Posts Tagged ‘Agreement’

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

Hands in Unity.jpg

The Power of Forgiveness © Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:18-20 – TWO SISTERS AND THE POWER OF AGREEMENT

He was dying and wanted most of all to see his daughters together again. Graeme (not his real name) had two daughters who were estranged from each other. He longed to see them reconciled.

One sister, a follower of Christ, arrived first. She was concerned. “My sister is on her way and she is a professed atheist. I know that when we meet it will only end up in unnecessary conflict”. I encouraged her to wait and see what would happen.

When the other sister arrived they both went in to see their father in a coma and the stress of years of estrangement melted as conversation ensued in their common grief. How would they communicate with their Dad now? “He is still able to hear you,” I said, “and I am sure that he is pleased that you are both here. I encourage you to spend time alone with your Dad and express your love to him in whatever way you are able.”

When I offered to pray for their dad, they both accepted. I spoke to Graeme first. “Graeme, it is a beautiful day and your daughters have both arrived to see you. I’d like to pray for all of you.” I touched his hand “Graeme, you are surrounded by people who love and care for you and you are loved by God. I encourage you to reach out your hand to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust your life into His hands for the next part of your journey.” I prayed a prayer of commitment and allowed the sisters to spend time with their father.

Later, I came across the sister who believed in God. She said, “My father has died but we both spent time with him individually and together and expressed our feelings to him.”

“We could tell that Dad’s breathing was becoming weaker and my ‘atheist’ sister suddenly suggested that we pray the Lord’s prayer together. I was shocked. We cried as we prayed and the distance between us vanished. In forgiveness and agreement we stood either side of the bed, believer and so called atheist, holding hands with each other as the strife of the years fell away and we were reunited in relationship with each other, with God and with our dad. ”

“Our Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ….Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us … Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen”.

“Then the most amazing thing happened. As we said that final Amen, we heard my Dad speak clearly out from the haze of his coma, ‘Amen’, in agreement with us, and then he died.”

My wife’s response to this story expresses it beautifully. She said, “An amazing story of reconciliation, brought about by a father’s love for his daughters – reflecting Jesus’ amazing ministry of reconciliation brought about by another Father’s love for His children.”

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says, “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. Being in Agreement with God and with each other heals relationships. Agreement speaks of harmony and unity among followers of Christ crafted delicately through prayer and forgiveness and carries great authority.

Jesus had already told Peter in Matthew 16:19 (NLT) “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

Then in Matthew 18:18 (NLT) Jesus is speaking to all His disciples about restoring broken relationships. He says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” So the same authority given to Peter to begin building the Church at Pentecost is also granted to all the disciples in sustaining the unity of relationships with each other and God.

The invitation is to respond to the forgiveness of Christ and understand how immeasurable and vast it is in restoring us into a relationship with God. To experience such love and forgiveness as this, changes us on the inside. We begin to see that relationships are of higher value than arguments and in humility we forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.

Pastor Ross

Harry.jpg

© Letting Harry Loose. Created with FilterForge.org by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – LETTING HARRY LOOSE! A Parable.

He comes into the concert hall late, dishevelled, unshaven, and a little drunk, stumbles his way to the stage and pushes his way up the stairs to the little ensemble.

“Where have you been? We are almost about to start” says one of the other musicians, obviously annoyed. Harry does not answer. His breath is stale and he tries to tune his violin in the last few minutes, but fails.

The other musicians have no idea how much their role in unifying the string quartet, setting the tempo and shaping the sound of the ensemble will be severely challenged. This music especially created for the Ballet tonight is called the “Symphony of Agreement.”

Fortunately the other musicians start the piece with sounds like a gentle stream over the pebbles with crystal clear chords resounding throughout the concert hall.

Just then a glorious backdrop is lit and what looks like a golden ray of sunlight courses its way through the painted trees and rests on a stream. Ballet dancers appear from the wings, their movements choreographed with the musical harmonies of the string ensemble.

That’s when Harry begins to play. It is a discordant melody which rises over the other harmonies like fingernails scratching their way down a board. The audience flinches to its sound, recoiling from its intrusion. The dancers are confused momentarily but bravely continue.

Susan, one of the other musicians, plays a note as crisp and clear as a bell, to call the ensemble back to play the music as written, a pure and beautiful sound, and then a magnificent melody to invite the audience to forgive and respond.

