"Jacob Buys Love" - Preston Nesper
After deceiving his brother Esau many years before, Jacob finally returns home. Though he left poor and alone, God blessed him, giving him flocks and a family. Jacob, whose name becomes "Israel" during this passage, is terrified that Esau would remember the betrayal of their youth and kill him on sight. When Jacob's messengers return saying that Esau is on his way to meet them with 400 men, Jacob's fears seemed to be confirmed.
He takes his people, his flocks and his herds and divides them into 2 camps to protect them, thinking that if Esau attacks him at least half of his wealth can be spared. Not stopping there, Jacob makes another strategic play, having his servants take some of his goats, rams, camels, cows and donkeys and divide them into groups. He instructs them to put some distance between each group of animals to arrive at Esau one at a time and offer them as gifts. Jacob's plan is to appease Esau with some of his wealth, over and over again in order to soften Esau's heart before Jacob personally arrives to see his brother in person.
Most discussions I've heard about this passage highlight Jacob's struggle with God during the night. How Jacob wrestles a man to a stalemate, has his hip socket dislocated and yet holds on, insisting that the man bless him. In reading this passage recently I was struck by Jacob's actions before then: How he takes unnecessary precautions and continues to scheme in order to work out the situation before him to his best advantage. I was convicted of similar actions I take in my own life.
Some of the church in Bellflower is full of wealth. Some business owners in Bellflower are full of wealth. Some households in Bellflower are full of wealth. How do we treat it? Do we plan with it, "scheme" with it to make sure we always have enough? Do we use it to manipulate situations or people to our advantage? Do we wrestle against God with it? I know I do.
I may have not betrayed my neighbors in the same way that Jacob betrayed his brother, but I am still a betrayer. How many times have I passed through a local drive through without purchasing a sandwich for a homeless neighbor nearby? How many things have I sold on eBay or Trash & Treasure rather than finding a local charity to donate too? How many weekends have I taken a vacation or "staycation" while my neighbors have a lawn that could be mowed, groceries bought or even a house painted?
Our church often thanks God for our blessings, then rattles of a list of material comforts. I believe the Bible is clear that what we often call a "blessing" is more often a curse. Is your wealth a tool to honor your neighbors, your schools and your community? Or are you trying to figure out how to get the most out of what you already have? I challenge you to join me by looking to Jesus for your inspiration, not to Jacob.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
HOW TO PRAY:
Pray that God would show you how to use your wealth (even if you don’t think it’s a lot) to bless your neighbors in Bellflower
Genesis 32:3 - 33:11 “Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 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. 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.’ 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.’ 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. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.’ 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,’ 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. 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. 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.’ He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 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.’ 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?’ 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.’ 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. 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.’ So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp. 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. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 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. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. 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.’ Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’ The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 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. 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. He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. ‘Who are these with you?’ he asked. Jacob answered, ‘They are the children God has graciously given your servant.’ Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. Esau asked, ‘What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?’ ‘To find favor in your eyes, my lord,’ he said. But Esau said, ‘I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.’ ‘No, please!’ said Jacob. ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.’ And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
About the Author: Preston is a Bellflower resident of 30 years, product of BUSD, private business manager and former Board President of Kingdom Causes Bellflower