Archive for November, 2016

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Epilogue

What a relief. Jacob reunites with Esau without bloodshed. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.

“Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied.” Jacob is keen to say that it is God who has blessed him. Maybe he’s also making it clear, “Keep your hands off, Esau!” only in a more subtle way.

The whole family bows before Esau to show their respect. This isn’t saying, “Esau, we are all coming under your authority”, just simply acknowledging, “we are coming into your territory.”

  1. ENSURE THAT AN AGREEMENT IS REACHED
Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Restitution © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

“And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship” (Genesis 33:8 NLT).

Jacob makes it quite clear that he is not coming in any way as an act of aggression as he meets Esau. This time he’s not offering a pot of stew. These animals are a means of restitution for his deceit in the past. This is a tangible way to make amends. But there is something else implied that is another hint at what Jacob has been doing.

“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself” (Genesis 33:9 NLT). The fact that Esau has 400 men indicates that he has made a life for himself already, perhaps as a mercenary. He obviously has plenty. But Jacob needs some indication from Esau that he has abandoned his claim to his Father’s blessing.

It is important to Jacob that he shows a gesture of reconciliation, not merely mouth the words.

“But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favour with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!” (Genesis 33:10 NLT).

Strange thing to say.

Instead of struggling with Esau, Jacob struggled with God. The struggle with God meant a hip wrenched from its socket, but he did receive God’s blessing.

But why does he describe his meeting with Esau as seeing the face of God? Perhaps he sees it as a blessing. Perhaps the blessing God gave had a specific clause that Esau would not annihilate him and his family. His smile was the face of God in terms of answered prayer. His fight with God substituted for his expected fight with Esau. Perhaps this is the blessing God gave to Jacob.

But I like what the Life Essentials Study Bible says. It suggests that the animals that Jacob gave to Esau amounted to a 10th of all he had, thus being an offering to God and this is why he said: “seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” “Though it cannot be proven from this text, it would not be surprising if Jacob’s herd totaled 5,500 animals and the 550 he gave Esau represented 10 percent of his total assets, fulfilling his vow (Genesis 28:22).”

I really like this thought. He’s not setting Esau up as God, but fulfilling his vow to God to give a tenth of all he had. He did this by giving this offering of restitution for the blessing stolen from Esau. Perhaps this was the reason he gave his promise back in Genesis 28. Perhaps he always intended his tenth to be given to God in this way.

“Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift” (Genesis 33:11 NLT). 

Esau can see that God has blessed Jacob, so he accepts the gift.

Pastor Warren Wiersbe says “He was made a prince, but he was acting like a pauper” but this seems an unnecessary assumption. No pauper is able to offer such a generous gift. And if anything, God humbled Jacob, not exalted him, in his encounter. Jacob experienced a blessing with a limp, not a crown with a title.

In accepting the gift, the rift between Esau and Jacob is requited. Esau doesn’t say, “I demand my birthright and blessing back” but submits to Jacob’s favour as restitution for the deceptive manner of their taking, in kind.

Living as an alien to God’s promises for over 20 years, Jacob was abused for his labour but also enriched. And he enters the land God promises, injured and blessed.

There is nothing automatic about the blessing of God to Jacob. He didn’t simply inherit it from his father and he certainly didn’t achieve it through deceit. It could only enter his life through consent and grace. There is always a risk when You struggle with God. It is the greatest conflict you will ever face.

Years later, Jesus, descended from the line of Jacob and faced the greatest conflict ever faced by anyone, as He died on a Cross for our sin. The Cross is a crutch for those who realize that they walk with a limp. It is the reconciling plus sign for the human race. We need faith in Christ to take the journey God intends us to travel. It takes us into the promises of God for our lives.

God is not yet through with Jacob. This is a stepping stone to an ongoing journey in receiving all that God has promised, not just a happy ending to a feel-good movie. As we have seen in Jacob’s past, he has a tendency to make short-term choices which cause long-term pain, but through obedience he has arrived in the promised land. But he hasn’t completely arrived in terms of obedience, as he is yet to discover. (But that it for another time).

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 16

Jacob is leading the way concerning this potentially volatile situation with his brother Esau. What happens next is all part of the puzzle of this remarkable story.

“So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last” (Genesis 33:2 NLT).

Jacob puts those he loves most at the back, so if they have to run, then they’ll have a better chance, perhaps.

