Jacob Sends Gifts to Esau (Genesis 32:3)

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Every one of us, at some point, has to confront the past.

Whether that’s poor decisions on our part (or someone else’s), loose ends that need to be tied up, or conversations that need to be had, I would imagine every person reading this has something in their past that they could probably confront.

Don’t read too much into that: I’m not necessarily saying you need to (unless you do!), but simply that skeletons in the closet are all too real for us.

For Jacob, the one thing that was “left undone” for him was his relationship with Esau. He fled from the presence of his parents, which most likely means he hadn’t seen them for years. He also hadn’t seen his brother, who swore to kill him the next time they crossed paths (Genesis 27:41).

It’s big of Jacob to want to confront Esau. I would think most of us would simply find ways to avoid our past indefinitely. Maybe we deal with it sometime, but only if we have to, right?

At its core, this entire conversation can be tied back to repentance. Part of us repenting is making things right with the one that we’ve wronged — if that’s only God, so be it. Most of the time though, there’s collateral damage involved with relationships.

When Jesus discusses people who give gifts at the altar, He tells people to leave it there and be “reconciled” to your brother if they have something against you (Matthew 5:24).

In 1 John 4:20, the Apostle John asks us a very pointed question: How can you love God, whom you haven’t seen, when you hate your brother whom you have seen? In short, our relationship with God is, in many ways, bound up in our relationship with each other.

Jacob understood this, which drove his desire to reconcile with Esau. He takes appropriate precautions, though. He sends gifts to Esau, tells him where he’s been, and divides his camp to protect his family line (Genesis 32:3-8).

Jacob does this because he wants to “find favor” with Esau, which is another way of asking for reconciliation (Genesis 32:5).

That’s the same way we need to approach our past. When we are trying to reconcile with others or our actions, the process is simple:

  1. Seek the opportunity.
  2. Seek to pacify, not escalate.
  3. Seek God.

The response from Esau, as we’ll see shortly, is reflective of Jacob’s preparation. Had Jacob come out armed with arrogance and Esau showed up with bitterness, the meeting would’ve gone totally different.

Instead, what they both sought was reconciliation. Because of that, everyone wins.