Read Genesis 32:3-36:43, Hosea 11:7-12:12, Obadiah 1:1-21, Matthew 2:13-23
Running away from home did not change what Jacob had done. Those we have willfully harmed may be left behind in our dust, obscured for a time. But when the dust settles, there it is. The past often confronts our self-worth in the present and conflicts with desired prospects for a better future. Fleeing fixes nothing.
What Goes Around
A recurring cycle struck Jacob in the face. “What goes around, comes around. After twenty long years, years in which he received the just reward of his own deception, Jacob was ready to return home. Wealth, wives, and children were amassed. The good life awaited Jacob in Canaan. There was just one problem — unfinished business.
On the one hand, Jacob possessed of the covenant promises made to Abraham and Isaac. He discovered the gate to heaven on the way to Laban’s home in Haran. God blessed him abundantly, beyond Jacob’s wildest dreams. The Lord had instructed Jacob to go home with all that he had acquired through His abundant goodness.
On the other hand, Jacob’s past hadn’t just disappeared. Esau was a man of power in his own right living in Seir, east of the Jordan River. Having sent messengers ahead to Esau that was coming home, Jacob’s brother assembled a welcoming company of 400 fighting. En masse they rode forward into the past, towards Jacob’s stolen blessings.
Fear of Esau’s decades-long simmering anger weakened Jacob’s confidence in the goodness and protection of God. He resorted to entirely human tactics. Jacob divided his company in two, anticipating a coming familial conflagration. If Esau attacked one group, the other might escape.
Hold On To God’s Promises
Only then did Jacob do what needed doing. He prayed:
O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you.’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my stall only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered. – Genesis 32:9-12
Then, Jacob selected goats, sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys and sent them in droves towards Esau. He hoped to buy off his brother’s anger with presents from his wealth. When night fell, Jacob sent his wives and children across the Jabbok River ahead of him. Jacob was left alone.
A man came to Jacob in that place, meeting him where he was both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That man was the Lord Himself, the pre-incarnate Messiah Yeshua. All night the Lord wrestled with Jacob. He certainly could have overpowered Jacob. But instead, God forced Jacob to grapple with all that had happened previously and put it behind him forever. The past is the past. Yes, Jacob’s actions had created conflict with others and with God. However, God’s faithfulness towards Jacob was not based on Jacob’s character but rather the divine providence of God and His nature. God blessed Jacob but left him with a reminder of the night long wrestling match, a sore hip which he had for the rest of his life.
In the end, there was a joyful reunion with Esau. God can be trusted because of who He is, not because of who we are.
The holidays are often filled with difficult familial interactions. Perhaps there is someone you will spend time with over the next month, someone with whom you have wronged. Maybe you have wrestled with guilt because of it, or been angry about how a family member betrayed you.
Do business with God. Let go of the guilt.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1
Do business with those who you have been in conflict with.
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your offering there at the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5:23-24
Do business with yourself.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
If you are in Christ, you are an entirely new creation. The old you is dead. The new you has a bright and glorious future. Live that truth, and there will be many joyous reunions.