Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jacob Expresses His Thoughts -- Genesis 32:19-21

Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, "After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, 'Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.' " For he said, "I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me." So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob now gives the same orders to all the servants that were put in charge of each of the ‘herds’ that were intended to win the favor of Esau, making sure they told him that his brother Jacob was just a little ways behind them and coming to meet him.

Then Jacob shares his real thoughts. By having all these gifts of 550 valuable animals ready for Esau and sending them in spurts ahead of his own arrival, Jacob figured he could satisfy Esau. If there were still any anger or hard feelings in him towards Jacob, perhaps these gifts so timed would mollify him. The goal was clearly one of reconciliation between the brothers who had not seen each other or so long.

But at the same time and because of his fear, Jacob wanted to make sure he had done all he could to first soothe his brother and only then take the chance of seeing him. The last thing he wanted was to meet an angry Esau. Jacob’s goal was to be accepted by Esau.

We sometimes criticize people who over plan, especially when it comes to making an effort to be reunited with someone. Often we say to these folks, “just go talk to him/her, it will be fine.” But the truth is, it is not always fine. A lot of hurt may have been caused in the meantime – hurt that has not been yet alleviated or forgotten. Perhaps some careful thought and effort does need to go into the re-insertion of our self into their lives. With regard to this, I often think of estranged spouses, our the reuniting of a child with his/her parent that had loved the family years ago, or the reuniting of an individual with their biological mother who had given them up for adoption years ago. Definitely some thought and planning, and lots of prayer would need to go into that kind of meeting.

Just yesterday I caught about five minutes of the television program Friends. It was one of their Christmas episodes. One of the characters, Phoebe, has found out where her father that left her mom and her many years ago was living, and she was being encouraged by her two male friends on the program to drop in and see him for after all, it was Christmas. Phoebe could only muster up enough courage to get to the gate, see through the windows that he was there, stopped and ran back to her friends in the car. She could not continue. The fear of being rejected was just too great. Those of us that counsel others to ‘reconcile’ need to be sure we’ll be there for them when it does not go exactly as planned.

So Jacob sends his presents to Esau ahead of his own arrival. That advanced timing is at least the length of one night. And what a night that must have been for Jacob. Can you imagine what must have been going through his mind before he finally fell to sleep?

What are the other lessons for us as we consider the meeting that Jacob is about to have with his estranged brother, Esau? Are we interested in being reunited with those that we have offended? What can we do to show our remorse and to convince them that we are sincere in our actions? Have we relied sufficiently on God to pave the way for us? These are the questions each of us faces as we deal with our relationships in life.

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