“One step forward, three back”
II. Vs. 1-16 A divided man
III. Vs. 17-20 A compromised man
In the last chapter Jacob has an encounter with the Lord that left him changed. He had been brought down to only being able to cling to the Lord in his wrestling. Two things happened as a result of the Lord wrestling with Jacob:
He would forever walk with a limp.
His name would be changed from (Con man) to (God rules).
Of these two manifestations that accompanied Jacob’s encounter with the Lord one was far more lasting then the other. His physical limp followed him the rest of his life and no doubt served as a reminder of the dangers of trying to stand in one’s own strength. The change of name was far less permanent. Doing a word search throughout the rest of Genesis on the names “Jacob” and his new name “Israel” after this encounter at Peniel is reveals that he is called Israel 23 times while being known as Jacob 45 times, almost double the amount. By way of comparison looking at his grandfather Abraham he is never again revered to by his old name Abram. The sad truth is that we relate far more with Jacob then we do Abraham our battle is one that is far more difficult than physically walking with a limp it is walking with a new name!
II. Vs. 1-16 A divided man
Vs. 1-3 It seems as though these verses happen immediately after Jacob’s encounter with the Lord and the interesting point is the very next morning which had driven Jacob to wrestle with the Lord has not been removed. Often times we assume that staying up all night seeking the Lord and even hearing from the Lord will change our circumstances but what has changes is not the circumstances but the means of overcoming them. God does not always remove the obstacles from our path but He will always give us the power in Him to overcome them. The greater concern is not in seeing a change in our circumstances but rather in not seeing a change in our reaction to them. Jacob so arranges his family to represent his love towards them, (the greatest love of his heart being at the end of the parade). He may be hoping for the best but he is still preparing for the worst, the only change we see in what Jacob loved the most is that he is no longer the number one, instead is in last place!
As Jacob rode up with 400 men there is Jacob bowing to him seven times. In that culture bowing was a sign of submission, a way of saying that he wanted no social power over Esau. 20 years earlier if Jacob would have just allowed the Lord to work all of this would not have been necessary as Isaac promised in 27:29 “Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s son’s bow down to you.”
Vs. 4-7 If we stop the words of verse 4 with “Esau ran to meet him” one wonders what expression was upon the face of Jacob and how it must have changed when we are told in the rest of verse 4 that Esau “embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him”. We probably know why Esau wept but the reason Jacob wept may have been for several reasons:
Grief, over past as well as doubting the Lord!
How great the Lord works in situations apart from us! God can and does so much through a broken humbled heart. The greatest distance known to man is not to measure in miles or light years instead it is measured in the inches from the head to the heart! There is no mention of the past by either of them, God has worked it out and there is no to dredge it all up instead Jacob introduces his family that God has given him.
Vs. 8-11 Perhaps Jacob was seeking to pay some sort of restitution towards Esau but I think more likely that the gifts had more to do with the future then they did the past. What is known is that in this culture one would never accept a gift from an enemy, only from a person you would consider your friend. That makes Jacob’s insistence of Esau accepting the gifts like trying to buy his brothers friendship. Both claim that they “have enough” but the words are two different ones. Esau’s word means “much” and Jacob’s means “everything”. Based upon Genesis 36 where we are given the history of Esau it is most likely that Esau had far more possessions then did Jacob yet Jacob describes what he has in terms of everything and not much. So what’s the reason for this? Well Jacob tells us here in verse 11 “God has dealt graciously with me”. The difference is that what Esau has is from the world as he had defeated the Horites and conquered the land of Seir to obtain it. That which is gained from the world may amount to “much” but it will never add up to “everything” apart from the Lord dealing graciously with us!
In the last chapter verse 28 Jacob’s named had been changed from “con man” to “ruled by God” but now he is already beginning to look more like the old con man then the new ruled by God. I find it always easier to trust God in the moment where He has revealed His truth to my heart and still another thing to trust Him each and every moment afterwards. The outcome is that it is easier to take Jacob out of the world than it is to take the world out of Jacob. Though we can still see some victory, Jacob had once swindled Esau’s birth right for a bowl of stew now he insists upon giving up flocks and herd’s for nothing.
Vs. 12-16 Esau is the one in this section that behaves more in line with that of a believer as he offers to travel with Jacob and after that is turned down he offers to leave his men as an escort. The obstacle in Jacob’s life in inheriting all of the promises of God was not his father favoring Esau; it was not Esau being the oldest. No it was himself, as he refused to submit to God. As I look at this it could not be any clearer than this: “The one you feared offers to escort you back to the land that God had promised was yours!” But instead of trusting God and seeing this has clearly coming from His hand Jacob chooses diplomacy. Someone was once asked to give an illustration of what the word meant and they said; “It is the art of saying nice doggie to draw the dog close enough so you can pick up a rock to hit it with!” That is what Jacob does here in these verses as he offers to join Esau in Seir all the while he is planning to do the opposite. If you take a look at a map of this area you will find that Seir is south east of Peniel and Succoth is northwest of Peniel. That means as soon as Esau takes off and puts some time and distance between them Jacob heads off in the opposite direction. Yes chapter 36:7 does tell us that the land where they were at together could not support them together but it never indicate that the deception given here by Jacob was the answer to the problem. You wonder how long Esau waited for Jacob to show up until he realized that Jacob had conned him again. After all of Jacob’s talk of “having everything” and God’s grace his actions revealed that these things weren’t true even though they were! The truth is that Spiritual profession without holy conduct is a reason so many refuse to believe the truth’s we have told then concerning God!
III. Vs. 17-20 A compromised man
Vs. 17 Here is yet another sign that Jacob’s name has still remained the same he first chooses to move to a place named “booths” (Succoth). He had lived without a permanent home but now he seeks a place to put down roots. That would not be so bad except for the fact that it was not in the land of promise. He built a house, which suggests that he lived there for a while. At Bethel his home was the House of God and he has traded it in for a “booth.” In chapter 34 Jacob is going to learn that he should have not stayed. The area was green and lush perfect for a time of ease and prosperity, away from the rockiness of living in the house of the Lord but with comfort in the world comes trials.
Vs.18 Next he moves safely to “safety” as Shechem means “in peace or safe and sound”, so this is a play on words as it says that Jacob came in peace to a place of peace. In pitching his tent before the city it reveals that his intent was to join the city. Oddly enough we are told that he is moving back closer to where he came rather than where God had called him.
Vs. 19-20 He buys some land from a family that is going to cause him much grief in the next chapter and it will be this grief that will get him to finally get back to Bethel in the 35th chapter. In all of this Jacob finally pays money for something that God said was his already. Erects an altar calling it God the God of Israel even though he had not acted as though this was true. We often think that we can counter act our behavior by giving God a bone every now and then. He does not want our occasional sacrifice; he wants our whole hearts! He may which to worship God but he cannot do so in a place where God does not want him to be. Even though this was the same place that his grandfather had built an altar it was still not where God had told him to be. Great name historical place but still the wrong place! The conclusions?
We are never safer then when we are uncomfortable: Are trouble is that we try to make our lives far too comfortable. We spend far too much energy trying to find ways in which we can make our experience with God a matter of convenience and not one of necessity! Simply put we make our God to safe choosing the green plains where life is simple to the rocks in the House of God.
We are never more in danger when we think we are secure in the things of the world: For it is during these times that we are least inclined to trust and obey the Lord. Instead of seeing the Lord as our only hope He doesn’t make our top ten list. A life of complacency supplants a life on the cutting edge and peace is preferred to purity, prosperity to piety and safety to spirituality.
Thank God it is not a place where He will allow us a permanent address!