And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother to the land of Seir, the country of Edom.…
I. We will consider, in the first place, THE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES WHICH JACOB ADOPTED. In the first instance, as soon as he heard of the evil which apparently awaited him, he immediately divided" the people that were with him into two bands," in the hope that if one company was suddenly surprised and smitten, the other might in the interim escape.
II. But in the second place, let us notice WHAT WAS JACOB'S CHIEF RESOURCE IN THIS PRESSING EXIGENCY. It was the throne of grace. Prayer is, in fact, the peculiar privilege and the natural habit of a truly pious mind. Prayer also is a very powerful proof of the state of the heart. If we see men, who profess and call themselves Christians, struggling and contending in their own strength, with second causes, as the source of their sorrows, in the hope of overcoming them, and not affectionately, earnestly, spontaneously spreading their case before the Lord, we have reason to doubt the sincerity of their religious profession.
III. But, with these prefatory remarks, let us now examine THE NATURE OF JACOB'S PRAYER. It is a very beautiful example of real prayer. It is simple, full, and energetic. We will glance briefly at its leading topics.
1. There is, first, a simple and vindicatory statement of the circumstances in which Jacob was placed. He had not brought himself thoughtlessly or wilfully into this difficulty. "Thou saidest unto me, return unto thy country and thy kindred." "I am here, in obedience to Thy command." There is a very wide distinction between those trials and sufferings into which a man is brought by wilfulness and sin, and those which come upon him independently of his own control, and in respect to which, his mind must necessarily be free from guilt.
2. But, secondly, though in this instance Jacob was free to appeal to the knowledge of God for his acquittal from any wilful trangression in those steps which had led him into danger, yet he did not hesitate, in other respects, to take at once the only ground upon which a human creature can consistently stand before God; and, consequently, we find the justification of his conduct in his present circumstances, immediately followed by an humble acknowledgment of his utter unworthiness before God. "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, that Thou hast showed unto Thy servant." How different is this from the proud feeling of independence with which men generally regard their property in this life I The language of a prosperous man among his fellows, as well as in his heart, is too frequently, "My power, and the might of my hand, have gotten me this wealth."
3. But, thirdly, in the midst of humiliating confession, Jacob did not forget His mercies. He thankfully records them. He extols the mercy and the faithfulness of God. "With my staff I passed over this Jordan, and lo, I am become two bands." If we would secure the continuance of our blessings, we should be free to remember them. But once more we notice, that Jacob continues his prayer by an affectionate enunciation of God's promises. "I fear lest Esau come and smite me, and the mother with the children; and Thou saidst I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." We are always safe when we can grasp the promises of God, and convert them into prayers. "Thou hast said, a new heart will I give thee, and a new spirit will I put within thee. O Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me."
4. Lastly, Jacob evidently showed that he placed an unfeigned and implicit confidence in the covenant, the promises, and the mercies of God. All the language of his prayer, tends to call up before him an animating view of the character of Him whom he addressed. This is precisely the spirit in which the Christian is now encouraged to approach the Lord. He has purer light, and greater knowledge.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.