When No One is Looking

It was a one-on-one encounter of the divine kind. It happened at night. It happened when he was alone. And it happened when no one was looking.

I imagine there must have been chaos in the camp as Jacob prepared to meet Esau (Genesis 32:13-21). Esau, the brother whose birthright Jacob had extorted. Esau, the brother whose blessing Jacob had stolen. The brother who, last time Jacob saw him, was so mad he was ready to kill Jacob. This Esau, along with 400 of his closest fighting friends, was on his way to welcome Jacob home . . . or not. Jacob didn’t know what lay ahead. All he knew was that God had said, “Go home,” and that now he had a big crowd coming for dinner and that preparation had to be made. And I imagine it was pandemonium as Jacob tried to get everything ready.

Jacob the schemer is packaging up a multi-tiered offering for his brother. He’s culling out herds of livestock as a peace offering. He’s conscripting his most loyal, trustworthy and brave servants to drive the herds directly towards Esau & Co. He’s arranging and planning a multi-phased parade–wave after wave of gifts to appease the unknown disposition of an unknown brother.

Can anyone say, “Stressful!”

That’s what’s happening in the camp. That’s the activity that has everybody’s attention. But then something happens to Jacob when no one is looking.

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

(Genesis 32:24 ESV)

Jacob wrestled with God when no one was looking. And Jacob prevailed (v.28) when no one was looking.

God who knew what was going to happen the next day came down the night before and laid hold of Jacob. A hip was put out joint . . . a blessing was earnestly sought . . . a new name was given. And all this at night. All in the secret. All when no one was looking.

That’s often kind of how my God operates. I was reminded of that in another reading this morning . . .

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  ~ Jesus

(Matthew 6:6 ESV)

The Father “who is in secret” rewards those who give to the needy (6:3-4) . . . when no one is looking. The One “who sees in secret” will acknowledge those who sincerely seek Him in fasting (6:16-17) . . . when no one is looking. And your Father, who “knows what you need before you ask Him” (6:8), hears the cries of His people . . . when no one is looking.

He is the God who is often encountered in hidden places. The God who, most times, determines to work in the background . . . chooses to operate under cover . . . opts to interact with His own inwardly. Not that anything is hidden from Him, but that in the secret, when we’re alone, He might make Himself known to us . . . and sometimes even engage us in a bit of a wrestling match.

It’s in the secret, away from the chaos of dealing with whatever we fear may come our way, that we are reminded that our God is present.

Now to Him who knows all things and see all things, to the Father who is in the secret place, to our God who often visits when no one is looking . . .

. . . to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

(Jude 1:25 ESV)


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