Daily Devotions

Humble Reconciliation

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He [Jacob] himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Genesis 33:3-4)

 

This is one of the most emotional moments in the Bible. Jacob stole Esau’s birthright. Esau had the brawn and the righteous indignation. Jacob had the blessing from God. Both had plenty to complain about and reason to point the finger with eternal bitterness. As you read the story, you don’t know how Esau will respond. The fact that Jacob moves forward “bowing himself to the ground seven times,” you know Jacob is fearing the worst.

 

Just when this story is at its bleakest, you feel like you can see the face of Esau. Esau looked at his wayward brother with love and affection that comes with forgiveness. Ironically, it is as if Jacob is so busy looking at the ground that he doesn’t see Esau until he feels him falling on him with familial kisses. One cannot imagine the sense of relief that must have washed over Jacob. First, there is the overwhelming relief in knowing that Esau is not going to kill Jacob and his family. Then, slowly the reality washes over him, that he just might have a brother again, after all these years. The joy must have been indescribable.

 

But how did it all happen, against all odds? Earlier in the story, both brothers had shown themselves to be angry, petty, and less than reasonable. But not this time. What made this moment different in their family history is that both brothers were willing to repent, and make that repentance public. Conniving Jacob decided, rightly, to make the first move to repent. He was the sinner who did the trickery. Esau, humbly accepted the repentance and showed his own humility by falling down with Jacob and kissing and weeping with his brother. Esau is the star of this story for forgiving after being so wronged.

 

It took Jacob’s initial repentance to make the reconciliation possible. Esau would have been unwilling to play the chump yet again, and would not become vulnerable if not for Jacob’s initial act of humble repentance. Esau got his brother back. Jacob got his life back. Jacob had been carrying this heavy burden for years and finally had the opportunity to get the burden removed. This is not a story of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” We witnessed a deep and abiding grace, where both parties were faithful. One cannot achieve reconciliation until both are willing to humble themselves.

 

Today, pray for the relationships in your life. It is especially important to pray for those relationships that are fractured. You cannot force reconciliation, or you have “cheap grace.” Pray for your humility and pray that the other person will also come around, so that a Jacob/Esau moment can happen to you as well. Remember, the same Spirit that brought reconciliation to those two brothers is at work in your life as well.

Our Own Wrestling Match

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Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me. (Genesis 32:24-26)

 

Christians are often shocked to find that God does not keep them from times of struggle. Where is “the peace which surpasses all understanding?” If it helps, God allowing suffering goes back as far as the Bible itself. Already in Genesis, God is not simply allowing a struggle to take place, but God is actually the one “wrestling” with Jacob. So, don’t feel bad if you find yourself wrestling with God.

 

Martin Luther was being chased and forced to hide in Wartburg Castle to avoid being murdered by the Cardinal’s army. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a man of faith, and his calling to speak out about Civil Rights brought him continual struggle. I am sure there were moments when both men asked God to free them from their burden. I feel confident in saying that God said, “No, your call is to struggle on behalf of humanity.” The sad part is, they couldn’t even whine because Jesus had already struggled even more. The greatest global transformations took place because of faithful people willing to struggle for the greater good.

 

Sometimes our struggles are not as altruistic as the lives of Martin Luther and Dr. King. There are moments when we struggle and even wrestle with God because we are going down a bad road, and God intercedes. Our own stubbornness and sin can cause our struggles to be very intense. Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his rightful inheritance. Jacob was cunning and manipulative, and rather than cast Jacob out, God wrestled with him. The struggle became so rough that “Jacob’s hip was put out of joint.” God fought with Jacob, with the goal of bringing him back to the narrow road of faith.

 

Today, think about the moments you have struggled the most. Was God allowing you to struggle for a greater good, or perhaps to lead you back to the righteous path? I hate pain and struggle, and while you’re in the midst of it, it is hard to see beyond the immediate pain. Yet, after a time, we are capable of seeing God at work in the struggle. These can be painful moments. Yet, the pain can lead us to a new and more intimate place with God. Don’t just try forgetting the pain, but have the courage to revisit the struggle and find the Spirit’s learning.

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