Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin
Dispensation of promise. Jacob faces his fears!
Gen 32:1-6, Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. And Jacob said when he saw them [that is the angels], “This is God’s camp or army.” So he named that place Mahanaim. Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He 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; [notice next in verse 4 that Jacob sent servants and instructs them, saying,] “When you get to Esau my brother, say to him, “Thus you shall call him my lord Esau and say I am his servant Jacob,” Jacob tells his servants to make sure that they tell his brother Esau that Jacob has oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and that he has sent them to tell his brother Esau so that he may find favor in his sight.” 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.”
The messengers returned with terrible news according to Jacob’s human viewpoint thinking.
Gen 32:7, Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed;
This is Jacob’s main problem now which is fear, a mental attitude sin, characterized by him being filled with panic and especially double-mindedness. In fact, as we have noted in the past, fear was a result of Adam’s first sin and guilt in the garden of Eden. We read in Gen 3:6-9, When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
Notice what was Adam’s or man’s first response to God after he had failed in Gen 3:10, And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
Notice that fear was the first manifestation of man’s fallen state in the Garden of Eden. Now, where does fear come from? We know that fear is not a part of God’s plan. In Exo 14:13-14, Moses said to believers who were freaking out under pressure, “Fear not, be still and see the deliverance of the Lord, the Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace”
Deu 31:8 also tells us that fear is not a part of God’s plan, “And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”
Then in Isa 41:10, the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
So, how do you know if you are living in fear? Fear will manifest itself by worry, anxiety, insecurity, and nervousness. Fear destroys the believer’s ability to think, to reason, to apply doctrine under the pressure, and to advance in the circumstances of life. Fear then, is total disorientation to the plan of God. Fear destroys any personal sense of destiny. And people who are afraid have enslaved themselves! “Lack of fear” is a part of the relaxed mental attitude that believers with doctrine enjoy.
For instance, we are told about Moses in Heb 11:27, “By means of doctrine resident in the soul, Moses left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” Moses knew the principle of Heb 13;6, “the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man may do to me.” Courage then, or lack of fear, is a sign of spiritual growth.
In Psa 56:3-4, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee “In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid, what can mere man do to me?” Promise after promise...Line upon line...Precept upon precept...all designed to give the believer confidence toward God, and therefore freedom from fear! God promised those who were afraid in Jeremiah’s day that He would appoint shepherds over them who would feed them and they would fear no more! Jer 23:4 “I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
Promise after promise throughout the word of God to deliver us from fear. Isa 35:4, “Say to those with anxious heart, take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, and He will deliver you.” What about situations where the odds are against you and you are outnumbered? Deu 20:1, “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.”
Be not afraid of them for the Lord is with you! What about the daily situations that a man faces concerning his responsibility? Neh 4:14, “When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people: “do not be afraid; remember the Lord who is great and awesome. Or Jos 1:9, “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” For the mature believer, in Psa 112:7, “He will not fear evil tidings or bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”
We all need to learn how to handle fear, no matter who we are! In fact, Job was a righteous man and a man with integrity, and he still had to deal with certain fears! You will never get rid of fear until you become disciplined and precise with regard to your relationship with God. Now, even if you have fear in your life, the principle of cursing turned to blessing holds true. Fear can drive us to the Lord. For example, in Gen 32:9-12, fear of Esau drove Jacob to humble himself and seek for God. In Luk 8:50, fear of his child dying drove a man to seek the Lord.
In Mat 8:26, fear drove the disciples to run to the Lord and wake Him up. The storm made them afraid. Mat 8:23-27, And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He Himself was asleep. And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” And He said to them, “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
As Psa 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.”
Now, why is fear such a serious sin? Because fear is lack of trust and respect toward God. Therefore, once you are secure in the love that God has for you, you’re not afraid of anything whereby you need promises, for now you know the One who makes the promises. This is why fear is a sin. It is lack of faith toward God! Rom 14:23, and whatever is not from faith is sin.
Once you understand God’s integrity, you are dependent on Him. And if you are dependent upon God and His integrity, then having fear is not only an insult to God, but it is blasphemous and sinful. God gave Jacob a vision of the angels! Why? So that he could receive the doctrinal comfort that God was with him. But what does he do? He goes right out and tries to solve his problems with human viewpoint! He says, “Go tell my lord Esau that his servant Jacob is here.”
But doctrine says, Jacob is to be the lord of Esau and Esau is to serve his brother. Gen 25:23, And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
Now back in Gen 32:7-21, Then Jacob was extremely frightened and filled with mental anguish; [and then notice what he does in this state of mind] 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.” And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who didst say to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to Thy servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me, the mothers with the children. For Thou didst say, ‘I will surely prosper you, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. And he 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.” And he 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?’ then 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.’” Then 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; and 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.” So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.
So he prays that God would help and then he goes right out to try and help himself with human power. It was a good prayer, a noble prayer, but he didn’t really believe that God would answer! And the issue is, do you? Do you believe Heb 4:16 “Let us be approaching the throne of grace with confidence that we may receive mercy and acquire grace with reference to seasonable help.”
Or Jer 33:3, “Call upon Me and I will show you great and might things which you have not discovered.” Do you believe Psa 50:15, And call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Do you believe Luk 11:9, “And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. Luk 11:10, “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. Or Mat 21:22, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” Do you believe Joh 14:13-14, “And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. Or Joh 15:7 “Ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you.” Or Phi 4:6‑7, “Stop worrying about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall garrison your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
You see, with the prayer said, instead of trusting God, Jacob again tried to manipulate the situation himself. He sets aside hundreds of cattle as an opening present designed to soften up his brother Esau. And he figures that will give him time so that if the present doesn’t soften Esau up then Esau will be so busy robbing his things that Jacob will be able to escape.
Gen 32:22-23, So he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two concubines and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok [jer-beck]. And he took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.
He couldn’t rest that night so he decided to take his family across the river. He is extremely frightened as he thinks that Esau is coming to kill him! By the way, there’s nowhere in scripture that says that Esau was coming to kill him. Now, after all these plans of fear, beginning with verse 24, we have a subtle and a sneak attack by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gen 32:24, Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
The first part of this sentence is the first key to the change which is about to take place in Jacob’s life! It’s not until Jacob is left alone with the Lord that his named is changed to Israel, a prince with God. In fact, we all need to have that experience of going through struggles in life alone with God. As David said in Psa 23:4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Being alone with God is the beginning of becoming spiritually self-sustained.
For example, In 2Ch 32:31, God left Hezekiah “alone to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.”
In Joh 8:9, it wasn’t until the woman caught in adultery was left alone with the Lord that she was set free. Joh 8:9, And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. The Lord even had to go through this in Joh 16:32 when He said, “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” Principle - To be left alone with God is the only true way of arriving at an accurate knowledge of ourselves and our ways. And no matter what we may think about ourselves, or what others may think about us, the real question is what does God think about us? And the answer to this question can only be learned when we are left alone with Him. And by that I mean examining our own lives in light of Bible doctrine!
This is one of the things that David said in Psa 26:2, Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.
Jer 12:3, But Thou knowest me, O Lord; Thou seest me; And Thou dost examine my heart’s attitude toward Thee.
2Co 13:5, Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!
So, when a believer objectively examines his own life according to doctrine, he is alone with God. Now, Jacob had arranged everything for meeting and appeasing his brother Esau, however, the Lord is going to intervene and reveal some very serious problems that Jacob has! And to learn these lesson, Jacob must be humbled! He must be stripped from his own strength, lamed and made to limp.