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“That We Might have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)

Genesis Chapters Thirty-two Through Thirty-five


Family reunions are a welcome occurrence in many families. They provide an opportunity for family members to reacquaint themselves with each other. However, family reunions may also be a time of anxiety for some. Perhaps over the years relationships have become strained for a variety of reasons. Perhaps differences within families make getting along difficult. These problems may prove difficult, but are usually not life-threatening. The focus of this article will be on the family reunion of Esau and Jacob, one in which Jacob did fear for his life.

Esau And Jacob

Why was Jacob afraid of this reunion? As you may recall, Jacob had used deceit in getting his father Isaac to bless him instead of Esau. Jacob then hastily left for his uncle Laban’s house after becoming aware of Esau’s threat to kill him. Now over twenty years had passed since they had seen one another, and Jacob was not sure how Esau felt toward him. Would he still bear a grudge and seek vengeance?

Should Jacob have been afraid of the reunion? Even after all God had done for him, Jacob still had difficultly putting his confidence solely in his heavenly Father. Think of how God had protected him in the past. He allowed Jacob to escape Esau’s wrath the first time. He blessed Jacob with a vision of angels ascending and descending on the ladder, assuring him of His promises. He also blessed Jacob’s every endeavor at his uncle Laban’s, despite Laban’s ill-treatment of Jacob. He provided Jacob with great wealth and a large family. He granted him a peace departure from Laban. Finally, He instructed Jacob to return to Canaan and promised to be with him.

God was aware of Jacob’s weaknesses and again strengthened him by providing a visible host of angels for his assurance. Still, Jacob felt a need to “test the waters” before meeting Esau directly. So he sent servants before him to tell Esau that “thy servant Jacob” wishes to find grace in the sight of his “lord.” No doubt Jacob chose these expressions of humility in an attempt to block out any memories Esau had of the “stolen” birthright. In reply, Jacob only received the news that Esau and four hundred soldiers were coming to meet him. Jacob was aware of Esau’s recent military victories in the land of Seir and feared now that Esau’s army would conquer him.

Jacob’s first reaction was to divide all of his possessions into two groups, so that if Esau conquered the one half, the others may have time to escape. Jacob then prayed to the Jehovah God, reminding Him of the promises He had made to him regarding his safety and his descendants. Jacob then delivered a huge gift to Esau in “successive droves.” He was hoping to appease his brother through his generosity.

The night before their scheduled reunion, Jacob chose to be alone. Scripture tells us that throughout the entire night a Man wrestled with Jacob. Because He could not prevail against him, the Man displaced Jacob’s hip. But Jacob, demanding a blessing from the Man, refused to let go of Him. The Man then gave Jacob a new name, Israel, which means “prince of God.” Jacob had prevailed as a prince in his struggle with the Lord.

Now Jacob was ready to meet Esau. After sending his wives and children before him, Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and they embraced and kissed and wept. Jacob then introduced Esau to his large family. Esau attempted to return the gift to Jacob, but Jacob insisted that Esau keep it as an assurance of the peace between them. Shortly later the joyous reunion ended.

Lessons For Us

What can we learn from this account? The most important lesson we can learn is to rely on the promises of God — they will come to pass!

It may be easy for us to see how foolish it was for Jacob to fear his brother. How weak his faith must have been after all God had done for him. Stop a moment and think. Don’t we too sometimes find ourselves doubting our salvation or God’s own love for us? Or how often have we become much more concerned over something much smaller in our lives? How often have we fretted over our health, a job interview, a relationship with a friend, financial concerns, or even something as trivial as a bad haircut? Don’t we have the same promises of protection and salvation from our heavenly Father as Jacob did?

God tells us in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that all things will work together for our good. He tells us to cast our care upon Him, and to ask, seek, and knock in times of trouble. In Romans chapter 8 we are told: “if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jacob learned to hold fast to the promises of God when he wrestled with God. Let us approach God’s throne with the same confidence, being assured of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf. Let us “wrestle” with God, knowing that His promise to take us to heaven to be with Him will come to pass. That will be the best family reunion of all.

–Teacher Joseph Lau