’t make a journey unless it is absolutely essential,” we are told, and we are to heed the warnings, take right precautions.

 

Jacob also prayed. Jacob feared the worst, yet he began to prepare. Jacob’s reaction was characteristic of the man. In verses 7 and 8 he plans. In verses 9 through 12 he prays. In verses 13 through 21 he plans. In verses 22 through 32 he prays. Then in Genesis 33, verses 1 through 3 he plans. So he prays and plans and prays and plans, and that two fold activity was – in no way  – a sign of immaturity but a sign of wisdom and faith. You go to church to strengthen your faith, and you leave the light on in the living room to deter any would-be burglars. God uses means and it’s very clear from this first great prayer of Jacob’s where this great godly man is placing his ultimate trust. Yes, God wants us to act responsibly in the midst of our trust in him, and so Jacob ‘keeps the powder dry’ as well as prays. But the point of the whole passage here is that God grows our faith by employing circumstances that drive us to rest wholly and completely upon him, and him alone. God strengthens Jacob’s faith in this circumstance not by removing the threat, nor taking away the trial that Jacob fears, but by strengthening him as he faces the one that he fears most. What were Esau’s purposes? We won’t know in this life whether Esau started off down the road prepared to separate Jacob’s breath from his body but that then as Jacob prayed Esau softened on the way. We don’t know. Or was Esau already soft to Jacob before he ever crossed the brook. Was Esau always amenable to reconciliation, but being cautious? We won’t know in this life. But whatever was the case, in the end it turned out that Jacob’s fears were bigger than the reality that he was facing. How often is that the case? Our fears about the health of our loved ones, the sale of our houses, the termination of our jobs and so on – our fears about such things are always bigger than the reality of what is to take place. All things are going to work together for our good.

 

John Calvin says, “God often allows us to fear things which aren’t terrible in themselves. Or he conceals his remedies until he has exercised our faith.” Then Calvin adds, “They who fancy that faith is exempt from all fear, have never experienced the true nature of faith.” Calvin knew from his own experience that even real faith can be mixed with fear. Then the Genevan reformer goes on to say this: “God doesn’t promise that he will be present with us in order to remove our sense of all the danger. No. He is present with us in order that fear may not prevail and overwhelm us in despair.” In other words, God didn’t say, “I’m going to remove from you every danger and every sense of danger.” Christians are not promised that. He says “In the midst of your fear, I’m going to uphold you so that your faith isn’t drowned by fear.” And by doing that God grows our faith.

 

iv] Jacob’s prayer. In verses 9 through 12 there is this magnificent prayer of Jacob. It contains all the essential elements of prayer. It is Jacob in his impotence grasping the gracious God in his omnipotence. Desperate, because of his sin, Jacob begins to rely on the grace of God. There, marching towards him, comes his brother Esau who can testify truly that the words of Jacob’s mouth and the labours of Jacob’s hands are evil in the sight of man and God. You see how Jacob begins, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac.” He acknowledges that the Lord alone is God. He would speak to him and to no one else, certainly not the stolen household gods. He reminds God of his covenant faithfulness. God was faithful to those sinners, Abraham and Isaac, both flawed men, and now Jacob pleads with him to continue that faithfulness. He goes on to remind God of his promises. You are “the Lord who said to me, Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper.’” (v.9). In other words, “You brought me here. I am facing an army because of doing your will.” So Jacob is now asking God to keep his promise to protect him and prosper him not pierce him through on the field of battle.

 

Jacob then confesses his sin; “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant” (v.10). Here is true faith at last. It has come. It is flourishing. Not the faith that the elders of the Jews would display when they pleaded with Jesus to heal the centurion’s servant. “He is worthy to have this done,” they would say, “For he loves our nation and built us a synagogue.” In other words that said, “Let him get from God a reward fitting to his great generosity.” No, not that spirit at all, but the faith of the centurion himself who said, “I am not worthy Lord even to have you under my roof. But speak the word and my servant shall be healed.” Not the faith of the Pharisee who lifted his eyes to heaven and said, “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like that tax collector. For I fast twice a week and give you a tenth of all I have.” But the faith of the tax collector who could not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God be merciful to me the sinner.” This is the only way to come to God. Not as those who bargain with him and remind him of their good deeds, but as those who have no hold on him except his own faithfulness and our own desperate need.

