February 20, 2019

Risk! Plan or Pray?

Genesis 32

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Jacob Fears Esau

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God's camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.1

And Jacob sent2 messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’”

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”

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.’”

13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” 17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” 19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him3 with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”4 21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles with God

22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,5 and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,6 for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel,7 saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh.


[1] 32:2 Mahanaim means two camps
[2] 32:3 Or had sent
[3] 32:20 Hebrew appease his face
[4] 32:20 Hebrew he will lift my face
[5] 32:22 Or sons
[6] 32:28 Israel means He strives with God, or God strives
[7] 32:30 Peniel means the face of God

Risk! Plan or Pray?

Key Verse | Genesis 32:7-8, 11

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, "If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape."
. . .
"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." 

Bio | Carla Moss

Happy 82nd birthday to my earthly father who loves like our heavenly one!

I'm an ENTJ and Ennegram 7 for you personality test fans. Married to former atheist turned Great Questions facilitator Matt; mom to LEAD teenagers John and Ethan; and companion to the only other female in our family, Summer, the golden retriever. You will find me serving young adults in many places: Cornerstone Crossroads Academy (#team2ndchance), Women's Ministry (#Group27), and IF Gathering interns (#IFtern).  Love you all, now let's dig in!

Central Truth

Don't rely on previous experience in deciding how to pray and act. Only God will decide the best action for us and can change anyone's heart at any time.

Devotional | Genesis 32

My younger brother and I used to spend hours playing the game Risk on our front porch. We knew each other so well that we could usually predict each other's next move, and at the end of the night we would...

My younger brother and I used to spend hours playing the game Risk on our front porch. We knew each other so well that we could usually predict each other's next move, and at the end of the night we would count every piece on every country to ensure that all was fair in love and war.

Jacob knew his brother Esau like the back of his hand, too. Having stolen Esau's birthright and blessing, Jacob knew that Esau would be bent on revenge at their next meeting. Jacob assumed Esau would attack, and he prepared accordingly. 

But then Jacob prayed. In a striking turn of humility, gratitude, and dependence for a man who had traditionally relied on his own cunning and will, Jacob honestly poured his heart out to God and sought His help. Jacob acknowledged that he feared his brother and earnestly asked God to deliver him.

So often my first instinct when faced with a challenging situation is to move immediately into planning and action mode, presuming that God is indifferent or incapable in how He responds. Like Jacob, I've felt rewarded for my "bias for action" in the workplace and at home. But by skipping the step of praying first, I fail to invite God to work in unexpected ways for my good (Romans 8:28) and His glory (Philippians 4:20). Most importantly, it also prevents me from aligning my heart with His (1 John 5:14-15). 

God changed Esau's heart to the point that he forgave and embraced Jacob, and massive conflict was averted. But God also had begun changing Jacob's heart, as we will see in the chapters ahead. Similarly, God will do a great work in us if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33). 

Your move.

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Discussion Questions

1. What is the one thing you doubt God can change about you or someone you love? Are you willing to pray bigger?

2. What are the things in your life that you tend to act on before praying? Why?

3. What prayers has God answered in creative ways over the last year? Write them down and celebrate His power and goodness.

4. What is your next move today? Reconsider the possible outcomes and pray BIG!

12 Comments available

Skipper Pickle about 1 hour ago

What are the things in your life that you tend to act on before praying?

That’s such an excellent question.


WMR Church Admin about 1 hour ago

What are the things in your life that you tend to act on before praying?

That’s such an excellent question.


Chris O'Neal about 1 hour ago
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To answer Q4 - I love to sing and play guitar and have been looking for opportunities to use that gifting. It may be simple - right in my own community group, or at gatherings I already make weekly. The other goal I want to follow through on is to find at least 2 people a week to talk about Jesus with.

Chris O'Neal about 1 hour ago
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Carla - thank you immensely for an accessible journey entry. I’m big into strategy games so it spoke to me!

Sue - thank you for publicly embracing who you are and who you belong to. Your story struck me w compassion for dwelling in a sin-marred world, and how compassionate God has been to fix your eyes upward!

