Updated: May 27, 2020
Jacob is one of the few people in the Bible where we get to read his entire story, from the day he was born to the day that he died.
The struggle he had with his twin brother, Esau, started before they took their first breath. Esau was strong and stubborn. Jacob was quiet and deceitful. That certainly didn’t make for a good relationship. They were as different as night is from day. That difference took them far apart...not just geographically but also relationally. When Jacob deceived Esau out of his birthright and blessing, it seemed to be the last straw. Jacob fled for his life and Esau gladly let him go.
We get to read how things turned out for Jacob. He was deceived so many times during his life. He really did reap what he sowed. (Hosea 12:2 “The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and will repay him according to his deeds”). But God never gave up on Jacob. God had a plan to work healing and restoration in him and eventually with the relationship with his brother.
Is right relationship between people, especially brothers, that important to God? Is it so important to make things right with people that He will not stop working with us until we do? Is God so concerned about unity and repentance... and most importantly, forgiveness? Is it so important to God's heart that things won't be right with Him until we do?
I think so.
God told Jacob to go back home after many years. He fearfully obeyed and took all that he owned, a huge family and wealth, and went back to Canaan. On his way home God wrestled with Jacob. God wanted deeper relationship with Jacob but it couldn’t happen until Jacob admitted his weakness and came face to face with his sinful self. God wrestled with him and touched Jacobs hip, giving him a limp. It served as a continual reminder of Jacobs encounter with and his surrender to God Almighty. Being sincerely right with God was the only way he could sincerely be right with his brother. He was scared to death to see Esau and thought that after all these years his brother would make good on his threat to kill him. But in obedience, this new right-with-God Jacob, forged forward to face his brother. He paved the way by sending gifts ahead as tokens of kindness.
I wonder if Esau questioned the sincerity of Jacob? He only knew him as a deceiver. He had no idea that God had been working on Jacobs heart. Essau came towards Jacob with 400 men. Did he think he was going to have to fight? Or had he actually come to fight? In the distance he saw Jacob. I bet he blinked twice to see if what he was seeing was actually real. Jacob was bowing to the ground in humbleness; seven times he bowed as he walked closer, in complete repentance. The rest of his family did the same. After all these years of anger and bitterness he was coming back with a humble, respectful, repentant spirit. When Esau saw such humility the Bible says that he “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.”
Jacob called Esau “my lord” and said “take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee;..” It was customary that when a gift was received, that meant you became friends. Esau received the gifts. Twenty years of enmity between Jacob and Esau melted away in one act of true repentance. It converted an enemy into a friend.
In the story of Jacob and Esau we see our patient, teaching, counselor God so clearly. God who cares so much about restoration and the unity of his children that He lets us watch Him work it out in a real life story. He is God who desires repentance. He shows us that when there is true repentance, the groundwork is laid for reconciliation. It wasn’t the gifts that prompted Esau to forgive. It wasn’t confrontation and it certainly wasn’t the passing of time. It was seeing sincere humility and genuine repentance from his brother. What a perfect picture our God gives us of what is most important to Him: Repaired relationships that reflect his love and his glory. Forgiveness, Unity, Humbleness, Kindness and Restoration. These things all reflect Him and point the world to His goodness!
From the beginning to the end of Jacobs life, we see God as being the Sovereign- patient-teacher throughout. Jacob, whose name means Supplanter and faithful, after surrendering to God his name was changed to "Israel:" prince of God. Supplanter was dropped and Faithful Prince of God became his legacy. Because that’s what God does; He teaches and refines those he loves and changes their destiny.
Founder of A Right Heart Ministries