Introduction: In this week’s readings in Genesis 33, we marvel at how much better events turn out than Jacob believed they would. Despite Jacob’s ‘great fear and distress’ (Gen. 32:7), his older brother Esau welcomes him with a reconciled spirit and Jacob’s family and possessions are preserved in their entirety! May God greatly encourage us as we battle similar fears to Jacob’s and as we learn how God time and again snatches victory from the jaws of defeat and provides Resurrection life even from the very jaws of death.
Monday: read Genesis 33:1-3. Why is it that we are, in the words of James 1:2, “To consider it pure joy…whenever we face trials of many kinds,” even though trials themselves are so painful? One answer is the undeserved ‘11th hour’ deliverances out of such trials which God brings! Consider for example Jacob’s efforts to cope with the anticipated hostility of Esau. In the first three verses of our chapter, Jacob places his favorite wife and son (Rachel and Joseph) at the back of the group, furthest from harm, while in the front of his clan he offers up his slave-wives and their children, then Leah and hers so that they would be in harm’s way first. Such favoritism not only produces family hatreds later in Gen. 37:3 but also shows clearly that the miraculous favor which God shows Jacob is completely unmerited. Though we are thankful that Jacob at least goes first to face his brother in Gen. 33:3, we still see Jacob dividing his family based on personal favoritism.
Meditate and Pray: How we should rejoice when God brings us through trials of various kinds, for such deliverances remind us that God’s protection is always full of grace. We do not deserve to be defended as ‘the apple of God’s eye!’ May God give us the spirit of verses 3 & 4 of Hymn # 56 in our Trinity Hymnal:
“When worn with sickness, oft have you with health renewed my face;
And when in sins and sorrows sunk, revived my soul with grace.”
“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts my daily thanks employ;
nor is the least a cheerful heart that tastes those gifts with joy.” (Joseph Addison 1712)
Tuesday: read Genesis 33:4-9. We learned in earlier notes how an agonized Jacob must have questioned God’s arrangement of this meeting with Esau: “Why must I go through meeting with Esau now? Can’t I first arrive safely at my father’s home? Why, Lord, this face-to-face confrontation at my greatest moment of weakness?” How surprising for Jacob, therefore, to find his older brother so glad to see him and so positively changed towards him from those earlier days when Esau held a deadly grudge (Gen. 27:42).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that His ways do produce peaceable fruit and blessing. If He commands us to go and make things right with those we have offended, such as Jacob did with Esau, then we may expect that in the path of pursuing such reconciliation, there will be much unanticipated blessing. Proverbs 28:13 promises it: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Amen!
Wednesday: read Genesis 33:10-12 and Hebrews 12:14-17. What was it in Esau that prompted his change of heart towards Jacob? Well, it surely was not Jacob’s meriting such grace; nor was it Esau’s spirituality, ‘godless’ man that he was according to Hebrews 12:16. Rather, it is God’s common grace at work in Esau, restraining his unbelieving heart and miraculously changing him into a ‘different’ man than he had been as the life-long enemy of his brother. Though these two brothers had been in conflict ever since being in their mother’s womb (Gen. 25:22-23), now ‘the wolf lies down with the lamb.’ ‘Peace that passeth understanding’ reigns and Esau the warrior becomes Jacob’s willing protector!
Meditate and Pray: Do we sufficiently appreciate how in answer to our prayers God can change world leaders as He changed Esau? May God increase our faith to recognize His hand at work in the world scene. Read your newspapers and watch the news with the prayer of faith ready at hand! Let us reaffirm our faith in Proverbs 16:1 & 9 as we see Esau’s plan to harm Jacob changed to blessing: “To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue… In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Thursday: read Genesis 33:12-19. What a change takes place in fearful, panic-stricken Jacob! After beholding ‘the face of God’ in his brother Esau’s changed demeanor (Gen. 33:10) and being protected from harm at his hands, Jacob now boldly goes into the Promised Land, safely arriving to lay claim to land near Shechem (Gen. 33:18-19) as the inheritor of that which God had promised Him on oath. He is now so confident in God’s watch-care that he graciously refuses his brother’s further protection (Gen. 33:13-15) and cheerfully takes the lead of his family and flocks.
Meditate and Pray: We need to ask God repeatedly for a bolder spirit with which to move forward into this world as God’s children. We need not be apologetic. ‘This is Our Father’s World, and though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet!’ Thank Jesus for giving each of us His Holy Spirit not only to be our Comforter, but also to boldly bear witness through us:
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me. And you also must testify, for you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).
Friday: read Genesis 33:20 and 28:20-21. The blessing of God’s safely guiding us like Jacob to the place of our inheritance is not to be taken lightly. Jacob vowed in Gen. 28:21 that if God ensured his ‘safe return… then the Lord would be his God.’ What Jacob had asked for was now fulfilled as it was demonstrated to Jacob in Gen. 33:18 how all of his needs would indeed be met by his loving heavenly Father. Jacob responds to God’s answer to his prayers by building an altar, just as his grandfather Abraham had done upon entrance into Canaan (Gen. 12:7), calling upon the Lord by the Name: “God, the God of Israel.”
Meditate and Pray: We conclude this week by noting that this may be the clearest profession of Jacob’s faith so far. He identifies the one true God as his God: the God of the limping, weak, yet princely ‘Israel,’ the name God had given him in Gen. 32:28. Jacob knew now more than ever that God was indeed His own God, upon whose Name he could freely call. For us as well – all the blessings of Divine watch-care and safety – what are they designed to produce in us? May God produce in us the life-time desire to ‘call upon His Name,’ wherever we are and whatever we face. What a discovery Jacob has made! He can now ‘lift up the Name of God’ himself, without Isaac or Abraham’s urgings or aid.
“Lord, please place within each of us, especially when we are first out on our own in college and the working world, the habit of calling upon your Name. Please give us the sense of safety which comes from taking refuge in that Name and all it stands for.”
May we like Jacob make the discovery each and every day of the great Power and Grace of that Name, as selected verses from Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘Come O Thou Traveler Unknown,’ put it:
Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.
I need not tell thee who I am,
my misery or sin declare;
thyself hast called me by my name,
look on thy hands, and read it there.
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.
Yield to me now, for I am weak
but confident in self-despair;
speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
be conquered by my instant prayer.
Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
and tell me, if thy name is Love.
My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.
I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.