Pathway to Reconciliation
“In 1913, the Federal Government held a fiftieth anniversary reunion at Gettysburg. It lasted three days. Thousands of survivors bivouacked in the old battlefield, swapping stories, looking up comrades.
For the most part the old men got along well enough, but over dinner at a restaurant one evening harsh words were passed between a Yankee and a rebel and they went at one another with forks: ‘Unscathed in the melee of 1863,’ Myers wrote, ‘one of them--and I never learned which--was almost fatally wounded in 1913 with table hardware!’
The climax of the gathering was a reenactment of Pickett's Charge. Thousands of spectators gathered to watch as the Union veterans took their positions on Cemetery Ridge, and waited as their old adversaries emerged from the woods on Seminary Ridge and started forward toward them again, across the long, flat fields. ‘We could see,’ Myers wrote, ‘not rifles and bayonets but canes and crutches. We soon could distinguish the more agile ones aiding those less able to maintain their places in the ranks.’
As they neared the northern line, they broke into one final, defiant rebel yell. At the sound, ‘after half a century of silence, a moan, a sigh, a gigantic gasp of unbelief’ rose from the Union men on cemetery Ridge. ‘It was then,’ wrote Myers, ‘that the Yankees, unable to restrain themselves longer, burst from behind the stone wall, and flung themselves upon their former enemies ... not in mortal combat, but re-united in brother love and affection.’”
Source: The Civil War, p. 412. From the files of Leadership.
Forgiveness is freeing
I know how freeing forgiveness can be
There was one situation where I had to forgive someone before they ever asked for it
It was something I had to do in order to move forward and remain healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually
There have been times in raising our children, that I did something that was wrong and I had to ask our boys to forgive me
It was in humbling myself that I was able to ask for forgiveness
I valued my relationship with my sons more than I valued my pride
Reconciliation is so important
How many of us have had to forgive someone before they asked for it?
How many of us have had to forgive someone that has never asked for it?
Has there been a time where we have had to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness?
Humility is so important on the pathway to reconciliation
God transformed Jacob at Peniel. He was no longer a deceiver, but a prevailer. He was no longer a fearful rearguard, but a confident vanguard, as we will see. He was no longer prideful, but humble. While it is not stated, directly, the actions of Esau prove that God had transformed his heart also. The author wants us to understand from this passage that . . .
BIG IDEA – Humility paves the way to reconciliation.
GOD (Genesis 33:1-11)
Advancing (vv. 1-3)
Remember, Jacob had been wrestling with the Lord all night
It was daybreak and Jacob limped across the Jabbok River
The narrative continues
As Jacob made it to the other side of the river, he saw Esau coming with his four hundred men
Dividing the children
In Genesis 32:7, Jacob divided the people into two groups when he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men – he did this out of fear
Now he is dividing his children with their mothers and arranged them in the order of his affection for them
He put the maidservants and their children in the front
He put Leah and her children in the middle
Finally, he put Rachel and Joseph in the back
While it is not stated that Jacob was fearful, like in Genesis 32:7, we can only imagine that he was still apprehensive as he prepared to meet his brother, Esau
A transformation had taken place in Jacob as he wrestled with God and we see that displayed with him taking the lead
Leading the way
Jacob did not send his maidservants, wives, and children ahead of himself, like he had done with the gift of animals
Jacob went on ahead of them
“The pre-Peniel Jacob was insistent that he stay ‘behind’ his party (32:17, 19, 21). Now the post-Peniel Jacob will be at the vanguard of his party . . . The inclusion of the independent personal pronoun before the verb accentuates Jacob’s radical shift of position—from rearguard to vanguard.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 343]
The original Hebrew shows us how significant the shift is
MEN: PRINCIPLE #1 – Our role as spiritual leaders is to lead our families.
Jacob’s shift as a result of wrestling with God is significant
He had been transformed by a person-to-person encounter with God
He continued to mature in his faith and as the spiritual leader of his household
Are you leading your household spiritually?
If not, why?
Have you been transformed by a person-to-person encounter with God?
If not, what is holding you back?
