Preparing for Payback
Jacob Sends Presents to Appease Esau
Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’ ”
The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.”
And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’ ”
So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.” He instructed the foremost, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.’ ” He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, and you shall say, ‘Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
Reaping the Earth’s Harvest
Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like the Son of Man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand! Another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to the one who sat on the cloud, “Use your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So the one who sat on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Then another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over fire, and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Use your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.
One of the secrets of success is to begin with the end in mind. It is how we set goals, cast visions, develop missions, and break things down into manageable, doable, tasks for each day. Without this first step, we are just guessing and not even sure what success looks like, let alone how to achieve it.
I think that is why God gave us the prophets, and why He showed John the vision that has become the final book of the Bible. What would happen if we read that first though. Before we got into arguments about creation, what counts as sin, whose fault it is, etc… what if we started with a picture of the glorious perfection of the end? When I read the last several chapters of Revelation, it seems almost alien to me, like something drawn up out of a fantasy world that I have never seen and can’t imagine.
How do we get from here to there? Well, Revelation covers that too, and it’s not pretty. The passage above gives us an image of judgment being passed down upon creation and the wrath of God being used as an instrument – not only of destruction, but of redemption. A wine press is used to separate the good (juice) from the bad (pomace). In fact, if I had to pick one overarching theme of the whole vision of Revelation, it would be this: God is going to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven, and any part of us that is willing to surrender will be made new, but any part of us that refuses will be destroyed to make way for God’s plans. The gospel train’s a comin’ and you don’t want to be on the tracks in it’s way when it comes through.
So what do you do when you hear God headed your way and your house is not in order? We make like Jacob, and start doing good deeds, making donations, throwing away our addictions and cleaning house as fast as we can. At that point, we don’t just want to appear like a basically good person. We want to appear poor and humble… not worth the judge’s attention. We aren’t looking for a justification that will never come our way. We want pity. We want to make it look like we are the victim, not the perpetrator.
It never works. God sees through that every time, and those kinds of preparations are wasted efforts. To the church in Laodicea, God had John write:
God would rather we be honest about our sin than to try to cover it up with false humility, pretending to be faithful, when the truth is, we don’t even know how to be faithful. There is no fooling God. He is going to have His will and He is going to have it His way, and if there is any honest part of us that really knows God at all, we will hear it tell us that we should be thankful of that, because He is a far better ruler of our world and our life than we could ever hope to be.
What parts of your life do you think are obedient to God?
“What parts of your life do you feel would be in jeopardy if God were to call you to account today?