Panic and the Octagon

Genesis 32

Jacob continues his dizzy stumble through life.

He seems to be in better shape after the agreement with Laban to not kill or be murdered, so Jacob is walking tall with his plethora of sheep.  Even some angels are hanging out with him, and Jacob says, “Yeah, this is good.” (v. 1-2)

Then he hears that Esau is coming to meet up with him (for old time’s sake?) after discovering his brother is in town,  and Jacob responds in a number of ways.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

He freaks out. (v. 7)
Pro: His reaction is normal.  I’m pretty sure anyone whose brother’s last sentiments were that of bloodthirst would be somewhat apprehensive about seeing him again.
Con: The man has the Lord’s blessing, and the angels are hanging around.  Why should he be afraid?
What’s the point?: Jacob is human.  We can relate.

He divides up his stuff. (v. 7-8)
Pro: Damage control. The tactician at work once again. He’d rather keep half his stuff than lose all of it.
Con: Jacob is much wealthier and stronger than Esau, and he just cut his strength in half. Oops.
What’s the point?: God wants us at full strength.  Divide your attention, and you’ll be weaker.

He addresses God. (v. 9)
Pro: Finally.
Con: None.
What’s the point?: In times of peril, pray.  Well, there’s not really a bad time to pray.

He acknowledges his unworthiness. (v. 10)
Pro: Jacob’s submission to God is probably the best move he’s made in a while.  He did it a while back. It worked out.
Con:  He did it a while back.  His sincerity is questionable.  I’m sure God isn’t fooled.
What’s the point?: While God loves humility, He doesn’t like false humility.  Try to avoid the latter.

He asks for deliverance. (v. 11)
Pro: The Creator of the universe is a lot stronger than all of his men put together.  Good call.
Con: None.
What’s the point?: Duh.

He sets up a gift package for Esau. (v. 14-16)
Pro: It’s an impressive gift.  I don’t know where I’d put all those farm animals, but I’d at least be flattered.
Con: Jacob does this  immediately after requesting God’s help.  Doesn’t really reflect trust in the Lord. He’s also trying to appease  Esau with his possessions, which reflect the blessing Esau was supposed to get.
What’s the point?:   Wait for God to do something before you come up with bright ideas of your own.
After setting up camp, night falls and Jacob has yet another divine encounter — his identity is somewhat mysterious, but many people agree it was either an angel or the Son of God Himself making a cameo.  The text reads “Man” (capitalized on purpose), so we’ll say he’s a divine dude (DD).  DD wants to go UFC all night long.  Jacob thinks he has the upper hand in the melee, but he doesn’t; DD uses a cheap shot and dislocates Jacob’s hip with one finger.

The next handful of verses can get anyone choked up, if you slow down enough.

Jacob has been struggling since birth.  He has made countless mistakes.  He has lost hope, sought God to regain it, and then lost it again.   This being, angel or God, recognizes Jacob’s plight. He says, “…for you have struggled with God and with man.”

You’ve been struggling since birth.  You’ve made countless mistakes.  You have lost hope, sought God to regain it, and then lost it again. God recognizes your plight.  He know’s you’ve been struggling.

I don’t know if any atheists or skeptics will ever read this, but I know for sure there was a day you decided God was a waste of time — church did something dumb and you got angry, or the evidence for God not existing seemed more convincing.  This struggle is not uncommon.  This wrestling match will exist until the very end.  But know this: God is familiar with the struggle — the key is whether you’ll accept His help or not.

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