by Vivian Gordon
A couple of years ago I taught a lesson one Sunday on a place called Mahanaim. I haven’t forgotten the lesson I learned. It’s a physical place in the Bible that’s mentioned in Genesis and again in 2 Samuel 17: 24-29. It’s easy to skip over it and not know what a rich and meaningful place it is for every believer. We still journey through it today. Mahanaim is not only a physical place, but also a spiritual place. Everyone has been there at some point in their lives. But not everyone comes out in one ‘peace’. Unless you have total trust and faith in the Lord you won’t know how to come out of it successfuly. But God’s Word gives us examples of two men, Jacob and David, who were literally in this place and learned that their circumstances were in God’s hands if they only learned to trust in Him for delieverance. This is what God wants us to know today in our own troubled times. This lesson left such an impact on me that I was determined to walk it out in my own life in order to be a victorious Christian.
As I mentioned in some of my latest articles, I am being put through some hard rain in my life. But believing in the message I taught on Mahanaim, I see this time of trial as a time of testing and blessing. I believe that God is putting me and my husband in this situation right now in order to advance our place of standing as far as being used by God. If I am going to teach His Word, and write these articles I must also know His Word is true. My life is a living testimony to what God has promised as long as I do my part. The life of a Christian is not for the faint of heart. That’s why we need to lean on, rely upon and trust in God at all times, especially when it’s raining.
The 32nd chapter of Genesis begins with Jacob running from one bad incident into another. He has to face Esau, his twin who threatened to murder him should he ever see him again. Right off the bat Jacob is met by the angels of God. They must have reminded him of being in God’s will in order to encourage him. In the 28th chapter verses 11-15, Jacob had a dream and this is the first time in his life that he realized that God was omnipresent. God was with him wherever he went. This is where God told him that He would give him the land on which he stood, not only to him but his descendents. The angels obviously brought God’s promise to remembrance. We shouldn’t forget His promises either.
“Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim.” Genesis 32:1,2
The name Mahanaim means “double camp”. It’s a place of two armies, a place of God. One of these places was God’s and the other was his own. In this place we have our part, and God has His part. More than just being a literal camp, it’s also a place of spiritual encounters. It’s in this place where we must learn to trust in God and not rely on the things we see in the natural. In the natural is where our eyes will lead us astray. Fear and doubt set in unless we learn how to look beyond the natural.
“Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’ ” Genesis 32:7,8
Jacob who had sought reconciliation with Esau was greatly afraid because of the report he had gotten. His suspicions that his brother was still going to kill him left him very distressed. He took it upon himself to prepare for the worst. Don’t we do this very same thing today? We undermine all that God has for us by taking charge according to our feelings. We allow our emotions to run away with us. But then Jacob remembers God and His promises.
“Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you.’ ” Genesis 32:9
Jacob prayed for deliverance. He remembered God’s promise and reminded the LORD of it as well. He acknowleged his own fears and confessed his unworthiness. God wants us to test His promises and realize that on our own we can do nothing.
“I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, 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, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’ ” Genesis 32:10-12
Even though Jacob prayed for deliverance from danger, he still thought he must appease Esau by giving him prized animals. He was hoping this would work. He forgot to pray and believe that God could change his brother’s heart. Do we stand on God’s promises or is there still a part of us that takes back control? God can’t work under these conditions of doubt.
“For he said, ‘I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ ” Genesis 32:20
But Jacob was left alone with God (Gen. 32:24-29). It was here that he wrestled with the angel of the LORD. He wouldn’t let go until he got his blessing. As long as we let outside distractions pull us away, we won’t have the opportunity to be alone with the LORD. This is Satan’s scheme. We like Jacob, need to have our own wrestling match with God in order to know Him better. Demand your blessings!
“Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ ” Genesis 26
Often times we need take this same action and tell God we will not let Him go until He blesses us. Like Jacob it may leave us limping but we will be all that much stronger for it. It was because of his determination that he got his new name Israel. Did you know God has names for all His children?
“He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ ” Genesis 32:28
Jacob went from being a deceiver to one meaning, “God fighter” or “he struggles with God”. Because he struggled with God and men, he emerged victorious. He overcame many struggles that dominated his life. Don’t we all have similar struggles? Remember, God alone can change unrepentant hearts. He fought with Esau, with his father Isaac, with his father in law Laban, with his wives, Leah and Rachel and finally with God at Peniel, meaning “face of God”. God was no longer far off, it was here that Jacob knew God. Sometimes it takes our struggles with men and God in order that we can meet with Him face to face. Once Jacob trusted that God would bring him through in victory he saw that God had changed his brother’s heart. Jacob saw God’s hand upon Esau when he looked in his face. Esau no longer had a sullen look of hatred but instead one of brotherly love.
“Jacob said, ‘No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.’ ” Genesis 33:10
This is a valuable lesson for each and every one of us. No matter how bad the situation may look, we must have the faith and trust that God can bring us out of Mahanaim and face to face with Him in Peniel. There is nothing God can’t do if we just lean on Him.
We will experience peace, not panic, when we trust the power of God!