Hope In Christ Bible Church 9/29/19
One of the most joyful invitations I can give is to welcome you to open your Bible with me.
So please turn and prepare as we will be studying Genesis 33. It’s about a very tough relationship between two siblings. Siblings who had been raised in a believing home.
Someone once described relationships with other believers like this: “To live above with saints we love; oh that will be glory. But to live below with saints we know; well that’s a different story!”
Yes, sharing our lives together in friendship with other Christians can be a lot like Chinese takeout- sweet and sour.
We so easily say the wrong thing, step on one another’s toes, and sparks fly, and offenses are taken.
And with time, deep relational rifts can result that seem impossible to repair.
Well, one of the most fractured relationships in the Bible is between two brothers- Jacob and his brother Esau.
Ironically, it began in their mother’s womb when they were already struggling against each other.
Then when they were born, Jacob is grabbing on to his brother’s heel. That’s why his parents Isaac and Rebekah named him Jacob. For that means one who deceives or supplants another.
Well, that’s exactly what Jacob did when he so shrewdly cheated his brother out of both birthright and blessing.
It was such a low blow that his brother Esau vowed to avenge himself by murdering Jacob.
That’s why Jacob flees for his life to Haran to stay with his uncle Laban.
Ends up he marries Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel.
After 20 years of working for lousy Laban, Jacob and his family try to secretly return back to Canaan.
Yet, Laban and his sons catch wind of it and chase them down after a 7-day hot pursuit.
God protects Jacob and allows him and Laban to forge a Mizpah “stay on your side of the line” agreement.
With that behind Jacob, now there’s something worse ahead. Jacob finds out Esau his hostile brother is coming toward him with 400 men.
Jacob panics. And he cries out to God to deliver him from what looks like a total massacre.
That night he sends his servants with 3 droves of gift animals hoping to pacify Esau.
But Esau sends back no word. Just silence which would have deepened Jacob’s fears.
Later in the evening, when Jacob’s was at his whit’s end, God personally appears to him. It’s the preincarnate son of God!
He wrestles with Jacob. And Jacob names that place Peniel meaning “face of God.” He exclaims, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” (v. 30).
In that wrestling match, Jacob prevails in prayer even after God displaced his hip socket. He won’t let go of God until God blessed him!
Well that meeting with God prepares Jacob for his life and death meeting with his brother Esau.
We join the story through Jacob’s own eyes:
1 Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids.
That word “behold” should be in your translation. Because it’s an important interjection (hinneh) that’s used over 1,000 times in the Bible.
It means “Look!” or “See” and turns our attention to something important coming.
For now, Jacob sees with his own eyes Esau with his militia of 400 men approaching.
So many frightening questions must have filled Jacob’s mind:
Does he still plan to murder me as he vowed he would?
Has Esau’s fury subsided like Rebekah said it would (27:44-45)?
Did my gift of 550 animals pacify Esau’s desire to retaliate or make him all the angrier?
Yes, how would the dreadful hours ahead play out for Jacob and his family?
Well, he wisely takes precaution. He divides his children into 4 groups so they walk with their moms.
He has prayed for the best but prepares for the worst.
We are told how he arranges his family for the showdown. Verse 2: “He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.”
Very interesting. What does this order show us? It shows us who is closest to Joseph’s heart- Rachel and her son Joseph.
So Jacob places them in order of ascending importance. Because the most dangerous place in hand-to-hand combat is for those out front- it’s called point man in military terms.
But where’s Jacob in the line up? Verse 3 tell us: “But he himself passed on ahead of them….”
Listen, Jacob is no coward. He’s courageous.
By the way. God hates cowards. And He says of the cowardly, “their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone which is the second death.” Rev. 21:8
Jacob shows courage in the midst of danger.
He places himself in harm’s way, in the most dangerous spot, as a big target for the advancing 400 men with Esau.
By the way, in the Israeli military today, a strict code of courage is required for all officers.
And part of their commando training teaches them they must never lead by saying “Forward march” but rather with the command, “Follow me!”
If the officer in training will not put himself in the greatest place of danger, he is unfit to lead others.
So, Jacob goes first to meet Esau face to face. And remember, he’s still limping from his dislocated hip (that he got the night before).
