No salvation testimony could be more dramatic than Nicky Cruz’s, ex-New York City gang warlord who was pursued by a country preacher and the love of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit changed Cruz from a violent street thug to an outspoken evangelist.
In Genesis 33, Rachel sees a similar dramatic transformation in her husband. Jacob had wrestled all night with “a man” (Gen. 32:22–31). This was a turning point for Jacob where He “saw God face to face” (32:30). As the sun rose, Jacob saw Esau—accompanied by 400 men. Notice Jacob’s response to Esau’s approach! He didn’t run away, plot an attack, or mount a defense (as typical for him). Instead, he divided his children among their mothers for their protection.
Jacob went ahead and bowed before Esau. Remarkably, Esau ran toward Jacob with open arms, and the two estranged brothers hugged and cried (33:4). Immediately, Esau asked to meet Jacob’s family, so Jacob introduced them, attributing all his blessings to the grace of God. Later, when Esau wanted to return Jacob’s gifts, Jacob insisted Esau should keep them: “. . . for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need” (v. 11). After this incredible reunion, Esau proposed they travel together to Seir, but Jacob preferred to part ways.
The chapter concludes with Jacob and Rachel arriving safely at Shechem in Canaan, which was the Promised Land. It was a strategic location for farming and a major crossroads for transportation. When Jacob purchased this land and pitched his tent, God’s covenant continued to be fulfilled (v. 19). Here Jacob built an altar—his first altar, identifying with the God of his father. This was his God now. He named the altar El Elohe Israel (or “mighty is the God of Israel”), using and owning his new God-given name.
>> What a transformation! From conniving, self-serving scoundrel to generous, God-glorifying worshiper. But really, isn’t that the transformation we too have enjoyed? Thank God for the transformation He has wrought in you.
We praise you, Lord, for your transformative power in our lives! You are always sanctifying us, even when we are unaware of your work. Thank you for your merciful intervention in our hearts.