** Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. ** Genesis 32:11
In our last post, we started our conversation on prayer. We saw a major transformation in how Jacob approached the Lord and made his requests. His heart changed from one of deceitfulness and selfishness to a heart of humility and honesty.
Here, Jacob continues in his conversation with the Lord and teaches us a bit more about what he has learned about his relationships.
I believe that, Jacob, through his life of hard work and obligated patience while living under Laban’s ‘requests’, saw the value of doing things decently and in order– First things first, don’t cut corners, and be faithful day after day. Stay on task. He learned that sin is revealed, even the things done in secret. Jacob went through a lengthy 20 year schooling of how to build healthier relationships without trickery and deceit.
So, now, on his return to his family’s land, he establishes first his change of heart about the Lord. He recognizes his need to treat the Lord with honor and respect. He owns his heritage and steps into a place of faith like his ancestors did. Just as Abraham left Haran to walk the promised land by faith, Jacob now is returning to Bethel and to his family with the same faith that the Lord will be with him and bless him and care for him.
Then, he shows us that he has a different perspective on his relationship with his brother. Jacob understands that he really, truly deserves for his brother to come out against him and kill him for all that he took from him. For all the conniving, sneaky things he did to steal Esau’s birthright and his blessing. And he now understands that what he did, didn’t just effect him. It also hurt his whole family.
It seems that Jacob never saw his mother again. Surely, his father was greatly disappointed in his behavior and how he treated his own family. Now, he realizes that if Esau doesn’t forgive him, his wives and his children will suffer and die at Esau’s hand. And that is on Jacob. He has learned the principle of reaping what you sow.
So, Jacob rectifies his relationship with the Lord and then begs for the Lord’s mercy to help him fix his relationship with his brother. He knows that fixing things with the Lord is not enough. He also has some messes that need to be cleaned up, but they were so messy, so selfish, so hurtful, that he cannot fix them without the Lord’s help.
Jesus’ teaching tells us that we shouldn’t come before the Father in prayer without forgiving others for the things they do that hurt us. If we don’t have mercy on others, the Lord has no obligation to be merciful with us, right? We also know that we are to love our brother, prefer him over our own needs, serve him, help him, be kind, tenderhearted, because that is the way that the Lord treats us.
So, Jacob understood all this to some degree and asks for the Lord’s mercy to fix a very damaged relationship. To somehow smooth over his mistakes and sins of the past.
He is asking for the Lord to do his part, but he is also ready and willing to sacrifice and do as much as he can himself. Not to bribe, and trick his brother but as acts that show that he has changed and yields to his older brother and his rightful position as leader of the family.
Jacob also understands that he is a partner with the Lord. A co-laborer. He gets that the Lord HAS to do His part or things are going to end badly. But he also understands that he has a role to play as well. He has to step forward and be the man he needs to be. He needs to do all he can to make it right.
Jacob has learned that he has to keep his relationship with the Lord honest and open. He needs to yield to His Sovereignty. And that he has to learn how to deal with people and resolve his issues with them. But that he cannot fix anything without working hand in hand with the Lord. The Lord does His part, and Jacob is willing to do his. He wants to work in tandem with the Lord and not against him or by going around Him.
Jacob has grown up, in more ways than are mentioned in these two verses of Scripture. He has met the Lord personally, not traditionally or by family heritage. And he decides to work together with Him, every step of the long way home to fix what he broke decades ago.