Catching Up With the Past – 5

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Scripture Text – Genesis 32-34

As we study Jacob’s actions during this crisis time in his life, we’ll see illustrated the conflicts all of us occasionally experience between faith and fear, trusting God and scheming, asking God for help and then acting as though we don’t even know God. The lessons that Jacob learned are going to demonstrate to us that a crisis doesn’t make a man; it shows what a man is made of.


Please read Genesis 33:1-16 for the background to this section.

Jacob had lifted up his eyes and seen the angels, and he had even seen God face-to-face, but when he saw Esau and his four hundred men, he seemed to lose everything he had gained in his struggle with himself and with the Lord. It’s one thing to be blessed on the mountaintop with God and quite something else to carry that blessing down into the valley. Jacob failed himself, his family, and his God in several ways.

By scheming instead of trusting. The “prince with God” stopped reigning and started scheming. Like too many of God’s people today, he 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!

By bowing instead of limping. When Eastern peoples met in ancient days, they bowed often and exchanged traditional greetings (“Salaam” or “Shalom”); but there was more than tradition involved in the way Jacob and his family greeted Esau. Jacob was now a “prince with God,” but he wasn’t acting like it. Solomon said, “I have seen servants on horses, while princes walk on the ground like servants,” – Ecclesiastes 10:7; and Jacob was exhibit A of this tragedy. After all, the elder (Esau) was supposed to serve the younger (Genesis 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.

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By pleading instead of witnessing. 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.

Jacob said, “If I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God.” Jacob had seen God face-to-face, but he said nothing to Esau about it! “God has dealt graciously with me,” he added, 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.

Even if Jacob wasn’t at his best, Esau still took what he said at face value and accepted the gifts as an expression of love and good will. Jacob talked about grace, but it was Esau who manifested grace. Sometimes the people of the world put God’s people to shame (Genesis 12:10–20; 20; 26:6–16).

By promising but not performing. Esau did the gracious thing and offered to accompany his brother south to his home in Mount Seir, but Jacob had no desire to spend more time with Esau than was necessary. Like his farewell with Laban, Jacob’s meeting with Esau was a truce, not a true reconciliation. But Jacob gave the impression that his destination was indeed Mount Seir, and he offered every excuse he could think of to convince Esau to go before him and let him proceed at his own pace. The repetition of the phrase “my lord” in this paragraph may indicate Jacob’s respect and courtesy, however, it is most likely that it also suggests that Jacob was groveling again. One thing was evident: Jacob was deceiving again.

Esau started back to Mount Seir, traveling south, while Jacob moved northwest to Succoth and then further on to Shechem. 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 (Genesis 35:27–29).

To Be Continued

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Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Authentic, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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