Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: One Step Forward and Three Backward
There are a few spiritual realities this passage forces us to face.
First, Jacob was never safer than he was in those times of most evident danger. Think through Jacob’s life for a moment, especially those times of great danger. When fleeing from Esau, Jacob was met by God at Bethel (28:10ff.). When Jacob was hotly pursued by his frustrated and furious uncle, God sternly warned Laban that he should not even speak harshly to Jacob (31:24). This sharply curtailed Laban’s plans (31:29). When Jacob entered into a new and threatening existence in the land of Canaan, he was met by a host of angels assuring him of God’s presence and protection (32:1-2). Finally, as Jacob feared his brother as the sole obstacle to his entry into Canaan and the blessings of God, God Himself met him and wrestled with him, finally “succumbing” to his petition to be blessed. Having prevailed with God, into whose face he looked, he was assured of prevailing over Esau in the meeting that was ahead. Never was Jacob safer than at those times when his life seemed in greatest peril.
Second, Jacob was never in greater danger than at those times when he felt most secure.Jacob seemed to feel safest when his brother was out of sight, and yet it seems that Esau came with his armed men in order to provide an escort for him into Canaan. Jacob felt secure when his cattle could feed on the lush grass of Succoth rather than in the more sparse pastures of Bethel. He felt safer near a city of Canaanites than in the seclusion of some place more remote from civilization. But it was in Shechem that the rape of Dinah occurred, and it was there that Jacob could have been killed by the Canaanites.
The reason for this is really quite simple: we are most inclined to trust in God and obey Him when we sense that we are in grave danger and that our only hope is in God alone to save us. It is sad but true that all of us tend to slack up in our diligence and devotion when things are going along smoothly. We think that we can handle things ourselves when dangers seem distant and troubles are far removed, but when there is a crisis or a sudden overwhelming problem, then we rush to God for help. It is a foxhole kind of Christianity, but that is the way we are.
When Jacob was freed of Esau, whom he perceived to be his principal danger, he felt free to handle matters himself. He sought safety in separation from his brother and from succulent pastures and the security of cities and alliances with pagans. And at this time of spiritual decline, he was remarkably passive in the face of evils which should have been appalling to him. He who was so aggressive in seeking material prosperity had no zeal for moral purity. Self-interest and self-preservation were his only concern.
Safety is not something we can provide for ourselves, it can only come from God. We are safest when we are following God's Word. We are safest when we acknowledge our danger and turn to God for protection from it. We are in danger during times that appear safe because they can lead to complacency.
What it comes down to quite simply, is to trust and obey.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 34