Genesis 32:3-8: What fear does.

Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lordEsau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” NIV

 

It is undoubtedly true that fear distorts perspective. Because of anxiety we can put a wrong construction on things. We can fill in the gaps with our own thoughts about what is going on, and we are not always right. Sir Winston Churchill commented that he knew a man who told him he had known many problems in his life – most of which never happened! We can smile at that and identify with it. Most of us, if not all of us, have been there at some point. But I think Jacob had every reason to fear his brother (6,7).

I sometimes wonder if this story is a case of someone worrying unnecessarily. Yet I think the implication is that things changed in Esau after Jacob met with God in prayer. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer, nor the need, sometimes, to wrestle.