The next Old Testament passage for our purview is found in chapters 32 and 33 of the book of Genesis. The story line involves Jacob returning to the land of his youth following many years of serving his uncle, Laban. By now Jacob is a wealthy nomad. But his deceitful past is waiting for him along the journey.
You may recall that Jacob, as a young man, cheated his brother Esau out of their father’s blessing. When his deceit was discovered, Jacob feared for his life – Esau promised to kill Jacob (Gen 27:41) – and he fled to Haran where Laban lived. Jacob spent many years working in the service of his future father-in-law. Now, returning home to the land of his fathers with his growing family and flocks, Jacob knew he must face his brother Esau once again.
So Jacob sends a message to Esau that he is on his way. His messengers return with news that Esau is coming to meet Jacob – with 400 men in tow. The news is distressing to Jacob and his fears of what Esau might do to him in revenge are reignited. So Jacob divides his people and his flocks and herds and camels into two companies. That way, if Esau attacks one, the other group can escape.
As the day approaches, Jacob considers what size gift will be appropriate (or “large enough” may be a better word) to stem Esau’s wrath. Jacob sets aside 200 female goats and 20 male goats, 200 ewes and 20 rams, 30 milking camels and their colts, 40 cows and 10 bulls, and 20 female donkeys and 10 male donkeys. This is his gift that he plans to present to Esau.
But even with this huge offering, Jacob still is left with the burning question, “Is this enough to buy my brother’s acceptance and forgiveness?” He has a plan to find out if it is enough.
He instructs his servants to organize this gift into three groups. When the first group approaches Esau’s party, the servants are to say to Esau, “These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold Jacob is also behind us” (Gen 32:18). Jacob’s hope is that after 3 droves of gifts, Esau will be softened up to accept him. Jacob says to his servant, “Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me” (Gen 32:20).
“Perhaps” is the key word here. Jacob is uncertain if his gift will be enough. Is there a “perhaps” in your life? An uncertainty that you have brought enough to the Savior to earn His love, acceptance, or forgiveness?
Let’s fast forward to our situation in the New Testament. We have wronged a holy God. We have sinned against Him. What would be enough for us to earn His love, acceptance, and forgiveness? We are in the same place with God as Jacob was with Esau. If we think there is something we can do to buy our pardon before God, we will live in fear, never knowing if we have given enough. Do you see this parallel with Jacob and his fear, “Is this enough?”
But thanks be to God, that no gift on our part is required to come into His blessed presence. Oh, there is something required. But it is not a gift or penance or sacrifice on our part. The only requirement to earn God’s acceptance is faith. We must believe, accept, and embrace that He is willing and able to forgive us. And those hands of faith must be totally empty. Because there is nothing we can bring to the table to earn God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness. It is absolutely free; a gift of grace.
And this idea of “perhaps” and uncertainty is not just in regard to our initial salvation. It can also steal our joy in our ongoing relationship with Jesus. Am I working hard enough? Am I keeping enough rules? Am I … you fill in the blank with your unique situation.
As you dwell on this question, remember that there is no “enough” required from us because Jesus did it all. Our role? Abide in Christ and all he has done on our behalf. This is enough.