Posted by: Rex Boyles | April 3, 2008

“Jacob and Esau” (Part II)

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)

As I read these words again (see previous post), I am moved by Esau’s brotherly love. I have such brothers and want to be such a brother.

But due to my own shameful behavior – my own betrayal of family and friends – I tend to view this “story” from Jacob’s heart.

He knows he was wrong … he knows that he deserves Esau’s anger – even vengeance. He doesn’t want to suffer the consequences – but he returns home ready to face whatever awaits him. He offers gifts … and bows before Esau. He is hoping to escape (or survive) what he knows he deserves and what he fears will happen when they meet face to face.

He cannot “run and hide”; because he cannot run anymore, and he has no place to hide. He cannot return to Laban’s household, for God is watching the line they both have drawn in the sand. He cannot run – for his new name, Israel, comes with a limp. All he can do is humble himself before the one he betrayed … trusting in the comfort and care of the One who promised to bless him.

Can you imagine his shame?

Can you imagine his fear?

As Esau approaches, Jacob begins bowing (7 times) … hoping for the best – that the gifts have mollified his brother – and yet, fearing the worst – that nothing will appease Esau but the blood of Jacob and those who share his name.

Then Esau breaks into a run …

Does Jacob cringe … cower?

But his brother does not rebuke him or raise his hand against him … Esau embraces his deceiver – treating him as a brother rather than an enemy.

How long does it take Jacob to realize that this embrace was of love – not anger … of forgiveness – not judgment?

The significance of this moment in Jacob’s heart is revealed in his words: “… for to see your face is like seeing the face of God now that you have received me favorably.”

I know this feeling.

After my shame was splattered on the consciousness of the brotherhood I wanted to believe that God had forgiven me … read words in my Bible that promised it … knew it to be true, but my deceitful heart could not accept it … could not hold on to it as true. But something happened … when brothers and sisters (genuine disciples of Jesus) began to find me – accept me – forgive me – love me – hold on to me. With their arms around me … their words in a note before me … their hearts open to me …  they treated me like a brother rather than an enemy.

They drove miles to find me … wrote emails and letters to others to be delivered to me … put their hands on my face – lifted it up … sent checks … offered room and board … loaned cars … took me to supper … introduced me to their friends and family … sat by me in church … talked with me for hours … wrote letters of recommendation … reminded me that my sin did not define me … prayed for me things that I was not able to pray … asked me if I was “okay” … welcomed me into their homes … made me cookies … bought me socks … asked me to teach … gave me a place to rest and heal … and so much more.

With each act of love and forgiveness I saw God’s love and forgiveness clearer. In their faces I saw the face of God – for they received me “favorably“.

I wish I had a gift to give you (as Jacob did Esau), but I thank you … and I thank God for you.    

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