Forgiveness & Reconciliation (Genesis 33)

      

letters-229725_1280A sure sign of Christian maturity is not how well you avoid conflict, but how you respond to conflict. For example, immature Christians are quick to take offense and slow to forgive and seek reconciliation; while mature Christians are slow to take offense and quick to forgive and seek reconciliation. Forgiving a person who has mistreated you and seeking to reconcile with them is not easy. That is what makes it such a powerful picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel reveals to us that, in Christ, God forgives our sin and reconciles us with Himself (2 Cor 5:10). In today’s sermon, we shall discuss the reconciliation of Esau and Jacob and be encouraged to seek to be reconciled with others.

  1. God is Merciful to Us. Reconciliation can only occur when each person involved takes responsibility for their own actions. Conflict arises because of sin. Every person struggles with sin and every person must repent of their sin. What leads us to repentance? Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” God’s mercy provides the initiative for us to forgive and to pursue reconciliation with others. Jacob knows that he must return to the Promised Land and he must take responsibility for his sinful deception of his father and brother. In view of God’s great mercy towards him, Jacob is a much humbler man who seeks to make amends with his brother.
  2. God is Changing Me. Reconciliation is only possible when we release our bitterness and resentment. This can only happen through the gracious power of God at work in your life. God replaces our hatred with love. Our responsibility is to believe and obey God’s prompting. Over the past 20 years God has shown faithful love and mercy to Jacob. In the process, Jacob has been changed by God. If you remember, last week we learned about the angel of the Lord attacking Jacob in order to break him of his self-confidence. Jacob was a deceiver who did everything he could to protect himself, but Israel is a much humbler man who depends upon God. Our God is the God of peace (Heb 13:20) and He calls us to live peaceably (Rom 12:18). If you seek reconciliation with others, trust that this is God’s gracious work in your heart. A desire for reconciliation is a mark of genuine faith. A refusal to seek reconciliation is dangerous because it is a mark of a hypocrite.
  3. God is Changing Us. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not identical. Forgiveness is the decision to give our anger, resentment, etc. to God and to abandon vengeance. Reconciliation concerns the restoration of the relationship. Forgiveness can happen without reconciliation, but reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness. Both, however, can only occur through the power of God at work in the life of all involved. We are powerless to change others, but God is able. Esau has been changed by God. We are not told what has transpired in the last 20 years but the results are remarkable. Consider that when Jacob left, Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him (Gen 27:41). Rebekah heard this and told Jacob to flee to his uncle’s house (Gen 27:42). When Jacob returned, he was afraid because he assumed that Esau still hated him and wanted to kill him. What Jacob did not anticipate is that God was not only changing Jacob’s heart but Esau’s as well. Genesis 33:4 tells us that “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Let us trust that just as God is working in us for peace, he is also working in others as well. Let us forgive and pursue reconciliation in the hopes that God is working in our life and others.
  4. God is Glorified in Us. Reconciliation is a glorious picture of the gospel. We know that the conflict between Jacob and Esau was resolved well because the result was peace. Verse 18 tells us that Jacob came safely (peacefully) to the city of Shechem. Jacob and Esau separated and Jacob did something next that reminds us of his grandfather Abraham. In Genesis 21, Abraham planted a tree, dug a well and called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. Jacob built an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (God, the God of Israel). This is significant because it is the first instance of Jacob saying that the Lord is his God. Before Jacob would refer to God as the God of my fathers. Reconciliation is a work of grace, to be sought by faith and acknowledged in praise.

Jacob was afraid that Esau still harbored hatred and bitterness. He was pleasantly surprised that Esau had forgiven him and accepted him. Who are you at odds with? Do you harbor bitterness and resentment towards them? Do you believe they harbor bitterness against you? Trust God and reach out to them in love and grace. Seek to reconcile with them. Do so out of love for them and for God. Pray that God uses it as a glorious picture of salvation.

Head, Heart, Hands Study Guide

Begin by praying for God to help you: 1) understand (Head) what the Bible says, 2) to be changed (Heart) by the truths contained, and 3) to apply (Hands) what you have learned. Read Genesis 32 and then answer following questions:

  1. What does the text say? (What happened? What happened next? What happened after that?) Why did Jacob leave his family? (Gen 27) Why is Jacob returning? What is he afraid Esau will do? What does Esau do when he sees Jacob? What reason does Jacob give for not following Esau to Seir? What does Jacob do once he arrives at Shechem? What does El-Elohe-Israel mean?
  2. What does it tell us about God? (Discuss the nature and character of God.) What had God just done to Jacob before Jacob met with Esau? Why did God change Jacob’s name to Israel? What does Israel mean? Why did Jacob erect an altar? Did God answer Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 32:9-12? If not, why not? If so, in what ways? Why, according to Genesis 28:13-15, is Jacob not in danger of Esau?
  3. What does it tell us about ourselves? (What are the human characters in the story doing or not doing that serve as a warning or encouragement to us?) Why is Jacob so nervous about meeting Esau? If God has assured Jacob that he will be blessed when he returns (Genesis 28:13-15, Gen 31:3) to the Promised Land, why is Jacob so fearful? How is it possible that Esau has forgiven Jacob when Jacob was hurtful to Esau? Is it possible for people to change? Is it possible for us to assume incorrectly? Discuss this further.
  4. How am I going to think, speak, and live differently because of what I learned? James writes that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22). It is not enough to know what the story says, it is important to apply the truth of the story to our lives. Take some time in prayer and consider some changes that you need to make in the following areas:
    1. Think
    2. Speak
    3. Live