Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation’

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

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© Don’t Cross Me – created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 18:15-20 – CROSS ME AND YOU’LL REGRET IT?

She came to me, tears streaming down her face and in obvious distress. It was Sunday and I was walking across from our house to our small Church building to take the service. The morning was beautiful, her confession was not.

For around three years she had been the bursar of the Christian School that our Church had started and that morning she blurted out that she had stolen money on a number of occasions and was not able to pay it back. She knew that eventually it would be discovered.

Thanking her for her courage in telling me, I encouraged her to wait until I was able to speak to our leaders and I went to the Sunday Service with my mind spinning and a heavy heart.

Jesus speaks about the importance of keeping Church relationships healthy in Matthew 18:15. He 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.  

If our bursar had sinned against me the matter would have been easy to solve but the criminal act she had committed affected the whole Church. Matthew 18:15 encourages us to limit the interaction with only those involved in the offense.

But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses(Matthew 18:16 NLT).  

Our leader’s meeting that week was awash with prayer and a genuine desire to deal with the situation well. Could this matter that affected our whole Church be kept in-house and dealt with by the leaders alone? Would the whole Church in some way need to be involved? Did we need to let the police know? She would be charged and have a police record for the rest of her life. There are times when this is totally appropriate. Was this one of those times? What did the Bible say? …

Luke 17:3-4 (NLT) says “So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Galatians 6:1 (NLT) says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”  

It seems that the Bible regards repairing a relationship with a person who has wronged you as being even more important than their sinful actions. Confront the person without malice with the view to repentance, forgiveness and a new start. There may be restitution and other consequences but restoring the broken relationship is the most important. It’s not “Cross me and you’ll regret it! That’s a barbed wire threat that damages relationships. It’s The Cross allows room for me to forgive!” Jesus with hands reached out said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT).

If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector(Matthew 18:17 NLT).  

This sounds so prescriptive and legalistic at first. But to treat a person as someone who is not a follower of Christ is still an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. Fortunately for us, the person hadn’t refused to listen. Just the opposite. She had admitted to me privately of a public sin. If it had just been against the leaders we could have dealt with the matter in-house, but we needed to deal with this as a Church.

As I remember it, the Church service the next week gave followers of Christ a reminder of the guts of forgiveness. We began our service with worship and praise but I informed our Church that we had a difficult situation to work through.

I had previously encouraged the lady to come and share with the Church, with my help, what had happened. I was amazed at her bravery.

That day we had an opportunity to show hard-hearted malice and unforgiveness, but as I remember it, each member came forward personally and putting their arms around her said, “I forgive you.” Each person expressed their love for her. There were many tears that day as we prayed for her and we knew the presence and approval of God. Followers of Christ have a responsibility to reconcile but it’s nice to see it in action. It doesn’t always happen that way.

Many could have withdrawn from this lady who stole money from us, gossipped to others about the wrong things she had done, or even tried to get revenge. Instead, because of her genuine admission and contrition for the wrong she had done against us as a Church, we took up an offering that morning for her. She had lost her job because of her theft and needed all the help she could get to re-establish herself.

The Church paid for her debt. Justice had been accomplished through forgiveness. I was humbled and grateful to God. The invitation of this passage is to restore lost relationships. Not “Don’t Cross me or you’ll regret it!” but “Because of the Cross, there is room for me to forgive.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:7-18 – HOW TO CLAIM YOUR INHERITANCE

Claiming Your Inheritance

“MISHMA, DUMAH, MASSA,” (Genesis 25:14). Three of the children of Ishmael, maybe triplets. Their names became a PROVERB. Adam Clarke in his commentary on Genesis says “Mishma” means HEARING. “Dumah” means SILENCE; and ‏”Massa” means PATIENCE. The idea is “Hear much, say little, and have a lot of patience.” Perhaps that’s what James was quoting when he wrote in James 1:19 (NLT) “… You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry”.

MISHMA, DUMAH AND MASSA were tested at the bank recently. It was a comedy of errors from start to finish. My Mum didn’t sign her will and after her death my elder sister and I wanted to personally finalise various papers at the bank. We wanted the bank to release the money from my Mothers account, our INHERITANCE. It would only take five minutes in my lunch break.

My sister met me at my office and we went to the BANK together. We finally found the bank in the heart of the shopping centre but realised we had left the papers in the car. So we walked all the way back to the car and then found our way down the three floors once again to the bank. It only took us about 15 minutes. Patience. Still plenty of time.

The woman at the bank was helpful but insisted that we needed to find a JUSTICE OF THE PEACE to authorise certain documents. Don’t say anything that you will regret. Listen to the woman. She is only doing her job. Patience.

The Justice of the Peace came in on Wednesdays. It was Tuesday. We walked back to the car and drove back to my office where I enlisted the help of a Justice of the Peace from my workplace.

With papers authorised, once again we travelled back to the bank. The initial fifteen minutes had become two hours by the time we finalised the papers. Now all we had to do was post these documents to our solicitor who would enable us to “CLAIM OUR INHERITANCE”.

It could have been worse. We might have realised that we had left the papers at the bank when we had arrived back at my office, but fortunately the quick thinking woman from the bank came running down the corridor and handed us the documents. We had left them on the counter. My sister looked at me and said “Don’t say anything!” and we laughed at how we had made a simple task take so long. Mishma, Dumah and Massa came in handy that day.

In Genesis 25, only Isaac is named on the will, signed by Abraham Himself, to take to the bank to collect his INHERITANCE. Only Isaac was chosen by God to be the son whose descendents would one day lead to Jesus Christ. Who needs a Justice of the Peace when you have the GOD OF JUSTICE AND PEACE to verify the COVENANT?

Neither Ishmael nor the six sons of Keturah share in the inheritance of Abraham, although all of them are his children. Before he dies, Abraham gives them generous gifts and sends them away. Perhaps Abraham is protecting what God has said about the destiny of his son Isaac.

Back in Genesis 16:12 (NLT) God told Abraham that Ishmael would “be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in OPEN HOSTILITY AGAINST ALL HIS RELATIVES.” The 12 tribes of Ishmael follow their father’s example. What a terrible way to live – in open hostility to everyone around them and to the purposes of God. I claim my inheritance by FAITH and not by FIGHTING against His purposes for my life.

Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT) says that because of sin we all fight God either openly or inwardly. It says “This includes you who were once FAR AWAY from God. You were His ENEMIES, SEPARATED from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now He has RECONCILED you to Himself through the death of Christ …” Christ bore the enmity, the open hostility and inward rebellion of us all, opening the way for me to have a relationship with Him.

What is that inheritance that God wants me to receive? 1 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT) that “we have a priceless inheritance—an INHERITANCE that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your FAITH (in Christ), God is protecting you by His power until you receive this SALVATION, …” Eternal life, forgiveness, peace with God.

MISHMA, DUMAH AND MASSA. Listen (MISHMA) and spend time to understand what God is saying (DUMAH) and remember that “the Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient (MASSA) for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT).

The invitation of reconciliation is a prayer away. “Lord, I choose to be reconciled to You and receive the inheritance of Salvation that You have given to me in Christ.”

Pastor Ross