Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When he saw them, Jacob said, “This is God’s army.” He called the name of that place Mahanaim.
Jacob sent messengers in front of him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. He commanded them, saying, “This is what you shall tell my lord, Esau: ‘This is what your servant, Jacob, says. I have lived as a foreigner with Laban, and stayed until now. I have cattle, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’” The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau. Not only that, but he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two companies; and he said, “If Esau comes to the one company, and strikes it, then the company which is left will escape.” Jacob said, “God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Yahweh, who said to me, ‘Return to your country, and to your relatives, and I will do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the loving kindnesses, and of all the truth, which you have shown to your servant; for with just my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and strike me, and the mothers with the children. You said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which can’t be numbered because there are so many.’”
One of the worst things that people think that the Bible says is: “God helps those who help themselves.” The fact is, this is not in the Bible at all. Not only that, it goes against what the Bible actually teaches. We’ve been following the life of Jacob for a long time now and young Jacob hasn’t done a whole lot of asking and quite a bit of helping himself. His family is falling apart, he has been slaving away for his uncle and now he finds himself faced with sending everything he owns into a war with his own brother.
All of Jacob’s efforts to help himself have failed. Why is it that we wait so long to ask God for His help? It’s because we are born with wickedness in our hearts. We want to be our own gods, but life proves that this leads to death and loss.
Notice how God reminded Jacob, before he got word from his brother, that the angel army was in the area. Jacob still tried to figure things out himself by breaking up his goods into parts and sending them with distance from each other. He must have realized that it wasn’t really going to work. Finally, Jacob gave up and turned to God.
He called on the God of Grandpa Abraham and his father Isaac asking him to save him from his brother. He reminded God of his promise to give them many children, but God already remembered. He had never forgotten. Jacob was the one who needed this prayer. Jacob needed to remember God, not the other way around.
Many of us hope our children will remember what we have taught them. It is great to see that God had influenced Jacob through his grandpa and his father. When Jacob’s strength was finally exhausted, he returned to the God of his fathers. What happens next is quite predictable for a person who knows God.