I am amazed at how many commentators say Jacob goes back to scheming at this point. He’s not simply going to offer those he loves to front up with Esau first! He has to put his wives and children somewhere. The Bible tells us where. Does that mean he is scheming and not trusting in God? Give him a break. He has more obvious flaws than this.

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Objectivity not favouritism © Ross Cochrane

  1. REMAIN OBJECTIVE (Genesis 33:3).

It’s not scheming that is the problem here. It is favouritism. Jacob has a favourite wife and a favourite son. It is fairly obvious to everyone that he is distancing the most loved from danger.

Later, Joseph’s brothers show their dislike for this favouritism and Jacob once more will learn the hard way. He is preparing the ground for a day of discontent. Showing favouritism and a lack of objectivity will inevitably lead to further conflict.

That changes nothing of the fact that Jacob has come a long way concerning his faith. He is going to go meet Esau and 400 men. That’s not exactly a lack of faith. He has obeyed God and has prepared well to get this far.

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Respect © Ross Cochrane

  1. RESPECT YOUR RIVAL

“Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him” (Genesis 33:3 NLT).

I like this. Jacob doesn’t try to hide behind his family. He goes on ahead of them to meet Esau and his 400.

Why does he bow down seven times? Is this extreme respect? Custom? This is an ancient protocol for meeting a king. Jacob, God’s diplomat, bows down. Apart from showing cultural respect for Esau whose territory he was entering, it is almost worship. I’m sure that as Jacob bowed, he was madly praying that God would stop Esau from killing him. Perhaps it was God he was connecting himself with. Stay with this thought until later because I believe here, we have a hint at what Jacob has probably been doing all along.

Nevertheless, it is confusing. According to the prophetic blessing, Esau, the elder, was meant to serve Jacob, the younger. (Genesis 27:29). His time has obviously not yet come.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) adds some light by saying, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” But this is not the full story. There is something more at stake here.

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Reconciliation © Ross Cochrane

  1. MAKE CHOICES TOWARDS RECONCILIATION

“Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.” 

Hate had obviously dissipated in Esau through the years. The fight with God the previous night was the only fight that Jacob would face that day. It seems it became a substitute for the fight he expected with Esau. Both men have changed.

So here is a culmination unexpected to say the least. Jacob bows in respect rather than deceitful arrogance and Esau embraces him with love rather than expected anger.

What a relief. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.

No doubt commentators will read this as a sign of weakness in both men. Some, like the famous reformist, John Calvin, suggest that God has forced Esau to be kind towards Jacob, but it is not necessary to take away a person’s will for Esau to respond well to Jacob. A change has taken place in Esau. Even without faith, Esau’s anger had time to dissipate over the years. He is ready to move on.

But it is what is said next that gives us a further hint as to what Jacob has been doing with this encounter all along. What is it? Find out by reading the Epilogue of this Story – Part 17.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 15

“Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men” (Genesis 33:1 NLT).

This is a showdown. The gunfight at OK Corral. Jacob has seen a host of angelic warriors and then he has seen God face to face, and but now he must come face to face with Esau. This is tense and who knows, He may soon see God face to face again, depending on the outcome.

One way or another Esau is looking forward to a reunion with his brother, either for vengeance or reconciliation. Ringing in Jacob’s ears is a threat from 20 years earlier by Esau who wanted him dead.

So Jacob doesn’t immediately think that Esau is coming with 400 men to have a party and celebrate their reunion. Would you?

He has prepared well for this standoff, but still, it must have felt like he was bringing a knife to a gunfight. He could do with a bit of angelic assistance right now (Genesis 32:1-2) but he wasn’t about to procrastinate any longer in meeting Esau (Genesis 32:3).

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No gun, no bullets, just respect and humility. Photo manipulation by Ross Cochrane

Crafted with respect and humility (Genesis 32:4 NLT), Jacob’s message to Esau had focused on a friendly outcome (Genesis 32:5,6 NLT). He had mastered his emotions (Genesis 32:7 NLT) but this would still be a standoff.

Having a personal relationship with God means that you are open to the impossible, which is why he is choosing not to run. Instead, he shows care for all those who were with him (Genesis 32:7-8 NLT); people are always more important than the conflict.

Talking to the only One he could really trust, he prays up a storm (Genesis 32:9 NLT). Prayer is always a good strategy in times of conflict. In prayer, he reminds God of His past faithfulness but in doing so reminds Himself of a bigger picture (Genesis 32:9 NLT). When all we can see are the difficult circumstances, we miss out on seeing God’s purposes. Jacob is real with God, admitting he is not perfect (Genesis 32:10 NLT). Recognising that we have a responsibility in owning our part in the conflict will always test faith and character.

