Mahanaim Teaches Us What to Do with Our Fears

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

We are afraid sometimes, because we think we know what will happen. But the real source of our real fears isn’t in what we see—but in what we don’t 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” (see Genesis 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 believer 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?

Question: 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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  • Mary-Beth Goetzke

    The ending question is an excellent question that I hadn’t thought to ask before. I “know” intellectually that what I see isn’t all there is to reality, but had not thought about how I support this when I need to remember this truth. I will be pondering for an answer and am curious to see what others may post. Thanks for asking it.

    • You’re welcome, Mary-Beth. It really takes a constant reminder that what we see isn’t all there is. Thanks.

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  • Michelle thick

    That is it try not to panic. Pray hard and ask God to rest my mind and know he is there and he will take care of me.

  • Stephen White

    Wayne,

    I know I lose control sometimes from seeking God and think I can control things myself. But I am learning from your teachings that I have to go back to God , who gives me my strength.

    I try to help to many others who are hurting and forget about myself. Trying to make myself feel better in that way. Instead of strengthening my spiritual journey with God.

    Again I want to thank you for your time and these devotionals that you do weekly.

    I just pray I am on the right path Wayne.

    • Thanks for sharing Stephen. Just keep seeking the Lord’s will in the Lord’s Word— and He will guide you day by day.