After such a great prayer meeting with God in Genesis 32, Jacob should have been ready to meet Esau without any fear or reservation. He should not have worried about dividing up his family or sending out the droves. He should have been ready to go all the way to Bethel and worship God where He first appeared to Jacob when he left. But it didn’t quite work out like that. There were many good things that came out of the prayer meeting, no doubt. But there were also some shortcomings resulting from Jacob’s fleshly nature.
Jacob Returned from the Blessing of God – vs.1-3
If you are going to stay up all night worrying over something, you are better off praying until you get God’s blessing of assurance that He’s going to take care of you (Lk. 18:1-8). That’s far better than plotting and scheming.
God changed Jacob’s name to Israel because he had power with God and men and prevailed. Since he prevailed with God, he certainly would prevail with Esau. Coupled with the promises of Gen. 28:13-15 and 31:3, Jacob should surely have trusted God to protect him from an attack by Esau.
Since Jacob stayed all night in the “prayer meeting” with the Lord, he ran out of time to enact his original plan of dividing up his family into “two hosts.” So, he just lined them up in order of preference (the most preferred last) and introduced them to Esau.
Jacob Glorified God for His Children – vs. 4-7
Sufficient time in prayer with God changes your attitude about a lot of things. And it can change another’s attitude toward you.
For one thing, Esau didn’t “attack,” rather he ran up to Jacob and embraced him, glory to God! For another thing, when Jacob introduced his children to Esau, he said, “The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.” This is a lot different than what was said when he sent out the messengers to scope out Esau’s approach (32:3-5). At that time, he didn’t even mention the children or God’s grace!! What a change of mind!
Jacob Gave God’s Possessions to Esau – vs. 8-11
Many times when a professing Christian has been blessed by God, he will give to the world what he should have given to the Lord to demonstrate his gratitude for his blessings. This, of course, is the wrong thing to do.
Jacob promised God that he would give Him a tenth of all that He had given him if God would feed him, clothe him, keep him, and bring him home again in peace. God did that and yet Jacob decided to give God’s tenth (evidently) to Esau, instead. Jacob’s reason was that “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God.” Jacob didn’t owe Esau anything and Esau told him so. But he paid it anyway and Esau took it, just like the world will. This is like Christians giving to United Way, or other such worldly organizations, to demonstrate their appreciation to God for their wealth (Deut. 8:18). Those gifts belong to God.
Jacob Separated His family from Esau – vs. 12-15
No matter how helpful the world wants to be to Christians, Christians need to maintain a proper separation from the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
Esau offered to accompany Jacob on to Seir, which is south in the land of Edom. Jacob refused because the children and cattle would travel at a slow pace. Anyway, Seir was not the place for Jacob to go, although he gave Esau the impression that he would meet him there. Esau also offered to send a “body guard” with Jacob, but he refused this, too. It was unnecessary (Ps. 71:16, Is. 52:10-12, etc.).
Jacob Stopped Short of God’s Destination – vs. 16-20
Never stop short of the place God leads you to go (Rom. 8:14).
While Jacob refused to go to Seir, which was the right move, he only went as far Succoth, which was not far enough. He should have gone all the way to Bethel (Gen. 28:15, 20-22; 31:13; 35:1). Succoth was a city in the land owned by Shechem, across the river from Mahanaim where Jacob met Esau.
Jacob bought land and built “booths” for his cattle there (Num. 32:16; Ex. 9:20-21). These were essentially barns. He was obviously planning on sticking around. He also built an altar and called it “God, the God of Israel.” The trouble is that he was supposed to travel on to Bethel (“the house of God”). As a result, something terrible happened in the next chapter. Dinah was raped and 2 of Jacob’s sons murdered all the males of the city.
If God has called you to preach, don’t settle for a Sunday school class!