Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Genesis 32:13-21

When we left off yesterday, Jacob had just prayed this great prayer to God asking for protection and reminding God of the covenant He had made with Jacob to prosper him. However, like so many of us, Jacob was not content to leave the matter with God. Just in case God did not come through for him, Jacob devised his own plan. He was determined to somehow get on Esau’s good side:

He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.” (Gen. 32:13-16)

So, Jacob sends three servants ahead of him, each going successively with the same instructions:

“When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’” (vs. 17-18)

Beth Moore, in the DVD that accompanies her study, The Patriarchs, spends a lot of time covering the reasoning that went into Jacob’s strategy here. Verses 20-21 tell us what Jacob was thinking:

For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

Beth breaks down the phrases in this sentence with a more literal Hebrew translation like this:

“I will pacify him with these gifts” > “I may cover his face

“with these gifts I am sending on ahead” > “gifts that go before my face

“later when I see him” > “when I face him”

“perhaps he will receive me” > “he will raise my face

“So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him” > “the gifts went on ahead of his face

Beth points out that the real issue here was that Jacob was “terrified to face his brother.”

I alluded to it yesterday, but there are three people in my life that I DREAD facing. These are the most difficult people in my life. Not only because they have harassed me at times, but because I also have fault in the way I have dealt with them. So facing them is something I anticipate with great trepidation! I know I am COMMANDED to act in a loving manner toward those who persecute me (not FEEL warm and fuzzy toward them, but treat them with respect and in a manner that demonstrates Christ’s love and grace). But, it is not something I rush to do with great joy! It requires an act of my will to be obedient to Christ and interact with them at times. God has given me the understanding that I do NOT have to put myself in the line of fire - but when I face them, I am to act out love. I learned a long time ago that this is not hypocrisy, it is obedience.

So I’m fully feeling the fear of Jacob. Do any of you relate, as well? Esau had made a real threat 20 years earlier, and Jacob has no reason to believe that absence has made Esau’s heart grow fonder toward Jacob! So, back to his old tricks, Jacob, the schemer, is sending presents on ahead to butter up Esau, “just in case” God doesn’t protect him.

I wonder if any of us have been “hedging our bets” when we have prayed to God over some major item. What do we do “just in case God doesn’t come through?” Do we put a “Plan B” in motion and set up “safety nets?” I am often guilty of this at my job! We’ll see tomorrow that God wants us to believe in HIM and to take Him at His Word. If we struggle with this, and insist on working things out our own way, “just in case,” God will deal with us, because He loves us too much to let our old nature be in control! Just as Jacob had to quit being the “deceiver,” God wants us to quit being the “gossip,” or the “people pleaser,” or whatever role we play. Sometimes, in order to change our old patterns, we need a real encounter with God. Before Jacob faces Esau, he will come face to face with his God. That’s tomorrow’s study! It’s a good one!

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