Parashat Vayishlach (And He Sent)
Beresheet (Genesis) 32: 3 (4 in the Hebrew Bible) – 36:43
As we previously studied in the account of Jacob and Esau, Jacob ran away from Esau after stealing both the firstborn right and the blessing from their father, Isaac. He traveled to the land of the people from the east where he met Laban, his mother's brother, and there he worked for Laban in return for a wife.
Last week, I wrote in my blog It’s Not “Karma” about Laban’s deception of Jacob as he was searching for a bride; I suggested that what happened to Jacob was actually a consequence of his deception of Esau. This week, I’d like to suggest another perspective of what happened to Jacob, which is that Jacob working for 14 years in order to marry Rachel turned out to be God’s grace and protection over him. Let’s see how this unfolds in this week’s parasha.
Jacob always knew that he would need to go back to the Land of Promise. However, he also knew that Esau, his brother, would be seeking revenge for what Jacob had done to him. Have you ever considered the possibility that God used the 14 years that Jacob was away in order to soften Esau’s heart toward him?
Jacob had good reason to fear Esau as we see in this week’s Scripture portion:
Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.” And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.”
After getting the news that Esau was coming with four hundred men, it’s understandable that Jacob’s fear only increased. However, he demonstrated trust in God in that he did not run away but continued to walk toward the Land to meet his brother. Yet, he did do certain things in preparation as a means of protection over his family:
So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. And he delivered theminto the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.” And he commanded the one in front, saying, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?’ then you shall say, ‘These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.’” Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, “After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”
And then right before the actual meeting we read again,
Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. And he put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
As we read this story from a human perspective, we can relate to Jacob's fear and his preparations for meeting his brother. However, we can’t leave God out of the equation! Throughout the entire time, God was at work "behind the scenes" to soften Esau’s heart. In God’s perfect timing that meeting took place; the proof is found in the next verse:
Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Esau was ready to meet his brother and to be reconciled to him; he did not need all of the “goods” that Jacob had to offer. His heart was ready to forgive Jacob.
Are you going through something difficult that might seem unfair? May I encourage you to wait on the Lord, and trust that He is in control, working in ways that you may not be able to see?
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