9.29.2010

Jacob's prayer


[9] And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ [10] I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. [11] Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. [12] But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”
(Genesis 32:9-12 ESV)
I find it compelling how clearly Jacob prays in a unique order. Have a look:
  1. He addresses God directly and proclaiming who God is and then recounts God’s personal call and promise (v.9).
  2. He expresses his unworthiness and gratitude towards God’s loving-kindness (v.10).
    • He notes how incredible his blessing is.
  3. He presents his request to God (v.11).
    • He asks for deliverance from his brother, who is presumably coming to attack him.
    • His request is based in fear. In one way, this displays Jacob’s failure to trust God for protection. Nevertheless, he asks God for help.
  4. He recounts God’s amazing promise of blessing (v.12).
Jacob's LORD
Jacob prays to God as the god of his grandfather and father. He is speaking to God and recognizing that God is immutable; unchanging throughout the generations of men. God was real in the lives of Jacob’s direct descendants. He is now seeing who the LORD really is; the personal, guiding, loving, gracious, powerful God who has directed and worked in the lives of Jacob’s family. Jacob is now beginning to understand who God really is and is beginning to embrace God, though Jacob himself is weak. Jacob acknowledges God as Yahweh (LORD) for the first time.

Jacob is correct in confessing his unworthiness to receive God’s blessing and yet God has given him great wealth in “deeds of steadfast love and all faithfulness” (v.10).

Promised blessings
We are not worthy of the only Son of God offering himself as a substitute in our place. The only worth we have is that we are worthy of eternal damnation and wrath. Yet, God lavishes his grace upon us. Jesus becomes the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God has worked an even greater deed for us than he has for Jacob. He has given the forgiveness of sins and the deposited Holy Spirit. (We are also likely richer than Jacob was in an absolute manner; we enjoy all the benefits of a technologically advanced age.)

God always does the good he promises. He acts out his goodness in steadfast love and dependable faithfulness. God never fails to do well, ever. God honored the prayer of Jacob for deliverance though it expressed a lack of trust in God’s care.

Bookend promises
The prayer of Jacob is wrapped up in the promises of God; so should our prayers be. God has promised our “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23) and has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Furthermore, God is “able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Let our prayers be so.

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