Genesis 32:6-8 (ESV)
And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ”We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are 400 men with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”
Fear of the unknown can cause us to do some pretty crazy things. In the passage above, Jacob is working his way home after years of living and working for his uncle Laban. The last time he saw his brother Esau, he had deceived their father Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing. He had already finagled Esau’s birthright out of Isaac so this latest shenanigan of Jacob TICKED ESAU OFF! He promised that he would kill his brother Jacob as soon as his days of mourning their father were over. Rebekah learned of Esau’s plot and in an effort to save her “favorite” son’s life, she warned him and sent him to live with his uncle Laban in Paddan-aram.
After 14 years of working for Laban in order to earn the right to marry the woman of his dreams, Jacob flees from Laban in an attempt to return to Canaan. (Note: Jacob was 77 when he went to Laban, and is now 91 years old!- He’s no spring chicken folks!) He knew he was going to have to pass through the land that Esau now called home, and he wasn’t excited about it. He was freaked out people! Remember that the last time he saw Esau, he had deceived him for the 2nd time and Esau had vowed to kill him. Jacob was fully preparing himself to meet his demise. But not without a plan.
He sent his messengers to meet Esau first and try to butter him up by giving him numerous oxen, donkeys, flocks, and servants. He desperately wanted to find favor in the eyes of his brother and could only HOPE that these gifts would do the trick.
Well, as we see in the passage above…it didn’t work. Esau didn’t take the bribe and was on his way to meet Jacob with 400 men in tow.
The next part of the story is where I start to see a resemblance between Jacob and myself. See, Jacob did what so many of us do when we anticipate trouble. He started planning. He thought through different scenarios and figured out a plan. Plan A. Plan B. Who knows! He may have had an entire alphabet of “plans” in his head. I can just imagine him wearing a trough into the ground outside his tent. Combing through his beard. Wiping his brow. Big sighs. Small sighs. The occasional “What have I gotten myself into!?” I can’t help but think that his wives may have had a few choice words for him as well. And I see myself in him so much.
When trouble comes my way, I tend to go on the defense. I start to justify how I got myself into the position in the first place and begin to try to “figure out” what I can do to get myself through it. I’ve even been known to drag others into the mess with me!
Can you relate? Maybe you shared a story with others that wasn’t yours to share. Now you find out that the person you talked about knows what you have done and has asked to meet you for coffee to talk about it. YIKES! Now what will you do!?
Maybe you’ve heard that your child may get assigned to the “mean” teacher for the following school year. Maybe you have a problem with someone in your work place and you’ve been assigned a task together.
The list can go on and on! We instantly jump into “fix it” mode. We may lie awake at night formulating solutions to every possible variable. We talk about it to our spouse or best friend and ask them to help us think it through. And ultimately, we come up with a plan. A plan that WE think will get us out of the mess as unscathed as possible. Let me ask you something…how does that work for you? It never seems to work as planned for me.
Let’s get back to Jacob for a moment can we? He had quite a plan. He was going to split his tribe so that if one was attacked, the other could get away. He even arranged his family to follow behind him in a specific order guarding Joseph and Rachel the most.
When he was in sight of Esau, he bowed 7 times. Clearly, he was expecting the worst. BUT…“Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Genesis 33:4
All that worrying. All that planning. All that stress. For NOTHING! Esau was elated to see his brother and responded to seeing him with open arms and emotions that ran deep.
I once heard the saying “Don’t tell me that worrying doesn’t do anything! Everything I worry about never happens!” Worry seems to be a natural reaction for us. Instead of letting go of the things that have us concerned, we worry. We try to figure things out. We process every possible scenario and make plans the best we can. What do you think would have happened if Jacob, upon approaching the land of Esau, stopped to pray? What if he would have given his concerns to the Lord with genuine repentance for the wrong he had done to Esau. I believe that instead of being ‘greatly afraid and distressed’, the Lord would have given him great PEACE and REST!
Luke 12:25-26 says “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Good question! Why do we worry?
The Apostle Paul instructs us with a very simple command to remove the worry… “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
What if, instead of worrying, planning, scheming, Jacob would have stopped and offered up a prayer to God instead? It may have sounded something like this…” Lord, I know that I have done wrong to my brother Esau and I am sorry for that. I am afraid of what will happen when I run into him. You have been so good to me. So faithful to always provide for me. Thank you for that! I am trusting you to provide for me once again. Please take this worry and fear from my heart and allow Esau to receive me as his humble servant. Amen” I think he could have saved himself a lot of stress.
So, keeping Luke’s words in our hearts addressing our worry and applying Paul’s command to pray with supplication (humbly asking for help) and thanksgiving, we can save ourselves a lot of undue stress. Our prayers may sound very similar to what Jacob’s may have been.
“Lord, here I am. I am humbled at the realization of my human nature. I know that I can’t handle this situation on my own. I need you more than ever! I’m worried, and yet, I know that worrying causes no benefit! My worry won’t change the plan you have in store for me. So, I come to you and ask that you would take care of this situation. Help me to obey what you would have me to do. I thank you for caring for me more than any of your creation and for always keeping me in the palm of your hand. Help me to rest in knowing that you have this all figured out and all I need to do is be still and obey. Amen.”
Friends, I encourage you today to let go of what may be worrying you, stressing you and causing you to make your own plans for “fixing” it. I pray that you can lay it down at the feet of Jesus knowing that He WILL take care of you. He already knows what will happen. You may have to face consequences if you have wronged someone, but even then, God is in control and will use the situation to help you grow in your faith and walk more closely with Him! All you need to do is pray and ask him for help. He will take care of you!