Jacob and the Face of God

February 7, 2009

Jacob – Finding what is Important
Genesis 32

Jacob had treated Esau wrongfully, stole his birthright, cheated him out of the traditional blessing, then ran away to avoid the vengeance of Esau.  After several years he obeyed God’s command to return to Canaan.  His mother was dead and the years had only hardened Esau’s heart to ‘get even!’

Jacob saw the serious situation, prayed to God (32:9-12), reminding Him of the promise, and then immediately set about solving the problem of an estranged brother in his own way, who by the way was coming to meet him with 400 men (32:6).  I don’t think he needed that many men to say, “welcome home, brother,” do you?

So then, notice how Jacob’s mind was working to appease his brother: (32:13-19).  I have put the gist of the story in the verses below.  In the blank spaces write down the literal translation from the Hebrew, which in each case is “face.”

Jacob instructed his servants to “take these animals as a gift and say, ‘These gifts before your _____, are from your servant Jacob, and sent to my lord Esau’.”  He did this two more times thinking (see 32:20): “I will cover his _____ with these gifts I am sending before my ____; later, when I see his _____, perhaps he will lift up my ____.”

So Jacob was hopeful that the gifts would satisfy or appease his brother but God was
not satisfied with Jacob’s prayer or his preparation.  And we read in verse 24 that he wrestled with “a man” that night.  Jacob did not know with whom he was wrestling, but knew that he must persevere.  The ‘man’ blessed Jacob by giving him a new name – Israel and then blessed him again (32:26, 29).  Does that tell you Who ‘the man’ was?

Jacob knew and named the place ‘Peniel’ (which means Face of God) saying, I saw God _____ to _____ and yet my life was spared.

Thus we learn the real lesson in this story.  Jacob was in a crisis situation, concerned
about the evil revenge of Esau’s presence (face) and his own possible death – loss of face. 

Here is the point of this story: what he really needed was first and foremost to be affected by the face – the presence – of God.

That is true for us as well.  Things we are so concerned about in our daily lives may not be as important as our finding fresh relationship with our God.  When we do that, we might just find that our critical problems have been dissolved or that they no longer have the critical edge we thought them to have.

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