Mahanaim Teaches Us What to Do with Our Fears

God’s presence is with us long before our spiritual struggle arrives.

So often, fear floods our hearts, because what we see seems so overwhelming. But the true source of our fears—as well as their solution—comes not from what we see.

Mahanaim and fords of Jabbok

(Photo: Mahanaim and fords of Jabbok. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Our spiritual lives hold the solution to our fears. That’s what happened with Jacob.

Returning to the land of Canaan forced Jacob to face a problem he had run from 20 years earlier—his deception of his brother Esau. As he approached the border of Canaan, angels of God came to meet him.

The presence of the angels gives us a critical reminder during our times of fear.

This is God’s Camp

The phrase “angels of God” appears only twice in the whole Old Testament: earlier at Bethel when Jacob left the land, and here, as he returned.

After seeing the angelic beings, Jacob named the place Mahanaim, saying, “This is God’s camp” (Gen. 32:1-10). The names Jacob gave the two sites reflected the momentous connection between them.

  • Bethel means “House of God.”
  • Mahanaim probably best means “God’s camp.”

When Jacob learned that Esau was approaching with an army of 400 men, Jacob did what every one of us should do in a time of fear—he prayed. And he prayed hard!

Jabbok River east of Mahanaim

(Photo: Jabbok River east of Mahanaim. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

4 Reminders about Fear and Spiritual Struggle

The angels of God who appeared at critical moments in Jacob’s life offer us 4 critical reminders about our fears:

  1. In spite of what we see, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). We face a spiritual struggle today, not merely a physical one.
  2. We must fight our spiritual struggle on the spiritual level—with prayer and dependence on God—and not with our own wits or wealth.
  3. The event at Mahanaim reveals that God’s presence is with us long before our spiritual struggle arrives.
  4. God is willing to give spiritual victory in our physical lives when we bow before Him in weakness.

As we face our fears each day, we can know in faith: “This is God’s camp.” The real struggle in our hearts is a spiritual struggle.

It really all comes down to this: will we trust that God is with us and is Lord of all? Or will we panic and try to seize control ourselves?

Tell me what you think: What helps you remember that what you see is not all there is to reality? To leave a comment, just click here.

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This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible.
• These 90 devotional readings, each based on a specific place in the lands of the Bible, will help you apply the truths of God’s Word to your daily journey of faith.
• You’ll enjoy pertinent Scripture, inspirational quotes, photographs, maps, and a daily prayer.

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