December 14, 2010
It happened a long time ago on the wild frontier. There was no place to hide, no place to run, no sheriff in town who could stop the bloodshed. That’s why the younger brother couldn’t think straight, much less sleep. His older brother was coming to kill him. In a dead panic, the younger brother sent his most trusted employees to his brother’s house across the country, with a tearful plea. He said, “Tell my brother that in the years we have been apart, I have gotten filthy rich. I tell you this so you will like me.”
As I said, the younger brother was not thinking straight. When his trusted employees returned, they said, “Your brother called together 400 of his thugs and they are headed this way now. Based on how they are dressed and what they are packing, it is fairly certain they are not coming to congratulate you on your business acumen.”
Desperate and fearful, the younger brother played his trump card: bribery. It had always worked before. He filled three trucks with gifts and sent his most trusted employees in intervals to intercept his brother and his thugs. “Tell him,” they were instructed, “that these are from your lowly and subservient brother.” The trucks rolled away and the younger brother went to bed.
He was attacked in the night, not by his brother but by a much more powerful opponent. They fought until just before the sun came up and finally his resistance was broken. It was in that moment that he realized who he really was, and that it was his own fault that his brother was coming to kill him. He saw clearly that he had been a liar his whole life. He understood that he had always deceived until he got caught and then appeased until he got away. Nothing was ever resolved, just smoothed over. But this night he was broken, finally, over his sin, and knew two things for sure. He knew he was not the same person who had laid his head down the night before, fearful and trying to figure out a way to get out of what he had caused. He also knew he would never depend on his strength again. His limp would remind him that his strength was God’s alone.
When the sun came up, Jacob lifted up his eyes and saw Esau coming towards him. Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times as he approached his older brother, but Esau took off running right into Jacob’s arms. They wept and embraced and Jacob said, “I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.”
His whole life Jacob had flip-flopped from peace-breaker to peace-faker. The limping middle-aged man was finally a peacemaker. The question I asked of the text as I read it in the Bible was, “How did that life-change happen? What did Jacob have to do?” He had to stop running. You cannot make peace by running away. He had to face God. We cannot have the peace of God until we have peace with God. He had to face himself and his own sins. You want to get right? Get real. He had to face his brother. By the way, the mysterious man who attacked Jacob in the night was none other than God himself. If life (or your brother) has you in a headlock, it’s because God loves you and he knows that your only hope for peace on earth starts with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.