When we left off with Jacob last week, he and Esau were on bad terms. Jacob was also heading back to Canaan (where he was from) to separate from Laban. This week, we’ll look at more of his story and see more lessons we can learn.
You Can Go Home Again
As Jacob was on his way to Canaan, he sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau (Gen. 32:3). He was hoping to find favor with Esau, but when his messengers returned, they reported that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men (Gen. 32:6). Genesis 32:7 says Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He knew Esau was going to kill him! But, in verses 9-12, we see that he prayed to the Lord. He remembered God’s faithfulness and he clung to the Lord’s promises (“For you said…” v. 12). What do you do when you are afraid? Pray and stand on the promises of God. God can do more in a moment than you can do in a lifetime.
In chapter 33 we see steps to reconciliation. Jacob and Esau were family, but they had a strained relationship. We all have relationship issues with someone! Holding a grudge does not hurt the other person, but it will destroy you. If God can change Esau, He can change your relative, neighbor, spouse, child, parent, or boss. Jacob took the initiative and personal responsibility. He made restitution. God uses generosity to open doors. He approached Esau with humility and respect. Neither of them mentioned the past. When you get in an argument with your spouse or friend, never bring up the past…it will only make things worse. Jacob and Esau did not become best friends. They went their separate ways, but they buried the hatchet and coexisted in peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” There is a difference in “peaceful” and “peacemaker.” Peaceful is passive; peacemaking is pro-active. God never calls us to sacrifice truth on the altar of peace, but we can make peace with each other because God has made peace with us. The cross brings peace between a holy God and sinners. The same cross that unites us to God unites us to each other.
God Breaks Us to Bless Us
To try to protect some of his people, Jacob divided his family into groups and sent them across the river. Then, he was left alone. In Genesis 32:24-30 we see that the man who had been so selfish, self-centered, self-reliant, and self-seeking was changed. Dark times help us see the light. Alone with God is not a bad place to be. Real battles are won in private. God started a fight with Jacob! God will meet you where you are, but He will not leave you as you are. Jacob never walked the same way again. Every morning when he reached for his cane it was a reminder to trust God. Every day he had to lean on the everlasting arms of God. Are you wrestling with God? Are you fighting against God? We only win when we come to a place of surrender. Can you imagine the next morning? Jacob limps into camp. Someone says, “Jacob is that you?” He says, “No, my name is Israel.” They reply, “What happened to you?” He tells them, “I got in a fight.” They ask, “With who…Esau?” He says, “No, with God.” They question, “Why would God do that?” He explains, “He wanted to bless me.” God breaks us to make us. When God broke the bread, multitudes were fed. When the alabaster box was broken and poured out, the fragrance filled the room. Jesus died on the cross, His body broken, His blood poured out, blessing all who will believe. God blessed Jacob but it came through painful experiences. Embrace God. Hold on to God even when you feel like letting go. Brokenness is the pathway to blessing.
Remember the Best and Forget the Rest
The story does not end with, “And Jacob lived happily ever after.” God told Jacob to go back to Bethel. Instead, he went to Succoth. Jacob put himself and his family in danger. In Genesis 34:2 we read that his daughter was raped. The Lord is never mentioned in chapter 34. Parents love their children by setting boundaries, rules, curfews and by knowing who they are spending time with. Jacob was passive. He did not do this, and he made continuous mistakes that spiraled. After all of it though, “God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.’ And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments’” (Gen. 35:1-2). In verses 9-12 we see that God blessed Jacob again and reminded him of his new name. Remember the best and forget the rest. It is ok to sorrow, but you can’t live there. God will give you strength for sorrow.
What do we learn from the life of Jacob? Even in your failures and mess ups, God will speak to you, protect you, and bless you, if you know the God of Abraham. He can redeem anything in your past and any hurt!