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And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: (Genesis 32:9)
Your Older Brother Is Bringing 400 Soldiers with Him
Genesis chapter 32 chronicles the process of Jacob going from Mahanaim to Peniel. Mahanaim means, “the hosts of God,” and Peniel means, “the face of God.” Mahanaim represents how God starts to be with us once we receive salvation, and Peniel represents us standing before God upon finishing our lives. In other words, it can be said that Genesis chapter 32 has summarized our lives after receiving salvation. As you know, Jacob stole the birthright from his older brother, Esau, in Canaan and then also stole Esau’s blessing. Esau then tried to kill him for doing so and Jacob fled to Padan-aram, to his uncle’s house, to elude Esau. Jacob gained wives and many children as well as much cattle and wealth during his 20 years in Padan-aram. Genesis chapter 32 is about the process of Jacob taking all of these things and returning to Canaan, his homeland. On his way to his homeland, Jacob wondered, “Esau tried to kill me when I was leaving home. It’s been 20 years, and I wonder how he feels now. Has his bitterness toward me been resolved? When I return, will he welcome me joyfully? Or, will he go against me and try to kill me?” Jacob wanted to know Esau’s heart, and therefore sent people ahead to salute him and let Esau know that he was coming. But these people returned to Jacob and said, “Lord, your older brother is coming this way with 400 soldiers.” It was not much of a problem that the older brother was coming to see him, but when he heard that he was bringing 400 men with him, Jacob was terrified. “There is vengeance still in my brother’s heart! It’s been 20 years, but he is coming to destroy me!” Since he thought that his brother would destroy his people and all his cattle, Jacob was extremely anguished and afraid.
The Two Methods of Jacob
What do you do in your spiritual life when something terrifying happens? What methods do you seek? Herein shows the difference between those with faith and those without faith. Anyone can attend church service, pray, and read the Bible when things are normal. But when we face difficulties or pain we cannot solve on our own, how we go about taking care of them is important. We can see Jacob going toward these problems with two methods. The first method is him looking to the promise of God. Jacob met God at Bethel before he went to Padan-aram. Right then, God promised, “Jacob, I am the God of your father, Abraham, the God of your father, Isaac, and I am your God. I will be with you and your children. Your children shall be many like the dust of the earth. I will be with you and protect you wherever you go, and I will not leave you until I bring you again to this land.” Now if Jacob has the faith to believe in the promise of God, he would feel, “God said He will protect me, and He said that all the tribes of the earth will be blessed through my seed. So God will protect me. He will help me.” Then Jacob would have said, “So what is the problem if my older brother, Esau, is bringing 400 men with him? Even if it were 4,000 or 40,000 men, what problem is that? It is not a problem at all since God is protecting me.” He would not have any fear if he had the clear faith to believe in God. God helped Jacob till now, and clearly told him in Padan-aram, “Go to your homeland to your kindred. I will bestow grace onto thee.” It was clear that God would not leave Jacob to be killed. If Jacob has the faith to believe in that promise, there is nothing for Jacob to be afraid of. However, Jacob was not close with God as he lived in Padan-aram and in his heart he thought, “Will the promise that God made be kept? Will God help me?” Then Jacob was greatly afraid, and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two bands; And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape. And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee. (Genesis 32:7-9) Although Jacob says that God promised to protect him, he was trembling in fear. Thus, Jacob arranged for one company to be able to escape if his brother, Esau, were to strike. He also hid the sons of his wives in the back and put forth the sons of the concubines, such as Dan and Naphtali, in the front. He still had no peace even though he was praying to God, so he thought, “Ah, let us first give presents to my brother.” He then prepared 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 milch camels, 40 kine, 10 bulls, 20 female asses, and 10 foals. He wanted to melt his brother’s heart through giving him all this cattle. Jacob was using this second method, which was a humanly one.
How Will You Stand Before the Face of God?
Let’s think about the two methods Jacob prepared. Even if one company runs away while the other is struck, that company will also be killed. In addition, Esau is bringing 400 soldiers. If one company does run away, with all the children, women, and cattle, how far could they actually go? This plan looks useless to us, but Jacob used this method. He also prepared presents to melt the heart of his brother, Esau, but what good would presents be when his brother was coming to kill him?
When we look at these facts, the faith to believe in God’s promise is what’s actually important. When he looks to God, since God promised that He would protect and care for him, it could only be that way. However, since he could not believe and rely on the promise, we see that Jacob was in fear and distress. This is very heartbreaking. Such things happen often in our spiritual life as well. When you arrive at Peniel; when you come to see the face of God, you also will try to come before God in two ways. There will be some people who come forth before God through holding on to the promise God made them. There will also be another type of people who bring forth what man has done. “I tithed. I built a chapel. I prayed all night long. I fasted and prayed. I gave much offering. I helped orphans….” You cannot bring forth both the promise God made you and what you have done for God. You can only bring one, but which one of the two brings peace to your heart? It is only the promise of God. God said that He clearly keeps His promise to us. That God promised Jacob, “I will protect you no matter where you go, and I will not leave you until you return to this land.” If Jacob believes the promise, he will think in his heart, “Esau is bringing 400 men, but God said He will protect me. God will protect me from my brother. This is absolutely clear. God does not lie. Therefore, even if my brother was bringing not only 400, but 4,000 or 40,000 men, I am safe. There is nothing for me to worry about.” Nevertheless, if he does not have that faith, he says, “If Esau strikes down one company, then the other will run away,” and uses the human method of giving presents to his older brother. For the moment, this appears to be good, but it is absolutely useless in front of God. Just as Jacob was this way, our spiritual lives are also like this. We will one day stand before God. Suppose you stand before God tonight. Suppose you had cancer and the doctor said, “You now only have one day to live.” Then you will begin to think, “I will stand before God tonight! Then how will I stand before Him? I had sinned much till now and I have been faithful in many other things…. God will accept me since I gave much offering and prayed much.” There are many who think this way. I Was in Prison for 14 Years for Jesus, and I Can’t Go to Heaven?