Jacob doesn’t come with a shield and drawn sword. Instead we find that he “…bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.”
Here’s the way you should picture it. As he approaches his brother, Jacob stops, and places his face on the ground.
He then gets up and walks closer and then bows down again with his face on the ground.
He does this 7 times, drawing closer each time to Esau.
By the way, bowing down seven times was required in ancient court protocol of a servant to his lord.
In fact, the ancient el-Amarna tablets (14th C B.C.) have the following phrase repeated more than fifty times: “At the feet of the king, my lord… seven times do I fall.” So Jacob bows down seven times with his face to the ground. Why? To show with his body the posture of his heart: complete humility. It’s clear, he’s treating Esau as a servant would a king. Well, Esau doesn’t tell his men “Whack off that scoundrel’s head. And he doesn’t kick Jacob in the teeth for how he had so deeply hurt him in the past. We read:
V. 4 “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” How wonderful! Esau chooses to treat Jacob as a long-lost brother. He can’t wait to welcome him and runs toward him.
And did you notice, both of them, Esau and Jacob wept? Tears of joy and amazement!
For they had each carried around the heavy burden of a broken relationship for over 20 years.
Yet now the anger, revenge, bitterness and deception has all been wiped away.
And all that spells reconciliation. For Esau opens his arms and heart wide to Jacob.
Now there’s someone in the N.T. who reacts virtually the same as Esau. It’s the father, Jesus describes, who welcomes home his prodigal son!
Our Lord may well have had Esau in mind as he pictures that dad’s response when he sees his son approaching.
Luke 15:20 “…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt
compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
Friends, this was a radical and unexpected change in the relationship between Esau and Jacob. And watch what goes with it:
Verse 5: He (that’s Esau) lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”
Remember, Esau has never met any of Jacob’s family- 16 in all.
I love the way Jacob answers when Esau asks about his family. He doesn’t say, “O, these are my children, or these are our children.” He tells him, that they are “The children God had graciously given him.”
So important. Watch as we trace Jacob’s responses. He loves to credit God not himself. That’s why he often interjects with statements that show God’s hand of blessing on his life.
Parents, try that next time someone asks, “O, are these your dear children?” by answering. “Yes, these are the children God has graciously given us!”
Let me highlight the important of that beautiful words Jacob uses about how God had “graciously given” him
It’s chanan in Hebrew, used 78x. That word is the basis for over 50 names in the Bible like Hananiah, Hannah and Anna and is what gives us modern names like Nancy and Annette.
Chanan speaks of one who is strong and shows mercy to one who is weak.
We find it in Psalm 116:5 “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.”
And again Isaiah 30:18, a text that should make you marvel: “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.
Just as Esau showed undeserved graciousness to Jacob, how much more does God show us that in His dear Son. For in Christ we have received grace stacked upon grace! John 1:16
Now glance back at the last two words of the fifth verse. How does Jacob use to describe himself in relation to Esau?
He says “your servant.” And he says that again in verse 14, “your servant.” Here’s why.
He’s saying, “Esau, I don’t deserve your kindness nor forgiveness. Because you are my master who is much greater than me.”
Well, Esau must have been shocked.
His brash, bratty and brazen brother of two decades ago was now showing him deep respect.
O there’s much here for us to get a hold of if we will reconcile broken and tense relationships. Biblical conflict resolution requires a humble heart.
We must show humility in our actions AND attitudes.
We must humble ourselves first before God and then before others.
And when we see ourselves before God and others as mere servants, then our words will be gracious to others.
Well, it wasn’t just Jacob who exuded humility before Esau.
Verse 6 tells us: Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. 7 Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down.
Every member of that family, the oldest to the youngest, they all followed Jacob’s example and prostrated themselves face down before Esau.
Verse 8: And he (Esau) said, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.”
Great question, Esau. “What’s your motivation in all this?”
And great response, Jacob. He wants to find favor in the sight of Esau whom he calls Adown, meaning “master.”
Here’s what you need to see. That word favor comes from chanan we saw earlier- God’s graciously giving to Jacob.
So here’s what Jacob by faith is hoping for: to have his brother treat him with gracious favor as God had!
