Saturday, February 18, 2012

Genesis Chapter 33 ~ Jacob & Esau Meet in Peace

Genesis Chapter 33

After all the events of chapter 32 Jacob lifted up his eyes and Esau was coming with 400 men. Jacob divided his kids between their respective mothers. He put the female servants in front, followed by Leah with her kids, and lastly followed by Rachel and Joseph. Jacob then went before all of them and bowed to the ground 7 times until he was near Esau.

Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him and "fell on his neck" and kissed him, and they wept (33:4). Falling on his neck is a Hebraism meaning, "he embraced his neck." Bruce Waltke draws out a helpful phrase describing this, "[R]an . . .  embraced . . . threw . . . kissed . . . wept. These are normal ways of greeting loved relatives. The narrator represented Esau's despising of his birthright with five terse verbs (25:34); he now represents the reconciliation with another five verbs." (Waltke, 454) Esau then saw Jacob's family, and Jacob recognizes his family as a gift that, "God has graciously given your servant." (33:5) His family came near then and bowed down in the same order Jacob put them in earlier.

Esau knew Jacob meant something by all this and asked him what it was for, and Jacob told him it was so that he would find favor in Esau's sight. Esau told him to keep all the gifts (see yesterday's post). Jacob refused though and asked him to keep it all, saying, "For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me." (33:10) Then Jacob recognized God's grace again, saying, "Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough." (33:11) Esau then accepted the gifts.

Esau then said they should go and that he would lead the way, but Jacob's family was frail and could die, so Jacob's camp moved a much slower pace toward Seir. Esau offered to leave some people to help, but Jacob refused. So Esau went to Sier, but Jacob journeyed to Succoth (Succoth means "booths"), built a house and made booths for his livestock. Then, Jacob went safely to Shechem, in Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram (where he was with Laban). In Shechem he bought a piece of land from the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, and he pitched his tent there. in Shechem he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (this means "God, the God of Israel"). 

Reflections on Genesis 33
Have you ever read Psalm 133? Take a few seconds to look at it:
"1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore."
This event in Genesis 33 between two estranged brothers, Esau and Jacob, is a beautiful picture of how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! By all indication this should have ended in a bloody mess. To the amazement of the reader these two brother-enemies reconcile! Think of all the fear and anxiety that Jacob waisted thinking about the anger of his brother. Think of the uselessness of fearing man. Yesterday I was meditating on chapter 32 about how Jacob should have been fearing God to begin with. Here, in Jacob, we see how the human mind can easily make itself restless. And for what? In Jacob's case it distracted him from focusing on walking in the fear of Yahweh (until the night before this meeting). Jesus' words are appropriate here, "Therefore do not be anxious . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow . . ."  (Matt. 6:31, 33-34) Don't let the fears of this world squelch a fear of the Yahweh.

Further, "reconciliation" is what God has accomplished in Jesus Christ between us and our fellow man. Through Christ our enmity for other men can be completely done away with. It doesn't matter what your background is, gangs, fight-clubs, or just a quiet angry heart that holds grudges against people for the slightest unintentional offense. This is what we see in the church. Consider what Paul wrote about in Ephesians 3:6. Through Jesus Christ, Gentiles are made, "fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." Enemies made to be sons along with Jews and their unity in the local church is a visible display of God's glory.

This "reconciliation" between men and women is small though compared to the reconciliation we can have with God through Christ. We were all enemies of God, but through Jesus Christ, if we are turning from our sin and believing in Jesus, we can be reconciled to God by the death of His Son. This is how we can be saved by Jesus! (Rom. 5:10) It's based on the reconciliation we have with God through Christ that we can be reconciled with others. Jesus even commands this of us if we would worship Yahweh properly in Matthew 5:23-26:
"23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."
Further, if we are in Christ, we have now been entrusted with a ministry of reconciliation to share the good news of Christ with others! (2 Cor. 5:18, 20) Reconciling others to God through Christ!

Jacob's reconciliation with Esau is a glimpse of God's trustworthiness and the power of the gospel! Immediately, in the context of Genesis though, we see that God is a promise-keeper. He is keeping His promise to Jacob that it is on his family that the covenant of God continues to rest, that Yahweh will bring a Messiah through Jacob. The hostility he had with His brother has not removed God's promise to sustain his lineage, and here we see a miracle, and a confirmation of God's trustworthiness to fulfill His promises. God continues to work in this family by His grace and for His glory!

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