 

Jacob then acknowledges to God that the Lord alone had made him great, that every virtue he possessed and every victory won and every thought of holiness were God’s alone (v.10). How had he been when he left Esau twenty years earlier and fled to Haran? Was he wearing a belt full of gold on his way? No. He says, “I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups” (v.10). There is no more talk of God seeing the labours of his hands and rewarding him. This is mercy all, immense and free, and Jacob’s prayer to God is, “since you’ve given me so much grace, then please give me more.” Ought not this to be our prayer as well? He prays for deliverance from Esau; “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, Esau, for I am afraid that he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children” (v.11).

 

Again he fears, as with Laban, but this time he commends that fear to God. He doesn’t take matters into his own hands and assume that he must somehow save himself. He acts, certainly, by dividing his people into two companies. Yet he doesn’t rely on that
action. His own ability can’t make him unafraid, for he might fail. But God doesn’t fail, and he reminds God of his promises once again, “But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea which cannot be counted” (v.12). In other words, ‘You can’t let me and my children all perish. Lord, it cannot be that there’s to be no Jacob and no descendants.’ God loves this kind of praying. Your praying. Your words. Your feelings. Your heart reaching up to his great heart. He loves to be reminded of his promises. He does not want the repetition of prayers, the exact phrases, repeated five times a day, memorized, or read from a book. He want existential encounter, talking hold of God and praying to him. And we reject the notion that ‘there’s no point in our praying and arguing because, after all, God will keep his promises.’ It does matter. God does love to be reminded of what he has promised. This is what faith is: it lays hold of those promises and makes them our prayers. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. Give us this day our daily bread . . .” Jacob’s prayer shows that he is overwhelmed with the promises God has made to him, and he clings to them. His own strength and ability become nothing in his sight as he rests solely in what God has promised. Take his promises, fulfilled in Christ, and as Bill Baldwin says, twist his arm with them. “Oh God, you promised to grant perseverance to your saints. Keep that promise. Oh God, you promised that you would be with me always in Christ. Keep that promise. Oh God, you promised that no temptation would overpower me but that you would provide a way of escape. Keep that promise. I beg you. I am weak, but you are strong. I have nothing, you have everything. And you have promised to give me that strength and those riches of Christ. Keep that promise!”

 

This moving prayer is a model of its kind. It rests on the foundation of God’s covenant, God’s command and God’s promise. It displays a true spirit of worship especially its wonder at the mercy of God. My prayers ought to be like this, suffused with Scripture, the ideas, and concepts and assertions and ascriptions of Scripture, and utterly theocentric. This is Bible-believing prayer.

 

v.] Jacob’s gift of appeasement.


Finally Jacob began to send ahead his gifts, right across the creek, drove by drove. Here it is again, plans and prayers; prayers and plans. Jacob has cast himself upon God in prayer, and now in verses 13 through 21 he implements his plans to appease Esau by a series of extravagant gifts. “t
wo hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys” (vv.14&15). There were 580 animals; there were more females in each case because they could bear young and that made the present even richer. It’s a gift that would last and be fruitful for years to come. Jacob sacrificed much of his own wealth for family reconciliation and peace, and also to placate his own guilty conscience for how he had once treated his twin brother. Of course Jacob is not sending people ahead thinking that they would get wiped out, and that he would be spared. In fact Jacob probably thought the other way around, that by sending the others in droves ahead of him, he hoped he could spare those people. Esau had no argument with them, and he would face Esau’s wrath alone. He was imagining his twin brother Esau coming up on the first drove. Looking round for any old men, and waving it through, and then the next, and the next, admiring the sleek animals glancing at the women and children and asking, “Is Jacob here? Is Jacob here?” and being told “No, these belong to your servant Jacob. They are gifts for you, my lord. Jacob is behind us.” The repetition would underline the genuineness of Jacob’s desire for harmony. The costly nature of this abundance of gifts like that speaks to us today of a far more costly gift that God himself made when he gave his only Son to Golgotha that we might be saved.  And having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself” (Cols. 1:20). So in this way Jacob hoped to placate Esau. As Esau received one rich gift after generous gift, after costly gift, after extravagant gift, Jacob was hoping against hope that by the time Esau finally reached the last, lonely, fearful man bringing up the rear all by himself, forlorn and vulnerable, that Esau’s heart would be softened towards his brother, Jacob. Why should God be asked to do a miracle and change an awkward man’s heart attitude towards you when prayer and gifts of kindness and love on your part will do the same thing?

