Wednesday 10th June 2020 – Esau and Jacob 5
from Genesis 32
Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; and when Jacob saw them he said, ‘This is God’s camp!’ So he called that place Mahanaim. Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favour in your sight.”’
The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, thinking, ‘If Esau comes to one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.’
And Jacob said, ‘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 kindred, and I will do you good”, I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. Yet you have said, “I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.”’
So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau…These he delivered into the hand of his servants, each drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.’ He instructed the foremost, ‘When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, “To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?” then you shall say, “They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.”’ He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, ‘You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, and you shall say, “Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.”’ For he thought, ‘I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.
Two brothers who have not spoken for years, who last met at a funeral, have never met each other’s children. Tensions were high when they parted and as God brings them back together there is no trust between them. Jacob fears that his brother will attack. And what will Esau think when he sees these giant herds and flocks being driven towards his lands, not knowing whose they are or why they are coming his way?
Esau readies himself for trouble, riding out with four hundred men to face Jacob’s company. We knew little until now of Esau’s fortunes, but he too must have done alright for himself to command this little warband.
We know much of Jacob’s fortunes, and that he is still tricking his way through life. Jacob’s stealing and cheating has just caused a dangerous row with father-in-law Laban who pursued Jacob and his daughters for seven days and threatened their lives for stealing the household gods as they ran.
Can anything good come from Jacob returning home? His sense of walking with his father’s God is growing as he ages. He is hearing and seeing angels (messengers of God) increasingly often. He has heard God call him home. His prayers have some humility now, a sense of vulnerability now. Could there be hope for Jacob yet?
First, he must face that warband. Peace offerings are sent ahead. Jacob plans to let half his herds and servants be captured if things come to a head. Another trickster move. But there is no way Jacob can avoid facing his brother or the consequences of his past behaviour. We don’t often end our daily devotion on a cliffhanger, but this is one. A confrontation is coming. Can the trickster or his God find any way out?
If you are keeping a score sheet of our sins, God,
then not one of us will be able to stand before you.
But with you there is forgiveness and so we dare to praise you.
We are grateful that with you we can face this day,
Mindful of all the love and kindness we have known from you,
Bringing all that is to come, and all that shall be done to you.
– Responding to Psalm 130