The Joy of Reconciliation

KEY VERSE: “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” —Genesis 33:4

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Genesis 32:3-5; 33:1-11

IT HAD been twenty years since Jacob had fled from the wrath of Esau, yet he had no way of knowing whether or not his brother now felt any differently toward him. Some might reason that Esau’s jealousy would be stirred more upon learning that Jacob had become rich in material things. Either Jacob did not reason this way, or else he was following a strategy given to him by God. The fact that he sent messengers to confer with Esau, and to let his brother know of the rich manner in which the Lord had blessed him since he fled from home, might indicate that the Lord’s hosts had given him instructions as to the proper method of seeking a reconciliation with his brother.

In any case, later events proved that it was the proper course. It was evidently very reassuring to Esau to learn that Jacob had all the possessions he needed, and that he was not returning to seize his wealth based on the claim that he had purchased the birthright.

The messengers, however, brought back rather an ambiguous report concerning Esau. They apparently met him and he had told them he would come and meet Jacob and that he would bring four hundred men with him. As the report was given to Jacob he had no way of determining whether these men were to be used against him, or whether it was Esau’s idea of a royal welcome. So he was frightened.

As we have previously noted, Jacob was a timid man. Few of God’s servants throughout all the ages have had more evidences of God’s favor and protection than were given to him, yet when the least uncertainty arose, he usually became fearful. Prompted by fear, and thinking to save at least apart of his possessions, he divided the people who were with him, and his flocks, into two companies; the idea being that if Esau attacked one of these, the other group could escape.

Jacob prayed earnestly to God, admitting that he feared his brother. His mind doubtless went back to the time when he had to flee from Esau to save his life. The Lord had cooperated with him in this; and in that wonderful ladder dream, assured Jacob that he would go with him and bless him. That promise had been faithfully kept. Now the Lord had indicated to Jacob that he wanted him to return to Canaan and to his brother, but all the intervening years of divine protection and blessing were not sufficient to assure Jacob that the Lord would be with him in returning even as he had been with him in his flight.

But we should not chide Jacob in this. After all, he did trust in the Lord, and this is why he prayed to him so earnestly. Perhaps his fear is impressed upon us simply because the Scriptures openly reveal it. A certain kind of fear is quite proper on the part of all the Lord’s people. We should tremble when we think of self, and perhaps Jacob’s trembling was of this nature. It is when the Lord’s people look to the Lord and depend upon his strength that they are strong, and certainly Jacob earnestly looked to the Lord for guidance and strength.

Prayer, among other things, is the claiming of God’s promises, and this is what Jacob did. God had directed Jacob to return to his own country and to his own people, and had promised that in doing this all would be well with him. And now the patriarch reminded the Lord of this, and laid claim to the promise.

The story of Jacob’s wrestling all night with the Lord in prayer is a familiar one, and many false conclusions have been drawn from it as to the purpose and power of prayer. As we have already noted, prayer is the claiming of God’s promises, and this is all that Jacob was doing. He was not trying to secure from the Lord something which had not been promised. Prayer is not designed to change the will of God concerning his people.

The much sought-for blessing was given. The angel told Jacob that his name would be changed to Israel, meaning ‘a prince with God’, or ‘one who had prevailed with God’. Jacob understood this to mean that God had honored his request, and that he would be cared for when he went forth to meet Esau.

How Jacob’s worst fears suddenly melted away into nothing when Esau finally came into sight, for he “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” What better way could Jacob’s prayer have been answered!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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