 

Derek Kidner says that it’s the pagan who approaches his god like Jacob approached Esau here. You understand what he’s saying? The pagan thinks he needs to appease God in order to get God to bless him. He makes a donation to a church. He writes a cheque to erect a stained glass window. He pays for a mass. He gives to a charity and he hopes that in such ways God’s righteous indignation with his sins will be placated. He is seeking to balance his sins by good works in the scales of heaven. But that’s not how Jacob related to his God. It is probably how he related to Esau. He feared Esau, he thought he was against him, he thought that he needed to do something to get Esau on his side. And in that way Jacob gives us a perfect picture of how many unbelievers approach God. The unbeliever knows in his heart of hearts that God ought to condemn him. But instead of fleeing to God for mercy, the unbeliever tries unsuccessfully to propitiate God by doing certain things to try to get the Lord on his side. He is rejecting the one and only way that God has provided for us to experience his blessing, and that is through trusting in his Son Jesus Christ alone. It is the good works of Jesus that save us not ours. It is his merit not ours. His royal death has placated all of God’s wrath against our sin, for God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

 

Why then was Jacob groveling like this before Esau? Why these extravagant gifts? Why did he call Esau his Lord? Why did he call himself Esau’s servant? Because he knew that he’d done his own brother wrong. For twenty years Jacob had had the opportunity to meditate on the fact that he had defrauded his brother. He had treated him shabbily and shamefully, and as Shakespeare has the Prince to say in Hamlet, ‘Conscience doth make cowards of us all.’ Jacob remembered the wrong that he had done to Esau all those years earlier, and now he faced Esau’s retribution. So Jacob was battling a combination of guilt and terror. His fea
r of Esau was rooted in something that Jacob himself was responsible for, and which Jacob himself could not correct. It didn’t matter how many presents that he gave Esau, there was no guarantee that Esau’s heart would be softened. As Jacob’s fear of Esau was rooted in something that he was responsible for and that he couldn’t correct, Jacob was forced to cry to God and trust in the Lord alone to extract him from this mess.

 

God had reached out and touched that part of his heart where Jacob was most vulnerable, his guilty conscience for his sinful dealings with his brother many years earlier which all the passing of two decades had failed to heal. It is not time that heals it is the blood of Christ. Don’t you see that it was right there, in the most sensitive area of his life, that God chose to grow Jacob’s faith. It was the area of Jacob’s greatest weakness, and God would use this test, in the form of the advancing brother whom he had offended complete with his army, coming nearer and nearer by the hour, in order to strengthen his faith.

 

Remember the commission of the prophet Isaiah, and what was the greatest of Isaiah’s gifts? It was his voice, his tongue, his eloquence, his preaching, and he might be tempted to be satisfied with that gift and rest on it and boast in it, and this is why a live coal had to be taken with tongs from off the altar by a seraph so that it touched and seared those lips of Isaiah. You remember the greatest weakness in Peter? It was his personal strength of conviction and the self confidence that came from that, and so God encountered him through a serving maid and humbled him by letting him experience just how cowardly and afraid he really was when this teenager asked him a question. He who said that he would never deny Christ, denied Christ. He discovered the strength of indwelling sin in his own heart. Perhaps God has dealt with all of us in such ways. He’s reached out, and he has touched you just where you are self-consciously strong, and so where you can be at your weakest. You say, “Lord, what are you doing?” And the Lord and his word says, “I’m going to strengthen your faith, and this is how I am going to do it. I am gong to make you realize your weakness and need and your vulnerability so that you will run from yourself and trust in me. I’m going to teach you not to trust in yourself, but to trust wholly and solely in me.” After Jacob has prayed to the Lord and set his plan in motion, he can do no more and he puts his trust in the Lord. That is God’s way. Firstly, we resort directly to the Lord and cast ourselves on him. Secondly, we take action, using whatever means of help may offer themselves to us. And thirdly, we go on, proceeding faithfully wherever the Lord has commanded us to go.

 

12th December 2010    GEOFF THOMAS