Owning Up to the Past

Dorothy Hostetter

READ : Genesis 32:1-21

Finally, after twenty years there was no getting around the fact that Jacob had to make things right with Esau. But forgiveness was not under Jacob’s control. It was all up to Esau. We can plead all we want. But in the end we are at the mercy of the person we have wronged.

It helps to admit that we are wrong, as Jacob did when he called Esau “my lord.” Remember that it was the birthright and power over his brother that Jacob got by deceit. Now he defers to his brother and refers to himself as Esau’s servant.

It helps to say we are sorry. It doesn’t hurt to give a generous gift, as Jacob did. But we can never force another person to forgive us-a very humbling position to be in.

In his prayer Jacob admitted that he was at the end of his rope and asked God to save him from Esau’s anger. There was no other way out, and Jacob knew it.

I don’t think that it was wrong for Jacob to divide his people and flocks into two groups. It wasn’t manipulative to send a generous gift in advance. These were signs that Jacob knew he was not only vulnerable but also in the wrong, signs of a humble heart, signs of God’s presence in the life of this complicated man.


Lord, what I need is a humble heart. You don’t owe me anything, but I owe you everything. Amen.