Please deliver me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid that he may come and attack me, and also the mothers and their children with me.
1. It was the prayer of humility.
2. Of faith - faith in a covenant God, faith in him who had already revealed himself, faith in promises made to the individual as well as to God's people generally, faith founded on experience of the past, faith which has been mingled with obedience, and therefore lays hold of Divine righteousness. He has commanded me to return; I am in the way of his commandments. Faith in the great purpose of God and his kingdom: "I will make thy seed as the sand of the sea," &c. So Luther, in his sense of personal weakness in a troubled world, cried, "The Lord must save his own Church."
3. It was the prayer of gratitude. "I was alone; I am now two bands;" "not worthy of the least of thy mercies," &c., "yet abundantly blessed." - R.
1. The greatest fears do not drive away holy souls from prayer: faith looks to God for help.
Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother.
Homilist.Observe the spirit of Jacob's prayer.
I. IT WAS A REVERENT SPIRIT.
II. A HUMBLE SPIRIT.
III. A THANKFUL SPIRIT.
IV. A SPIRIT DEEPLY SENSIBLE OF ITS DEPENDENCY UPON GOD.
V. A SPIRIT OF GREAT CONFIDENCE IN GOD.
2. Jehovah alone is the rock of salvation to whom believing souls fly for deliverance.
3. Dismal is the danger by the hand of a brother engaged that is cruel and bloody.
4. Fears may possess the hearts of God's ,covenanted ones in respect of such cruel instruments and of danger by them to them and theirs (ver. 11).
5. God's promise of salvation quickens faith and strengthens prayer in His saints against their own unworthiness.
6. It is fit for faith to press God with the certainty and enlargedness of His promise to His servants.
7. General promises of grace are to be drawn to special use in times of temptation.
8. Upon such promises saints dare trust God with themselves and children (ver. 12).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
I fear him. —
I. JACOB'S FEAR AT THIS TIME — "I fear him," said he.
1. My first remark respecting the fear is, that there was a great deal of unworthy unbelief in it.
2. And yet, secondly, there was not wanting in it an element, kindred at least to faith. True, he might have left the Divine promise — ought to have left it tranquilly — in the keeping of the Divine power and faithfulness. Still, this is no mere craven dread of his personal safety, nor of that even of his beloved family, simply as such, but for that family as in relation to the Divine covenant, with which his own hopes for eternity, and the welfare of all the families of the earth, were bound up. There was an element in his fear, I say, kindred at least to faith.
3. And, thirdly, I observe on Jacob's fear, that, amid all its unworthiness, it was a fear told freely out to God — laid bare before the omniscient One — "I fear him," says he, speaking to Jehovah. A great lesson this, beloved, for us in reference to our difficulties, temptations, fears — that we bring them all to the Lord — tell them freely out to Him. It may be that our fears are weak and foolish — such as others might only smile at. Or it may be that they are deeply unworthy, and such as we should be ashamed to tell to others. But they shall be much more than safe with God. Let us tell them to Him, hearing the voice, "Bring them hither to Me."
4. As it was a fear told freely out to the Lord, so it shut up Jacob the more to the Lord, and to His word of promise.
II. JACOB'S FAITH: "Thou saidst" — "I fear him: and Thou saidst."
1. Well, the things that have been already said have prepared us for my first remark on the faith, which is, that it is faith in conflict — faith in a struggle with unbelief and fear.
2. And so, secondly, I observe, on Jacob's faith here, that, if it is faith in conflict — in a struggle with unbelief — it is faith prevailing, victorious, in the conflict, "I fear him: and Thou saidst." I pray you to note that that is Jacob's closing word — he ends here. He plants his foot on this rock of the promise, and here will abide, "Thou saidst."
3. But, thirdly, I observe in Jacob's faith, that it is faith in the midst of difficulties taking simple hold of God in his word of promise.
4. Once more, I observe that this is faith exercised in immediate converse and fellowship with God in prayer. Brethren, prayer and faith are entirely distinct; yet they are most intimately connected together. For, as there is no true prayer without some measure of faith, so faith is never better exercised than in prayer.
(C. J. Brown, D. D.)
Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good. —
1. Because Jacob had a God, therefore he went to Him in the hour of his trouble. As well have no God, as have an unreal God, who cannot be found in the midnight of our need. But what a blessing it is to be able to go to our God at all times, and pour out our hearts before Him; for our God will be our Helper, and that right early! He is our near and dear Friend, in joy and in sorrow.
2. Make thou good use of thy God, and especially gain the fullest advantage from Him by pleading with Him in prayer. In troublous times, our best communion with God will be carried on by supplication. Tell Him thy case; search out His promise, and then plead it with holy boldness. This is the best, the surest, the speediest way of relief.
3. Beloved, we see that Jacob had a God, and that he made use of Him in prayer; but the point I want to call your attention to at this time is, that the stress, the force, the very sinew of Jacob's prayer consisted in his pleading the promise of God with God. When he came to real wrestling with the Lord, then he cried, "Thou saidst." That is the way to lay a hold upon the covenant angel — "Thou saidst." The art of wrestling lies much in a proper use of "Thou saidst." Jacob, with all his mistakes, was a master of the art of prayer: we justly call him "wrestling Jacob." He said, "I will not let Thee go." He gets grip for his hands out of this "Thou saidst." In handling my text, which was Jacob's prayer, I shall notice —
I. First, it ought to be OUR MEMORIAL. I mean that we ought to recollect much more than we do what God has said. We should lay up His word in our hearts as men lay up gold and gems in their caskets: it should be as dear to us as life itself. My heart stands in awe of God's word, and I am sorrowful because so many trifle with it. No good can come of irreverence towards Scripture; we ought to cherish it in our heart of hearts.
