Tuesday 27 September, 2016
"Dear God, I’m terrified"
Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, because I fear him, lest he come strike me, mother and children. (verse 11)
One of the best examples of prayer in the Bible is Hannah’s ‘pouring out her soul’ before God in 1 Samuel 1:11-18. Here we see Jacob pour out his soul in fear. Jacob had already got Esau to sell him his rights as firstborn (Genesis 25:29-34) before he tricked his father into giving him the blessing that should have gone to his elder twin. His mother, Rebecca, then sent him to live with her brother Laban until Esau’s murderous rage had calmed. In chapter 28, Jacob had a vision of God while travelling to his uncle and heard from God the words he quotes back in prayer here in verse 12. Jacob remembered every slight and difficulty. He feared meeting Esau, never imagining that Esau might rant and rage but, unlike Jacob, did not hold grudges. Jacob’s panicky prayer, reminding God of the promise to do him good, is heartfelt, no mere repetition of fixed phrases. However good a start he and his four wives might seem to have made on the creation of multiple descendants, Jacob is unsure whether any of them will survive the next day, misinterpreting Esau’s retinue as a troop who will outnumber him.
His fear is resolved by his night of wrestling and almost overpowering an angel later in chapter 32. Traditional Jewish commentators say he fought Esau’s guardian angel – Jacob names the place they wrestled ‘Peniel’, face of God, and then says Esau’s face is like God’s. Jewish tradition regards Jacob as a prototype for night prayer and for prayer that is a struggle.
† Happy are those who have the God of Jacob as their help, and who hope in the Eternal their God: maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them, who maintains truth forever. Amen.