3 Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. 4 He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, 5 and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’”
6 After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!”7 Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. 8 He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.” (NLT)
Jacob had been commanded by God to return to his family. That command sure sounds nice except that Jacob had fled from his family to save his life. Back then his twin brother, Esau, wanted to kill Jacob for cheating him out of his inheritance and blessing. Jacob fought using human strategies for something that God had already said would be his, and it cost him his family.
God often commands us to go back and face the mess we have made in order to go forward towards the destiny He has for us. And just as it was for Jacob, we have no guarantee of how we will be received by those whom we left when we return. It’s scary. It’s risky. You could be hurt all over again. You may be treated just as you were in the past. They may reject who you have grown to become.
It says in verse seven that Jacob was terrified at the news of Esau traveling with 400 warriors. This use of the word “terrified” here is more adequately expressed in the original Hebrew language. If we were to catch the full meaning of the Hebrew word in an English phrase it would say something like “he was absolutely afraid and in straits”. Straits are narrow passages of water connecting two seas or two large areas of water. So, we get the picture that Jacob felt overwhelming fear because he was cramped in a narrow situation. Tactically, he was a fish in a barrel. He could not outmaneuver his enemy. He felt vulnerable.
God wants to use the moments where you feel trapped by life and your own sin to lead you to faith.
It’s in these terrifying situations in our lives where we are vulnerable and pressed on every side that God wants to teach us that our human strategies are flawed and inadequate. It’s in these moments that God shows us that we need a new identity. He shows us that we must stop fighting our battles using our human thinking and trust in His ways of going forward.
Embrace the situations that God leads you into, even if you may have been running from them for a long time. Invulnerability and isolation are earthly, demonic, and sensual strategies. The strategy of faith is one of surrender to God’s commands no matter the potential outcome.
What have you been running from that God has now asked you to go back to?