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God of Our Fathers

The hymn “God of Our Fathers” was written by Daniel C. Roberts for the centennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Roberts was an Episcopalian rector serving in Brandon, Vermont. The hymn begins by celebrating God’s work of creation, and the fourth stanza is especially fitting in view of the events in today’s text: “Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way, / Lead us from night to never-ending day; / Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, / And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.”

After Jacob separated from Laban, he encountered a band of angels. We have no details about the encounter other than the name Jacob gave to the location. He called it Mahanaim, which meant something like “two hosts” or “two armies.” This vision was a reminder of God’s continued protection. But Jacob also took practical measures to protect what was most precious to him. He sent a message to Esau to warn him of his arrival. Then he divided his household into two groups, reasoning that if one were attacked the other might escape.

Jacob asked for God’s protection, praying to the God of his fathers in a way that both reflected his sense of vulnerability and showed evidence of a changed character. In his prayer Jacob acknowledged God’s blessing and admitted that he was unworthy of His protection. Finally, Jacob sent gifts ahead to Esau in the hope that it might appease his anger. Once these measures had been taken, Jacob lay down to sleep. How should we view the gifts that Jacob sent on ahead to Esau? Perhaps they were a tactical maneuver of appeasement. Maybe they were proof that Jacob had changed. Perhaps they revealed Jacob’s inability to fully trust in God. But we might also view them as a form of restitution.

Apply the Word

Are you finding it hard to trust God today? It is reasonable to take responsible measures to secure your future. You might take a few minutes to write down some action steps you need to take. But don’t forget to follow Jacob’s other example: cry out to God and ask for His protection and provision. Put that in writing too!

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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