God has given us His Word, so we can study it, learn from it, and be transformed by it
Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, so we need to be spending time in prayer
The Holy Spirit lives within every follower of Jesus Christ to guide them
What step do you need to take today in order to be the spiritual leader of your household?
Perhaps you need to have a person-to-person encounter with God for the first time
Maybe you need to commit to studying God’s Word and praying every day (the spiritual life journal is an incredible tool to help with this – you can take the challenge that Pastor Marc mentioned a couple of weeks ago to read through the Bible in a year)
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Take the next step needed, so I can be the spiritual leader of my household.
Jacob’s transformation not only affected how he led his own household, but it also affected how he approached his brother
He bowed down seven times as he approached his brother
This would have been a very deep bow where Jacob’s head would have almost touched the ground [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 197]
Jacob would have been bowing voluntarily and not by necessity
It was an act of humility on his part
“In the protocol of those days, a person approached a king by bowing seven times. And Jacob followed the pattern, not so much as subject to lord (surely he remembered the birthright), but in respect and recognition that Esau was, for all practical purposes, the king of Edom.” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 280]
Jacob’s transformation at Peniel included humility in approaching others
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we humble ourselves.
Imagine for a moment what the reunion with Esau would have looked like if Jacob approached him with the attitude that he was the covenant carrier who had the birthright and the blessing
Isaac’s blessing of Jacob included that the nations would serve him, people would bow down to him, and he would be lord over his brothers and they would bow down to him (Genesis 27:29)
I think a battle would have broken out, if Jacob had approached Esau that way
But he did not do that, rather he came in humility
Humility paves the way to reconciliation
In just a moment we will see Esau’s reaction
The same is true for us in dealing with others
Humility paves the way to reconciliation
Take a moment to think about a relationship that is currently strained
Do you want to be reconciled to that individual? (if not, you may need to spend some time repenting before the Lord)
How can you approach the other person in humility? (it does not matter if you are in the right or wrong)
Imagine what the family Christmas gathering could be like if you approached this individual before the gathering, in humility
Imagine how pleased God would be if you humbled yourself with this individual
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Approach the strained relationship with humility, so there can be reconciliation.
In humility, Jacob bowed down seven times as he approached Esau
Esau could not wait to greet his brother
Affection (v. 4)
Esau’s reaction to seeing Jacob
He ran to meet Jacob
He hugged Jacob
He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him
Hamilton suggests that the kiss is perhaps not just because Esau is happy or filled with joy, but also a sign of forgiveness [Hamilton, 344]
We will see in a moment that Esau had been transformed also
Does this narrative remind us of another narrative in the Bible where there was apprehension on one person’s part and joy on the other person’s part?
Jesus tells the parable of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32
The son, who squandered his portion of his father’s inheritance, returns with humility to his father’s house
He is willing to be considered a hired hand instead of his son
While the son was a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion and ran to him, threw his arms around him and kissed him
Perhaps Jesus was remembering how Esau reacted to seeing Jacob
We are not told in Scripture if Esau had a person-to-person encounter with God that transformed him, but his reaction is evidence that some kind of transformation had taken place in his life
He was willing to forgive Jacob
PRINCIPLE #3 – We honor the Lord when we forgive others.
We are not told if Esau followed the Lord
As followers of Jesus Christ, we honor the Lord when we forgive others
Is there a relationship that can be reconciled if you forgive the other person?
There are all kinds of things that other people can do to us that are not right
Abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, etc.
Others can mistreat us by their actions and speech
Life isn’t fair, but we have the power to forgive
No one can give you that power and no one can take that power away from you
You can forgive someone even if they never ask you to forgive them
In some cases, the other person may have no idea that they have hurt you or offended you
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Forgive the person who has hurt me, so that the relationship can be restored.
We honor the Lord when we forgive others
Humility and forgiveness pave the way to reconciliation
They both wept
As Jacob and Esau embraced each other, they began to cry tears of joy
It had been 20 years since they saw each other
They both had been transformed by God over time
Jacob had to learn humility and Esau had to learn about forgiveness
PRINCIPLE #4 – There is joy in reconciliation!
