Last week we learned what a terrible mess we can make of things when we try to “HELP” God fulfill His promises to us in Our Way and in Our Time.
We looked at what we would probably call a very dysfunctional family. We learned that Isaac, the miracle child who was born to Sarah when she was 90 and Abraham when he was 100 years old became the first descendant in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants more numerous than the stars of the sky.
Isaac seemed to be a caring and consistent husband, at least until his children were born. He was a man who demonstrated great patience and yet when he was confronted with conflict he tended to avoid confrontation. He played favorites between his two sons, Esau and Jacob. His favorite being Esau. Despite Isaac’s short comings God remained faithful and kept his promises.
Rebekah was Isaac’s wife. She was an initiator. When she saw a need she took action even though her actions were not always right. Rebekah also favored one of her sons. She favored Jacob. Rebekah was impatient. She was not willing to wait for God to fulfill his promise in His way in His time. She was a prime example of how parental favoritism can tear apart a family.
Esau was Rebekah and Isaac’s first born son. The oldest by only a few minutes as Esau and Jacob were twins. Esau grew to become what we might call today, “The Ultimate Outdoorsman.” He was known for his archery skill. But he was a man who was willing to negotiate almost anything in order to fulfill his immediate need without first considering the consequences of his choices. He gave up his birthright as the first born son for a meager bowl of stew, a choice he later bitterly regretted.
Jacob was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. His name literally meant “heal grabber” and figuratively meant, “he deceives.” Just as he had grabbed Esau’s heel at birth, he also grabbed Esau’s birthright by convincing Esau to trade that birthright for a bowl of stew when he had come home from a hunting trip feeling famished. He also demonstrated deceit when he agreed with Rebekah to fool Isaac into thinking he was Esau on the day Isaac planned on giving Esau his blessing. Jacob’s only hesitancy in carrying out that deed was in getting caught. The deception of the deed didn’t seem to bother him.
Fortunately for Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, all human intentions and actions – weather they be for good or for evil – are woven by God into His ongoing plan.
And so we pick up today twenty years later after Isaac was tricked into giving Jacob his blessing and Rebekah sent her beloved favorite son Jacob to live with her brother Laban in Haran. She did this to help Jacob escape Esau’s anger and promise to kill Jacob as soon as their father Isaac passed away.
During those twenty years Jacob experienced life from the other side. By that I mean that last week we learned that Jacob was the deceiver. He and his mother Rebekah had devised a plan and succeeded in tricking Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing that should have been his brother Esau’s blessing.
But when Jacob fled to live with Rebekah’s brother Laban, Jacob became the one who was deceived.
Jacob fell in love with Laban’s youngest daughter Rachel. He went to Laban and said he would be willing to work for seven years in return for Rachel in marriage. Laban agreed but at the end of the seven years instead of giving Jacob Rachel for his wife he gave him Leah (Rachel’s older sister) as his wife. Laban then said that if Jacob really wanted Rachel as his wife he would have to work an additional seven years.
Now of course Jacob was enraged by this deception. The deceiver of Esau now became the deceived. But isn’t that just like us? It seems so natural to be upset about an injustice done to us while we close our eyes to the injustices we do to others.
The old Jacob we knew would have just simply left Laban and said, “Forget this”. But Jacob had a change of heart and he kept his part of the bargain and worked the additional years.
My NIV Life Application Study Bible has this footnote. “Although Laban treated Jacob unfairly, God still increased Jacob’s prosperity. God’s power is not limited by lack of fair play. He has the ability to meet our needs and make us thrive even though others mistreat us.”
I hope you will set aside time to read Genesis Chapters 28 – 30 to learn even more about Jacob’s amazing story.
Jacob had a dream. The angel of God said to Jacob, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. (Gen 31;13).
17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
Returning to his homeland presents Jacob with a big problem. He has an unsettled dispute with his brother Esau who still lives there. Jacob may want to restore a relationship with Esau, but as far as Jacob knows Esau probably has no desire to be reconciled with him. Besides the uncertainty of how Esau feels, Jacob knows Esau is both a fighter and a killer. Hoping to buy Esau’s favor, Jacob sent messengers ahead of him with gifts.
