Today’s reading picks up right after Jacob makes a pact with his father-in-law Laban, freeing him to lead his family to his hometown and aged father Isaac. Hoping to survive his return after swindling his brother Esau out of his birthright and blessing, he sends ahead servants with many gifts to soften any hard feelings Esau might still have after nearly 20 years apart. After a night of literally wrestling with an angel or man of God, Jacob and Esau have an emotional reunion and Jacob is welcomed home. Jacob makes a curious pit stop on the way and two of his son’s bring some grey hairs to their fathers head in a brief and brutal episode in the city Shechem. Then God calls Jacob to a special place in Bethel and reiterates his covenant and gives Jacob a new name, Israel. This episode ends on a sad note as Rachel dies giving birth to Israel’s twelfth son Benjamin and Esau and Israel bury their father Isaac shortly after.
What is one key verse? Why?
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, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of 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 camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”Genesis 32:9-12
Jacob hears that his brother and 400 men are marching toward him. In that moment of fear for his life and family; he turns wholehearted to God for help. The text doesn’t mention what kind of intent Esau had in meeting his brother, but it does show Jacob having a fear of his circumstances and going to God to give thanks, ask for help and remember God’s promise.
How does what you read change your vision of God?
The text doesn’t have God answer Jacob’s prayer with a “I will protect you” or “Your brother will not harm you.” He leaves Jacob with the same promise from chapter 31 “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” Contextually, I would think Jacob is pretty stressed out going into his wrestling match/struggle with God. I think God lets us sit in tough situations by faith, forcing us to pray and remember his track record of provision, blessings and perfection and go on that. We might have to wrestle all night with God and get broken by him to take on the next day.
How does what you read change your vision of yourself or others?
When in a trial, I often want God to just fix it and for the pain to go away. It’s a tough pill to swallow that suffering is good for me. The author of Hebrews says “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” I should view suffering circumstances in my life as a painful opportunity to be better for my Lord.
How will you go with God because of this reading?
I will go to a special place of prayer like Jacob did and walk and talk through some of the things God had brought me through.
Where did you see Jesus in these chapters?
I saw Jesus in Jacob’s fear of and zeal for God. When he is called by God to go to Bethel, he gets rid of all the idols and makes everyone purify themselves (this is before Leviticus was written!). This reminds me of Jesus clearing the temple.