I’m not much of a Civil War buff, but something caught my eye recently while researching one of the bloodiest battles of that ugly war, the Battle of Antietam. Major General George McClellan would be the commander with the charge over the Union forces as they battled General Lee and his Confederate army. I learned from more than one source that more errors were committed by the Union commander in that particular conflict than in any other battle of the war. McClellan may have been a brilliant officer, but he was dominated by fear, which led to his most grievous error: constantly over-estimating the Confederate numbers, then panicking over possible counterattacks (that never materialized) by a huge phantom Confederate battalion (which didn’t exist). That bloody battle, which should have been a decisive northern victory, was in effect a tactical draw, due mostly to a general who fell captive to his own delusions and fear.
Fear can cause us to react in desperation, not always contemplating the consequences of our hasty, panic-induced plans. One such unwise plan was hatched by the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob. He had been forced to flee his homeland as a result of the deep-seated hatred and ominous threats from his brother, Esau. Jacob had deceived his brother, stealing Esau’s birthright and his blessing, leaving that older sibling angry and revengeful, intent on killing Jacob. After the passing of two decades, God instructed Jacob to return to the promised land of his forefathers. Armed with four wives, eleven sons, one daughter of record, servants, flocks, cattle, and abundant belongings, Jacob commenced his pilgrimage back his homeland, back to Esau. Upon arriving at the threshold of Canaan, Jacob receives a troubling report. Esau was coming to meet him, “and four hundred men with him.” This is bad, really bad. Coming with a crowd that big can only mean one thing: our lives are in jeopardy! Gone are thoughts of God and His promises of protection and purpose. Jacob panics, was “greatly afraid,” and in the midst of that fear devises a desperate self-help plan.
Jacob divides his beloved family into groups, putting “the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost,” or last. In fear and desperation, he does something that as a parent, I find unfathomable. Jacob chooses those wives and children least favored, least important to him, and places them in the front of the convoy, where they would be more vulnerable to the wrath of Esau. At the same time he is careful to shield his favorites, Rachel and son Joseph, placing them as far back in the lineup as possible, least susceptible to attack. Stop and ponder that action for a moment, put yourself in the sandals of those children who were least cherished, seemingly viewed as expendable in Daddy’s eyes. Feel their anguish and fear as they see Esau’s hoard approaching, knowing that they are basically human shields, put in place to protect Joseph. Is it any wonder that their hatred for Joseph would blossom and fester in later years? Perhaps the roots of their future jealously were birthed during this tragic scenario of being the least loved.
As the story concludes, we find that Esau wasn’t coming to attack, but to welcome his brother home with open arms and a forgiving heart. All that panic and planning for nothing! I sympathize with Jacob, for my stupidest actions are generally concocted while I’m drowning in my deepest fears. God never expects us to react in fear, but in faith, giving Him control over our most desperate situations. “There is no fear in love,” for that perfect love “casteth out fear.” Next time the fear is rising in your innermost being, take a moment and breathe. Then pray, don’t panic!
II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of a sound mind.
Psalm 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Lord, help me not to panic, but to pray. When I am afraid, strengthen my weak faith and deter me from hasty actions.<div class='sharedaddy sd-block sd-like jetpack-likes-widget-wrapper jetpack-likes-widget-unloaded' id='like-post-wrapper-164683012-1295-6393e4c5f1974' data-src='https://widgets.wp.com/likes/#blog_id=164683012&post_id=1295&origin=wp.blog.blog.grandmasgleanings.com&obj_id=164683012-1295-6393e4c5f1974' data-name='like-post-frame-164683012-1295-6393e4c5f1974' data-title='Like or Reblog'><h3 class="sd-title">Like this:</h3><div class='likes-widget-placeholder post-likes-widget-placeholder' style='height: 55px;'><span class='button'><span>Like</span></span> <span class="loading">Loading...</span></div><span class='sd-text-color'></span><a class='sd-link-color'></a></div>