Saturday, September 12, 2020

2020.09.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 32:13–32

Read Genesis 32:13–32

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jacob send to Esau, once he had prayed (Genesis 32:13-15)? In what manner were they to approach (Genesis 32:16)? What did he anticipate Esau asking each group (Genesis 32:17)? What were they to say (Genesis 32:18-20a)? What did Jacob hope that this would accomplish (verse 20b)? Who stayed with Jacob that night (Genesis 32:21-24a)? But what happened with him (verse 24b)? What did the Man do to Jacob (Genesis 32:25)? What did He ask Jacob to do in Genesis 32:26? What did Jacob want Him to do first? What does the Man ask in Genesis 32:27? What does the man change his name to in Genesis 32:28? What did Jacob ask in Genesis 32:29? How does the Man answer? What else does the Man do? What does Jacob conclude from this in Genesis 32:30? What does he call the place? What does he note about his life? Whom does he finally join across the river in Genesis 32:31? In what manner was he walking? By what (odd?) practice did Jacob’s descendants acknowledge this occasion (Genesis 32:32)?

How does God sometimes answer prayers for help? That’s an important question for those who constantly need His help and often ask Him for it. And the answer from this passage is that God sometimes answers prayers for help by reminding us that our greatest danger is God Himself, but our greatest help is to know our helplessness and rely entirely upon Him, even as we do whatever is right.

It’s interesting that the prayer in Genesis 32:9-12 is given in between the summary of Jacob’s plan in Genesis 32:7-8 and the details of that plan in Genesis 32:13-23. The implication is that what Jacob was asking for is that God would make his plan work. However, God’s answer is very different than what Jacob asked.

God answers by wrestling Jacob, taking away his strength (Genesis 32:24a). And by doing so all night, taking away his rest (verse 24b). And by putting his hip out of joint at the end, taking away is health/ability (Genesis 32:25). In fact, not only would Jacob hobble for the rest of his life (Genesis 32:31), but Israel would commemorate that hobbling for the rest of their existence (Genesis 32:32).

In the end, we have two renamings: one that gives Jacob the message and one that shows that he has gotten the message. Jacob’s name (“heel”-y) came from his grasping his brother’s heel, and his whole life long he has grasped what he could, however he could. His new name means “God struggles”—that our safety is not so much in what God enables us to do, but ultimately in God Himself. This is the only explanation for his surviving an altercation with God Himself (Genesis 32:30, cf. Genesis 32:25). 

And Jacob shows that he has gotten the message, when he renames the place “Peniel.” The face of Esau is nowhere near as dangerous as the face of God. So, if by God’s own power he has seen God face to face and lived, then it is by that same God’s same power that this strength-depleted, sleep-robbed, hip-hobbled weakling will survive seeing Esau’s face. 

After all, it is God alone Who blesses. The greater blesses the lesser (cf. Hebrews 7:7). We don’t even have a right to know His Name (Genesis 32:29), but He has told us anyway (cf. Genesis 32:9, Philippians 2:10), revealing and pledging Himself to us as our Savior! 

So, the next time that you need to ask God for help, remember that He sometimes answers such prayers by emptying us of all hope in ourselves for that help!

In what situation do you most need God’s help? In what ways has He reminded you that you have no hope for that help in yourself?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23A “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

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