Thursday, December 31, 2009

Esau’s Reaction to Jacob’s Submission -- Genesis 33:4

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

I am studying this verse on the last day of 2009. It has been a most difficult year for the whole world. Wars, terrorism, drugs, pornography, bad government, the economy, the environment, disease, and so many other negatives have left their mark on most of the world’s population. In a way, we have been like Jacob who had been estranged from his brother Esau. Many of us feel very estranged from the world today. For Jacob and Esau, this verse tells us that there was indeed success or light at the end of the twenty year tunnel of darkness. For us, another year has come and gone, and the world is still not at peace. Many of us are not at peace with ourselves, with others, or with God.

Yet this verse gives me great hope as I see an uncommon parallel between Esau’s reaction to Jacob and what I believe is and will be the scene when any one of us seeks to be reconciled with our God. I say uncommon because in the eyes of some, seeing any parallels between God and Esau may be deemed heresy. Yet, Esau was indeed also created in God’s image. And these are indeed the thoughts that the Holy Spirit laid on my heart and mind in my study this morning.

First, Esau ran to meet Jacob. Although the latter had come quite close through his bowing seven times as he approached Esau, there was still enough distance between them for Esau to run to Jacob in return. Jacob’s prayer had been answered. In like manner, God is most anxious to have us reconciled with Him and He always is ready and willing to do His part. He answers our prayer that desires a relationship with Him.

Second, Esau embraced Jacob. The man who had his birthright and his firstborn blessing stolen through deceit embraced the man who did the stealing. God against whom we have sinned also embraces us with open arms when we seek to reconcile with Him.

Third, Esau fell on Jacob’s neck. Jacob was prostrate on the ground, perhaps in his last of seven bows to Esau, and yet to fully meet him all the way, and in an act of perhaps lifting him up, Esau falls on Jacob’s neck. This is not unlike a parent hovering over a young child who has come apologetically to them. For me, it is an image that reminds me of God gathering His children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. For Jacob, it was a sign that not only did Esau accept him back into full relationship, but also that he would protect him. And God does just that for us – He accepts us into a full relationship with Himself and takes on the responsibility of protecting us forever.

Fourth, Esau kisses Jacob. If we can for a moment set aside the romantic use of a kiss, we will agree that since the beginning of time, a kiss has come to represent true love. I think of the kisses between a mother and her child or those of a child for his parents or siblings. There is no greater physical and appropriate demonstration of love and affection that is non-romantic and non-erotic than the kiss between two people who care for each other. Later in scripture, the kiss is used over and over as a symbol of both true affection and in some cases, of false affection parading as true. Esau kisses his brother Jacob and in so doing seals the reconciliation that has just taken place. There is no direct parallel to this that I know of that I can relate to God’s feeling for us. The words in Psalms 85:9,10 may come the closest when, in reference to the salvation we have in God as we seek him, the Psalmist says “righteousness and peace have kissed each other”. It is God’s ‘righteousness’ and our desire to make peace that come together in a kiss. There is no mistaking that God treats us in the same manner as we would treat others whom we love immensely.

Fifth, the verse says they both wept. When it came to a kiss, one could well have asked, “how do we know that Esau wasn’t just pretending or faking it?” The answer is “because of what the verse says next”. When weeping occurs jointly, it is a good indicator of sincerity. We were made that way. Yes, it can be just emotions or some can still fake it, but for the majority, real tears are true signs of humility and sincerity. These were not tears of fear or of sadness (except perhaps with respect to the twenty years of separation they suffered). They were tears of joy and gladness. And that is exactly what I believe occurs when one sinner comes to God. The sinner, his/her brothers in God’s family, and the angels of heaven shed tears of rejoicing. Crying is an emotion that plays a big part of being in God’s family. We cry for joy and we can weep, as Jesus did, for those that are not yet in the family.

If you have ever experienced a reconciliation of family members, perhaps of someone who had been physically lost and was found, or perhaps someone who had been estranged for one reason or another and has been embraced into the family, you will know what all this feels like. If you personally have been embraced into the family of God, you will know what this feels like. But we also all know that what really matters is what happens after either of these types of reconciliations is what. What do you do once you’ve been reconciled with others or with God? We’ll look at what happened between Jacob and Esau next time.

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