Scripture: “Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. Genesis 33:14, 17 ESV
Observation: Chapter 33 covers Jacob’s reunion with Esau. Fearful that Esau still harbored anger and would seek revenge, Jacob sends his servants and their children to the front of the caravan, followed by Leah and her children, and then Rachel and her son (revealing his pecking order of those he loves most). After navigating servants, herds, wives, and children, Esau runs to Jacob and tearfully embraces him. Esau then inquires about Jacob’s entourage, for which Jacob explains they are family and servants. Jacob also offers herds as a gift, for which Esau initially declines (explaining he has enough livestock to meet all his needs). But Jacob insists, and Esau accepts.
Esau then encourages Jacob to travel to his homestead in Seir (northern tip of the Red Sea). Jacob pretends to agree but reasons that his family and herds could not keep pace with Esau and his 400 men (verse 14 above). Esau takes Jacob at his word and proceeds ahead, but Jacob instead travels to the region of Succoth (verse 17 above), and from there, he settles in the city of Shechem (in Canaan).
Takeaway: Sadly, we read that Jacob waivers in his faith. Instead of trusting in God’s hand of protection, he schemes to deceive his brother and never sees Esau again. Perhaps this is why the author uses Jacob in this story rather than Israel? He has reverted to acting like his old self rather than the new man, Israel, who “wrestles with God,” who is “triumphant with God.” There is an upside to this story, however. Jacob stays on course with settling in the promised land of the Abrahamic Covenant.
So what does this mean to you and me? As the Holy Spirit takes us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and works in us the desire to please him over our selfish desires, this dying and rising rhythm will sometimes be interrupted by the old self who wants to do things “my way.” In recovery ministry, we call this relapse. It is essential to frame setbacks in this light. Otherwise, the Enemy will try to convince us that it is hopeless, that we will keep on letting ourselves, others, and our Lord down. There’s no room for grace in this mindset, for it places the burden on us rather than trusting in God’s sanctifying work in us that redeems our missteps—as Jacob/Israel experienced when he settled where he belonged.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for granting us the gift of your Holy Spirit who works in us the desire to trust and obey you and your Son. Would you please help us remember when we slip back into old ungodly habits that your grace is sufficient and that we worship the One who redeems? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling