Doing the Right Thing

“Then Esau said, ‘Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you.’ But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.’ And Esau said, ‘Now let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.’ But he said, ‘What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.’ So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel.”—Genesis 33:12-20 (NKJV)

Twenty long years separated Jacob and Esau. Yet, on God’s timetable, and after some heart changes, a long awaited reunion was about to occur. There had been years of great dissension between the brothers due to unresolved hurt, heartache, distrust, and even hatred toward one another. Finally, the brothers meet, and long overdue forgiveness and reconciliation happens.

Forgiveness is so vital in our relationships, especially within the family, because forgiveness leads to reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5:18 (NKJV), we see God both model forgiveness and call us to live a life of reconciliation: “God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

We love to be forgiven. But are we willing to forgive others of their sin and wrongdoing? It’s been said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies!” Bitterness and unforgiveness ultimately and tragically destroys the one unwilling to forgive.

Relationships take work and can be very hard. We don’t have to succumb and become bitter. It’s a choice. God calls us to experience victory and move forward by asking for God’s help, expressing our feelings, and choosing to forgive those who’ve wronged us. We must trust God with the outcome.

Shortly after their encounter, Esau offered Jacob an opportunity to follow him. Wisely, Jacob declined. God told him not to go anywhere on his own, but to follow the Lord’s lead and not man’s. Out of concern for his family and flocks, he knew following Esau’s lead wouldn’t be wise.

How often do we fall into assumption and presumption in our daily decisions? We react to opportunities instead of acting proactively. God wants us to respond by seeking Him and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33) through prayer, godly counsel, and by waiting until He reveals His will.

A word of wisdom from Proverbs 27:23 (NKJV) reads, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.” Jacob knew if he drove his family and flocks, he could cause harm and potentially bring about devastating losses. So the brothers honored each other and parted ways—Esau to Seir and Jacob to Succoth and then on to Shechem.

God wasn’t finished and had more work to do in Jacob and Esau. Their story should give us hope that God is working for you and me. We can be confident of that promise (Philippians 1:6). Therefore, my prayer is that in our relationships and opportunities, we’ll always seek to do the right thing.

DIG: Do you have a reconciliation story like Jacob and Esau which you can praise God for?

DISCOVER: Have you experienced a long time of separation from someone in your life—even for many years? Read 2 Corinthians 5 on reconciliation.

DO: What is a next step God may be asking you to take to make amends with a friend or family member? Before you make amends, first pray for God’s grace, wisdom, and preparation of each person involved.