From Enemy to Ally
(Read Genesis 25-35)
Before we go any further, I just want to emphasize reading those above ten chapters. Even if you know the story of Jacob and Esau, read it again! Why? Because there is so many details, themes, and nuggets of truth that you will miss out on without it. Also, without reading those ten chapters above, you will miss out on the full impact of the beautiful moment and event that we will be focusing on today.
Here we go... To recap very quickly. Jacob and Esau are twin brothers. Jacob is known for being a deceiver. He forces his brother to sell him his birthright, then he deceives his father into giving him Esau's blessing. It was with the loss of his (Esau) blessing that Jacob's story would take a dramatic turn. You see, Esau is understandably livid, though he comforts himself by planning Jacob's murder. Yikes, right? Mom and dad are afraid for Jacob and they send him away to live with his uncle.
Now, skip over twenty years or so and let's discuss three lessons we can take away from this relationship.
Lesson One: God is faithful to fulfill His promises.
There's the promise "follow my lead and I will be with you." God doesn't call us to take journeys or steps without the provision of His presence. He doesn't call us and then leave us alone to walk in His calling in our own strength. When God calls us, He provides His presence and His strength. God knew what He was calling Jacob to do. He knew that Jacob would find it difficult, but is the first step to reconciliation and restoration ever easy? He was afraid. He was worried that Esau would reject him and attack.
Here's the thing, God promised to be WITH him. What's more, God proved Himself faithful in fulfilling His promise. In the very first verse of chapter 32, we see that the "angels of God met him." God is so faithful to His promises and what's beautiful is that Jacob had a very visual reminder of God's faithfulness to His promise! God doesn't leave His provision with the presence of the angels of God. No... He comes in the form of a man and wrestles with Jacob. We see that "Jacob is greatly afraid and distressed" in 32:7, then we see God wrestle with Jacob. God wrestles with Jacob up until mere moments before Jacob sees Esau. I think what's so amazing about the timing of how long God wrestles with Jacob is simply that Jacob's mind would be on Him.
Lesson Two: With any offense, go to God first.
It's easy to take our offenses to everyone else BUT God. It's easy to hold onto these offenses (whether we're on the giving or receiving end) by way of guilt or bitterness, but how can God get His fingerprints on our situation unless we allow Him to? Jacob, who is the offender in this situation, took it to God and do we notice what God does with it? He changes Jacob AND He changes Esau!
Jacob left that encounter with God a changed man. He left that encounter impacted. He left that encounter with a physical reminder of wrestling with God (his limp). And it's FROM this encounter that he meets with his brother.
Lesson Three: God can work in our heart and in the hearts of others.
It's easy to see that God can (and does) work in our hearts, but do we realize that God is big enough to work in the hearts of others as well? He even works in the hearts, lives, and situations that we believe are beyond hope! We don't know exactly how God moved on Esau's heart, but we definitely see the result as he runs to Jacob, embraces him, kisses him, and weeps. Esau had been wronged, yet he responded with absolute and unexpected forgiveness.
My favorite part about Esau and Jacob's exchange, outside of this beautiful and unexpected moment of absolute and unexpected forgiveness, is how Esau had no desire to keep his brother's gifts. The gifts didn't impact Esau's heart of forgiveness towards his brother. This man who had held a grudge (Genesis 27:41) because of the birthright and blessing he missed out on had chosen such a complete forgiveness that he wasn't looking for "stuff." He opted for forgiveness and opted for a relationship with his brother.
I love that "seeing your face is like seeing the face of God" statement. Coming from someone who just got done wrestling with God, that's a very impactful statement. Esau's face and favor were both an answer to prayer and a complete blessing! How do you feel when God answers your prayer and comes through in difficult circumstances? How do you feel when God does all this and brings about a surprising and unexpected result? Here's the thing, I think Jacob would have been happy enough to have met Esau and NOT have been attacked (as he feared). Instead, the unexpected result was Esau's complete and total forgiveness. Esau's face and forgiveness would be a beautiful reminder of God's faithfulness and miracle! How often do we settle for less than God's best?
We don't hear a whole lot about these brothers after this incredible and miraculous encounter, but we do have one verse:
As a parent, this is a beautiful verse. Isaac hinted that he would soon die (in chapter 27), yet God preserved him through these twenty years of separation. He had known only of his sons' conflict and inability to get along, yet he died with his family reconciled and restored. The evidence for this is found in their ability to work together to accomplish the task of burying their father. These brothers have gone from being unable to be in the same country to be able to shoulder the weight of grief together. What an amazing transformation!
It's through them that we learn that love chooses relationship over grudges. It also gives us hope for restoration, no matter how severe the grudge is. Let us go to God with our grievances and hurt feelings to turn our grudges into beautiful displays of forgiveness and changed hearts!