Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:13-18

13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; 

14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,

15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.

16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?

18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob’s; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.

Jacob had sent messengers to let Esau know that he came in humility and peace. Then he divided his camp into two parties, so that if Esau fell upon one the other could escape. He still wasn’t done, though, for now he put together an impressive gift of more than five hundred livestock, divided between goats, sheep, camels, cows, and donkeys. If Esau did not have flocks already, he certainly would now!

And that’s not all. Jacob showed a shrewd tactic by having the gift arrive in parts. First Esau would receive the sheep, and then a little later the goats would arrive, and then the camels, and so on. Depending on whether he divided the male and female of each species, Jacob sent the gift in five to nine different droves. This technique was likely calculated to flatter Esau multiple times over and excite him to see what good thing his brother was sending to him next.

But would it work? As we will see in the next verses, Jacob had done everything that he could think to assuage Esau’s anger, yet he remained terribly unsure what sort of greeting awaited him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:1-2

1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.

2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

We are about to read of Jacob’s reunion with Esau, and it will be abundantly clear how worrying this meeting was for him. He had made it safely away from Laban, but for all he knew he was going out of the frying pan and into the fire!

How comforting it must have been, then, to meet these angelic figures. We do not know what transpired between he and they, clearly the messengers did not remove the issue of meeting with Esau, but at least there would have been the comfort of knowing God was still watching over him in this, his greatest moment of need. Jacob would still have to continue into the lion’s den, but he would not have to go alone.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 24:5-9

5 And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?

6 And Abraham said unto him, Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again.

7 The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

8 And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.

9 And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.

There is a natural hesitation in us when asked to make a pledge that depends on elements not under our control. What if we simply can’t fulfill that promise? Of course it is good to have faith in the face of the unknown, but faith is a muscle that is strengthened over time, and sometimes we lack the faith that the moment requires.

To the servant’s credit, he tries to find a solution to help bolster his commitment. He asks if he should just bring Isaac back to the land of Ur of the Chaldees if he fails in the first attempt to find a wife. He is ready to commit to try and to keep trying, he’s just not so sure on guaranteeing success.

Abraham absolutely does not want his son brought back to that land, so he turns down the servant’s idea, but then he does two things to help inspire and alleviate his servant. The first is that he encourages the man by saying that this is the will of God. God was the one who made a solemn covenant to Abraham that a righteous nation would be raised through Isaac, so God is actively interested in Isaac finding a righteous companion, and He will prepare the way for the servant’s success. The servant has nothing to fear.

However, in the case that the servant does still fear, Abraham then tells him that if he is unable to find a wife for Isaac then he is free of any obligation. That would, of course, leave Abraham without a solution to his problem, but Abraham isn’t concerned about that. Unlike the servant, he has sufficient faith in this plan that he does not require a backup. Thus Abraham is extending his own faith to cover the lack of his servant’s in this instance.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 20:7, 9-12

7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.


9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.

10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?

11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.

12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

God tells Abimelech what he must do to remove the threat of destruction from his house, and when Abimelech awakens the next day he quickly follows through. He doesn’t hold back in expressing his frustration with Abraham, though. “Thou hast done deeds that ought not to be done!”

And now Abraham is frank and forthcoming. “I thought the fear of God is not in this place.” He also admits the exact nature of his relationship to Sarah, yes her husband, but also that he actually is her half-brother.

At last Abimelech and Abraham are having a real and honest communication. Abimelech expresses his genuine offense and Abraham discloses his genuine fears, and now at last the two men are seeing each other honestly. It may not be the happiest of conversations, but their understanding of one another is now in harmony with the truth, which is the only foundation that a real relationship can be built on. Assumptions and unspoken fears lead to relationships that are not congruent with reality, and that disparity always causes harm.

The Epic Life- 1 Samuel 17:22-24, 32

And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren.
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them.
And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

COMMENTARY

And David ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name. And all the men of Israel fled from him, and were sore afraid.
When David visited the army he found Israel in dire straits. A hero was being called for, and not a single one could be found. Thousands of soldiers, to be sure, but not any hero. And among so many fearful, who would have blamed David if he cowered, too? He could have heard that giant’s taunts, shrugged his shoulders and slunk away. No one would have blamed him. If anything he had more excuse than all the rest, for he was still a youth. They were soldiers and he was merely a shepherd!

