At the beginning of today’s Genesis chapters we see Jacob gathering his wives and telling them that it was time for them to leave and return to Jacob’s homeland, the only catch was that Laban would probably try to prevent them from leaving. So to get around this problem they just leave without warning, but when Laban catches wind of it he sets out after them. Jacob was repaid for his deception earlier in life and had spent 20 years working for his father-in-law, for an agreement that originally was supposed to last 7 years.
Just before they left, Rachel decides to steal the idols that her father kept at home. It’s unclear if this was some kind of revenge motivation, maybe she thought they had some value for barter or sale, or possibly she was still attached to the worship of idols.
When Laban catches up with Jacob and his company he confronts him and Jacob lays out all his grievances and reasons why he left. Laban has really shown his character by now to us, and it’s pretty obvious that he would’ve either cajoled or forced their return except that God appeared to him in a dream and warned him not to. So after searching their tents for his idols, and Rachel showing she has a sneaky side too, Laban and Jacob put aside their differences, make a covenant and depart as friends.
This leaves Jacob with really only one problem, but it’s a pretty big problem, he now has to deal with the brother that he defrauded 20 years ago and then skipped town. His brother wanted to kill him back then, and nothing has changed, so Jacob has no reason to believe Esau feels any different 20 years later. So he comes up with a plan to smooth things over; he sends wave after wave of presents in the form of livestock. If I was completely robbed blind of my birthright and blessing, I don’t think dozens of goats and camels would make me feel any better, but this is the Middle East 4000 years ago, so it was worth a shot and it was the only play Jacob had.
After sending waves of presents, Jacob actually took action in a way that would have far greater effects at keeping him alive than any amount of animals sent to Esau; he prayed. Jacob spoke to God and prayed that Esau’s anger would be assuaged, and reminded God that He had promised to bless him like it had been promised to his father and grandfather before him. Abraham and Isaac had been shown as great prayerful men and friends of God, but up until this point Jacob seemed to not care as much about prayer. Sometimes it takes a moment of despair and fear to get us on our knees and praying.
Jacob then sends his wives and children across the river and has a very interesting experience that night. What is described simply as “a man” wrestles with him all night and until daybreak. When Jacob kept this man at a stalemate he tapped his hip and done some kind of damage to the joint that caused him to limp for the rest of his life. When Jacob refused to let go of the man until he blessed him, he asked Jacob his name and then told him his new name was Israel (meaning he who strives with God). After this incident Israel says that he seen God face to face, so many scholars believe that this “man” was actually the Angel of the Lord.
Saint Augustine said that this story has an allegorical application, he said “the angel is a type of Christ, and his defeat points to the Passion of Christ, who allowed his own people to prevail over him. And just as the victorious Jacob was blessed and injured at the same time, so with the people of Israel: some are blessed to believe in Christ, while others are crippled in unbelief.”
In this psalm, David is again reminding the reader of God’s faithfulness and His protection of the righteous and destruction of the wicked.
In the beginning of this chapter, John the Baptist is in prison and send a messenger to Jesus asking if He is the messiah. There’s a few different ways to look at this passage. One is that John sent his disciples to find Jesus and told them He was the messiah, so when they found Him they were just verifying that He was who they were looking for. Another possibility is that John had some doubts because the kingdom had not yet come, and possibly he was anxious to see its arrival before his imminent death. Or possibly he had no doubts but wanted to spur Jesus on as a kind of encouragement.
Either way, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah about what was to be expected at the coming of the Christ. And He was fulfilling those prophecies every day of His ministry. Jesus then gives a mini discourse on how John was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Before He finishes He notes that His critics have said of Him “Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” And Jesus added “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” This is an interesting thing to say, because He is associating Himself with the personification of wisdom in Proverbs and Sirach. This really becomes obvious at the end of the chapter when He paraphrases Sirach 51:23-30 in the final couple of verses of Mathew 11.
Another thing to note is just like Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily in chapter 10, He says here that His “yoke is easy and burden is light” not that it’s nonexistent. There is still labor and toil in the Christian life, but Jesus is right there with us through it all.