Trust But Verify

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants’ 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear’ 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother’

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him’ And they wept’ Genesis 33:1-4

This is a very touching moment in the lives of these estranged brothers, more so for Esau. They hadn’t seen each other for at least 20 years. Was it like they had never left each other? Probably not.

Esau, though polite in his upcoming exchange, knows his brother and what he’s capable of. President Reagan used the term, “Trust but Verify.” In other words, have a reasonable distrust based on past history.

I suspect we all have that type of family member somewhere within our immediate family. It’s just the way families roll in this day and age. You don’t trust them; they don’t trust you (and both for different reasons). Your interactions with that person are sparse, and when they do exist, few words are exchanged because you know that at any minute someone or something could blow.

Are you at peace with that person? I’m not suggesting you reconcile because I don’t know the history. I’m merely asking if you’re at peace with that person. If you are, then Lord bless.

If you aren’t at peace, what’s blocking that peace? Is it you, them, or something/someone else?

Relationships are tough even as we grow older. People don’t play fair and they keep moving relationship goal posts to where they want them to be. However, being at peace with those close to you benefits all parties involved. Take time today to examine that peace.

Worth the Wrestle

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon. Genesis 32:22-32

Jacob had a fascinating encounter with the angel of God. They were wrestling to the point that Jacob got injured, plus he acquired new name from the encounter.

We relate to this story perhaps more than many other Bible stories. We know what that wrestling with God looks like. They are not physical wrestling matches where we would get hurt, but spiritual ones.

  • We wrestle with Him about our future.
  • We wrestle with Him about our wayward children.
  • We wrestle with Him about the direction of our country.
  • We wrestle with Him about our lot in life.
  • We wrestle with Him about our relationships.

We don’t always get clarity or answers or satisfaction, but it’s certainly worth the wrestle.

‘Tis the Gift

13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”

17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.'”

19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.'” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp. Genesis 32:13-21

The level of detail given here is amazing. It was enough to overwhelm and to make someone think twice. The large gift probably meant nothing to Jacob because he was very wealthy. In fact, it seems as if Jacob were sending the gifts in waves with sufficient spacing in between. He knew exactly how the gifts would be received on the other end. Who could resist?

It seems to me that Jacob had been thinking about this for a long time. Of course the gifts were save his own skin, so to speak, but it was well thought out.

Have you ever bought a gift for someone and you know it was not the best gift but because it was on sale or convenient you bought it and gave it anyway? We all have.

But gifts are mean to be special. For instance, I have a running gag with my mother-in-law whereby I give her something at Christmas that shows I’ve been thinking of her and no one else. If I gave the same gift to my wife or even her husband it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. In fact, they’d understand who it was intended for because they’re in on the gag too. But my point isn’t what the gift is, but what it is intended to do: make the receiver realize that I must have been thinking of her.

I recall the gift exchange a very wealthy boss of mine had with his wife. At the time when he told me, he could only spend $5 on a gift at Christmas and she the same. Here’s someone who could afford to spend thousands, but they both limited themselves to $5 because they would have to think hard about the best gift for that amount of money.

My point today is that gifts have meanings attached to them. How thoughtful are you when you give out gifts? Does it matter that what you buy never gets used because you bought a gift just because it was expected of you?

A Model of Prayer

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'” Genesis 32:9-12

In what seems like an act of desperation, Jacob thanks and praises God for his blessings. After pleading for his life, he reminds God of His promises to continue to bless him. We might call this a foxhole prayer, a prayer prayed while in the trenches of a battle and when it’s looking gloomy. Promises are made in foxholes. In exchange for longer life, the person praying promises more than normal.

With Jacob, of course, it’s different. He was promised blessing and prosperity. Up to this point God has fulfilled His promise, and Jacob’s family line would continue.

Jacob may have prayed many times but very few of those prayers are recorded. Fortunately we get to see one that is as real as what we pray.

Don’t miss the fear in Jacob’s prayer. He has no idea what to expect when he meets up with his brother. He never repented of lying to his father and brother but he feels like he needs to see him again.

Jacob’s prayer, while self-serving, gives us a mini-model for our prayers. Praise, thankfulness, request, emotion, recite promises we know will be fulfilled in our lives.

Tame the Volcano Early

3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.'”

6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” Genesis 32:3-8

If you recall, Jacob and Esau did not part ways amicably. Esau said he’d kill his brother, so Jacob had good reason to want to bribe his brother with gifts and to call a truce.