But once again Harry’s out-of-tune notes rise like a wailing dog to destroy her attempt and none of the musicians can continue to play. The acrimonious wail echoes through the hall with jarring intensity interfering with all hopes of saving the moment.

“Will you stop playing!” Susan forcefully whispers. “You are destroying the arrangement entirely! Your contribution to this ensemble is an offense” But Harry plays on, oblivious to her pleas. Someone in the audience cries out in protest and with that Nathan, another member of the group stops playing, rips the violin away from Harry and asks him to leave. The ensemble seeks to salvage the rest of the performance.

Afterwards, the member’s of the stringed quartet are ready to string Harry up. They come with accusing fingers and strong words, offended by Harry’s actions tonight. “How could you do this to us, they say. We’ve practised for months and you go and get drunk.” Harry stands before them, tears running down his face and tries to apologise in between their angry words.

What action can they take concerning Harry?

Matthew 18:15 (NLT) says, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” 

In the ensuing conversation, it is discovered that Harry has been keeping the wrong company, lost a lot of money gambling and with the pressure of the concert was foolishly persuaded to “drown his sorrows” at the pub with a so-called friend. After too many beers Harry suddenly remembered the String Ensemble he was meant to be leading that night.

When anger subsides, his friends gather around him, help him home, sober him up, and most importantly, as he expresses his shame, they forgive him and pray for him. It seems that harmony between Christian friends is even more important than harmony in their Stringed Quartet, despite the poor reviews.

“If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, (Greek gather together in My Name) I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20 NLT)

Matthew 18:19 (NLT) says “If two of you agree…” What Jesus is saying is personal and relational not simply organisational and legalistic. Agreement speaks of harmony; moving together, being in accord with eachother like a co-written piece of music played by a group of musicians who know eachother well.

It is not Harry’s raucus, disconnected and discordant notes of half-hearted, unsynchronised relationships, but a well-orchestrated piece of music in which souls play together, hear eachother and act in unity.

Jesus says if a relationship is restored with a person who has sinned against you then you are once again in agreement (in harmony) and that agreement has heaven’s approval. It is the idea of the Lord’s prayer to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

It’s not so much a matter of knowing how best to confront the sin, but how best to restore harmony to a relationship without disregarding the discordant nature of the sin. And it is about declaring forgiveness and restoration. If this is not possible, it is about recognising an irreconcilable fracture of a relationship where forgiveness is inappropriate due to the stubbornness of the other person. Not easy.

This is not God being our genie in a bottle, and coming to do whatever we ask when we agree on something. Neither was the last part ever intended to be a favourite quote when there is poor attendance at a prayer meeting. “Well, Lord, there’s just a few here tonight but thankyou Lord, You promised where two or three are gathered in Your Name, You will be here.” NO! It’s two or three gathered together in harmony after restoring a rift in a relationship due to someone doing the wrong thing. That’s when God’s forgiveness is there personally in the midst of us along with His presence.

Matthew 18:18 (NLT) says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid (Or bind, or lock) on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit (Or loose, or open) on earth will be permitted in heaven. Can we simply disregard the context? No! Binding or forbidding is a reference to the penalty of forbidding them forgiveness because of their stubbornness, while loosing or permitting is restoring someone through forgiveness to a relationship of unity.

Our part is to act in a just and loving way in our relationships to do everything we can to get things right. We have authority based on God’s Word to act in His name concerning these issues, heaven’s stamp of approval when we are seeking to forgive.

Jesus is NOT giving us a pattern for Church Discipline as many call it, but a pattern for returning harmony and agreement to a discordant relationship. And He is there in the midst when that happens.

To His disciples, Jesus says in John 20:23 (NLT) “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

In the end, this can only happen because of the Cross. It is only when I am confronted by the work Jesus accomplished on the Cross that I can come to a point of acknowledging my sin. It is only when I know real forgiveness that I can in turn truly forgive others.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) invites us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  

The next night Harry leads the Stringed quartet with great humility and with a passion for recompense. The harmony is perfect. The unique melody on this night is a gift from God, and it almost seems that He has taken over Harry’s violin.