He is specific in his prayer, outlining what he desires to take place (Genesis 32:11-12 NLT). And then, after prayer, he seems to get further revelation. He makes it easy for Esau to come to the table by giving a peace offering rather than give him an itchy trigger finger (Genesis 32:13 NLT) by reaching for his gun. It’s always good to find a way to avoid triggering further conflict. Taking every possibility into account, Jacob anticipates Esau’s questions (Genesis 32:17-20 NLT).

He realises that the stress of conflict can have a big impact on family (Genesis 32:21-23 NLT) and so Jacob seeks to minimise this as much as possible. Family is more important than our personal battles.

Inward battles of character and faith are worth fighting. Jacob will face off with Esau because he is willing to stand for what he believes in (Genesis 32:24 NLT). But he wrestles with God first and discovers that if he is willing to hold on, there will be pain as well as blessing. (Genesis 32:25,26 NLT). Even when things are painful and difficult and overwhelming in the conflict, it’s always too soon to give up. When life strikes a blow that crushes me, am I willing to hold on?

Am I prepared to allow God to confront my past in order to move on into the future with His purposes for my life? Wrestling with God will change me forever as it did with Jacob (Genesis 32:27-28 NLT).

Not all of my questions will be answered but if I am persistent in finding the right outcome, there will be breakthrough and blessing (Genesis 32:29 NLT). Don’t give up on the struggle. Don’t give up because you go through painful times that humble you into the place of complete trust. Hold on to God until the blessing comes. It will demand faith. But it’s worth it.

So often we have to wrestle with God before we can face up to our circumstances. Our struggles spiritually determine our struggles naturally. And much bigger issues are at stake.

I can use my circumstances to move forward (Genesis 32:26 NLT). Are you prepared to keep moving forward with the changes God has made in your life?

The faith journey is not always easy. Like Jacob, all I can do is acknowledge the setbacks and expect the blessings. Both are life-changing experiences that God will use for the journey ahead (Genesis 32:29,30 NLT).

When I have done all that there is to do, what next?

  1. LEAD THE WAY (Genesis 33:3). Lead by example with courage and humility.

“So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last …

Then Jacob went on ahead.” (Genesis 33:1-3 NLT). What happens as Jacob meets Esau? Find out in the final episode of this series, Part 15, coming soon.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 32:29-32 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 14

Jacob is preparing to come face to face with Esau. Along the way, Jacob faces an assailant who turns out to be God Himself who fights with him until dawn and then blesses him? Such experiences along the way are significant. How can I keep moving forward with what I have learned?

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE SETBACKS AND THE SUCCESSES

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Success in the Shadow of Failure. © by Ross Cochrane

“Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”

“The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.” (Genesis 32:29,30 NLT).

Like Paul, Jacob became strong only when he became weak (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).

As Jacob, he had deceived his father into giving him the blessing. In this fight, he sought the blessing of God. Perhaps spiritual warfare is sometimes struggling with God for a blessing. As Israel; “One who struggled with God”, he will enter the land and into the promises of God as a man with authority and faith, but not without struggle and a limp.

The faith journey is not always easy. I acknowledge the setbacks and blessings. Both are lifechanging experiences that God will use for the journey ahead.

Later, Hosea 12:3-5 (NLT) recalls this event by saying, “Even in the womb, Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he even fought with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won. He wept and pleaded for a blessing from Him. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him— the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord is His name!” 

In Exodus 33:11 (NLT), “Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” and miracles resulted from his relationship. Gideon had an experience of meeting God face to face and did not die. Daniel, Paul and John had first hand, face to face encounters with God.

Genesis 32:32 says “(Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)”  

Nice touch to end the chapter.

Never the same again, Jacob had a new blessing, a new limp, and a new name. He was spared, delivered, saved, rescued, redeemed. His very survival recognizes the grace of God.

Jacob has faced the greatest conflict of them all. He has come face to face with God. He is yet to come face to face with Esau and his army. He has survived his encounter with God with a dislocated hip. What will his encounter with Esau bring?

Genesis 33:1 (NLT) “Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men.” What happens next? (Find out by reading Part 15. Coming soon).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 32:26 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 13

God appears in human form. He strikes Jacob, as well as blessing him, so that he limps forever after. Jacob recognises this “man” as one who could bless him, and as God. He holds onto God until the blessing comes. It demands faith. (See Parts 1-12). But I also need to …

  1. REALISE THAT THERE MAY BE BIGGER ISSUES AT STAKE

Love this video as an illustration of a Bigger Picture

Jacob could never have known but the blessing he received reached down through the ages and was realised in its fullness through what Christ accomplished for us on the Cross.