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”
6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the groupthat is left may escape.”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”
17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’”
19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.
Now let’s just say that you have cheated someone out of their most prized possession and you are on your way to meet that person. Jacob had taken both Esau’s birthright and his blessings. This will be the first time Jacob has seen Esau in 20 years and he is absolutely frantic with fear!
Jacob thought about all he had done and the situation he was now facing and he decided to pray.
When we face difficult situations in our lives we can either run around in a frantic panic or we can stop and pray. Which approach do you think will be more effective?
The correct answer is Prayer. Prayer is more effective than panic. Panic confirms our hopelessness; Prayer confirms our hope in God.
I would like to share with you a story shared by Gordon Curley:
There is a story told about a construction worker. This construction worker was employed on a high-rise building project which required him and others to work after dark.
He was busy on the edge of one of the walls which was many stories high when suddenly he lost his balance and fell. As he fell over the edge, he managed to grab the edge of the wall with his fingertips. Desperately he hung on hoping that somebody would discover his perilous situation.
He was in total darkness, hanging on to the wall and crying out for help. Due to the noise and machinery at the construction site, no one could hear him. All his screams were in vain. Very soon his arms began to grow weak and his grip began to slip. He tried praying, but no miracle occurred. At last his fingers slipped from the wall and with a cry of horror he fell!
He fell exactly 3 feet and landed on a scaffold that had been there the entire time but because of the darkness he had not seen.
This story illustrates some of the situations we sometimes find ourselves in when we face various crises in life. Sometimes we feel that we are all alone, desperately doing all we can to save ourselves, crying out for help but feeling unheard. And then finally we lose all our own strength and let go.
It is then that we make the discovery. We were never in any real danger to begin with. Often times we give in to fear and discouragement in times of crises. We do not know that we are safe in God’s hands. We do not see because of the darkness that surrounds us. Not literal darkness but the darkness of unbelief.
Jacob must have felt like that construction worker. He was worried and blinded by unbelief. He thought he was in great danger. He couldn’t appreciate that with God on his side he was not actually in any danger at all. After all in his dream God had told him to return to his native land.
He needed to do what we all need to do when we find ourselves in seemingly similar situations. We need to Let Go and Let God! Let go of our fear, our insecurities, our depression and Let God have control of those situations.
Now let’s look at Gen 33:1-4
1Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
Can you even imagine the fear that must have gripped Jacob’s heart as he saw Esau walking toward him with 400 men. And yet Jacob knew that God was with him.
And to Jacob’s surprise and relief, Esau received his brother Jacob in grace; He offered Jacob a relationship that was far better than they ever had before.
Jacob must have been amazed to see Esau’s change of heart. Esau was not bitter over the loss of his birthright and blessing. Instead Esau was content with what he had.
Esau and Jacob’s relationship was restored and renewed. That is reconciliation, the process of two previously alienated parties coming to peace with each other.
We are all going to face bad situations at some point in our lives. We will perhaps even feel cheated as Esau did. But we do not need to remain bitter.
That bitterness can be removed by going to God and honestly expressing our feelings, by forgiving those who have wronged us, and by being willing to restore a renewed relationship with that person. Being willing to be reunited and live in peace with one another because God has committed us to the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
In this story of Esau and Jacob we catch a glimpse of God. Think about it. Time and time again we break our relationship with God. We sin. We have been disobedient and rebellious. God does not HAVE to forgive us. In fact God could just as easily punish us to hell for eternity. But instead, God comes to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. He embraces us. He calls us brother and sister, and He says “I forgive you. I don’t hold your sins against you. I want to walk with you and be your friend.
As God has forgiven you, you are to forgive those who have hurt you. As God has reconciled with you, you are to be reconciled with others.
I want you to ask yourself this one question today. Who do I need to be reconciled with today?
Let Us Pray:
Father, we come to you this morning and thank you for your amazing grace and forgiveness. Please help each one of us to give that same grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Please give us the grace to reconcile our broken relationships. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Panic confirms hopelessness. Prayer confirms our hope in God.