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“The Reversal” … part 1

“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept”. (Gen.33:4)

This wasn’t the reception that Jacob had expected. When he’d seen Esau from a distance an army of 400 men was at his side. Jacob was deeply fearful of his older brother, the brother that he had not seen for almost two decades. The fear was justified. He had taken advantage of his brother all those years ago when Esau had been in a weakened state, swindling him out of his birthright in exchange for a tasteless pot of lentil stew and some crusted bread. Not long after, following precisely his mother’s crafty scheme, Jacob had lied and cheated both Esau and their aging father and stolen the blessing reserved for Esau as the firstborn son. It was a theft of colossal proportion. Incensed and enraged, Esau had vowed to kill his brother once the period of mourning for their father was complete. His father had been near death when the offense occurred. And now, many years later, what Jacob had feared the most – retribution – was the expected outcome in this long overdue reunion.

Just the day before Jacob had devised yet another crafty plan for the reunion with Esau, a plan with an escape hatch. He had sent by messenger multiple droves of cattle and livestock to Esau hoping to appease his brother, to buy his grace, his favor. “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” (Gen. 32:20)

But you and I know that true grace can’t be bought. It’s given. Freely given. Deep down in his heart Jacob realized this. We all do. That’s the nature and character of grace. It’s given, not bought, not earned.

Jacob was alone and more vulnerable than he had ever been. His family and all his property were somewhere “out there”, ahead of him, placed in the middle between him and Esau. He couldn’t lean on them, hide behind them, or protect them. They were vulnerable too. It was his fault and he knew it. He was alone and bare in his darkness.

It’s in times like these that we come face to face with our smallness. We feel naked. Jacob wrestled with it. We all do. The darkness, our insecurities, the haunts of the past and present. The conscience is such a powerful source. It’s the moral compass that God has graciously given to humankind since the beginning. And Jacob’s compass now told him he had mis stepped, badly! He was eyeball to eyeball with his past deceptions and conniving and face to face with the realization that the favor he been shown over these past 15 years or so had come from a source much greater, wiser, and more powerful than he.

Jacob prayed. He humbled himself before God. “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant”. (Gen.32:10) He asked God for safety; safety for him, safety for his family. “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children”. (Gen. 32:11) His prayer was a plea. A plea for grace. Would it be enough? Would God hear him? Would God turn a deaf ear to one who had been so deceitful? Would his family suffer for his offenses?

It’s times like these, times when we are in the deepest pits of despair, fear, and grief that God becomes truly visible and present. We wonder. Will God hear our cries, our pleas?

Scripture tells us that there was a wrestling match the night before Jacob meet Esau, an all-night wrestling match. A man from heaven was Jacob’s opponent. The man from heaven was stronger, a much more powerful force. He could have easily taken Jacob’s life. But that wasn’t in the plan, deserved as it might have been. What Jacob would have expected when he went hand to hand with God’s messenger was death. But grace won this match, God’s grace. Not only did Jacob come away with a permanent physical limp, a constant reminder of the struggle and God’s powerful touch on his life. Jacob emerged from the struggle – blessed. There was a new spirit within him, a new understanding of who he needed to be, and a new future ahead of him. Jacob had received God’s grace. The question on this new morning was whether he would find Esau’s grace? He would know shortly.

“… Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and 400 men with him”. (Gen. 33:1) Scripture goes on to tell us that Jacob separated his household according to mothers and their children. Whatever was to happen, Jacob wanted the families to stay together. And then he went ahead of them, to meet Esau, completely vulnerable again. Jacob bowed to the ground before Esau seven times as he approached. Humble. Contrite. What he expected was death. What he hoped for was grace. Which would it be?

“But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept”. (Gen.33:4)

Wherever you are in this moment, wherever you’ve been before – anxious, vulnerable, broken, despairing, fearful, regretful, grieving – share it with the one who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. (2 Cor. 2:9)

“It’s all about Grace”

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