Jacob Gets Ready
1As Jacob was on his way back home, some of God's angels came and met him. 2When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God's camp.” So he named the place Mahanaim.
3Jacob sent messengers on ahead to Esau, who lived in the land of Seir, also known as Edom. 4Jacob told them to say to Esau, “Master, I am your servant! I have lived with Laban all this time, 5and now I own cattle, donkeys, and sheep, as well as many slaves. Master, I am sending these messengers in the hope that you will be kind to me.”
6When the messengers returned, they told Jacob, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is heading this way with 400 men.”
7Jacob was so frightened that he divided his people, sheep, cattle, and camels into two groups. 8He thought, “If Esau attacks one group, perhaps the other can escape.”
9Then Jacob prayed:
You, Lord, are the God who was worshiped by my grandfather Abraham and by my father Isaac. You told me to return home to my family, and you promised to be with me and make me successful. 10I don't deserve all the good things you have done for me, your servant. When I first crossed the Jordan, I had only my walking stick, but now I have two large groups of people and animals. 11Please rescue me from my brother. I am afraid he will come and attack not only me, but my wives and children as well. 12 But you have promised that I would be a success and that someday it will be as hard to count my descendants as it is to count the grains of sand along the seashore.
13After Jacob had spent the night there, he chose some animals as gifts for Esau: 14-15200 female goats and 20 males, 200 female sheep and 20 males, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows and 10 bulls, and 20 female donkeys and 10 males.
16Jacob put servants in charge of each herd and told them, “Go ahead of me and keep a space between each herd.” 17Then he said to the servant in charge of the first herd, “When Esau meets you, he will ask whose servant you are. He will want to know where you are going and who owns those animals in front of you. 18So tell him, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, who is coming this way. He is sending them as a gift to his master Esau.’ ”
19Jacob also told the men in charge of the second and third herds and those who followed to say the same thing when they met Esau. 20And Jacob told them to be sure to say that he was right behind them. Jacob hoped the gifts would make Esau friendly, so Esau would be glad to see him when they met. 21Jacob's men took the gifts on ahead of him, but he spent the night in camp.
Skeletons left in our closets will ultimately haunt us. Our good deeds and benevolence will not erase the giants of our unfinished messes.
Twenty years after deceiving his father Isaac, Jacob was about to come face to face with his brother Esau from whom he had robbed the family blessing. His mother’s words still echoed in his mind: “Son, your brother Esau is just waiting for the time when he can kill you” (Genesis 27:42). The time had come. Jacob sent his messengers to scope out Esau’s camp and they came back and told Jacob: “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is heading this way with four hundred men” (Genesis 32:6). With fear and trembling Jacob realized that his worst nightmare was becoming a reality. Esau was armed and ready to destroy him. Jacob knew that in order to protect his family and animals; it was decision time.
Whenever we come face to face with our unresolved messes, we always have a choice.
- Panic. We can continue to run away from our problems, blame others, hire a good lawyer, send desperate text messages to all our friends and continue to live with fear and guilt.
- Pray. Jacob prayed a “God help me prayer.” Jacob appealed to God’s faithfulness and to the promises he had made earlier for Jacob’s protection and prosperity. Then Jacob humbly asked God to protect him and his family from his brother Esau.
Prayer helps us to face our fears and guilt and humbly place them into God’s hands. We need to believe that our God who loves us will help us overcome our mistakes and unresolved messes. There is always a larger narrative at work. We must pray and ask God to help us work it out.
Dear Father God, Thank you that you always hear my cries for help. Help to face any unresolved messes in my life so that I can live in peace and freedom. Help me to forgive people who have hurt me. Thank you that you love me in spite of my mistakes. Amen.