Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means “shelters”).
Esau hugged Jacob. Before the hug, Jacob thought his brother Esau surely killed him. Jacob always believed that his sin against Esau was too great to be forgiven for the last twenty years. Jacob could come to Esau because Jacob gave up everything before God and emptied himself after his most desperate prayer to God on the previous night.
Indeed, Jacob suffered due to the ungrounded fear that he manufactured out of his imagination, following his logic of never forgiving others, which made him suffer for the last twenty years. Even so, God was with Jacob always and carefully watched over Jacob. Jacob did not know this truth and wasted his twenty years of life while fearing Esau.
Why didn’t God do anything for twenty years? Because God loved Jacob. God patiently waited till the right moment that Jacob truly realized how sinful his sin was and how merciful God was.
As our sin is deep and heavy, God’s mercy of forgiveness our sins became even deeper and greater. God let Jacob live his own life for twenty years. And Jacob did everything that he could do to overcome his sin with his earthly wisdom and might. Jacob sent thee lavish gifts specially prepared to calm Esau, and Jacob also sent over his family ahead of him. He did all to preserve his life. Jacob hid behind all he had: his earthly smartness, the enormous wealth mainly gained at his uncle Laban’s expense, and his family, including eleven sons. However, Jacob realized that none could protect himself from his brother Esau. After all, Jacob could not make his final step — cross and meet Esau, who was coming with an army of 400 men. Jacob never forgot what he did to Esau, which made him so much fearful of Esau.
Jacob finally realized there was no other choice but to confront his death, but he had no courage to face his death. How desperate Jacob was! No one rescued him. He alone had to confront his death. Jacob sent away all that he had, including his family, to the other side of the Jabbok River, and he was left alone. As the night getting deeper, Jacob’s fear was getting bigger. Jacob got to the breaking point. Suddenly, he heard a voice from his heart – come to God. Jacob then remembered the first night when he met God as he fled from home. God came and comforted Jacob when he was alone in the middle of the wilderness. Jacob said to himself, “Yes, I have to go back to God.” Jacob then fell before God and prayed. He prayed in his pure desperation. He had never prayed like this before. His prayer was truly authentic, and his heart was most contrite ever.
Jacob was almost dying in his fear of death, but God was joyful because God saw Jacob came back to Him. God waited for twenty years this very moment. Jacob finally returned to God with all his heart, mind, and soul. God sent His angel, and Jacob wrestled with the angel throughout the night. Yes, it was the night never forgettable.
However, God knew the weakness of Jacob. Surely, Jacob would forget the night as time went by as any other human being would do.
Would you please look back and carefully examine your past? Then all we can see many of God’s miracles that touched our lives, but all the excitements, awes, and thanksgiving are no more with us. As time goes by, they were forgotten by being slowly fading away from our lives. We felt we would never forget them, but they are forgotten by turning into mere events that happened every day in our lives.
God raised up Jacob as the extraordinary heir for God’s covenant made with Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, and Isaac, Jacob’s father, but Jacob lived his own life after miraculous events that he met God. God prepared the truly unforgettable night by the wrestling match with the angel. In addition to the wrestling match, God planted a mark in his body that certainly would be with him for the rest of his life by making him limp. The angel touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket, giving Jacob excruciating pain. After that, Jacob limped for the rest of his life. Finally, Jacob was ready for God’s covenant both spiritually and physically. All things happened one night with God.
Jacob, then, crossed the Jabbok River the following morning while limping. He limped and moved ahead of all that he had. All his family carefully watched Jacob limping, but nobody dared to ask. As Jacob led them, they quietly followed Jacob. Jacob led all to Esau. Jacob was so afraid of Esau on the previous night and practically immobilized. The following morning, Jacob was leading all in the faith of God. He no longer feared anything on earth, including his death by Esau.
As soon as Esau saw Jacob, he stopped. His army of 400 men stood till with Esau. Jacob bowed to the ground seven times before Esau. Then Jacob was motionless on the ground.
