HUMILITY & CONTRITION are the ‘KEYS’ to open GOD’s HEART: Then Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you': I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children." (Gen. 32:9-11)
The above passage describes a prayer that Jacob makes to God in desperation when he learns that his elder brother Esau, whom he had cheated of his birthright and deceived of his blessings, was now headed out to his direction with 400 men (v. 6). When Jacob heard this terrifying news, he was "was greatly afraid and distressed" (v.7) for his own safety and for the safety of his large family. This happened when Jacob had crossed into the Jordan Valley, and there he sensed the danger of a confrontation with his estranged brother, Esau. Therefore, Jacob resorted to prayer and formed a strategy to assure Esau of his good intentions and his earnest desire for reconciliation.
Why was Jacob terrified to meet his brother when he had begun his homeward journey in obedience to God’s command? We know that he was also met by angels of God who had encouraged him (v. 1). The fact of the matter is that twenty years ago, he and his mother had cheated Esau out of his rightful portion of his father’s inheritance (27:1–29). Now Esau was coming toward him with 400 men, and Jacob had naturally assumed the worst. He had remembered Esau’s earlier threat (see 27:41–42); and thus, he had every reason to be greatly afraid and distressed. Thus, he cried out to God for mercy and deliverance (vv. 9–12) and then prayed earnestly as he demonstrated true humility as well.
Had Jacob recalled his experience with God at Bethel, he would not have been afraid of Esau (28:13–15). However, we now know that Jacob’s prayer was born out of a desperate sense of need for divine protection. It was based on the ground of a covenant relationship which the Lord had established with him and his forefathers. He based his plea on the word of the Lord and claimed the promises of God. Let us understand that the best prayer comes from a strong inward necessity, genuine humility of spirit and a tearful contrition!
Evidently, a spiritual transformation had taken place in Jacob as he submitted to his elder brother Esau, and recognized his own unworthiness before God. God thus protected Jacob and his family, and favored upon him to receive far more good than he deserved. To Jacob’s surprise, Esau ran to him, embraced him, kissed him, and wept (33:4). What a wonderful reunion among the two brothers!
Let us understand God hears and answers us as well when we humbly cry out to Him for mercy and grace. Like Jacob, we, too, were extended grace and forgiveness from God when we least deserved it through salvation in Christ. This is God’s unmerited favor and His enduring love to us when we actually deserved judgment from Him for our sins (Rom. 3:23–25; 5:15–17; James 4:1–6). Let us respond to His gift of love by showing that same kind of love to others (1 John 3:11–17). Remember, humility and contrition are the ‘keys’ to open God’s heart anytime!