Genesis 32: 1-5
1 As Jacob went on his way, some angels met him. 2 When he saw them, he said, “This is God's camp”; so he named the place Mahanaim.
3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them to say: “I, Jacob, your obedient servant, report to my master Esau that I have been staying with Laban and that I have delayed my return until now. 5 I own cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, and slaves. I am sending you word, sir, in the hope of gaining your favour.”
Here is Jacob, now responsible for a large family as well as the huge flocks that constitute his worldly wealth. He has exploited his situation, made enormous gains, and, after all the years, he is restless, and prepares to go home to the land of his fathers. But where is home?
He is between a rock and a hard place, between the deceiving and deceived uncle, and the deceived and perhaps still wrathful brother. He has escaped the one, and plans to placate the other, the only way he knows, by a show of wealth and power, and the offering of generous gifts.
Esau receives him with friendliness and every sign of letting bygones be bygones, and at first refuses his gifts, saying “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have.” After persuasion he receives them with grace, the brothers part again and Jacob settles in a new place.
Is he settled? We know his wanderings are not yet over, and neither are his troubles. But he seems to have settled the old account with his brother, and soon they have to go together to bury their father Isaac – sharing sorrow and reconciliation.
God of mercy,
how often we find ourselves fearful and apprehensive as a result of our actions –
will there be big trouble?
Can we explain what we really meant?
No offence, my friend –
but we have hurt someone,
gone too far,
stepped out of line.
What will put it right?
You do not want herds of sheep and goats -
only that we do justly
and love mercy
and walk humbly with you.
And when we come to you,
with our fear and apprehension,
our repentance and humble prayers –
God of mercy,
you forgive us,
seventy times seven.