The Ballet dancers move in choreographed splendour to the voices of the instruments and keep perfectly in time with Harry’s rhythm and tempo, tones and timbres. He whispers into the ears of the audience with the soft notes and builds up the crescendos to crash upon the shores of their hearts.

God is there at the beginning and there at the finale. The Maestro and the maestro at work, playing a Symphony of Agreement, loosed in the corridors of heaven and brought to earth. The Ballet and orchestra receive a standing ovation that night and I think it was accompanied with the cheers of heaven.

Christ prompts you and me in our relationships. When we respond to Christ, admit our sin, we find forgiveness and harmony with Him and with eachother.

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to save me. I admit that I have been out of tune with You and out of sync. I believe that You died for my sins and I want my life to be more than just about me. I hear the sound of God’s symphony of agreement and love and I accept You as my personal Lord and Saviour. Make my life Your instrument. Make me the person You designed me to be; to live my life in Harmony with You and others. Thankyou for saving me.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31: 36 – 55 – AN EXIT INTERVIEW WITH STYLE

Exit Interview. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Exit Interview. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

He could have said so much more. I wanted him to say something like “You’re a backstabbing, condescending, conniving, manipulative bully! You’re a pushy, controlling, judgmental, nit-picking, fault-finding, blame-shifting, double-crossing, hypocritical, egotistical, self-centred, self-righteous, irrational, unreasonable … employer!” but Jacob is not into name-calling.

  1. AVOID NAME CALLING

Name-calling is the last resort of insecure people trying to acquire a psychological advantage. Jacob, however, is assertive without being offensive. Quite an art.

Normally an exit interview tries to get to the bottom of why you are leaving your job, your concerns, your suggestions, how you feel, your frustrations about how you were managed, your expectations, and addresses examples of discrimination or harassment. But how do you confront a bully like Laban at an exit interview if name-calling isn’t an option? I am amazed at Jacob’s control.

  1. BE HONEST AND ASSERTIVE

Although Jacob becomes very angry, he keeps it under control and he challenges Laban. He wants all those with Laban to see this bully for who he is. “What’s my crime?” he demands. “What have I done wrong to make you chase after me as though I were a criminal?” (Genesis 31:36 NLT). Jacob lays it on the line. Laban has accused him of kidnapping his daughters and stealing his household gods with absolutely no proof. He has attacked his integrity and Jacob refuses to be walked over.

No-one can make you feel inferior without your approval. An Exit Interview is an opportunity to be assertive. Assertive people express their thoughts and feelings and questions. They keep their anger under control and express honestly how they feel. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT, NIV and MSG) says “In your anger, do not sin … don’t sin by letting anger control you … don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry … Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

  1. HAVE WITNESSES

“You have rummaged through everything I own. Now show me what you found that belongs to you! Set it out here in front of us, BEFORE OUR RELATIVES, FOR ALL TO SEE. Let them judge between us!” (Genesis 31:37 NLT)

That’s the beauty of an Exit Interview. Before witnesses you can express objectively what has influenced your decision to leave. When we remain silent, we forego the chance for the organisation to evaluate their position and bear witness to what has happened.

  1. STICK TO THE FACTS

He states his case and says in effect. “I’ve been a virtual slave for you for 20 years. You demanded obedience in return for advancement and success but you only kept your promises if it was to your advantage, changing my wages 10 times.” Laban’s self-serving manipulative tactics are out in the open. No more white lies, sneaky moves for Jacob. Finally he is learning the power of honesty. As he relates the facts he lays a foundation for the possibility of change in Laban’s business dealings.

The facts become like a declaration to the devil and in effect Jacob is saying, “You have interfered in my life for long enough! The long meaningless hours of meticulous labour without any recognition are over! You can no longer dictate your unrealistic terms! You can no longer decide my future because your tyranny is now a part of my past! I have sacrificed enough! My ambitions to fulfil God’s purposes for my life will no longer be squashed! I am no longer a part of your empire building efforts!” (Genesis 31:39-41).

  1. CUT YOUR TIES

Making a particular choice means rejecting other possible choices. The truth for Jacob was that a choice towards God meant a choice to escape from Laban.

