Friday, July 22, 2011

Genesis 33:16-20

At the end of this chapter Jacob convinces Esau to go on ahead without him, promising to follow. However, we see that Jacob does not follow Esau, but instead settles in Shechem in Canaan, the land promised to him by God:

So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Succoth.

After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel. (Gen 33:16-20)

It doesn’t appear that Jacob purposefully lied to Esau when he said he would follow him. He apparently just decided to take God up on His promises! If you look ahead to chapter 35:29 (where Esau and Jacob bury Isaac together) and 36:6-8 (which explains why Esau was in Seir), it seems that they separated on good terms for practical reasons.

Note that Jacob immediately sets up an altar and names it El Elohe Israel, which means God, the God of Israel. Beth Moore points out here that Israel at this point does not refer to the nation, but to the man, Jacob. Jacob is affirming here that the personal God of Abraham and Isaac is also the God of Israel! We know that God does not have grandchildren. He is your Father and you are His child because you make a personal decision to believe Him and in His Son and the finished work on the cross. You cannot become His child because your parents or grandparents were believers. Every one of us has to make that personal decision and answer the question that Jesus asked Peter in Mark 8: 29, when Peter told Jesus what others were saying about who Jesus was: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” That is the only question that matters!

Now, before leaving this chapter, I wanted to point out some other things about this reunion of Jacob and Esau. There had been so much anticipation on Jacob’s part - he was dreading it - and yet, it turned out well! It would appear that Esau had done some changing as well as Jacob. Was he finally one of the “good guys?” Apparently not! Even though Esau was able to make peace with his brother, he apparently did NOT make his peace with God. In Hebrews 12:16-17 we read the following about Esau:

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

No matter what other “good” things Esau did in his lifetime, he did not meet God’s standard of faith (see Hebrews 11:6). He never put his faith in the God of his father. He is remembered in scripture as being “godless.” What a sad epitaph! Yet, at their reunion it is Jacob, the one who knows God, who is limping while Esau, who rejects God, is running! What does this tell us? Beth Moore writes, “ . . .sometimes God will wound His own child to make him walk differently while the profane and ungodly seem to run with endless confidence and vitality. We are to walk as people who have encountered God, and some of the most transforming encounters are wrestling matches. . . the lost do not wrestle with God nearly as much as we who belong to Him. The profane and ungodly don’t care enough to wrestle. We who are His often wrestle with Him most, and at times we also seem to hurt the most. (The Patriarchs, P. 153) Then Beth quotes 2 Cor. 4:17 to remind us that our pain is only temporary:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Often it may appear to us that the ungodly are more successful, or are getting away with things - that somehow God doesn’t see. They seem to run with energy as we limp along. David wrestled with this issue in Psalm 73 and came to this conclusion:

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny... Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (Ps 73:16-17, 27-28)

You really need to read that entire Psalm - I love it! So, even though Esau appeared to have abundant blessings - several wives, many children, much property and wealth, and at least 400 “friends” who formed his “army” of followers -  he himself did not follow after God. It’s easy to get into the trap of comparing ourselves to the ungodly (whether self-righteously in judgment or with discontentment and envy) - but man’s comparisons mean nothing in light of eternity! Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart! And as He’s choosing His team, He takes the weak and lame over the strong every time! That’s how I qualified! :)

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