Genesis 32:9-12 [Jacob prayed,] “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
Fearful Jacob here gives us a good example of what it means to ‘trust God and keep your powder dry’ – as Oliver Cromwell is reported to have said to his troops under pressure in 1642!
As the Patriarch faced possible annihilation at the hand of his estranged, and probably furious, brother, he trusted God to rescue him. There are five important features of his cry of desperation in prayer to his God: he addressed him as the faithful God who had made a lasting covenant with his father and grandfather before him; he took hold of the promise that this God had given to him personally; he recognised and confessed his own unworthiness to be the recipient of such a wonderful and comforting promise, and therefore owned his absolute dependence on the proven reliability of God’s Covenant mercy; he reflected on the fact that the predicament in which he found himself was the necessary outcome of obedience to God’s revealed word; and he asked specifically for God to save him from the threat. And as we read on in the chapter, we find that having put his trust wholly in his faithful God, he went on to take several precautionary measures to minimise the risks and maximise success (13-23).
As we face increasing opposition in our efforts to be faithful ‘ambassadors for Christ’ as his agents of reconciliation in a lost and angry world (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), let us follow Jacob’s example.
Let us take hold of Jesus’ many promises, like: “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18); and “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Let us remember the Eternal Covenant to which God has committed himself by sealing it with the precious blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20).
Let us be faithful in reading God’s Word daily so that it is truly “a lamp to [our] feet and a light for [our] path” (Psalm 119:105), keeping us firmly in his will.
Let us be faithful in specific prayer for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
Let us remain aware of our own sinful hearts as we bear witness to those around us, making every effort to come across, not as self-righteous ‘saints’, but only as ‘sinners saved by grace’.
And let us heed Paul’s instruction: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in every circumstance, for this [circumstance] is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).