I once met a pastor of an underground church when I visited Vietnam. I spoke to him about spiritual life and I asked him a question. “Pastor, can you go to heaven?” “Yes, I can go to heaven,” he replied. “How can you go?” “I was locked in prison for 14 years for the Lord. Since I was in prison for 14 years for the Lord, don’t you think God would let me into heaven?” I laughed. “Pastor, you cannot go to heaven through your works. Works will not do.” Then this pastor’s face turned red and he began to angrily ask me questions. “What? Pastor! Have you seen anyone who suffered as much as I have to believe in God? Pastor, do you know me so well that you are saying such things? Do you think I was the only one who suffered in prison? My wife was tormented and called in for questioning every day. My son lived like a beggar out on the streets. That’s how we lived for 14 years. This was how I lived, and I can’t go to heaven? I can’t go to heaven? Then who can go to heaven?” I opened the Bible. “Ephesians chapter 2 says, ‘For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.’ The Bible says that salvation is not through what we have done. It does not say that salvation is through our works. Salvation has nothing to do with how well or poorly we do.” This pastor did not know what to say. He became upset and said, “I will no longer speak to you,” and ran outside. It really broke my heart to see this.
We Must Look to the Promise of God
Everyone, if we could do this and that for Jesus and enter into heaven with our good deeds, then why would God send Jesus to die for us? Why would God have Jesus crucified? Because it could not be done through us; because it could not be done through our efforts and labor, no matter what good, righteous, or honest things we may do, God sent Jesus. We are able to stand before God not because of our deeds, but through Jesus. “I gave all my wealth to Jesus. I went to prison for Jesus. I allowed my body to be burnt for Jesus . . . .” You cannot go to heaven with what you have done, no matter what it may be. We must look to the promise of God. Because our works or efforts cannot do, God sent Jesus to have Him be crucified to forgive all of our sins. Then God made a promise. God said to the Israelites in Exodus chapter 12, “I will pass over you when I see the blood of the lamb.” He did not say that He will pass over upon seeing the good they have done. The night the angel, going from house to house, killed all the first-born with a sword, in which houses did he enter to bring the judgment of death upon the first-borns? The day the fearful judgment of the death of the first-born came upon all of Egypt, what did the angel have to see to not pass judgment but pass over? It says that when he sees the blood, he will pass over. We have to believe this promise God made. “God, I have many sins. I was not good, and lived an evil, filthy, and dirty life. God, you promised that when you see the blood of Jesus Christ who was crucified for my sins, the blood of the lamb, you will pass over me. Jesus was crucified and shed His blood for my sins.” God then sees the blood of Jesus and accepts us. Unfortunately, people take the Word of God and the promise of God lightly, and they value what they have done. Therefore, their hearts are always insecure. At first it seems they are able to do good but not long after it falls apart, and falls apart again. It seems that they are able to keep the law a little, but they break the law again and again. They live sinning every day and cannot help but feel insecure in coming before God. You Wrestled with God and Prevailed
Jacob tried to go to Esau with his own method. Jacob had two ways: the promise of God and his own way. But Jacob was afraid because he had no faith to believe in the promise although he spoke of it. Therefore, he brought forth his method. One company would run away if the other was struck. He lined up the sons of the concubines first, then the sons of Leah, then the sons of Rachel, and prepared presents for his older brother. But these could not bring true peace to Jacob’s heart. Now his men and cattle were all crossing the Jabbok ford, but Jacob was so afraid he couldn’t cross it. That night, Jacob wrestled with an angel. Jacob collided with God and sought Him. “God, bless me! Give me your blessing!” “What is your name?” “My name is Jacob.” “You will no longer be called Jacob. You will be called Israel. You wrestled with God and prevailed.” How did Jacob prevail against God? He now believed in the promise of God. Afterwards, when Jacob was passing Peniel, the sun rose.
God, Didn’t You Make the Promise?
Loving folks, we prevail against God when we go forward, believing in His promise because God can never break His promise. But when we go forth with our goodness and our good deeds we always fall into fear. What kind of a spiritual life do you have? Oftentimes people try to bring forth to God the good they have done and try to stand with that. Do not bring those forth, but go forth looking to Jesus Christ. I hope you will go forth believing in the promise of God. What did God promise us in Hebrews? And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:17-18) Rather than bringing forth the thousands, or tens of thousands of the good you have done when you stand before God, it is most perfect to go forth with just one thing: the promise. “God, didn’t you say that you will not remember my sins?” If God says that He does not remember them, He does not remember them. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. (Isaiah 44:22) Didn’t God promise that He has blotted out our sins like a thick cloud, like the fog that disappears? For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:23-24)
Didn’t God call us justified?
We have all sinned. We have all done wickedly before God. This is true of every single person. Therefore, we cannot go to God with the good we have done. Going this way could only be fearful and shameful. We, like Jacob, can go before God with the promise. Jacob told God, “God, didn’t you say that you will give me grace? Protect me and give me grace as you have said!” It is looking to the promise. It is holding onto the promise God made and coming before Him. Loving folks, it is always insecure and fearful to go before God with our works. Sometimes you may feel you have done well, but afterwards, you see it is nothing but shamefulness. When you throw all of your works away and say, “God, I have many sins. But didn’t you promise me that all my sins are washed away? Didn’t you say that you will see the blood and pass over? I have come here believing in that promise,” you can most boldly stand before God and be blessed.