Monday, January 18, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen, Genesis 31-33

In this reading, the Lord instructs Jacob to leave Laban's household and return to the land of his fathers. We see more of that deceitful character flaw of Jacob's, as he believes Laban has treated him unfairly and may not allow him to leave. So he gathers his family and his possessions and slips away secretly. Jacob had already been gone for three days by the time Laban finds out.

When Laban catches up with Jacob and company, they work through their differences, just as any semi-dysfunctional family would. Then Laban and Jacob make a sort of peace treaty, or an oath that they swear before the Lord, not to mistreat each other. Here we also see the setting up of another pillar as a reminder of the covenant between them, and they called the place both "Galeed" ("witness heap") and "Mizpah" ("watchtower").

Laban heads back toward his home, and Jacob continues toward the land of his fathers. He knows that the last time he left from there, his brother was angry enough to kill him, and he is afraid that Esau will still feel that way. He fears for his own life and for the lives of his family members. However, in this situation, Jacob sets an example that we would be wise to follow. In his fear, he prays to God and he recalls the Lord's promises to him to be with him, to prosper him, and to make his descendants into a great nation. (I've said it before and I'll say it again: God keeps His promies. All the time. Can I get an "amen"?)

Because Jacob is afraid, he sends some servants ahead to Esau bearing gifts, but he himself stops and stays through the night. That evening is one of the most interesting in Jacob's life: a man appears and wrestles with him until daybreak. Jacob says he will not let go of the man until the man blesses Jacob. So the man blesses him, then asks his name. When Jacob answers him, the man responds with, "Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

When Jacob asks the man's name, he doesn't get an answer. Jacob calls the place "Peniel" ("face of God") because he "saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." I don't have any explanation for this episode in Jacob's life, as far as why this happened, but I can't help but wonder if it's symbolic/prophetic of the relationship that God will have with his people, struggling, as they go through season after season, back and forth, being faithful/unfaithful to Him.

Finally, we have the reunion of Jacob and Esau. All I can say about it is what an incredible example of forgiveness Esau offers. He gladly accepts Jacob as they weep and embrace. Esau accepts gifts from Jacob only because Jacob insists. Then they part peacefully, with Jacob settling in Shechem.

No comments: