Sunday, 9 June 2013

Reading the Bible 24: Genesis 32: 1-21 The Prodigal Brother

Jacob has just parted company with his Father-in-law Laban – which was done on good terms – something of an accomplishment considering their less than up front and amicable relationship.  Now he is faced with meeting the other member of his family which he had also left on similar less than ideal terms - , his brother Esau.  A very dark cloud hung over Jacob as he approached what he realistically might be his doom.  His chickens had finally come home to roost after all these years and he realized he must face the consequences of his earlier trickery.

Jacob had reached a point here he could not move ahead in life without turning back to face his brother.  For him there was no choice.  I see this point in Jacob’s life much like that of the Prodigal Son when he finally faces the reality that he must return home if his life is to move ahead.  This may seem strange on the surface as Jacob seemed to be is a very different situation from the Prodigal Son.  Prodigal Son had physically hit bottom.  He had wasted his inheritance on wine, women, and song.  He was reduced to hoping he could eat the leftovers from those he served – the swine.  Jacob on the other hand seemed to have it all.  He had wives and children; servants and flocks.  Seemingly all anyone could ask for – the very picture of success.  However, he too knew he must repent of his past and face the consequences if he was to move forward.  He had hit spiritual rock bottom rather than the material one. 
Both the Prodigal Son and Jacob prepare for the day of reckoning.  However, there is a significant difference in their preparation.  The Prodigal Son has nothing material to give. He can only offer that which he has.  He plans to throw himself – mind, body and spirit on the mercy of his father and beg for forgiveness.  Jacob having much materially plans to use that material wealth to try and gain Esau’s forgiveness. Or at least what limited forgiveness he can hope for.  In this Jacob seems less noble than Prodigal Son.  There is a holding back which has the taint of bribery.  However, there is a noble aspect in Jacob’s effort as Jacob knows that he is putting himself in the hands of the one who he wronged and may very well not survive.  However, Jacob seems to be depending on his material possessions rather than the giving all that he has. 

There is a happy ending for both Jacob and the Prodigal Son.  Forgiveness breaks through as a blessing from God.  Blessings are always unerned and no less so in these cases.  The power of God’s love that can bring about reconciliation to the brokenness of our lives is God’s greatest gift to his children.



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