No teacher in the UK ever forgets the Ofsted inspections they’ve endured. They are considerably shorter these days, but my first was four days long, and we got the famous ‘brown envelope’ announcing its arrival the day before we broke up for Easter. The weather that year was glorious, and I was so cross that my delicious Easter break was shattered by the thoughts of what was to follow. Then I decided that I was going to thoroughly enjoy the Easter weekend, forget totally about the inspection, and only begin the planning and preparation for it from the Tuesday. We had a wonderful four days (Good Friday and Easter Monday are both bank holidays here), before the onslaught, and however bad it was, at least I’d had a break, and was refreshed. A little bubble of peace between the exhaustion of the previous term and the anxieties of the next. But peace it was.
I wonder if it was a bit like that for Jacob. No doubt his adrenalin had been running high ever since they’d left Laban’s land (Genesis 31). Fearful of being caught, and worried sick when they were, Jacob had had to stand up to Laban’s intimidations, and then endure a feast and an overnight stop with Laban and his relatives, still wondering if he was going to try any last tricks. I can imagine the weariness taking over as the dust settled after Laban’s final departure. Only to be replaced a moment later by a thrill of anxiety as Jacob was suddenly struck with the reality of having to face his brother after all these years. Not a happy moment after all!
Then came the moment of peace. As he went on his way, the angels of God met him (Genesis 32:1-2). Oh and how he needed that respite moment. How he needed to be reminded that God was with him, just as he had promised back in Bethel (ch 28:15). And then the truth dawned. God had never left him. He had never let him down. And he wasn’t going to leave him now. So he named the place ‘Mahanaim’ meaning ‘two camps’. There had been plenty of angelic protection with him all the way, this new lot were just reinforcements. Two lots of angels camped around him! Yes, the challenge was great. But no greater than the power and protection that God provided.
There are moments in life when we feel more than the average challenge; when the task ahead seems more than a little daunting. Isn’t it good to know that the amount of help we get rises in direct proportion to the size of the challenge we’re facing!