Focal Passage: Gen. 32:3-32
Today’s lesson from the
drama of Jacob-Esau reveals the power of God to effect reconciliation. Jacob,
having cheated his brother, conned his father, and used his mother finds
himself alone in the wilderness exiled from family and home.
At Bethel (31:13) God told
Jacob to return home. This meant returning to the place dominated by his
brother Esau. Jacob is justifiably scared about meeting with this big, hairy
brother who now has 400 men to back him up (32:6). Ever the wheeler-dealer,
Jacob sends livestock ahead as a bribe (32:13-21). He also prays to God seeking
safety and reminding God of his promises of blessing (32:9-12).
The night before the
dramatic encounter Jacob wrestles with a mysterious man (with God?) until
daybreak. Jacob prevails, but never ascertains who his opponent is.
Theories abound. Was it God
himself suggested by Jacob’s new name Israel, which means “he who wrestles with
Was it Esau, who has snuck
into Jacob’s camp under the cloak of darkness to deal with his brother man to
man, suggested by Jacob’s words to Esau the next day “To see your face is like
seeing the face of God” (33:10)?
Or was Jacob intensely
wrestling with himself, and all the demons and angels vying for preeminence in
his soul? I favor the first option.
Not only is Jacob given a
new name, and consequently a new identity, the text casually informs us that
Jacob walked away with a limp. The Hebrew tense of the verb implies he limped
the rest of his life.
This was not a one-night
stand with a religious emotion. This was a life-changing event initiated and
consummated by Almighty God.
Reconciliation is hard work
and like Jacob we run from it. It almost always requires a change on our part.
Most of us have become quite
comfortable with our sins and the barriers we have erected against others. But
Jesus knew we couldn’t truly worship God and be in right relationship with God
if we remain estranged from our brother. He said, “If you are offering your
gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against
you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go be reconciled to
your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24).
Are you running from anyone?
Avoiding them because of past sins, slights, misunderstandings?
If you want to be right with
God you’ve got to get right with your brother, your sister, your mother, your
fellow church member. Don’t expect to worship well if you’re not reconciled to