Jacob’s Prayer of Deliverance from Esau
Prayer • Sermon • Submitted • 1:04:31
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In Genesis 32, we see one of the great deliverance prayers in the Bible.
Genesis 32:9-12 records Jacob praying for protection from his brother, Esau, and claiming the covenant promises of God in prayer in order to meet his fear of Esau.
In this passage, Jacob finally arrived back to the Promise Land after leaving his treacherous Uncle Laban, however, he returned home to meet his old adversary, Esau.
Decades before, at the instigation of their mother, Rebekah, Jacob deceived their blind father, Isaac, into bestowing blessing of the family birthright on him.
As the eldest, Esau was to receive this birthright and because of Jacob’s treachery, Esau now sought to kill him, however, Jacob was temporarily safe because of his mother’s plan to send him away.
Genesis 32 records God commanding Jacob to leave Laban and return home and he obeyed but was terribly frightened of returning to confront Esau.
Genesis 32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; 8 for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.” (NASB95)
Genesis 32:9-12 is Jacob’s first recorded prayer and the only extended prayer in the book of Genesis.
Genesis 32:9 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 relatives, and I will prosper you, 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.’” (NASB95)
Note how Jacob addresses God by saying, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac” which echoes the Lord’s identification of Himself to Jacob at Bethel.
In Genesis 28:13, the Lord identified Himself to Jacob as “the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” in order to reassure Jacob that he would be protected by Him.
In Genesis 32:9, Jacob aimed to hold the Lord to His promise of protection by addressing God, “the God of my father Abraham and the God of my father Isaac.”
Furthermore, by addressing God in this way, Jacob was acknowledging that God had been faithful to him as He was to his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac.
The command, “return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,” references the Lord’s command to Jacob to “return to the land of your fathers and I will be with you,” which Genesis 31:3 records.
Jacob stated in the prayer, “I am unworthy,” which revealed his acknowledgement that he merited nothing with God and that all He had been promised and had received from God was a gift of His sovereign grace.
“Lovingkindness” is the noun chesedh, which means, “loyal or faithful love.” Jacob recognized the loyal and faithful love God showed him by remaining faithful to His covenant promises to Jacob and by protecting and prospering him while he was in exile with Laban.
“Faithfulness” is the noun `emeth, which is used by Jacob to praise the Lord’s faithfulness, reliability, and trustworthiness in keeping His promises to prosper and protect him while with Laban.
When taken together, these two nouns chesedh, “lovingkindness,” and `emeth, “faithfulness,” express the continued stability and reliability of God’s unconditional love towards Jacob.
In Genesis 32:10, Jacob calls himself the Lord’s “servant,” which is the noun `evedh, referring to one who is under authority to another for protection and is a reminder to God that, since Jacob was under His authority, he was under His protection as well.
Jacob’s statement, “for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies,” is an acknowledgement that God had fulfilled His promises to prosper him while in exile.
By making this statement, Jacob implied that, since God had given Jacob so much material prosperity in life to enjoy, the prosperity should not be brought to nothing by the loss of his life and the lives of his family.
Genesis 32:11 “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children.” (NASB95)
Note that, in Genesis 32:11, Jacob acknowledged to God his fear.
The acknowledgement of fear in one’s life is not sin but becomes sin when we do not go to God to meet the fear and trust Him to handle the situation.
Jacob’s fear would have become sin if he attempted to deal with it himself.
The fact that Jacob prayed to God, rather than attempt to solve the problem by his own devices demonstrates that he is confident in God and realizes his need for God.
The twenty years with Laban broke Jacob of relying upon himself to deal with his problems and it taught him to turn to God to solve his problems.
Therefore, it is clear that Jacob was resting in the promises of the Lord and operating in faith, rather than unbelief.
Genesis 32:12 “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’” (NASB95)
The phrase, in Genesis 32:12, “for You [Lord] said” is a reference to the personal, national, and universal promises that the Lord made to Jacob at Bethel, which is recorded in Genesis 28:13-15.
This statement expresses Jacob’s confidence in God and His promises.
The statement, in verse 12, “I will make your descendants as the sand of the sea” is a reference to the promise God made to Jacob to make his descendants like the dust of the earth recorded in Genesis 28:14.
“Your descendants” refers to Isaac’s biological descendants, who would be the nation of Israel, and his spiritual descendants, who would be anyone, Jew or Gentile, that believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
In a “near” sense, “your descendants” refers to the nation of Israel, both saved and unsaved throughout history, and in a “far” sense, it refers to saved Israel during the millennial reign of Christ.
When I say “near” and “far,” I am referring to a phenomenon of Biblical prophecy.
“Near” means that the fulfillment of the prophecy will take place in the near or immediate future, whereas “far” means that it will ultimately be fulfilled at the end of history during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
There are eight essential elements contained in Jacob’s prayer, which will guide and help us in our prayer life when we are in the midst of adversity.
The first element is that Jacob recognized and claimed his covenant relationship with God, as indicated in Genesis 32:9 with the phrase, “God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord.”
When we pray in Jesus name, we are acknowledging that we can only approach the Father boldly in prayer based upon the merits of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross and our eternal union with Him (John 14:13-14; 16:23-24; Eph 5:20; Col 3:17).
The second element in Jacob’s prayer is obedience to God’s Word, which occurred when Jacob reminded God that he had been obedient to His command to leave for Canaan, as indicated in the statement in Genesis 32:9, “O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives.”
The third element in Jacob’s prayer is that he recognized his own unworthiness, in the sense of acknowledging that he could not approach God based upon his own merits, which is indicated by the phrase, “I am unworthy,” in Genesis 32:10.
The fourth element to Jacob’s prayer is that he acknowledged the character and nature of God, in particular, His unconditional, loyal love and faithfulness, which is indicated by the phrase, “all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness,” in Genesis 32:10.
When approaching the Father in prayer, the believer must be aware and recognize the character and nature of God, in that He is a God of unconditional, loyal love and faithfulness.
The fifth element is that Jacob recognized he was under the authority of God, which is indicated by the phrase, “Your servant,” in Genesis 32:10.
The believer must recognize that he is under the authority of his heavenly Father and, therefore, also under His protection.
The sixth element to Jacob’s prayer involves Jacob acknowledging his newfound prosperity.
The principle to note is that the believer must acknowledge that, prior to salvation, he was spiritually bankrupt, but now the Father blesses him with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places because of his eternal union and identification with Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3-14).
The seventh element of Jacob’s prayer is that he dealt with his fear of Esau by first acknowledging his fear to God and then petitioning God to deliver him from Esau.
This is indicated by his statement in Genesis 32:11, “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children.”
Jacob’s statement in Genesis 32:12, “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered,’” contains the eighth and final element of his prayer, which is that he claimed the promise that God would protect and prosper him in order to deal with the fear of Esau.
The believer must claim the promises that God has given to him in His Word, which speak of both spiritual and material prosperity, as well as protection.