It had been 20 years since all of that took place. Was there still resentment and bitterness after all these years. You would hope not. Would Esau even remember what set him off in the first place? Most definitely.

Grudges and bitterness are avoidable if they are “nipped in the bud” early. That goes with anything and for any reason. But life throws some big curveballs our way on occasion. We get angry, frustrated, and feel hopeless about things outside of our control. We can harbor anger for days or weeks. But this does no one any good because the anger grows unless it’s dealt with somewhere along the way.

Over the next few days we’ll find out whether that initial anger Esau had has grown into something unmanageable.

Until then, know that the Lord wants us to deal with bitterness sooner rather than later. Bring it to Him, and then talk to someone about it. Get it out there before it consumes you.

Encouragement From God

Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim. Genesis 32:1-2

Jacob was well on his way to Canaan at this point, and he encountered angels. Why now? Why in the middle of his journey?

A simple explanation is that they encouraged him. He had just had a major confrontation (and later truce) with his father in law, and uprooted his entire family. Was he doing the right thing? Could he have done better to work things out with Laban?

Jacob and his tribe was where they should have been and these angels camped with him.

Sometimes we all just need a word or two of encouragement. It may not be angelic like Jacob but from the right source, it may well be angelic.

I say this often, 75% of the people you meet will need encouragement today. The other 25% will need it tomorrow. I

t’s probably safe to say that you can never encourage too much. That goes with spouses, friends, family, children, co-workers, or even the shopkeeper that just had a run-in with a rude customer.

Encourage someone today. It doesn’t take much and it may be a life-changing event for that person.

Peace Peace Where There Is No Peace

38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”

43 Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.

48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.”

51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home. Genesis 31:38-55

Laban and Jacob called an official truce to their internal feuding. Truces exist to prevent war and to maintain a peaceful co-existence with someone else. As we go through the Old Testament we’ll see numerous examples of one king approaching another king to set up a peace treaty.

When people ask heads of state what they want for Christmas, more often than not, they say “Peace on Earth.” Interesting, isn’t it?

Peace in our day is elusive and complex, especially when one side doesn’t want peace at all and is yelling Death to Israel!, Death to America! And those are some of the countries we know about. Consider any number of warring African nations. There is no peace nor is there a desire for peace.

Ultimately, the internal peace we have from a relationship with Jesus Christ allows us to have peace on the outside.

Sometimes, though, that peace on the inside can erode because of life events. You lose your peace and joy and contentment.

Somebody reading this right now is experiencing that turmoil inside. You don’t have the peace you once had. You don’t have that joy.

Fortunately, you can reclaim all of that. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter and wants us to reach out.

Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. James 4:8

You Have Problems. We All Have Problems

22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”

31 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.

35 Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us. Genesis 31:22-37

Rachel continued her deception by feigning illness. She deceived her father and her husband. Laban and Jacob have twenty years of history between them, and they still don’t trust each other.

For the last few days we’ve been focused almost entirely on family and family matters. The Lord devoted quite a bit of Scripture detailing some of the problems, travels, and joys of the founders of the faith. The family must be important to Him. They are often messy and uninviting. Some problems seem to be too far gone to help with.

Every family has problems. The more extended the family, the more problems. Even though we know better, we shy away from family issues because they’re not fun to deal with. People get hurt, money is lost, and the problems are sometimes embarrassing.

As with any of our problems, we just need to lay those problems and family members at the foot of the cross over and over again. And of course no problem is insurmountable for God so why are you trying to solve it on your own?

Family Dynamics

17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21 So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead. Genesis 31:17-21

I vacillate between Jacob being a man of God and a great liar. Well, it turns out he’s both.

Then Rachel continued the family trait by stealing from her father. Forget for a moment what she stole (probably small statuettes or trinkets resembling a god the people invented). Consider instead the value Laban placed on the god. He would’ve been livid when he found out. Rachel knew that he would be angry but she seemed to be getting “even” with Laban for some reason.

The main point of this passage is the obvious though: Jacob and his household fled. They were uprooting their families and moving onward. They would meet up with Laban shortly, but for now they were headed to Bethel.

It may have even been Jacob’s way of nicely detaching his wives from their family. It’s all they’d ever known, and they had enough trouble with each other and their husband that they didn’t need their father to complicate matters.

Pray for your own family today. Only you know all the issues that complicate the inner workings of those relationships. Reach out to a family member you haven’t talked to in a long time. You’ll be glad you did.