Relationships are hard. Everyone can agree on that. They are hard because relationships involve being selfless. That does not come naturally to us as humans because of our sin nature. By nature, we are selfish. I do not like it but, it is the truth. All of us have suffered at some point or another from ruined relationships. It does not really matter if we are the victim or the aggressor. In either case, God wants to restore relationships. In fact, He is in the business of restoring relationships. God has always been in a perfect relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When God created mankind, He created us to be in a right relationship with Him and to manifest that right relationship with Him in our relationships with one another. We see this theme run all throughout the Bible. God connected with Adam and Adam connected with Eve. For a time, the relationships were perfect. Mankind chose to sin and as a result, our relationship with God was broken. That ruined relationship manifested itself in our broken relationships with each other. The blame game started in the Garden of Eden. God promised a Rescuer (Savior) who would mend the relationship between God and man and that restored relationship would manifest itself in restored relationships with others. Relationships are difficult because of our sin nature. We have to reconnect with God so that we can live in right relation to others. This theme is manifested in Genesis.
- God & Adam and Eve
- God & Cain and Abel
- God & Noah and his family
- God & Abraham and his family
- God & Isaac and his family
- God & Jacob and Esau
Genesis is a precursor to the Law. In the Law, we find the Ten Commandments. They can be broken down into two categories; the first four deal with connecting with God and the final six deal with our relationship to others. In the New Testament, Jesus explains that the Greatest Commandment in the Law is, “to love the Lord with all your heart . . . and then to love your neighbor as yourself”. In essence, the Greatest Commandment can be summed up as, “Connect with God and Connect with others”. Right relationships begin with God and manifest in our daily interactions with others.
This is where our story picks up in Genesis 32. Jacob and Esau are brothers yet, their relationship has been ruined because of a frivolous decision and deception. Many a relationship has been ended because of frivolous decisions; a careless word here or there and now trust has been broken. The person who used to bring you joy now causes anxiety. We have all been there. To be honest, we are all probably there right now. The hardest thing for us to do is to confront the situation head on. We tend to ignore the problem and just hope that it goes away. Jacob and Esau’s relationship had been strained and more than likely was ruined. Much time had passed since they last saw each other. Jacob is very anxious about seeing his brother again. He is afraid that his brother is going to take revenge. Jacob does not want to face the situation but, he cannot avoid Esau forever. They are about to meet face to face and Jacob is terrified. Have you ever been in a similar situation? How do we need to proceed?
Jacob trusts in the Lord
Jacob is terrified and he does what his parents had taught him to do; run to the Lord for mercy and grace. Jacob had been taught to connect with God from an early age and that connection impacted the rest of his life. He knows the character of God and he appeals to God based on His character and promises.
9 Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’
10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies.
11 “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children.
12 “For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’ ” (Genesis 32)
Did you notice how Jacob appealed to the character of God? First, he addresses God as Elohim which means “All Powerful Creator”. He then addresses God as Jehovah which means the “Self-Existing One”. Jacob knows who God is and how He has intervened in human history. Jacob has been well taught in the essence of who God is from his parents. Next, Jacob appeals to God’s lovingkindness. The idea of lovingkindness means being useful to the benefactor. God loves us enough to meet us where we are and help us. Jacob understands this and he asks God for help in his current situation. His appeal is based God’s faithfulness and not his own. Jacob’s actions got him into this mess so he does not trust himself. He trusts the Lord. Jacob begs for deliverance from the situation and most importantly, he needs to have a right relationship with Esau and that will only be possible with the Lord’s help. The final appeal that Jacob makes is his trust in the Promised Rescuer. He is looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. This is the essence of the Gospel. Trusting in Christ is the only way that our relationship with God can be restored and it is the only way that ruined relationships can restored.
God intervenes in the situation and Jacob and Esau are reconciled and their ruined relationship is restored. But, for that to happen, God had to do some work in Jacob’s life in a very personal way.
Jacob becomes Israel
As we have seen all throughout the book of Genesis, God is personal and He wants to connect with individuals on a personal level. God meets with Jacob and Jacob’s character is transformed. The name Jacob comes from a Hebrew verb that means to circumvent or to overreach. We have seen Jacob do things on his own up to this point. He worked with his mom to deceive his dad. He took advantage of Esau’s weaknesses. Jacob has a sin nature like all of us and the same warning that God gave to Cain is the same warning that God gives to us all. Our sin nature wants to master us and it will until we learn to master it. The key is, we need to surrender to the Lord and let Him help us master our sin nature. Jacob has not done that yet. He does now. He surrenders completely to God. The Lord changes Jacob’s character and that is manifested in the fact that Jacob’s name is changed to Israel. The name Israel means “God overpowers (me)“. Jacob is overpowered by God and God is the One who is going to heal the relationship between Jacob and Esau. This is the essence of the Gospel. We surrender to God through faith in Jesus Christ. God transforms our character, making us like Himself. That relationship and transformation manifest in our relationships with others. What relationships do you have that are currently suffering? Are you ready to confront the problem humbly? Do you trust the Lord to intervene with mercy and grace? Are you going to take initiative to restore your broken relationship today? Or, maybe you have never been transformed by God. Maybe you have never connected with God and therefore find it very difficult to maintain personal relationships. If that is the case, now is a good time to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior so that you can connect with God and establish a personal relationship with Him. God will teach you how to build and maintain personal relationships with others.
May the Lord help us restore ruined relationships through faith in Him and what He is able to do.