So often we have to wrestle with God before we can face up to our circumstances. Our struggles spiritually determine our struggles naturally. Jacob’s struggle was spiritual and natural. And much bigger issues were at stake.

How is it that God becomes a man and struggles with Jacob? We could equally ask, “How does God become a man in the form of Jesus?” We don’t know specific answers but marvel at the miracle we receive by faith.

When God became a man, in the form of Jesus, He struggled with our sin and won the victory. When God became a man and struggles with Jacob, He allowed Jacob the opportunity to win a blessing while barely able to walk away at all. This was a worship experience like nothing experienced before but Jacob must be wondering, “What now, Lord? How can I meet Esau in this broken state?”

  1. USE YOUR PREPARATION IN MOVING FORWARD

Prepared for the journey.jpg

 

“Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” (Genesis 32:26 NLT). Why is this wrestling champion concerned about the sun rising? He’s not afraid to be seen in the light, is He? Hardly. 1 John 1:5 (NLT) says “God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” 

But Jacob refuses to let him go. Does He want to go before the dawn because He wants anonymity? Too late. Jacob knows that He is God and quite capable of releasing Himself from Jacob’s grip. More likely it is something a lot simpler. God wants Jacob to get on with his meeting with Esau. It was important that Jacob meet up with his wives and children and continue on their way to fulfil God’s promises.

Many suggest that since this figure is God Himself, a Theophany, then He wants to use night to veil His appearance to protect Jacob from dying in His presence? Moses had a similar experience.

Moses in Exodus 33:18-23 (NLT) says to God,

“Then show me Your glorious presence.” The Lord replied, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will call out My name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. BUT YOU MAY NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT MY FACE, FOR NO ONE MAY SEE ME AND LIVE.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near Me on this rock. As My glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and let you see Me from behind. But My face will not be seen.”  

Sometimes our real conflict is not the natural one but the spiritual one that wages war on our souls. Jacob has been wrestling with God. Have you? Are you prepared to keep moving forward with the changes God has made in your life? How can you do this? (Find out by reading Part 14. Coming Soon).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 32:29 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Part 12

Jacob is preparing to come face to face with Esau but along the way, Jacob wrestles with God in human form, who fights with him until dawn? Jacob wouldn’t let the man go. Even after his hip is dislocated, Jacob still holds on and asks God for a blessing (See Part’s 1-11).

How do I come to a place of finding the right outcome when I am experiencing the stress of pain?

  1. BE PERSISTENT IN FINDING THE RIGHT OUTCOME

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Persistence © by Ross Cochrane

Jacob was persistent in pursuing the blessing.

“Please tell me Your Name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know My Name?” the man replied. Then He blessed Jacob there” (Genesis 32:29 NLT).

Jacob has been wrestling with God, and now, in pain, he seems unsure.

It is unnecessary for God to reciprocate with a specific name. What is important is that Jacob responds to Him in faith. Faith doesn’t always give us all the information we want but it enables us to trust in God.

It is extremely important that Jacob is subservient to the man who gave him the blessing. So God blesses Jacob in that place. He is both injured and blessed. A most curious thing for God to do. Nobody walks away from a fight with God without a limp; humbled in some way.

What specific kind of blessing is it? It isn’t healing. Perhaps just further reassurance of the promises God had given to him already. Kind of putting God’s stamp of approval on the whole thing with a blow that almost crushed him.

Now he still has to meet Esau and his army of 400 men but it seems to me that after you have fought with God and received a blessing, then 400 men don’t seem as big a problem anymore. What happens with Esau? There’s more of this story to come.

Let me ask you “Have you ever had a similar experience to Jacob?”

Have there been times when you have struggled with God? Perhaps struggled with your belief in Him, or struggled in prayer with Him. It’s worth the struggle because when we struggle with God, we may go through a bit of pain along the way but eventually, if we persist, we will receive God’s blessing.

Don’t give up on the struggle. Don’t give up because you go through difficult times that humble you into the place of complete trust. Hold on to God until the blessing comes. It will demand faith. Then you will begin to understand that there is a bigger picture. What is that picture? (Find out by reading Part 13. Coming Soon).

Pastor Ross