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.
The First Converts
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Life among the Believers
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Bamboo grows straight and tall. Apart from some leaves at the top, they are narrow and do not provide much shade by themselves. It is why you do not often see them growing alone. Because they grow so tall and narrow, they are less able to hold the nests of birds or other animals. I’m sure the bamboo doesn’t mind not having to deal with extra guests, but because of this, they, as a plant, seem to mostly associate only with themselves and those just like them.
Contrast that with the Live Oaks found down in the Southeastern United States. These trees grow in communities with each other, but they provide homes for many other creatures and plants as well. One Live Oak is an ecosystem all by itself and a community of these trees is like a small universe.
What is the difference between these two? Branches. One has lots of strong branches and the other does not. There is a moral to be learned here among these plants though. Those who aim for the light, forsaking all others, will get there, but will be tall and fragile, blown over by winds unless they can surround themselves by other like-minded folks. Bamboo. Those who grow up and out, like the Live Oaks, and gather up others with them become stronger. Neither plant can go it alone, but each Live Oaks make a bigger impact around them compared to the Bamboo.
So, how do you branch out? You turn in a new direction. The Bible often refers to this as repentance. Some forms of repentance are more drastic than others, but the overall effect is this: you cannot branch off by continuing in the same direction.
Jacob had run away from home, and his brother in particular. His moment of meeting God occurred only after he turned around and started moving toward those former unresolved problems. Perhaps even more extreme, the people of Jerusalem began professing and living out loyalty to Jesus, the one whom they had crucified or at least deserted just a few months before.
Grace allowed them a second chance, to make new choices, and to grow new branches. It also allowed them to relate to others who may be heading off toward dead ends. Thus, branching out – repentance – not only helps us correct our own course, it allows us to be truly hospitable and able to show love to others.
What new branches have you made in your life?
How are you able to turn those branches into ways to welcome in others to your journey with God?