Leading to Water- Genesis 32:9, 11, 24, 28

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

COMMENTARY

And Jacob said, O God, Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children
Over the past two days I have shared how Jacob entered into a covenant with the Lord in his moment of want and began a partnership with him. From that foundation he gradually accumulated the family, the wealth, and position that would define him. Together with God, Jacob had found himself.
But then, after he had gained so much, he came to a moment where he might lose it all again. Esau, his brother, had previously sworn to kill Jacob, and was now approaching with a battalion of men.
Jacob was in danger of losing everything that he had gained, and not only that, but even of losing the little he had always had, even his own life. In this moment of desperation he once again turned to God and petitioned for help.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God.

On the eve of meeting his brother and receiving his judgment Jacob was left in total solitude. He was alone with his fears, and here he had another miraculous encounter with God. This one was a bit different more active than the vision he received in his sleep, though! This time he physically wrestled with the Lord, just as he had been wrestling with his fears.
And while I do not know the exact state of Jacob’s mind, I can personally see how in the moment of great duress I would benefit from a moment of exertion and struggle, a time to get out my fearful energy before the calming reassurance was given.
Ultimately Jacob prevailed and his request for preservation was granted. Not only this, but he grew even more fully into his true identity. He proved worthy of a new name, one that would define both him and the nation that issued forth from him.

Leading to Water- Genesis 28: 1-2, 10-12, 18

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.

And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

COMMENTARY

And Isaac called Jacob and charged him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, and take thee a wife from the daughters of Laban.
I want to start this series by looking at several points from the story of Jacob. These first verses describe the moment where Jacob is pushed out of his father’s nest. He has been raised in the land of Canaan and Isaac wants him to leave that area to marry someone within the Abrahamic covenant. Jacob is sent out to achieve this, and it appears that he was sent out alone.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
It is also worth noting that this is not Jacob’s natural environment. Where his twin brother Esau loved to roam and hunt it has been previously stated that Jacob “was a plain man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27).
He was the son of a rich man, and the grandson of another rich man. Now he is out in the wild, laying out hard stones for his pillow. As we will see tomorrow, this hardship is not lost on him. His great desire is to “come again to my father’s house in peace” (Genesis 28:21).

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
But it is in this moment, alone and unprotected by his father, that Jacob has a character-defining encounter with God. It is while venturing out under his own power that he starts to meet his maker.

Peace in the Storm- Job 23:1-3, 5, 8-9; 42:1, 5

Then Job answered and said,
Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:

Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

COMMENTARY

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him
We have considered the fact that sometimes God’s support of us is invisible, and we feel that we are facing the storms of life alone. Job had such a moment. All that he loved was taken from him, and he was not given the reason why. In the quoted passage above he expresses his intense desire to find God, just so that he can understand what’s going on. But for a long while God does not answer his pleas. He is nowhere to be found. Thus to all Job’s worldly pain, there is now added the spiritual anguish of perceived abandonment.
Then comes the temptation. Job’s friends not only reject and condemn him, they urge him to curse God and die. Though their words sting him, he holds strong. And this, I know, is the reason why God sometimes appears to be absent in our lives. Sometimes we have to know that we will do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing. What we choose when we don’t feel God peering over our shoulder reveals to us our truest nature.

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee
In the end, Job emerged from his trial with a deeper, more intimate perception of God than ever before. He describes it as the difference between only hearing something, and now actually seeing it. By experiencing God’s withdrawal, he was able to then have a greater closeness to Him.
When God withdraws His presence, it creates a vacuum where we are able to see our own light, and recognize that it is the same as His. Or in other words, sometimes God steps back from around us so that we can discover Him within us.

Peace in the Storm- Mark 4:37-39, Matthew 27:46

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

COMMENTARY

Carest thou not that we perish?
It can be difficult for us to speak about moments of faithlessness. We know that we are supposed to hold out hope no matter what storms arise, but frankly there are times where that seems an impossible thing to do.
Ryan Green, who chronicled the experience of losing his son in the interactive story That Dragon, Cancer, spoke about such a moment of doubt in his own life. He pointed to this same plea of the disciples when they woke Jesus during the storm. Their question was not whether Jesus could save them, it was whether he would. Ryan expressed that he always believed God had the power to save his son, but was not sure that God cared to. He didn’t question that God saw his suffering, only if God was going to do anything about it.
Sometimes it isn’t the actual storm that hurts us as much as the sense of God’s abandonment.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Perhaps the Lord appeared to be “sleeping” on the imminent threat that faced his disciples…but he was still with them. Carest thou not that “we” perish is an inclusive “we,” for if the boat had gone down he would have been going with it, too!
Yes, sometimes we do feel alone, abandoned by God. Jesus experienced this, too, while dying on the cross. Whenever we feel totally alone, Christ sits totally alone with us. We cannot feel his presence, because that would break the necessary illusion, but his presence is still there.
Speaking for myself, that means a lot. Sometimes I wish that my trials could be taken from me, but if they can’t, I just need to know that someone is sitting with me in the hurt. I must remember that at times God asks me to suffer the appearance of His absence, but never the actuality of it. He permits me to feel alone, but never does He ask me to actually be alone.

Knit Our Hearts- Genesis 2:18, Genesis 11:6

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

COMMENTARY

The people is one…and now nothing will be restrained from them
If one seeks evidence that there is great power in united individuals, that person need look no further than God’s own perspective of such unions. From verses like this it is clear that God respects the awesome potential of humans coupled together. In this moment God is speaking of a time when the people had a perfect understanding of each other, and of them He said that they had the power to accomplish whatever they imagined.
Think of how different that message is from the one of the world. Consider heroes like James Bond, Indiana Jones, or Superman. These are individuals who are truly individual, men who need no one but themselves to win the day. They are tantalizing fantasies, but they are fantasies. Yes, relationships are complicated and sometimes it seems that life would simpler if we could just stand by ourselves. But the reality baked into our humanity is that “it is not good for man to be alone.”

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
In my last study I explored the idea of a united community, something that God is clearly in favor of. However a community is not the social unit that He created in the beginning. First He just put two together, and for then that was enough. For this study I will be looking at these more intimate ties: those of companionship, soul mates, bosom friends, and kindred spirits.