About Genesis 32 - such a stark contrast in Abraham and Jacob’s mode of ‘doing business’. Both industrious and diligent. I wrote in my journal that Abraham proactively seeks the Lord (regularly sets up an altar), and Jacob re-actively seeks the Lord. You know what’s consistent with both of their covenant bearing stories? God unconditionally sought them! Twice in today’s passage we got a dose of “the angels met him” and “a man met him”, which we can justify as our Lord in bodily form! Wow.

CATRICE HINES about 1 hour ago

I WILL NOT let go unto you bless me!

I am determined in my trial to come through looking more like CHRIST. IF I have to wrestle with God allll night long through prayer, reading of His Word, meditating in His Word, praising Him and Worshipping Him in the midst…I WILL!!!

greg jones about 1 hour ago

When I read Jacob wrestled with God, I read that as if it really happened and look for meaning. My faith in God does not hinge on whether the story is true or not.

I read all three parts of the Houston Chronicle story concerning SBC and the problems of sexual assault and cover ups within its churches. We think what we believe defines us, really it’s not, not to others.

What we’ve done and how we go forward defines us to others. When people see change they see hope. When a people truly change, that’s repentance, that’s the gospel. It’s real life experienced inside and outside a denomination, not a paragraph believed in.

Sue Bohlin about 7 hours ago

Great devo, Carla, thanks!

I love this story for 2 reasons. First, it reminds me of Hope Harris. When the angel of the Lord asked Jacob his name, he may well have been asking, “What is your identity?” Then he gave Jacob a new identity. It has been a thrill for me to have a front row seat as Hope let go of her identity of “Angry Lesbian” and embrace her God-given identity of “Beloved Child of God.”

The other reason is that after a lifetime of shame from walking with a limp from polio (although most Watermarkers have never seen me limp since I need a scooter at church), God spoke to me in this chapter. “Did you notice the souvenir I gave Jacob from wrestling with Me? A holy limp! There’s no shame in your limp either.”


Hope Harris about 7 hours ago

In response to question 3

With gratitude God has in His timing provided a new roommate, home, apartment, car, new job and new community group. He empowered me to complete my book and is helping me wrestle with the next steps in the process if getting it published.

Many things listed came out of the blue and have throughly blessed my life

Hugh Stephenson about 10 hours ago

I have always loved the image of Jacob wrestling with God. Yet, my reflection and study today show me, like so many passages, I did not fully understand it.

Leaning on Boice today - I love the image of being “between Laban and Esau”.

This is a place of crippling fear, (I get it). Even though Jacob has God’s promise and a band of angels it’s not enough, (I get it). Jacob wrestles with God and thinks he has won, (I get it).

One touch on the hip and the match is over. Crippling fear has become “crippling” injury. Jacob now has to depend on God. No more wrestling. The illusion of control is over.

Boice notes the best rendering of the name change is “God prevails”.

A friend reminds me - “You’ll never know God is all you need until God is all you’ve got”

Julie Newmeyer about 11 hours ago
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He was leading him to a settled conviction that God was superior to him, and that he must submit to God’s leadership in his life.With his wrestling with God, Jacob began a new stage in his life (v. 28); he was a new man, because he now began to relate to God in a way that was new for him. As a sign of this, God gave him a new name that indicated his new relationship to God. “Israel” means “God’s Warrior.” Jacob’s new name introduced a new phase of his life. Thereafter he behaved either carnally or spiritually. Note which of his names Moses used, in each event, from here on: When Jacob behaved like the “old Jacob,” Moses referred to him as Jacob, but when he behaved like the new Israel, Moses referred to him as Israel.

Julie Newmeyer about 11 hours ago

I really like what Constable says on this passage of scripture (wrestling with God):

It was when Jacob was “alone,” after having done everything he could to secure his own safety, that God came to him. The “man” was “the Angel of the LORD” . Note that God took the initiative in wrestling with Jacob, not vice versa. God was bringing Jacob to the end of himself.

Michael Scaman 1 day ago

Jacob meets ‘a band of angels coming out to me’ as in the spiritual song in verse 1.

Jacob wrestles God (ends abruptly just before the sun comes up. After all no one can see Him and live?). Jacob even keeps fighting for a blessing even after his hip got knocked out of whack . He STILL hangs on (in pain?) fighting for a blessing.

Jacob limps off to meet the brother he dreads. ( God sometimes sends us limping towards our problems. John Piper says God never calls his people to a fair fight )

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