Well, Esau responds with such gracious words: 9th verse: But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.”
Esau with a spirit of kindness calls him “my brother” and makes it clear he has enough flocks and herds of his own. He doesn’t want Jacob to give him such a gift.
But (verse 10) Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably.
Now, what does Jacob mean by that, “I see your face as one sees the face of God?”
No, he doesn’t think Esau’s face somehow resembles the face of the God-man with whom he had just wrestled.
Here’s what he’s saying, “Esau, When I look at your face I see it reflect God’s favor.”
For Esau’s face that day pictured the gift of grace and forgiveness.
Then Jacob says (v. 11): “Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” Thus he urged him and he took it.
Now Jacob’s response here is key to this reconciliation.
Why does Jacob insist that Esau accept the gift?
Because he wants there to be concrete evidence that things were right between him and Esau.
For in the ancient Near East, to accept a present from someone was equivalent to extending forgiveness.
It was a commitment to a renewed friendship.
So, when Esau accepts the generous gift of Jacob’s 550 animals, he gives tangible proof that he would no longer hold the past against Jacob.
It was over and done with never to be held against Jacob.
O that’s the forgiveness, only we as Christians have received.
It’s what David describes when he exclaims,
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12
Beloved, that forgiveness we enjoy is the forgiveness we must extend.
One of the problems in the Corinthian church was a reluctance to forgive. That’s why the Apostle Paul in II Cor. 2:7 calls them to extend forgiveness to a man who had repented of sin.
Then he adds, “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”
Did you catch the sober warning? If you refuse to show forgiveness you have stepped into the trap of the evil one.
That’s why Paul in Colossians 3:13 calls us who have been chosen of God to be marked by “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” And he then says this: “whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
And in Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other….” How are we to forgive each other? “Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
So, hear this clearly. Showing forgiveness is a mark of a child of God.
Those who have been truly forgiven by God show forgiveness of others.
Christ put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 6:12, 15 “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
No, it’s not that forgiving others saves you. It’s that forgiving others is a good indicator that God has already saved you!
Martin Luther was quite convinced that Esau’s forgiving Jacob showed that Esau was saved by God.
While it’s possible, but we have to look at the rest of Esau’s life. There isn’t a lick evidence of Esau every praying to God, trusting in God, or even talking about God. But to his credit, he does show forgiveness.
From the Reconciliation we come to the
2. Resolution 12-17
Now the brothers need to work out how they will relate to one another in practical matters. V. 12-
Esau the older says, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.”
He graciously offers for him and his men to lead Jacob and his family the remainder of their journey.
But he (Jacob) said to him (v. 13), “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. 14 “Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.”
One Bible commentator at this point accuses Jacob of “deceitfully ignoring Esau’s welcome.”
Yet, the text doesn’t bear that out.
What’s clear is that Jacob is a good shepherd. He knows if you push your flocks too much, it will kill them.
So he explains the importance of a slower pace than Esau’s men would take.
Well, thoughtful Esau tells him (v. 15), “Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.”
Do you get the impression Jacob doesn’t want Esau’s men to go with his family?
Absolutely. And Jacob tactfully explains that it wouldn’t be necessary.
Yes, he expresses his different perspective, but he does so in a way that affirms his desire to stay on good terms with Esau.
This is helpful for us. Christian, in reconciling with others, you don’t have to agree on everything. And you should have freedom to
express your different desires and preferences. Yet, the way you go about that must affirm your commitment to having a peaceful relationship with them.
That’s the Ephesians 4:3 “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
And that requires “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
And mark this well. In pursuing harmony in a relationship, it’s not just WHAT you say but also HOW you say it that matters. For Solomon reminds us Proverbs 15:1 that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
And Proverbs 25:15 tells us, “…a soft tongue breaks the bone.”
Well, those two previously estranged brothers left each other that day reconciled. Verse 16 informs us: “So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore, the place is named Succoth.”
This is the first mention of a house in the Bible. Jacob is settling down with his family whom God had spared. That town Succoth meaning “booths,” from that name we find in Leviticus 23 the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) which commemorated deliverance from Egypt.
Between Jacob and Esau, forgiveness had been granted and received. Their relationship moved from hatred to harmony.
