In a recent devotion, the scripture reference was in Genesis 32-33. This was a familiar story to me, so I read over it fairly quickly. This time was different, though. This reading caused me to stop and reflect on what was happening. The words were the same. The story was the same. Somehow, the meaning had changed. The meaning had not changed for the author but for me, as the reader/hearer. That’s the joy of reading the scripture. My life has changed since the last time that I read this whole story. I have gotten older and see the world a little differently. My circumstances have changed. Things that once meant so much now seem petty. This reminded me of one of the many lessons I learned in Seminary. I studied World Religions and one of the religions that I really wanted to know more about was Judaism. I spent some time with a wonderful person that offered so much insight and passion into the faith. Rabbi Solomon and I were talking about how the Jews read the Torah through every year. He taught that it was important to read the Torah again and again because we change. Our life situation is different and what the Torah means to us is often shaped by those situations. I found that true in this text of Genesis 32-33.
What I discovered:
Jacob has been a liar and deceiver. God has instructed him to return to his father’s home. The only problem with that is Esau is there. Esau, his older brother, was extremely angry the last time he saw him. Esau even had plans to kill Jacob. It had been several years since then, but the facts had not changed. Jacob had taken Esau’s birthright and his blessing. The other fact is that Esau was a skilled hunter/gatherer. Jacob was not. Jacob’s chances of winning any dispute, other than through deceit, are slim to none. Jacob was terrified to return – even though God had told him to. He had an elaborate plan – filled with droves of gifts and a whole lot of begging/groveling. What Jacob didn’t know is that Esau was changed. When Esau finally got to Jacob…the scene really blew me away. Here is the reunion…
4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; 7 Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8 Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.”
Esau wasn’t just glad to see him…he ran to meet him and embrace him. It was completely NOT what Jacob was expecting or deserved. Esau didn’t even want the gifts. He told Jacob he had enough. I LOVE that. Esau knew he had what he needed…it wasn’t gifts that had changed him. He didn’t need what Jacob HAD. And Jacob says this…
Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor.
He told him that to see his face was to see the face of God. That was IT! Jacob received from Esau what he didn’t deserve – forgiveness, reconciliation, love and GRACE. Wow! That’s what God does for us. I am blown away by God’s love, forgiveness, and grace – none of which do I deserve. I am thankful that I was able to see read this. I am hopeful it blesses someone else as well.
What have you been skipping over in the scripture because you have “read it before?” I encourage you to slow down and listen. God has a powerful message to share if we will only pay attention.