The Prayer of Faith
Jacob had good reason to be encouraged. Laban and Mesopotamia were history. Laban’s parting words – “The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight” (31:49) – was not a benediction but a hostile malediction. And it was music to Jacob’s ears. Never again would Jacob have to deal with his cunning, manipulating father-in-law. Jacob was going home victoriously with eleven sons and immense wealth.
He was also further heartened because we read, “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, ‘This is God’s camp!’ So he called the name of that place Mahanaim [‘two camps”] (32:1, 2). Twenty years earlier when he had left Canaan on the run, “the angels of God” had met him (cf. 28:12), and now as he returned to Canaan, “the angels of God” (the same designation) again met him. His joyful declaration of “Mahanaim”observed that there were two camps – a camp of angels was alongside his camp. Likely it was a vast throng of angels because elsewhere the phrase describes a large camp (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:22). So right there, about twelve to thirteen miles from the Jordan, Jacob was divinely refreshed by angelic realities that the psalmist would later celebrate when he sang:
"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Ps 34:7).
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps 91:11, 12).
All of this provided a marvelous looking back upon Jacob’s twenty-year sojourn in Mesopotamia and now, as he returned, the glorious prospect that angels would clear the way for his entrance back into Canaan. Further, Jacob’s sighting of angels was visual confirmation of a deeper reality – namely, that Jacob had been and would continue to be the object of God’s relentless grace. That contending, tenacious, renovating grace was at work in his life to make him to be the man that God intended him to be. This grace could not be shut out, would not let him go, and fought with him and for him at every turn.
Buoyed by the camp of angels, Jacob elected to first deal with a matter that had lain increasingly heavy upon his heart for those twenty years -his bad dealings with his brother Esau and their broken relationship. Kent Hughes writes,
“We know that this was a heart-necessity because it was not a geographical must. Esau did not block his way, for he had settled far to the south at Mount Seir in Edom. Thus it was the spiritual necessity of making things right with his brother that drove Jacob. In support of this Derek Kidner observes that the sequence of chapters 32 and 33, which culminates in 35:1-15, powerful acts out the principles of spiritual reconciliation outlined in Matthew 5:23-25.”
Jacob began with a peaceful overture, sending messengers before him to Esau. But the bare facts report of the returning messengers left many questions for Jacob. All Jacob learned is the ominous number of four hundred men approaching with Esau in the lead. Four hundred was the standard size of a militia. Jacob’s fear and distress were eminently reasonable. The last he had heard from Esau was that Esau was biding his time to kill Jacob (cf. 27:41). Now Esau was coming with a small army!
Though he had been encouraged by the angelic vision, now he was panicking in fear. He developed a plan; but then he prayed. He prayed in faith. What does that mean? What is the prayer of faith? Can you pray this prayer? Join us this Lord’s Day as we talk about the prayer of faith in Genesis 32. Do you know in what book of the New Testament is ‘the prayer of faith’ mentioned? See you this Lord’s Day.
For His Glory,