The Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your
fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
In some families, there are personality clashes that set everyone on an anticipatory edge, dreading yet another unfestive family fiasco. The stew of dysfunction is already brewing...
On the other end of the spectrum are the families in which individuals, or even groups of kin, haven’t spoken to each other for years. It may even be taboo to mention the outcast’s name.
After stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing, Jacob fled his family, fearing that his twin brother, Esau, might kill him. He’d not broken bread with his family for over twenty years. The cutoff in this family was cavernous.
And now God was instructing Jacob to return to the scene of his deceit. It was with both fear and longing that Jacob obediently set out with his growing family and flocks for a momentous family reunion.
As Jacob drew near to his homeland, he sent messengers to Esau saying, “Your servant Jacob says, ‘I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now… Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” (Genesis 32: 4-5 NIV)
When his messengers returned with the news that Esau was coming to meet Jacob—with 400 men—Jacob was afraid and prepared for the possibility of being attacked. He divided his people and herds into groups which he sent out ahead of himself and his wives and children, each with a generous peace offering for Esau.
The pivot point on which this story turns is prayer. Jacob was in conversation with God, both in listening for God’s voice and in baring his heart to his intimately involved, loving God: "O Lord… I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness… Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau…" (Genesis 32:10-11 NIV)
Despite his long history of deception, God loved Jacob and gave him much more than the desires of his heart: “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.” (Genesis 33:4 NIV) Gazing at Esau through his tears, Jacob uttered, “…to see your face is like seeing the face of God…” (Genesis 33:10 NIV)
Is there a rift in your heart and family that needs healing this Christmas? If so, may you be encouraged by the reunion of Jacob and Esau.
How have you been a Jacob, robbing your family of God’s blessing?
How have you been an Esau, betrayed and hurt?
Life is too short and too precious to waste even a nanosecond in hardness of heart or paralyzed in pain. Like Jacob, may you be obedient and repentant. And like Esau, may your face be as the face of God.