Jacob left his home under less than best circumstances. He had tricked his blind father, taking the coveted birthright and blessings that rightfully belonged to his brother Esau. Esau was so angry at the time, he wanted to kill Jacob! Jacob escaped with the clothes on his back.
However, our God of compassion blessed Jacob with a relationship with him. God met him on the road of his escape and dealt with him on his way to Rebekah’s family to seek wife. God deals with Jacob again. God promised Jacob what he promised Abraham and Isaac; “I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.” (Genesis 28) Jacob, who is not perfect, may not have deserved God’s gift of protection and blessings…but we don’t deserve what God did and does for us either, amen?
When we remember what we have done in our past, even though forgiven by God for it, we also fear coming back to the “scene of the crime” where we must deal with people we hurt or with those who hurt us. God wants reconciliation, the restoration of loving relationships, and he will guide us to do this hard thing. Why? Because God did this “hard thing” for us!
Paul explains reconciliation as “our ministry”, God’s work in and through us!
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5: 16-21, NIV)
God made a Way, as only He can, to reconcile us to Him through His Son, Jesus the Christ who restored our relationship to our Father God by standing in our place for deserved punishment that should have been ours. Reconciled to God, we enter into a “ministry of reconciliation” with others. Jesus will later go deeper with this focus and teach this principle with practical ways to restore our relationships also with each other while on earth. (See Matthew 5)
God is teaching Jacob the ministry of reconciliation, the restoring of a relationship gone bad with his brother Esau in our next passage. Here is a random thought, would our all-knowing God, who knows what is to come, turn to His Son, Jesus with a wink in this lesson to Jacob? And who is wrestling with Jacob? If it is God, could it be Jesus wrestling with Jacob? Just wondering…
Genesis 32, The Message
1-2 And Jacob went his way. Angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them he said, “Oh! God’s Camp!” And he named the place Mahanaim (Campground).
3-5 Then Jacob sent messengers on ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir in Edom. He instructed them: “Tell my master Esau this, ‘A message from your servant Jacob: I’ve been staying with Laban and couldn’t get away until now. I’ve acquired cattle and donkeys and sheep; also men and women servants. I’m telling you all this, my master, hoping for your approval.’”
6 The messengers came back to Jacob and said, “We talked to your brother Esau and he’s on his way to meet you. But he has four hundred men with him.”
7-8 Jacob was scared. Very scared. Panicked, he divided his people, sheep, cattle, and camels into two camps. He thought, “If Esau comes on the first camp and attacks it, the other camp has a chance to get away.”
9-12 And then Jacob prayed, “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, God who told me, ‘Go back to your parents’ homeland and I’ll treat you well.’ I don’t deserve all the love and loyalty you’ve shown me. When I left here and crossed the Jordan I only had the clothes on my back, and now look at me—two camps! Save me, please, from the violence of my brother, my angry brother! I’m afraid he’ll come and attack us all, me, the mothers and the children. You yourself said, ‘I will treat you well; I’ll make your descendants like the sands of the sea, far too many to count.’”
13-16 He slept the night there. Then he prepared a present for his brother Esau from his possessions: two hundred female goats, twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty camels with their nursing young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put a servant in charge of each herd and said, “Go ahead of me and keep a healthy space between each herd.”
17-18 Then he instructed the first one out: “When my brother Esau comes close and asks, ‘Who is your master? Where are you going? Who owns these?’—answer him like this, ‘Your servant Jacob. They are a gift to my master Esau. He’s on his way.’”
19-20 He gave the same instructions to the second servant and to the third—to each in turn as they set out with their herds: “Say ‘Your servant Jacob is on his way behind us.’” He thought, “I will soften him up with the succession of gifts. Then when he sees me face-to-face, maybe he’ll be glad to welcome me.”
21 So his gifts went before him while he settled down for the night in the camp.
22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.
24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
- Be reconciled to God first.
- Be reconcilers who share the Good News that God wants to be reconciled to all His created humans!
- Pray, asking God for opportunity. God answers this prayer and provides what we need. “May Your Will be done…”
- Be humble, Live humbly knowing we do not deserve the love, mercy and grace God has richly given to us.
As a person reconciled to you, place in me the ability and courage to help others be reconciles to you, too.
In Jesus Name, Amen
One last thought…Faith is living without scheming.
Anticipating a difficult reunion with Esau, Jacob took the wise approach and sent messengers ahead to inform his brother that he was coming. But instead of committing the whole matter to the Lord, who had protected him from Laban, Jacob adopted a condescending attitude that wasn’t befitting to the man God had chosen to carry on the Abrahamic covenant. Sending the messengers was a good idea, but calling Esau “my lord” and himself “your servant,” and trying to impress Esau with his wealth was only evidence that Jacob wasn’t trusting God to care for him.
A believer who is walking by faith need not fear the enemy or whatever bad news may come. “He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Ps. 112:7). But Jacob was “greatly afraid” (Gen. 32:7) and therefore reverted to his old policy of scheming.
“The old has gone the new has come!” Let us pray that we not go back to our old ways of thinking when we are challenged to do what God has asked us to be and do.
It was the dawning of a new day for Israel/Jacob (Gen. 32:31): He had a new name; he had a new walk (he was limping); and he had a new relationship with God that would help him face and solve any problem if only he would exercise faith.
Can I get an amen?