Genesis – First, God
God leads and we follow…until it gets hard. We obey by taking steps toward His will…until we remember our past sins and wonder if others remember to and hold those sins against us. We take our eyes from his gaze and look back at our past. We want to do what God wants us to do then human nature coupled with the evil one’s voice willing us to fail enters into the mix. We waffle between knowing and looking to God for direction and turning our eyes on fear.
Unhealthy fear causes us to do harmful human things. Scheming and manipulation to arrive at the goal God set for us is a couple of those sin nature characteristics. When what God has told us to do seems too great, and fear sets in, we fall back on old, bad habits out of worry and panic. This is exactly what Jacob did when it came time to deal with Esau face to face.
Genesis 33, The Message
1-4 Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his four hundred men. He divided the children between Leah and Rachel and the two maidservants. He put the maidservants out in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. He led the way and, as he approached his brother, bowed seven times, honoring his brother. But Esau ran up and embraced him, held him tight and kissed him. And they both wept.
5 Then Esau looked around and saw the women and children: “And who are these with you?”
Jacob said, “The children that God saw fit to bless me with.”
6-7 Then the maidservants came up with their children and bowed; then Leah and her children, also bowing; and finally, Joseph and Rachel came up and bowed to Esau.
8 Esau then asked, “And what was the meaning of all those herds that I met?”
“I was hoping that they would pave the way for my master to welcome me.”
9 Esau said, “Oh, brother. I have plenty of everything—keep what is yours for yourself.”
10-11 Jacob said, “Please. If you can find it in your heart to welcome me, accept these gifts. When I saw your face, it was as the face of God smiling on me. Accept the gifts I have brought for you. God has been good to me and I have more than enough.” Jacob urged the gifts on him and Esau accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s start out on our way; I’ll take the lead.”
13-14 But Jacob said, “My master can see that the children are frail. And the flocks and herds are nursing, making for slow going. If I push them too hard, even for a day, I’d lose them all. So, master, you go on ahead of your servant, while I take it easy at the pace of my flocks and children. I’ll catch up with you in Seir.”
15 Esau said, “Let me at least lend you some of my men.”
“There’s no need,” said Jacob. “Your generous welcome is all I need or want.”
16 So Esau set out that day and made his way back to Seir.
17 And Jacob left for Succoth. He built a shelter for himself and sheds for his livestock. That’s how the place came to be called Succoth (Sheds).
18-20 And that’s how it happened that Jacob arrived all in one piece in Shechem in the land of Canaan—all the way from Paddan Aram. He camped near the city. He bought the land where he pitched his tent from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. He paid a hundred silver coins for it. Then he built an altar there and named it El-Elohe-Israel (Mighty Is the God of Israel).
WHAT WE LEARN…
When scheming replaces trusting…
Like too many of God’s people today, Jacob failed to live up to his new position in the Lord. By putting Rachel (his favorite wife) and Joseph (his favorite son) behind the other family members, he created a new problem in the home, and it’s no wonder Joseph’s brothers hated him in later years. You certainly knew where you stood in Jacob’s household!
Jacob was now a “prince with God,” but he wasn’t acting like it. After all, the elder (Esau) was supposed to serve the younger (Gen. 27:29), so why should the younger brother bow?
Jacob’s strength was in his limp, for it was a constant reminder that God had conquered him and he could trust the Lord to see him through. Had Jacob limped, his brother would have noticed it and asked the cause, and that would have been Jacob’s golden opportunity to tell him what God had done for him. You don’t see Esau bowing! Instead, he ran to his brother, fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Scheming instead of witnessing to the glory of God…
The fact that Esau ran to his brother, embraced him, kissed him, and wept is evidence that a change had taken place in his heart. Jacob was given an open door to talk with Esau about the past and get family matters straightened out, for, after all, God’s army was hovering near and Jacob didn’t have to be afraid. But instead of confessing his sins and giving witness to God’s grace in his life, Jacob spent the time begging Esau to accept the gifts he had sent.
“God has been gracious to me,” he added (v. 11 niv), but he didn’t tell his brother the facts and give God the glory. He didn’t tell Esau that he had a new name, probably because he wasn’t living up to it at that time. He was made a prince, but he was acting like a pauper.
Like his farewell with Laban, Jacob’s meeting with Esau was a truce, not a true reconciliation. The repetition of the phrase “my lord” in this paragraph may indicate Jacob’s respect and courtesy, but it also suggests that Jacob was groveling again. One thing was sure: Jacob was deceiving again.
There’s no record that Jacob ever visited his brother in Mount Seir. It’s likely that after they met at Isaac’s funeral, they never saw each other again (35:27-29).
It’s obvious that Jacob wasn’t in a hurry to obey God and return to Bethel. We commend him for erecting an altar and giving public witness of his faith in the Lord, but sacrifice is no substitute for obedience (1 Sam. 15:22).
The name he gave the altar (“God, the God of Israel”) indicates that he claimed his new name “Israel,” but he certainly wasn’t living up to all that his name implied. While he tarried in that part of the land, his daughter Dinah was raped and two of his sons became murderers. It was an expensive detour.
When has detours from obedience to God’s will cost you undue pain and regretful circumstances?
What do we learn about God from this passage?
What do we learn about the Deceiver in Jacob?
What do we learn about ourselves?
Dear Heavenly Father,
We fall back to old habits when fear blocks our way to accomplishing your will. We regret these actions and behavior. We repent of what happens as a result of the lack of trust in You. Help us to keenly listen and quickly obey without question. Deliver us from evil that hastens our steps or tries to stop us completely from completing the work you began in us. Continue to transform us into all you intended for us to be and then do…In Your Name, and for Your glory, Amen