And as far as we can tell, that lasted the rest of their lives.
For years later when their father dies, we read in Genesis 35:29 that these two brothers Esau and Jacob both bury him.
You see, long before they had buried their father, they buried their animosity and hatred of one another.
And that by the way wasn’t because of their noble peace-making strategies.
It was the God-man who had wrestled with Jacob the night before at Peniel, he was the Peacemaker who had brought peace to these brothers.
And friends, Christ is the great peacemaker who reconciles us to God. Romans 5:10 tells us: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
And II Corinthians 5:19 explains how “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
Yes, God through Christ has made us (believers) His former enemies to be His forever friends. He reconciled us in His body through death (Col. 1:22).
And God calls us to share his terms of friendship in the good news of Christ to those still alienated from Him.
Not only that, if you are in Christ, you have all the resources you need to be reconciled to others in His family. So pray for that and pursue reconciled relationships with others, especially other believers.
Our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:23–24 urges His disciples “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
That tells us something so important. Don’t sweep disharmony with other believers under the rug.
Deal with it. Go to that person, humble yourself and then with that restored relationship the obstacle to worshipping God is removed.
Now what about if the other person refuses to deal. What if they deny there’s an issue or will not talk?
Rom. 12:18 tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
Ask God to show grace and grant you favor in the eyes of the offended party or the one that has offended you. Ask for forgiveness if you sinned. And have a heart eager to forgive.
Listen, don’t ever give up on a broken relationship. But in faith trust God, in His time, to bring reconciliation.
God powerfully worked in giving reconciliation and resolution which resulted in a
3. Recognition 18-20
18 Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. 19 He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.
Shechem was 20 miles east of the Jordan (and 60 miles north of Jerusalem) and was a prominent town located on Mt. Gerazim.
Gerazim represented God’s blessing versus Mt. Ebal across from it which symbolized God’s curse. (Deut. 11:29).
Jacob’s arrival there would have been around 1900 B.C. And it’s possible that Jacob had first visited his brother Esau in Seir (as he said he would) before settling into Shechem.
Now, here’s what’s fascinating. Abraham had bought the parcel of land in Hebron to bury Sarah. Machpelah (23:17-18). And this second piece of real estate Jacob now purchases.
And it technically already belonged to Abraham and his descendants. For it was the Promised Land.
God owned it and therefore God could give it to them!
For God makes it all so clear in Leviticus 23:23 saying, “For the land is Mine.”
Jacob knew that land was God’s. And he also knew that God was his!
Well, we find out the capstone to this dramatic story in verse 20: We are told of Jacob, “Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
This marks a high point in Jacob’s life. For altars commemorate great days the patriarchs experienced in walking with God.
El-Elohe-Israel means “God, the God of Israel.”
Israel, that was Jacob’s new God-given name.
So, he is declaring through that altar, God is not only the God of my fathers Abraham and Isaac. He is also my personal God.
For he had seen God keep His promise to him made at Bethel 20 years before: Genesis 28:15 “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
O how God kept His promise! He brought Jacob round trip to and from Haran safe and sound. He not only protected Jacob from Esau but so amazingly also cause them to be reconciled.
Friends, this is our God. Our God is a God of reconciliation. He loves to reconcile us to Himself. And He loves to reconcile us to one another.
Therefore, He calls you to trust your life into His hand. And He calls you to entrust your every relationship to Him.
For God in Christ who is our peace gives us all we need to enjoy being rightly related to Him and to one another.
– Closing Prayer
Hope In Christ Bible Church 9/29/19
1. Reconciliation 1-11 Rev. 21:8; Luke 15:20; Psalm 116:5; Isa. 30:18; John 1:16; Psalm 103:12; II Cor. 2:7,11; Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32; Mat. 6:12, 14-15
2. Resolution 12-17 Eph. 4:3,15; Prov. 15:1; Prov. 25:15; Gen. 35:29; Rom. 5:10; II Cor. 5:19; Col. 1:22; Mat. 5:23–24; Rom. 12:18
3. Recognition 18-20 Deut. 11:29; Lev. 25:23; Gen. 28:15
Being a God-blessed doer of the Word: