When promises are broken, when dishonesty is uncovered, when harm is caused, relationships are shattered, often seeming irreparable. When this happens within a family, tensions are often amplified and the consequences more pronounced. What experiences do you have with broken relationships? How about within your own family? Are there any lingering grudges or long-ago misdeeds that have kept you apart?
The central character of our story this past week has been Jacob, the scheming twin who participates in deception to further his station and circumstance in life. Understandably, the relationship with his brother Esau is greatly damaged in the process. Jacob, though blessed by Isaac and inheritor of the family fortune, carries the weight of this brokenness as he travels away to find a wife and build his family. Though Isaac’s passing of God’s blessing onto Jacob is confirmed in the dream sequence at Bethel (last Sunday’s text), it’s clear that the guilt and the shame of his past actions continue to keep Jacob from trusting in God’s promise.
Years have passed, the time has come for Jacob to return home. Building his life and his family have continued to include much deception and dishonesty. But the biggest challenge for Jacob remains his broken relationship with his brother Esau. On the eve of a much-anticipated confrontation, Jacob has an encounter with the divine that plays out as a wrestling match, a metaphor for his life to this point and certainly what Jacob expects from the looming conflict with Esau. Yet once again Jacob survives the contest and even extracts another blessing from God: a new name, Israel. The moment marks a significant shift in the narrative and Jacob/Israel is forever changed.
“Israel” in Hebrew means, “the one who strives/wrestles with God.” God’s blessing comes to the one carrying the weight of broken relationships because he was willing to make an effort to make amends. God blesses those who make an effort, regardless of knowing the outcome. In Jacob and Esau’s story, God’s blessing ultimately leads to reconciliation but that still required hearts to be broken open and restored through honest contrition.
How might God be at work in your life this day, helping you find the courage to seek out reconciliation with those with whom your relationships are strained or even severed? Remember Israel’s story, our story, reminds us that God blesses those who make an effort, regardless of knowing the outcome.
May God’s peace find you today. -Pastor Peter
Let us pray,
God of reconciliation, open our hearts and give us courage. Help us to trust in your promises so that we might restore whatever we think might be lost. Bless our efforts and may they be a witness to your faithfulness in us. Amen.