Last night at church there were a couple things in the sermon that stuck out to me. One was the main point, and one was a side point. I’ll lay out some background first. (Scripture references around Genesis 31-33.)
Jacob had been with Laban building wealth, and while he was there God was building him. When Jacob left, Laban chased after him but God stopped him and told Laban not to do anything to Jacob. When Laban met with Jacob they had a talk about that. Not long after this Jacob had a wrestling match and God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. This name change was an outward sign of an inward change.
But at the prospect of meeting his older twin, Esau, Israel reverted back to being Jacob. When he’d left, Esau had sworn to kill him, so Jacob was afraid and resorted to human strategy and flattery, and later on some deception, hoping to escape his brother.
This is the main point. Sometimes we revert to our old habits instead of remembering what God has just recently done for us and that He has things handled. We have already learned we can trust God no matter what, so we have no need to take it upon ourselves to work things out as if we have no help. But later on God still worked on Jacob/Israel, and God still works with us, too.
The other point is next. Esau was heading towards Jacob with 400 men. Was he out for revenge? Was he planning an escort? Was he just traveling like that just because he could? Whatever the reason, when Esau finally sees Jacob, he runs towards him and hugs him! The brothers then proceed to cry!
The point here is that God works on other people, too. Whether God had been working on Esau for a long time or had changed his heart soon before he met his brother, Esau’s response to Jacob is not the response he would have given him years before. This is not the same Esau that Jacob left when he went to Laban.
In short: Sometimes we revert back to old habits when we don’t have to, but God still teaches us new ones. Sometimes we forget that God works on other people, too, and He teaches them new habits also.
In shorter: God gives us new habits and we don’t need the old ones. God does this for other people, too.