The story of Jacob returning to Esau is a story of God’s blessing, humility, and generosity. Jacob’s approach can teach us a few things about how we solve differences and make peace. And it starts with setting aside entitlement for a posture of deference…
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”
13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau.
When Jacob approached Esau he said messengers ahead and then sent a gift of his flocks to Esau as a peace offering. He was afraid that Esau would attack him even though God promised to bless him and be with him.
Jacob is in a state of humility before the Lord and prays that he is unworthy of God’s blessing on his life. That’s true. In fact, Jacob didn’t do anything to earn the blessing of God. It was God’s choice to bless him because of God’s own plan.
How often do we think that we need to earn the favour of God when his love flows because of who he is?
And so as Jacob approaches Esau, he has a choice. He can hope for the best and be ready for a battle, or he can send a peace offering and put himself in the place of humility before his brother. Jacob chose humility. Even as the blessed one of God. He didn’t come saying that as the anointed brother Esau should accept him or else. He came in peace and deference.
Interesting. So we cannot earn God’s favour in the first place, and when we have God’s favour, even to the extent that Jacob had it (he would be the father of Israel), we ought to be humble. That’s not how humans typically work. It’s backwards.
How far would you go to ensure that you achieved peace with your brother? Probably not as far as carving off a large piece of your wealth to give him as a gift. Yet when peace depends on our actions, maybe we need to amp up the humility and add to it generosity for the sake of relationship…