Jacob’s prayer is one of the great prayers recorded in Scripture, and yet it was prayed by a man whose faith was very weak. He was like the father of the demonized child who cried out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Every statement in this prayer indicates that Jacob had a profound knowledge of God’s ways and God’s character, and yet he was praying in desperation and not in confidence.
Note the arguments he presented to God as to why the Lord should deliver him from Esau.
God’s Covenant & God’s Command
Then Jacob prayed, “God of my grandfather Abraham and God of my father Isaac, hear me! You told me, LORD, to go back to my land and to my relatives, and you would make everything go well for me.”
Genesis 32:9 (GNT)
God in His grace had called Abraham and made a covenant with him (12:1-3), and that covenant was affirmed both to Isaac and to Jacob. It was on the basis of that covenant that Jacob asked God for the help he desperately needed.
Jacob certainly was happy to get out from under Laban’s control, but it was God’s idea that he leaves Padan Aram and return to his own land (Gen. 31:13). Jacob forgot that God’s commandment always involves God’s enablement, for the will of God will never lead us where the power of God can’t protect us and provide for us. But Jacob’s imagination ran ahead of his theology, and he was sure Esau was coming to destroy him.
When we face difficulty, we likewise need to remember the promises of God and evaluate our problems in the light of those promises.
I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!
Genesis 32:10 (NLT)
As Jacob reviewed the past twenty years, he reminded God of the wonderful way He had cared for him. In every trial and burden that came to Jacob, God had been faithful and kind to care for him. When Jacob arrived at Laban’s home, all he owned was his pilgrim staff; and now, by the blessing of God, he was a wealthy man.
Why would God care for him for twenty years and then allow him to be murdered by his brother?
“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.
Genesis 32:11 (NASB)
Jacob wasn’t thinking only of himself, but he had his family and God’s great plan in mind as well. Jacob’s sons would multiply and become the nation of Israel; and through Israel, God would bring blessing to all humankind. The Savior would come from the tribe of Judah and die for the sins of the world, and Paul would come from the tribe of Benjamin and carry the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Was this eternal purpose destined to fail because of the anger of one man?
Remember You told me, “I will make good things happen for you and make your descendants as many as the grains of sand on the shores, which are too numerous to count.”
Jacob has come to the end of himself. He has struggled with his brother and the rest of his family for his entire life. He was born a “heel-catcher,” a deceiver, and he lived the part well. But he can’t go on like this any longer. With Esau on his way, by this time tomorrow he could well be dead and his family killed or captured. He desperately needs God’s blessing and protection, so he grieves and agonizes through the night. Through stabbing pain Jacob demands a blessing from his unknown assailant, but he cannot receive it until he confesses his name. Once he does, his name is changed. No longer is he known as Jacob; from now on he is “Israel,” he who wrestles with God. This is the turning point in Jacob’s life. He lays aside his former self and takes up a new name, a new identity. If Jacob is to be the one to carry on God’s covenant and the source of universal blessing, he has to change.
And Jacob prayed on.
Genesis 32:12 (VOICE)
Jacob reminded the Lord of the promises He had made to him at Bethel (Gen. 28:12-15), especially that He would do him good and multiply his descendants. God told Jacob that He would be with him and bring him back to Bethel, and that He would accomplish His purposes in and through him. If God allowed Esau and his men to kill Jacob and his family, none of those promises would be fulfilled.
While we don’t want to imitate Jacob’s fear, unbelief, scheming, and his proneness to jump to conclusions, we would do well to pray the way he prayed. He claimed God’s promises, remembered God’s goodness, and rested completely on God’s character and covenant. No matter what circumstances we may face or what fears may grip our hearts, we can trust God to be faithful to His character and His Word. “I will trust and not be afraid.”
DECLARATION OF FAITH
My Father has set His heart on doing nothing but good by me. He repeatedly displays his faithfulness and loving kindness toward me, and continually increases me in His abundance. He protects me in all of my ways and sees to it that my enemies cannot prosper over me.
God has determined to do nothing but good towards me and to bless my children after me.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name, Amen.
|Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50)
By Warren W. Wiersbe
Life is full of imitations. Which is why today’s culture genuine, transparent people of God; believers who crave real spiritual growth. But what does that look like? The book of Genesis provides the answer, where we find 3 men who experienced an authentic life: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Be Authentic: Genesis 25-50 shows the vital need shows the vital need for authenticity in an artificial world. Through this commentary you will discover how to pursue authentic relationships with others and God and how to live out your faith in an irresistible, compelling way.