And David said, Let no man’s heart fail; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine
Yet David did not slink away, tail between legs. Because in spite of all rational reasons to be scared, he wasn’t. Or if he was, that fear was overrun by the call that he must answer. He was not just a lowly sheepherder, he was a son of God, and obligated to defend his country.
The giant was calling for a challenger, old King Saul was calling for a champion, God was calling for a representative. Many heard the cries, but it was David alone who elected to answer. This is the beginning of David’s great life, and he lived it only because he applied to the position.

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.

Influence and Persuasion- Alma 20:20-22, 23; 22:5, 15

And he stretched forth his hand to slay Ammon. But Ammon withstood his blows, and also smote his arm that he could not use it.
Now when the king saw that Ammon could slay him, he began to plead with Ammon that he would spare his life.
Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom.

Now the king said unto them: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me.
And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

COMMENTARY

Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee half of the kingdom
My wife pointed out to me how a story in the Book of Mormon applies very well to this topic of study. In it, a king is hostile towards a missionary and tries to kill him. But when the missionary gains the upper hand and the king sees that his own life is in danger, he immediately tries to bargain. As we see in this verse, he is motivated by that fear to give up an entire half of his kingdom, which would make his assailant as powerful as he is. Fear is a powerful way to pressure people into doing things.

And after Aaron had expounded these things the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life? I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
Of course the missionary does not kill the king, which catches the king by surprise. Later, when the king meets the brother of that missionary, he requests to be taught. For the first time the king hears the gospel message, and at this point he is filled with hope, not fear. Now he makes another offer, this time for his entire kingdom, which would leave himself powerless, if only he can have the goodness that his heart desires.
This story is a wonderful example of how fear is a powerful motivation, but hope is even greater. People that are inspired by hope will always be able to do more than those who are driven by fear.

Influence and Persuasion- Moses 1:12-13, 19-20

And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?
And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.
And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

COMMENTARY

Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me
Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded
Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell
Satan wants Moses to do something for him. His first approach is to “tempt,” trying to coerce Moses into behaving the way he wants him to. Moses is resistant to that, and Satan responds by getting loud and angry, now trying to frighten Moses into doing what he wants!
Coercion and fear. This one scriptural example gives us a very clear picture of Satan and his methods, and it is a picture that we are all too familiar with. For Satan has taught these tactics to all mankind, and we have been quick students of the form. I am sure we can all recall times that another person has tried to manipulate and frighten us into giving them what they wanted. I am sure we can all recall times we have used these tactics to get what we want, too.
Of course, this method requires a great deal of energy from the forcer, as they must submit the other against their will. And obviously the person being forced will not be converted to the cause, they will only remain subjugated so long as they are under the power of the controlling force. It is only their behaviors that are being influenced, not their inner desire. Thus, even from a pragmatic standpoint it is an unsustainable method, and sure to falter sooner or later. But more importantly, it is unquestionably immoral and abusive.

Dealing With Failure- Proverbs 3:5, 1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 2:5

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

COMMENTARY

Lean not unto thine own understanding
The weakness of God is stronger than men
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God
I have previously spoken of how I have sometimes been too hard on myself when I slip, and as I’ve considered that negative self-talk I have realized that it is a misguided attempt to control my behavior through fear. I am trying to force myself to be better via the tools of shame and embarrassment.
And this is me relying on my own strength, trying to control things according to my own power. In this effort I am utilizing the same forms of coercion that mankind has relied on through all of history to get what they want. Fear and shame are techniques that we continue to fall back on even though they are hugely ineffective. They are techniques that we use as a substitute for genuine power and confidence.
But as these verses suggest, there is a better way. There is another source of strength that each of us has access to, one that is greater than any mortal strength. So now the question is, how do we stop relying on our own power to improve ourselves, and utilize God’s instead?

The Captive Heart- John 16:33

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

COMMENTARY

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
We have spoken about how we tend to fear the world, and have a strong desire to conform to it. This eventually leads us to compromise our conscience, which results in us feeling broken and unworthy.
And so we are, for we have traded God for carnality, and have consigned our fate with the rest of this temporary, soon-to-die world. The pain that we feel is nothing more than the accurate and appropriate realization of our own condemnation. Our fates are now sealed with this world forever.
Or so they would be…if one had not come to overcome the world. When Jesus speaks of his conquering the mortal realm, it has two applications in our life. The first is that he is able to ransom our hearts from the fallen world tp which we have sold it. He brings us back to belonging to heaven, and not to earth. The second application is that he can overcome the fear of the world in our hearts, so that we do not feel so compelled to sell ourselves to it again in the future. He both frees us, and enables us to remain free.