When the time comes for Jacob to return to his homeland, he is understandably nervous about it. After all, he swindled his brother twice and then ran away. His last view of his brother—and the one he has carried with him during the intervening years—is of Esau filled with rage and vowing to kill him. So now he is approaching home and sending ahead lavish gifts in the hope of appeasing his wronged brother. He is fearful for his life and for the lives of his wives and children. He has prayed to God to protect the lives of his family and himself from the wrath of Esau.
Then appears the mysterious stranger in Genesis 32. What are we to make of him? While Jacob doesn’t exactly know who he is, he knows that the stranger and the stranger’s blessing are important. His encounter seems to be a harbinger of good things—a successful reconciliation with Esau and a fruitful life back in his homeland. In spite of his feelings of apprehension over his reunion with Esau and in spite of his feelings of unworthiness of God’s blessings, things go well for Jacob, and he is enthusiastically greeted by his brother.
There are times in our lives when we feel undeserving of God’s blessings and unworthy of the love and forgiveness of others. But God’s grace is available to see us through. It is both humbling and invigorating to overcome estrangement through the grace of God and the forgiveness of others. This new energy can help us as we work towards new beginnings with our slates wiped clean.
- Why did the stranger wrestled with Jacob? Why was it important to Jacob that the stranger bless him?
- Jacob’s sins against Esau were pretty bad—he didn’t just swipe his baseball glove, he stole his birthright. Why do you think Esau so readily forgave his brother?
- Think about a time when you received forgiveness that you felt you hadn’t earned?
- Write a prayer to God listing all the opportunities you see in your family, community and country—and the world in general—for reconciliation. Pray that God will allow those reconciliations to occur and that God will use you to help in some way.
- Do you have any friends or relatives with whom you have had a falling out? If it is possible, initiate a reconciliation. If not, pray to God that a reconciliation may someday be possible. Continue to look for an opportunity to make peace.