You have the opportunity to experience that joy when you learn humility and/or forgiveness
After drying his eyes, Esau looked up and saw the women and children that were following Jacob
Approaching (vv. 5-7)
Esau asks Jacob “Who are these with you?”
Jacob’s response acknowledges God’s gracious provision – “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”
PRINCIPLE #5 – Children are a gift from God.
Whether or not you have children, this principle still stands
Some of us have children of our own
Others of us have children that we have adopted
Still others have nieces and nephews that they recognize as gifts from God
Finally, there are some of us who simply invest in other people’s children
“As a single parent with a full-time job and three young children, I often listen to Christian radio as an extra source of strength to cope with my day-to-day responsibilities. One day, the sermon talked about how children are God’s rewards to parents. Several days later a sibling skirmish broke out into shoving.
‘Cut that out right now,’ I scolded. ‘Or you’ll go to your rooms until you can cool down.’ Then my youngest piped up, ‘Now remember, Mom, we’re your rewards.’”
Source: Violet Hart, Lexington, NC. “Heart to Heart,” Today’s Christian Woman.
Each group comes forward and bows before Esau
The maidservants and their children approach first
Leah and her children come forward next
Joseph and Rachel bow before Esau last
We are not told if Esau understood the order in which Jacob presented his children and their mothers to him
We are aware of the order, because of the author’s previous narrative about Jacob’s love for Rachel being greater than his love for Leah
After the introductions are complete, Esau addresses the generous gift that Jacob sent ahead of him
Accepting (vv. 8-11)
Esau asks what Jacob meant by the droves he had met?
By way of review, Jacob sent five different herds to his brother, each under the care of his servants
Goats – 200 female, 20 male
Sheep – 200 ewes, 20 rams
Camels – 30 female and their young
Cows – 40 cows, 10 bulls
Donkeys – 20 female, 10 male
Each herd approached Esau separately
Jacob’s response was that he hoped to find favor in his brother’s eyes
Esau initially told Jacob to keep his herds, because he already had plenty
Jacob insisted that Esau accept the gift, because it was more about acceptance than need
“By not offering a gift in exchange, Esau indicates that he accepts the gift as payment for the wrong done to him.” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 455]
“Esau’s acceptance means that the relationship is restored.” [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 522]
Men, are you ready to take the next step, so you can be the spiritual leader of your household?
Are you ready to approach a strained relationship in your life with humility, so there can be reconciliation?
Are you ready to honor the Lord by forgiving someone who has hurt you?
You can experience joy in reconciliation!
We need strong spiritual leaders in the church
We need reconciliation in relationships not only in our church, but also within the greater Church, through humility and forgiveness
Are we ready to experience joy in reconciliation?
“Eva Kor and her sister Miriam were the subjects of horrific experiments at the hands of Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. In 1995, Eva returned to Auschwitz for the 50th anniversary of their liberation. She asked Dr. Hans Munch (who signed death certificates at the camp) to join them and sign an affidavit acknowledging what happened. Dr. Munch agreed.
Eva explains what happened afterwards:
I was so glad that I would have an original document witnessed and signed by a Nazi … to add to the historical collection of information we were preserving for ourselves and for future generations. I was so grateful that Dr. Munch was willing to come with me to Auschwitz and sign that document about the operation of the gas chambers, and I wanted to thank him. But how can one thank a Nazi doctor?
For ten months I pondered this question. All kinds of ideas popped into my head until I finally thought, how about a simple letter of forgiveness from me to him? Forgiving him for all that he has done? I knew immediately that he would appreciate it, but what I discovered once I made the decision was that forgiveness is not so much for the perpetrator, but for the victim. I had the power to forgive. No one could give me this power, and no one could take it away. That made me feel powerful. It made me feel good to have any power over my life as a survivor.
In an interview before her death, Eva shared: ‘If I had discovered forgiveness sooner, I would have had that 50 years of my life back. Forgive. See the miracle that can happen.’”
Source: Poppy Danby, “The twins who survived Auschwitz despite being tortured, beaten and humiliated,” Mirror (8-27-20).