Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host for the Daily Challenges. Yesterday we read the story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament. They were brothers who had always been in each other’s face, especially Jacob, being the younger son, always trying to get ahead of the older son. He tried to get out of the womb first and then he tried to steal his brother’s birthright and role in the family as the first-born son.
They had parted on bad terms for about 20 years. Yesterday we read the story of them meeting up again, Jacob afraid for his life and his family’s life, knowing that Esau was a powerful wealthy man with about 400 men working for him, and Jacob feeling very vulnerable as a result. It’s quite a story, because Esau actually forgives and shows mercy to his brother.
I asked you yesterday to consider what parallels there might be in that story of Esau forgiving Jacob, and the story we studied last week of Jacob wrestling with God. That happened right before this incident. The most obvious parallels are in some of the wording. Jacob says seeing Esau’s face was like seeing God’s face. That’s exactly how he described his encounter wrestling with God, that he had seen God’s face, and yet he lived to tell the tale. I’m paraphrasing. He remarked that he had survived the encounter, but he was so surprised at that because tangling with God doesn’t seem like a good idea. Yet, Jacob survived.
I think that’s the same thing he’s saying about Esau here. Seeing Esau’s face is like seeing God’s face and living to tell the tale. He has just seen the face of the one he fought with. Over and over again he was fighting with his brother. He’d stolen the most important thing to Esau. He sees that brother again, expected violence, and yet he lived to tell the tale. He was thankful for having lived through it. I think that’s what Jacob is saying when he says it was like seeing God’s face.
The other parallel that we see is Jacob knows that he stole his brother’s blessing, a blessing his father should have given him as the first-born son. It seems like this haunts him. He feels guilty about it. Last week in the story about him wrestling or struggling with God we see at the end he demands a blessing from the mysterious wrestler. Turns out to be God. Why does he want a blessing so bad? There’s something about blessing that haunts him, that leaves him feeling guilty.
We see it again in this story where Jacob goes to Esau, showering him with gifts, bowing down before him, going over the top in showing contrition, trying to butter his brother up so he won’t kill him on the spot, but also that he might bless his brother. Jacob wants to give Esau a blessing. He wants to give him back what he stole. He wants to give him the respect and honour of being the first-born older son. He wants to make things right. He can see that forgiveness will have an impact on Jacob. Jacob will be forgiven, he be free, but it will also have an impact on Esau. He weeps, as he finally sees his brother again. He asks caring questions about his brother’s family. He wants to know how are they, and who are they in the first place. He cares more about his brother than about the stuff that his brother sent.
I think the most important parallel here is mercy. The story we studied last week of Jacob wrestling with God ends with God showing Jacob mercy. They’ve tangled all night. Jacob thinks he’s tied and then God suddenly pops Jacob’s hip out of alignment and Jacob realizes he was no match at all for God. God shows him mercy by letting him fight as long as he has, by not killing him on the spot, by not killing him afterwards for having fought with God, for having let him survive seeing God’s face. God shows mercy to Jacob, and now Esau shows mercy to Jacob as well.
It seems that Esau, in forgiving and showing mercy, is reflecting something about God that hasn’t been present in Jacob’s life up until now. Jacob is a changed man, who finally understands mercy and humility. We’ve seen it in a few different ways. He is learning through his brother and through God’s direct intervention about mercy and forgiveness that were painfully absent from his early life.
This experience, as well, changes Jacob. The wrestling, the forgiveness from Esau, they change Jacob. We see some humility in him. We see some respect and honor. We see a changed man emerging on the other side. I think all these things come together to also point us forward to God’s plan coming to its culmination in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We can see this story pointing forward to that, to the way God will show mercy to all of Jacob’s descendants, all the nation of Israel, how God’s going to show them mercy. Despite them having fought with God throughout the decades and centuries, despite them having rebelled against God, despite them not having learned mercy and humility and forgiveness from God, God is going to show it to them anyway. He is going to forgive them, show them mercy, and change them.
This is the same thing that happens in the life of anyone who learns to follow Jesus. We come to him as broken people who have hurt others, who’ve hurt God, who have been fighting with god, been rebellious, who have a multitude of sins in our lives that reveals a heart of sin. God comes, shows us mercy, forgives us, and gives us a new life with new qualities. When Jesus Christ came to earth, when God came to earth in that form, we all saw his face which should have been a deadly encounter between a holy God and unholy people. The human race, those who were alive at that time and others now, we can encounter the risen Jesus personally, intimately, and live to tell the tale. The entire human race when Jesus came to earth saw God face to face and lived to tell the tale because God was showing them mercy. It’s what God did for those who were there at the time. It’s what God has done for us and wants to do in your life.
If you’ve never committed to a relationship with God before, you can do that today. You can invite him into your heart. You can know him and survive to tell the tale. You’ll even be able to face death and live to tell the tale because of God’s mercy and love and forgiveness. It’s a free gift offer to you. Take it. Here’s your question for today before we look at this in a bit more depth tomorrow and try to apply it to our lives:
Question: How should we respond to this story? What does it teach us, for people like us today, about forgiveness in our lives?
Well, have a great discussion. I’ll see you tomorrow.