This chapter details Jacob's (now Israel's) reunion with his brother Esau. From all appearances, his brother has forgiven him and has prospered to the point that he twice tells Israel, “No, thank you" to the generous gifts of livestock that he had sent ahead. When Israel insists, Esau accepts.
He offers to accompany Israel and his family back to Seir, or failing that, to have some of his men accompany them. Maybe there is a threat there, maybe not. But when they part company, Israel heads a different direction.
It makes me wonder, was Esau really happy with his brother's return or did Jacob see through the apparent welcome to an ulterior motive?
How long did Esau wait before it became clear his brother wasn't coming to Seir?
Why didn't Israel go to Seir? Did he suspect that all was not forgiven?
Did he just want to ensure there was enough space between them to avoid quarrels over the land?
One thing seems clear to me — even when we make amends for wrongs we've done, it takes a great deal of time to rebuild trust, and it is a very fragile thing. Once broken, it seems especially vulnerable around the fault lines where it was glued back together.
When we repent of past sin and seek restoration, we must be especially mindful of the delicate nature of trust. Those whose trust we’ve violated, though they forgive, may find extending trust again very difficult. Even the process of trusting again will be a cycle of steps forward and back, as the enemy uses every opportunity to remind us of the offense, to cast doubt on current motives or behaviors, and to cause us question whether the person has really changed.
Change is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. Rebuilding relationships is possible. But it requires attention and intentionality. It requires awareness of the harm that we’ve done and a desire to go the extra mile to demonstrate the change Christ has brought in our life. It requires the person we’ve wronged to constantly confront the enemy’s lies with the truth that we are a new creation in Christ