We must meet with God alone before we meet with man.
Jacob had stolen from Esau his very birthright. He had deceived their father Isaac and taken from Esau his inheritance and standing with his father and with the generations to come. Surely Esau had reason to hate Jacob for the rest of his life.
Jacob fled for his life and paid for his sin for two decades. During that long labor he learned the value of honesty, and began to long for relationship with his brother again. He had every reason to expect his brother to attack him, maybe even kill him. He sent word to Esau anyway, and waited. But before he faced his brother, Jacob spent the night wrestling with God.
Jacob understood something very important: we must face God before we face man. In Jacob’s case, he wrestled with God. And that will be the case for some of our relationships as well. The relationships with the deepest grievances will require a wrestling and a patience as we struggle for peace. Jacob said to the Lord as he wrestled with Him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (32:26). This is the type of battling prayer that we must be willing to undergo to see blessing in the most hurting relationships.
There is much concern and anxiety in our culture today about reconciliation between races, between churches, between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers. We will be equipped for this reconciliation when we first face God alone, before we face one another.
There was another important element to Jacob’s encounter with God before he encountered his brother. As he struggled that night, he was forced to face who he really was. The Lord asked him his name (32:27), and Jacob gave the familiar name he had always been called, Jacob. The Lord answered him by giving him a new name, Israel, because he had overcome (32:28). As we face God, we lay aside our old labels. Failure. Betrayer. Liar. We become overcomers, and we are given a new name. Overcomer. Friend. Honest.
In seeking God first, our hearts are dealt with and we are enabled to face others with less bias, less obstacles blocking the path of peace.
The discipline of meeting with God before we meet with man is valuable on a daily basis. We do not know what each day will hold; but we do know that most days hold encounters with people. The very attitude of our minds, the openness of our hearts to others, can be determined by time spent with God before we face others each day. By meeting with Him first, we change the course of our day and our relationships.
Jacob met with God before he met with his brother. To Jacob’s surprise, Esau’s response to him was completely different from what Jacob expected and deserved. In the time that had lapsed, God had worked in Esau’s heart as well as Jacob’s. Esau embraced his brother and wept, rejoicing in their reunion. His forgiveness was evident, and their relationship was restored.
God’s plans for our relationships may surprise us. The outcome may be more than we could have hoped or imagined.
Let us meet with God today before we meet with man, and listen for His direction.
Has your life been impacted by the practice of facing God first? Share your story in the comments section below.