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Genesis 33




SCRIPTURE: Genesis 33

As we move into this chapter, let me repeat something that I mentioned yesterday.  Because we have the privilege of looking back at this story and knowing how it is all going to work out, it is easy for us to judge Jacob very harshly.  We tend to convince ourselves that we would have acted and reacted in very different ways.  And while it is hard to justify everything Jacob said and did, it is also not so difficult to understand why he said and did some of things that he said and did.  

For example, we know from the previous chapter that Jacob saw some of God’s angels.  They were perhaps some of God’s fighting angels who came to encamp alongside Jacob and his family.  Later in the chapter Jacob saw God.  In fact, he saw Him up close and personal because he wrestled with God.  But as this chapter opens, Jacob saw Esau and his four hundred men and Jacob seemed to lose everything he gained from his encounters in the previous chapter.

For example, Jacob “bowed” his way to Esau instead of walking up to Esau.  On one hand, Jacob may have thought he was honoring his brother by bowing to him.  But on the other hand, if Jacob had walked up to Esau, he would have limped his way to his brother.  Limping toward Esau would have been a powerful reminder to Jacob of what God had done in his life.  And limping toward Esau might very well have given Jacob an opportunity to tell Esau what God had done in his life.  Sometimes our fear of men causes us to not share the good work of the Lord in our lives.  

Esau running to Jacob and kissing him is evidence that Esau had had a change of heart about his brother.  Esau’s change of heart gave Jacob an incredibly opportunity to seek forgiveness for what he had done and to talk about the change that was occurring in his own heart.  Instead Jacob ignored that opportunity and instead begged his brother to accept his gifts.  Sometimes our fear of men causes us to think we can buy or bargain for a better relationship with them.  That seldom works or works for long.

After Jacob and Esau parted company (Did you notice how quickly Jacob got away from his brother?), Jacob went to Succoth and built a house and livestock barns there.  From there he went to Shechem and bought some land from the Canaanites that lived in the area.  The problem with that is back in Genesis 31: 13, God told Jacob to go back to the land of his youth where his father still lived.  While Jacob did build an altar in Shechem to El-Elohe-Israel (that literally means God, the God of Israel which means Jacob was claiming God as his God), he was not where God told him to be.  Jacob would eventually find his way there but delayed obedience is disobedience even if you are doing religious things like building altars in the meantime.

There is one more thing I want to call to your attention.  In verse 2, as Jacob is putting his family and servants at the back to “protect them” from an attacking Esau, he put Rachel and Joseph at the very back.  In other words, he put Leah in front of Rachel which means he thought more of Rachel than he did Leah.  And he put Joseph at the very back which means of all his children, Joseph was his favorite.

We will continue to see the favoritism play out.  But nothing good will come from that.  In fact, a lot bad will come from that.  Let me end with this:  playing favorites with your kids never works out well even for your “favorite”.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

Genesis 32




SCRIPTURE: Genesis 32

The chapter starts with an almost startling statement.  “The angels of the Lord met” Jacob as he journeyed back home.  When Jacob saw them, he called the place Mahanaim which means two camps.  To begin with this was undoubtedly a reference to “God’s camp of angels” and “Jacob’s camp of his family and group”.  But as you progress through the chapter, the notion of two camps came to describe Jacob’s decision to divide his family in hopes that at least part of them would escape the anticipated attack from Esau.

Because many of us know how this story ends, it is easy for us to judge Jacob and even discredit him for his lack of faith in God’s ability to work through this situation.  But because Jacob is moving through the story instead of looking back it like we are, let’s at least give him the benefit of the doubt.  I suspect many of us would have been just as fearful.

When you get to verse 9, you will find Jacob praying.  That is always a good thing to do regardless of the circumstances.  And it was a good thing to do in the midst of Jacob’s circumstances.  

As you look at Jacob’s prayer, you will find a good pattern.  For example, when Jacob prayed, he remembered God’s goodness.  He talked about how he started out with nothing and God blessed him beyond measure.  Jacob also claimed God’s promises.  Jacob claimed God’s covenant.  In verse 12, we find the language of the Abrahamic covenant that Jacob was an heir to.  And Jacob claimed God’s character.  He knew that God was always true to His word.  Jacob actually prayed back to God the very things that God has said to him.

Jacob did a very human thing next.  He just finished with the great prayer and then in verse 13, he devises a plan to work this thing out on his own.  How many times have I done that?  And before you judge me, how many times have you done that?

When we get to verse 22, we encounter a most unusual story.  Jacob got into a wrestling match with God.  As odd as that sounds, it is another proof that God meets us where we are.  To Abraham the pilgrim, God was a traveler.  To Joshua a general, God appeared as a soldier.  Jacob had spent most of his life “wrestling” with people or being in conflict with people.  So, God came to him as a wrestler.  

It was in the midst of that struggle that God asked Jacob what his name was.  The last time that happened in the Biblical record, Isaac asked Jacob who he was.  You will remember that Jacob lied that time and claimed to be Esau.  This time, however, Jacob spoke truth and when he spoke his name, he was literally telling God, “I am a deceiver”.  

In the midst of that conflict, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  It is very common in the Bible, in both Old and New Testament, for God to change someone’s name.  The name change represents a character change.  By the way, the name Israel probably means “He who strives with God”.  

As the conflict that night drew to a close, God touched Jacob’s hip.  By the way, a bad hip makes for a poor wrestler.  And Jacob limped away forever reminded of the night he struggled with God.  We may not have a bad hip but if you have been a Christ follower for any length of time, you too bear the marks of the struggles we all go through.  May those marks always be reminders of the great grace of God.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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