“In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why He appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” (Genesis 31:42 NLT). He blurts it all out. I have a new boss! Good on you Jacob! He cuts his ties with Laban and declares his allegiance to God. Cutting Laban out of his life is not so much showing disrespect to Laban but it is an expression of respect for God. He’s made a good choice.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says “… For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?””   

Being honest and assertive, having witnesses, sticking to the facts, and cutting your ties helps greatly. But wrapping up the interview is perhaps the most delicate conversation of all. 

  1. SEEK TO MAKE AN AGREEMENT

Jacob and his family are leaving and Laban knows that God will not allow him to harm them. He replies to Jacob with a true and false test, “These women are my daughters, (True) these children are my grandchildren (True), and these flocks are my flocks (False!) — in fact, everything you see is mine (False!). But what can I do now about my daughters and their children? (True!).

The arrogance of his nature defines him. He has felt superior to Jacob all these years and now he barely saves face as he stumbles over his words with a frantic attempt to maintain his power.

Laban still doesn’t admit that Jacob has a right to anything. He believes his own lies and refuses to admit that he is wrong. He remains territorial, seeking to protect what he still considers to be his. If God had not spoken to him, he would probably have harmed them and taken Jacob’s flocks from him. He admits he can do nothing. His hands are tied (Genesis 31:43). He says “So come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and it will be a witness to our commitment” (Genesis 31:44 NLT). 

Be careful Jacob; before you shake hands with this charlatan, make sure you know what you are doing. Before you sit down and share the covenant meal, make sure it won’t be your last one. Before you set up a monument and collect boundary markers, make sure your livestock are on your side. In fact start counting your livestock to see if they are still there! There’s a sacrifice in making any kind of agreement with someone like Laban.

You can’t make a deal with the devil, but in this case, since God has already bound Laban’s ability to bring harm to Jacob, the covenant is a declaration of grace to Laban. Psalms 34:14 (NLT) says “Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”  

Laban wants to protect himself. He doesn’t want Jacob returning to Haran with an army to levy revenge. “See this pile of stones,” Laban continues, “and see this monument I have set between us. They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me” (Genesis 31:51-52). 

  1. REFUSE TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

Laban can’t help himself. Laban adds a clause to the Exit Agreement that insinuates that Jacob is the reason that such a covenant must be made, not him. He says

“If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other wives, God will see it even if no one else does. He is a witness to this covenant between us … I call on the God of our ancestors—the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of my grandfather Nahor—to serve as a judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath before the fearsome God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line” (Genesis 31:50-53 NLT).

Subtly, Laban implies that Jacob cannot be trusted to keep the peace between them and that he cannot be trusted to treat his wives well; that he could abandon them for other wives. As if Jacob needed boundaries on the way he treated his wives! It was Laban who sold them like slaves to Jacob without any dowry! Jacob initially only wanted to marry Rachel!

But it’s not worth getting defensive over these subtle slurs on Jacob’s character. In the end they are inconsequential details which will have no effect on the future. Don Miguel Ruis says “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you refuse to take things personally.”

Laban doesn’t have his household gods anymore so this forces him to call on the God of Abraham. Hedging his bets, Laban says, “May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight” (Genesis 31:49 NLT).

Laban implies that Jacob needs to be watched. The “Mizpah Benediction” is Laban at his hypocritical best and not a form of blessing so much as a standoff designed to protect him. But he is right; God is the lookout from the watchtower, guarding the dividing line, the boundary, with a border protection policy that guarantees Jacob’s destiny.

In generosity and faith Jacob offers a sacrifice and they have a covenant feast. Talk about preparing a table in the presence of his enemies (Genesis 31:54). 

The next morning, Laban gets up early and he kisses his grandchildren and his daughters and blesses them. Then he leaves and returns home (Genesis 31:55) and Laban finally becomes a figure in Jacob’s past.

This Exit Interview goes well; no name calling or defensive pettiness on Jacob’s part, just assertive, honest disclosure for all to see.

Jesus invites us to make a covenant with Him after the Exit Interview from Satan’s kingdom. He offers forgiveness and peace with God by believing in Him. Our destiny is found in the promises of God in the Gospel of Peace. 

Hebrews 9:12-22 (NLT) says “… Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why He is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed … Then He said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you” … For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”  

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT) says “Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, … ratified an eternal covenant with His blood — may He equip you with all you need for doing His will …” 

Pastor Ross