Read Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, Matthew 24 today.
This devotional is about Genesis 33.
Conflict with other people is a common part of this life. Sometimes, you can end conflict by avoiding or ending your relationship with another person. But not always, especially if the conflict involves your family.
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers and they had a big conflict back in Genesis 27. Jacob created the conflict by using deceit to take Esau’s rightful inheritance as the firstborn. He left town to avoid a confrontation with Esau. But God commanded him to return to the land of promise, so now Jacob must return home and face his (slightly) older brother.
We read the account of their reunion here in Genesis 33.
There is no direct statement of repentance from Jacob in this chapter. Nor is there a direct statement of forgiveness here.
But the actions and words recorded in this chapter demonstrate that some kind of reconciliation was sought by Jacob and given by Esau.
We can see Jacob’s desire to be forgiven by how he “bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother” (v. 3). This was an act of humility. One bow would be a customary sign of respect and courtesy (see Gen 23:12 and 42:6 for examples). But Jacob bowed seven times, demonstrating his humility and deep desire to be accepted by his brother.
In Genesis 32:13-16, Jacob had selected a large amount of livestock for Esau. Jacob sent them ahead of him as a gift. Here in chapter 33:8, Esau asked why Jacob had sent all these animals ahead of him. Jacob answered, “To find favor in your eyes, my lord…” (v. 8). This action, this gift by Jacob was designed to pay restitution to Esau for stealing his birthright.
So, although Jacob did not directly ask for forgiveness, his actions demonstrated his desire to be received by his brother without hostility.
When we look at Esau’s actions, we see a man who is eager to be restored to his brother. Esau abandoned all formalities; he “ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him” (v. 4). This indicated Esau’s desire to be reconciled to Jacob.
Jacob’s statement, “…to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably” (v. 10) are words of relief. He was grateful not to have been attacked by his brother but, instead, to have been accepted.
These actions would have communicated a restored relationship, even if Jacob didn’t directly ask for reconciliation. Their customs spoke more powerfully to them than the frank conversation we’d expect. The end of the chapter suggests that Jacob didn’t fully trust Esau, but at least they had found a measure of peace with each other.
Do you have any broken relationships in your life? Have you made an attempt, in humility, to try to repair that relationship? Are you willing to make restitution if you’ve damaged the other person in some way?
God does not want us to live in tension or in fear or in avoidance. He wants us to own up to our sins, our mistakes, and our selfish acts and seek forgiveness for them. He also wants us to forgive those who sin against us. Like Christ, who came seeking us even though we sinned against him, we should seek out others we’re estranged from and try to make peace.
Given that, who do you need to call today to get this process started?