November 20, 2009

You Shall Not Steal

Genesis 32:1-7, 21; 33:8-11

“Please accept the present that was brought to you.”
Genesis 33:11


After years of deceit, Jacob was on his way home. And he was worried about meeting his brother, Esau. Jacob had stolen Esau’s blessing by deceiving his old father, Isaac. Now Jacob would have to face Esau.

Ever the manipulator, Jacob divided his people into two camps and sent them ahead to Esau, while he stayed behind in the security of his own camp. The coward let others meet the vengeful Esau first. That night Jacob struggled with an unknown man, probably an angel who represented God (see Hosea 12:4). Afterward Jacob admitted he’d survived a great danger, for the angel said he had struggled with God, and Jacob realized he had been in God’s presence and yet had lived (32:24-30).

When he finally met Esau, Jacob gave him a gift of cattle. When Esau graciously refused the gift, Jacob insisted, “No, please! … If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me.” The cattle were no longer meant as a bribe to forget the past. Jacob wanted to return what he had stolen—the blessing.

What had happened to Jacob? That night in the camp God had made Jacob a new man. That’s why he said to Esau: “To see your face is like seeing the face of God.”

God changed Jacob. And then Jacob began to act like a new man: he returned what he had stolen. He began walking the path of righteousness—doing what’s right.

Lord, I acknowledge your blessings on my life through Jesus’ struggle on the cross. Help me to set straight what I have made crooked, and to do what’s right, for you. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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