Posted by: Rex Boyles | March 27, 2008

“Jacob and Esau” (Part I)

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants. 2 He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.

Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

6 Then the maidservants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

8 Esau asked, “What do you mean by all these droves I met?”

“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.

9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.
(Genesis 33:1-10; NIV.)

They were conceived by the same father and mother … born at the same … raised in the same home, but they were different. They had different personalities – different interests. Esau was a man of the open country – a hunter – a man’s man … but Jacob was a quiet man and liked to stay in the tent. These differences extend even to their character. Esau was a profane – godless man, whose god was his own desires. Jacob was a deceiver – a schemer – whose god was his own self-interests. 

You know the story. Jacob took advantage of Esau’s hunger, and Esau swapped his birthright for a bowl of beans. Then Jacob with the help of his “loving” mother deceived his father and supplanted his brother for the blessing. No wonder Jacob ran for his life … there was reason for Esau to be angry with Jacob … reason for him to want Jacob dead.

Years pass, and Jacob returns home. He is still afraid of Esau – sends 5 different herds of livestock to appease his anger. He has no place (no way) to run – Laban is behind him … Esau is running to meet him (with 400 men) … and he now walks with a limp.

As Esau approaches, Jacob bows 7 times … humbling himself before his brother. I know that he is afraid … but is he also ashamed? Is he grieving over his sins … his self-centeredness … his shameful behavior? Does he somewhere in his heart of hearts prepare to deliver his speech – the apology – that he has been rehearsing for years?

Esau does not wait for another bow … does not wait for a word of regret … he breaks into a run. Embraces him … kisses him … receives him favorably (i.e., forgives him). Esau hugs and kisses his deceiver, for the one who sinned against him is his brother.

Does any of this sound familiar? Make you think of the Father running to welcome his prodigal son home?

But doesn’t it amaze you … that this embrace – this grace – was given before anyone ever read the story of the lost son or eavesdropped on a conversation Jesus had with Peter on that beach? 

As godless – as profane – as Esau was, he was capable of brotherly love – of heavenly favor – of genuine forgiveness. I have such a brother … I want to be such a brother.    


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