1. We ought to do this, first, with regard to what God hath said. You notice that Jacob puts it, "Thou saidst," and then he quotes the words — "Surely I will do thee good." It is an essential part of the education of a Christian to learn the promises.
2. Moreover, Jacob also knew when God had spoken a promise, for he quotes twice the fact that God had spoken to him, and said so-and-so. It is clear that he knew when the promise was spoken. I have often found peculiar comfort, not only in a promise, but in noticing the occasion for its being made.
3. There is another matter which it is important for us to know, namely, to whom God made the promise. Jacob knew to whom it was spoken. He tells us in a previous verse that God had spoken a certain promise to himself. "Which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee." A promise that was made to another man will be of no service to me until I can discover that I, being in the same condition as that other man, and being of like character to that other man, and exercising like faith to that other man, do stand before God in the same position as he did, and therefore the word addressed to him is spoken also to me. Brethren, I entreat you continually to study God's word to see whether the promise is made to your character and condition, and so is made to yourself, as much as if your name were written upon it.
II. Secondly, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good" this is GOD'S BOND. Nothing holds a man like his word, and nothing so fully fixes the course of action of the Lord our God as His own promise. From the necessity of His nature He will be faithful. What a mighty thing, then, is a promise, since it is a bond which holds God Himself! How does it do so?
1. I answer, it holds Him, first, by His truth. If a man says, "I will," it is not in his power, without a breach of truth, to refuse to make good his word. If a promise be made by one man to another, it is considered to be a matter of honour to fulfil it. Unless a man is willing to tarnish his honour, and disgrace his truthfulness, he will certainly do as he has solemnly promised to do. Alas! many persons think lightly of truthfulness: they even dare to swear lightly; but what do we think of such people? To utter solemn promises, and then to disown them, is not the way to be esteemed and honoured. It can never be so with God. None can impeach His veracity. None shall ever be able to do so.
2. But, next, he who enters into an engagement is bound to keep his word, or he is considered to be vacillating and changeable: the Lord is, therefore, held by His immutability. He is God, and changes not.
3. But sometimes men make a promise, and they are unable to fulfil it from want of power. Many a time it has cost honest minds great grief to feel that, though they are willing enough to do what they have engaged to do, yet they have lost their ability to perform their word. This is a grave sorrow to a sincere mind. This can never happen to the Almighty God. He fainteth not, neither is weary. To Him there is no feebleness of decline, or failure of decay. God All-sufficient is still His name.
4. Once more, the Lord's wisdom also holds Him to His promise. Men make engagements thoughtlessly, and before long they realize that it would he ruinous to keep them. It is foolish to keep a foolish promise. Yet because wisdom is not in us we make mistakes, and find ourselves in serious difficulties. It may so happen that a person may feel compelled to say, "I promised to do that which, upon nacre careful consideration, I find it would be wicked and unjust for me to do. My promise was void from the beginning, for no man has a right to promise to do wrong." Whatever justification an erring man can find in his folly to excuse him from fulfilling his rash promise, nothing of the kind can occur with God. He never speaks without knowledge, for He sees the end from the beginning, and He is infallibly good and wise.
5. I should not complete my statement if I did not add that to go to God through Jesus Christ, is to use the best and most powerful of pleas.
III. So then, last of all, this may be, and this ought to be, in prayer OUR PLEA, as it was Jacob's plea — even this "Thou saidst."
1. We may urge the gracious promise of the Lord as pleading against our own unworthiness. This must win the suit. If a man has made me a promise, he cannot refuse to keep it on the ground that I am unworthy; because it is his own character that is at stake, not mine. However unworthy I am, he must not prove himself to be unworthy by failing to keep his word.
2. This is also good pleading as against our present danger. See how Jacob puts it with regard to his own peril. He sets out his very natural fear from his brother's anger: the mother, the children, everybody would be smitten by fierce Esau; and to save himself from this threatened horror Jacob lifts the shield of the promise, and as good as says to the Lord his God, "If this calamity should happen, how can Thy promise be kept? Thou saidst, 'Surely I will do thee good'; but, Lord, it is not good for Esau's sword to shed our blood! If Thou permit his anger to slay us, where is Thine engagement to do good unto Thy servant?" This reminds one of the plea of Moses, when he asked, "What will the Egyptions say?" If Israel were destroyed in the wilderness, what would Jehovah do for His great name? This is a prevalent argument.
3. Once more, as to future blessedness. Jacob used this argument, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good," as to all his future hopes, for he went on to say, "Thou saidst, I will make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." Not as much as he should, but still in a measure Jacob lived in the future. He lived under the influence and expectation of the covenant blessing. Now, brethren, what hope have you and I of getting to heaven? None, except that the Lord has said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish." I shall never perish, for Jesus says I never shall. He has also said, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be." Therefore I shall be in the glory with Him, and that is enough for me.
(C. H. Spurgeon).
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