When you have done somebody wrong, what are you willing to do to make it right?
It probably depends on how much you value that relationship, and how deeply you have hurt them.
In today’s passage, Jacob demonstrates his genuine remorse over his past treatment of his brother, and he is willing to give his brother a king's ransom if Esau would forgive Jacob for his past sins, and they could reconcile.
Please read Genesis 32:13-21.
We often scan over some of the numbers in the Bible, but note that Jacob is not sending just a few animals to his brother as an offering; Jacob is sending massive herd after massive herd! Hundreds of goats and sheep, and dozens of camels, cows, and donkeys. He separates them into groups and has each one led by a servant with specific instructions to repeat the same message to Esau, “all of these animals are a gift for Esau from Jacob, who is coming behind us.”
Jacob imagines Esau is still sitting there, fuming with anger over Jacob’s deceitfulness, when Esau sees a large herd of goats approaching. Upon hearing that these goats are a present from Jacob, who is finally returning to pay for his sins, Esau will still be mad and ready to murder his brother. But before he gets a chance, a herd of sheep are coming, with the same message. Then a herd of camels. Then cows. Then donkeys. Servant after servant delivers the same message.
Jacob can only hope that his brother will be so overwhelmed by Jacob’s generosity, that he will be willing to forgive Jacob for all of his past sins. He holds out hope that “perhaps he will accept me.”
To us, it seems like Jacob is going to quite the extreme in order to appease his brother. But that’s the point!
We are incredibly biased when it comes to judging offenses. For instance, if we lie to our brother, we justify it as being a little white lie or not that big of a deal, but if our brother lies against us, we react in anger: "Oh how dare he! What a wretched liar he is!” The sins that someone else performs against us always seem worse to us than those which we perpetuate against them. So, when we sin against someone else, it's natural for us to act like it's not that big of a deal when we seek forgiveness.
We must not fall into this trap! When we seek forgiveness from someone else, we must first put ourselves in their shoes. We must acknowledge that what seemed like a minor deal to us may have been a significant deal to them, and we must act accordingly.
Jacob was a deceiver who often tricked his family, and didn't think anything of it. But once Laban began deceiving Jacob, he realized how bad it felt to be tricked. Accordingly, Jacob seeks forgiveness from his brother and sends gift after gift to appease him, recognizing just how deeply Jacob had hurt him.
When we go above and beyond to seek the forgiveness of our brother, it is demonstrating to him that we recognize how deeply our sin must have hurt him. That mutual recognition will lead to reconciliation. So, whether it costs us camels and sheep, or money, or our pride, we should be willing to do whatever it takes, as far as it depends on us, to live peaceably with our brother.
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