"FROM FOLLY TO FORGIVENESS"9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. 11 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 and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 32:9-12)
This first recorded prayer of Jacob (Israel) is unique in that it is primarily an example for those of us who are interested in outreach and evangelism. In fact, it is perfect for this time in that Jacob, while a firm believer and follower of God, had so far led a life of deception and fathering children with four different women. He was on the run again from somebody else besides his brother Esau, who got deceived by Jacob out of his blessing, and for the first time was genuinely scared enough to consider praying!
Jacob came to his first recorded prayer of the Bible after angels from God met him at a place he called Mahanaim (Genesis 32:1-2). He had gone through his own wilderness time with his father-in-law Laban and back in Genesis 28:21 we see him for the first time approaching anything about his own personal faith. He said “…so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God”. Jacob, the great patriarch of Israel, was at the time, typical of most who grow up in Christian homes, talk about their parents’ faith, yet never come to their own personal relationship with God until some encounter, tragedy or trying time…..if ever. In this case, Jacob was called by the Lord Who gave him visions of angels ascending and descending on what we call “Jacob’s Ladder” (Genesis 28:12). After the “ladder” vision, God revealed the same promise to Jacob that He had made to Abraham, confirming His covenant to make a great people from Abraham and Isaac and now through Jacob.
Things are now about to turn serious for Jacob as he is commanded by God to return to Abraham’s territory from Syria, to leave the pagan gods of his in-laws behind. However to reach there, he must go through the lands of Edom controlled by the fearsome Esau – the brother he robbed! He hears Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men, so naturally, Jacob thinks this is not going to end well for him. In his fear, he prays the prayer we read in Genesis 32:9-12. What is immediately striking about this prayer is the stunning application to our own condition. As we examine the phrases of this brief prayer, it should lay out for us not just how much God can love and give grace to us, but how we can share this love and Truth with anyone, who was in the same place as Jacob or anyone of us, before Christ rescued us.
Verse 9, in part: "“O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’.
Jacob remembered the Faith of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham. The entire region knew of the great Abraham. Jacob was now coming into his own as a man of Faith, knew the promise and therefore, was coming to agreement with God, that this promise stands. When we pray before Abba Father, we stand in His Word. Father God gave father Abraham His Word. It first came to fruition when miracle baby Isaac was born to a 100 year old man and his 90 year old wife. When God makes a promise to you and I, He stands by it. What He says in His Word, the Bible, He means. You can count on it, receive it, believe it and then declare it.
Verse 10, in part: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant".
The next step after standing on the Promises of God your King, is to come to a complete realization that we are not deserving of one single mercy or compassion or a single blessing because we are more deserving of condemnation. This is the true meaning of Grace and with this Grace, comes the knowledge of the Truth, as he prayed here....unmerited favor from God which opens our eyes. If there is anything better for any human being, then or now....well, we do not know what it could be. Jacob is already calling himself a servant which means repentance and humility and fully grasps, for the very first time, Grace, Faith and Mercy can only come from God. This is a lesson for those of us who grew up in church that we MUST come to this point in life where the eyes of our hearts are opened to the Truth or we remain lost in our deception. God has no grandchildren. Each true believer has to come to terms with his/her lost estate in order to find the path to eternal life - Jesus Christ.
Verse 11, in part: "Deliver me, I pray...."
First, remember the Promise AND remind God of it, thereby acknowledging Him.
Second, realize our worthlessness even while receiving His Grace and Mercy.
Third, press in and upward with the plea and prayer request. In fear, Jacob knows he has to come face to face with his past. The deception and evil committed against Esau now have come full circle and like all of us, we must face just who we are and what we have done. There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive and while Jacob knows now he has the favor of God with him, he needs to reconcile this deeds with the object of those deeds - Esau. There are some Christians who have done grievous emotional, spiritual and worse to other people - believers and non-believers. There has to be an attempt at making things right, whenever possible. The best road to restoration is face to face reconciliation. If the harmed person is far away, send a letter or an email. If the person is in your congregation - request a meeting. Do this, under the mercy and covering of God, and watch Him take the burden off you.
Verse 12, in part: "For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well".
This says it all. God not only has a plan for our life which we can either follow or blow for good. But for goodness sake, even when we take a severely problematic detour, there is hope and forgiveness if we remember, repent and seek to restore our relationship with both our Heavenly Father, and those we may have harmed in our off-road antics. Look at what God will say to our near-prodigal misconduct...."I will surely treat you well". Is there any comparable promise anywhere? Not in this universe!