Yesterday I came across a little card one of my daughters must have given me many years ago. I have it here in front of me. It was a real blessing stumbling across it in an old book, where I’d used it as a bookmark long ago. It’s special because she gave it me, not because of any intrinsic value.
Ever had a gift you really didn’t want? Usually it’s because you don’t have a good relationship with the giver. You can easily feel obligated to someone you really don’t want to owe one to, and especially if it’s something expensive.
I’m guessing that’s how Esau felt about all the herds of animals Jacob wanted to give him (Genesis 32:13-21). Somehow, being the recipient can put you on the back foot. There can be an element of power struggle in giving gifts to people you don’t relate to well. Although Jacob insisted that his servants referred to Esau as the ‘lord’ and himself as his servant, the gift-giving was just an amelioration – he was trying to ‘buy’ Esau.
I think too, Jacob wanted to make sure Esau knew that he was heading towards and not away from him. He might have been quaking in his sandals, but he was not running away; and he wanted Esau to know it.
Body language and human dynamics make fascinating studies. We have so many curious devices for manipulating each other. I suppose he may have been wise not to trust Esau; but we’ll never know. A full reconciliation was never going to happen while they were playing mind games with each other. But supposing Jacob had trusted God completely, and opened himself up to a real relationship with his brother…we’ll never know. And Esau was a particularly pugnacious character.
But I think we are often unnecessarily cagey with one another. Trusting people can get your fingers burnt, but it’s the only way to true relationship. Manipulation certainly can only lead to shallow relationships. Of course, not everyone is trustworthy; you do have to listen carefully to God’s guidance and common sense. But at least if we are aware of the manoeuvrings that are going on we’d be better placed. Jesus used some of his last breath to pray for real unity:- “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-3)
Is there someone I need to be real with?