All were so quiet and still. Then suddenly, Esau ran to Jacob, embraced Jacob by throwing his arms around Jacob’s neck, and kissed Jacob. And they both wept. God, who dearly loved Jacob, softened Esau’s heart ahead of Jacob. What a beautiful scene that God created! Esau certainly had many legitimate reasons to kill Jacob, but Esau did choose to forgive and hug Jacob. God is the master of all, including human hearts and minds.
Jacob introduced each of his family members to Esau and presented his lavish gifts prepared for Esau. Esau refused, but Jacob insisted till Esau received his extravagant gifts, which made Jacob comfortable.
God made Jacob reborn into a new life last night with God’s grace and mercy. God forgave Jacob’s terrible sin that haunted him for twenty years. As the new morning came, Jacob experienced the forgiveness of God as Esau hugged him, who supposedly killed Jacob.
However, Jacob still had the remnant of his worldly nature. Although Jacob experienced God, he could not 100% believe what had happened. In other words, Jacob could not accept the fact that Esau truthfully and completely forgave him. Thus, Jacob was still in fear of Esau.
Now, we can see the power of sin. Although God forgave Jacob’s sin, and Esau also forgave Jacob, Jacob could not be 100% comfortable with Esau. He decided to avoid Esau as soon as possible.
Esau gave a friendly invitation to go with him, but Jacob let Esau go first while telling Esau that he would follow Esau. Then Esau proposed to assign some of his men to guide and protect Jacob, but Jacob refused. How sad it was! Jacob was newly born in God, but he was still living in his old self. Again, it tells how sin is sinful and deadly, and sin never leaves us while clinging to our worldly nature as long as it can.
Jacob lied to Esau, and Jacob ran away from Esau. He traveled on to Succoth, where he felt that he could hide from Esau immediately. Succoth means “shelters.” Succoth gave Jacob peace by being the shelter from Esau. Jacob stayed there till all became quiet. Then he searched for a permanent place to live. Jacob heard good things about Shechem. Jacob headed to the town of Shechem to be completely free from Esau forever.
As the first step, Jacob set up camp outside the town and watched the lives of Shechem. As he expected, it looked good to his eye. As Jacob looked at the place more and more, he liked more and more Shechem. Then he decided to settle down in the town of Scheme.
Jacob forgot his prayer to God. It was the first night as he fled from his brother Esau who tried to kill Jacob. Jacob laid his head on a rock and slept, but God, who loved Jacob, came and comforted Jacob by showing God’s vision of angels moving up and down along the ladder reaching to heaven. Then God made His covenant with Jacob. As Jacob got up early, he realized that he met God. Jacob built an altar and prayed to God for the first time. He promised to build an altar at the place if God made him return safely.
For the past twenty years, God did more than what Jacob asked for in his first prayer. Jacob had nothing in his hand when he fled from home. Now Jacob came back with eleven sons and countless sheep, goats, camels, and many servants. God lavishly blessed Jacob, but Jacob forgot his promise made to God.
Using his wealth, he bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. Then Jacob built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel, which means “God, the God of Israel.” In other words, “God, the God of the new Jacob.” Finally, Jacob felt safe, and then Jacob recognized God as the God for the new self. However, Jacob did not completely get out of his old self. He had to grow and mature in God.
If we were God, how would we respond to Jacob? God was infinitely patient to Jacob. God waited again patiently waited for Jacob as He waited for Jacob for twenty years. God dealy loved Jacob.
One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area. But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words. He said to his father, Hamor, “Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.”
The place where Jacob settled was not a good place. His daughter was raped by the local prince. It reminds us of Lot, who chose Sodom because it looked good to his eye. But the city was filled with terrible sins. Then later, God’s angels had to rescue Lot and his family out of the city.
Soon Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter, Dinah. But since his sons were out in the fields herding his livestock, he said nothing until they returned. Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to discuss the matter with Jacob. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done.
Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her. In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”
Then Shechem himself spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. “Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,” he begged. “I will give you whatever you ask. No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.”
But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor. They said to them, “We couldn’t possibly allow this, because you’re not circumcised. It would be a disgrace for our sister to marry a man like you! But here is a solution. If every man among you will be circumcised like we are, 16then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves. We will live among you and become one people. But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her and be on our way.”
Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal. Shechem wasted no time in acting on this request, for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate.
“These men are our friends,” they said. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely. Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours. But they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are. But if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.”
Scheme and his father, Hamor, were also deceitful. They shared their true hearts with the townspeople. Both Jacob and his son and Shechem and his father, Hamor, were equally deceitful. The world is full of deceits. People deceive and are deceived, which is the norm of this world.
while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)
So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised. But three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp.
Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives.
It is the result of human deception and an unforgiving heart, including human greed.
Afterward, Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!”
“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” they retorted angrily. The unrepenting hearts insisted on their righteousness. Look around the world. Why do conflicts never end? People deceive and are deceived. Then people do their own justice by their own hands because they are more righteous than the others in their eyes. Where can we see the forgiveness that God gave us before we forgive others?
In those days … Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
Jacob again fell into fear of the people around him. Jacob chased down his earthly desire settling in the earthly city of Shechem, and his sons committed a serious sin of killing the people of the Shechem. Jacob again reaped what he sowed. No longer could he stay at the same place. De Ja Vu. The new Jacob, Israel, was just a name. Jacob was not yet Israel. Although he got the new name, Jacob got back into the world gradually until he ended up living the same earthly life as before, which led to another deep trouble. Jacob could not sleep again at night, and he struggled. Then Jacob came back to himself. He remembered his new name, Israel, which God gave him after his desperate prayer throughout the night. Jacob realized what was missing in his life.
He humbly went back to God, and spread out all he had in his heart and the sins committed by his sons, including his fear of the people around him. Then he quietly waited for God. Jacob was truly ready to hear God. If God told Jacob ahead of this moment when Jacob felt that everything went well, Jacob would have had not heard God at all like us. When becoming poor in heart, we can truly hear God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Then God said to Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.” God reminded Jacob what he prayed before. Now Jacob could see where he was at that moment, far from God, although he thought that he followed God. Each small step made following his eye made him slowly distance himself from God, which created a huge space between God and him. Of course, like us, Jacob thought that he was a faithful worshipper, and he truly served God well. On the other hand, Jacob worshipped idols of self and the world and served them.
After straightening up the relationship with God, Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing.” Then all his families got rid of idols to stand together before God. We can see the importance of the head of the household. Jacob made all household members idol worshippers, and as Jacob repented his sin before God, all families became truthful before God while eliminating their idols.
Then Jacob said, “We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.” What a testimony of Jacob! Jacob shared his own life experience with God, and all heard.
So they gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem. As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family. When God’s people faithfully follow God, God protects His people, which is our faith and also our testimony.
Eventually, Jacob and his household arrived at Luz (also called Bethel) in Canaan. Jacob built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God had appeared to him there when he was fleeing from his brother, Esau.
Jacob, at last, returned to the place where he met God, as he promised to God. It was not easy to return to the place where we truly met God. Even the new Jacob, Isarel, made a big detour. However, the big detour was not a waste. It was necessary to make the newly born Israel mature — growing deeper into God to be fully mature as the true heir of God’s covenant: to be the father of many nations and the source of blessings of all.
What did we learn from Jacob? First, we should always be sensitive to God, hear Him, and obey God faithfully so that we cannot fall into sin again. Unfortunately, we will surely fail God again on earth by following the world because of our sinful nature. Sadly, we cannot completely eradicate our sinful nature as long as we are on earth.
After sinning, we should not be dismayed or run away from God as Adam and Eve did. Although it is even scarier than hiding in the darkness as Adam and Eve did, we should come to God. Although our worldly self kept telling its lie, we should ignore the voice of the world. Instead, we should remember that God is our Ever-Loving Father, and Our Ever-Loving Father loves us always and no matter what we did.
God’s love is greater than all our sins combined. It is true, and God proved this. On the cross, God had sacrificed His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to forgive all our sins — past and present. Sadly, we will deviate from God and sin again in the future, but God had also forgiven those sins on the cross. Therefore, we should not be afraid of God and trust Him and His love. Rather than hiding and running away from God after sinning, we must come to God. God will surely embrace us with His unfathomable mercy and grace in His love.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)