Over the last number of Sundays, we’ve looked at the character of Jacob in the Old Testament and tonight we’ll complete the series of this colourful character. You may remember that Jacob has been away from home 20 years. He left under a dark cloud to say the least . Estranged from his father and the bitter enmity of his older brother who had sworn to kill him and in the intervening 20 plus years he had moved in with his uncle. He had got married twice, he had many children and he had become very wealthy. But God had come to Jacob again and spoken to him. Jacob was to return home. Return home to his estranged father. Return home to his vengeful brother. And as he made his way home, getting closer and closer news came to him, that Esau, his older brother was coming out to meet him with 400 men. How was Jacob to interpret that? How would you have interpreted that? Well, of course Jacob interprets that quite negatively and he assumed that he is going to face a fight, he is going to be in a battle. And so he prepares for a fight. But the fight that he gets isn’t the one that he’s expecting. Because that night he’s on his own. He sent his wife and children across a river to the other side of the river, Jacob’s on his own. And we have this incredible story of Jacob wrestling with the Lord all night. This wasn’t the fight that he was expecting. He gets a fight, but it’s with God. And chapter 33, Genesis 33 is the story of the next morning. Jacob, you may remember is now wounded, he’s limping. God has wounded him in order to transform him. And Jacob wakes wounded and changed. And as he wakes, there’s Esau. Esau is coming, Esau is approaching. And so Jacob quickly puts his wives and his children behind him and he limps out to meet his brother after 20 years.
I want us to think this evening about this very, very special story and I want us to think it under maybe two, maybe three headings. Here’s the first one. This story helps us, explains to us how we ought to see the world. How we ought to see the world. Do we have any tennis players here this evening, any tennis players? Any golfers? Any golfers? No one. Okay, wonderful. I know we have one or two swimmers. I know nothing about tennis. I know a little bit about golf, but I do know that if you’re going to play a backhand, there’s no sense standing like this, that you actually have to position your body in such a way to play the backhand properly. I do know that if you want to hit a golf ball straight down the fairway, you’ve got to position your body in a particular way. You’ve got to have this food slightly out. You’ve got a little bit bending of the knees leaning slightly forward as you hit the ball. I never could hit the ball straight so maybe don’t take my advice this evening. But that body position has a consequence in terms of where that ball goes, whether it’s where you wanted to go or how straight. It goes.
God’s work in Jacob has changed Jacob’s posture towards the rest of the world. Jacob’s posture towards the rest of the world has changed. Jacob’s posture up to this moment has been one of conflict. One of wrestling, one of fighting, one of one-upmanship stealing a march, trying to get the upper hand. That’s been Jacob’s posture with the world. But that has now changed. So if you’ve got your booklets open, have a look at our Bible reading from Genesis 33 and I’m going to read from verse one. Jacob looked up and there was Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants and he put the female servants and their children in front Leaj and her children next and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. And he himself went on ahead.
What comes next? Verse three, he himself went on ahead. And what? Bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. Now verse three is one of these verses that you could very, very easily just read and rush through. But I want you to remember just for a moment the words that Isaac ,Jacob’s father spoke to him 20 years earlier so listen to these words. So these are the words that Issac spoke to Jacob. Do you remember when Isaac was blessing ,Isaac thought it was Esau but in fact, it was Jacob. The words that Issac spoke over Jacob, listen to this. May nation serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be Lord over your brothers. And that’s got to include Esau and may the sons of your mother, i.e. Esau bow down to you. That’s Genesis 27. Now listen to the words that Isaac spoke over Esau. Do you remember how Esau came and discovered that Jacob had pinched his blessing? This is what Isaac says to Esau. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. Genesis 27 40.
I want you to listen to this passage again, if you’ve got look at verses three with me and we’re going to read further on. He himself – this is Jacob – went ahead and Jacob bowed down seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him. He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him, and they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. Who are these with you? He asked Jacob answered, listen to what Jacob says. They are the children God has graciously given your what? Servant. Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down next Leah and her children bowed down, last of all Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. And Esau asks, what’s the meaning of all these herds and flocks? This is Jacob again to find favour in your eyes.
What my Lord. So Isaac had blessed Jacob with the words that the nations would bow down to him. But here is Jacob bowing down too. Isaac had told Esau that he would serve his brother. But here is Jacob calling himself servant before his brother and calling his brother. Lord. You see Jacob’s posture has changed? It’s no longer the posture of conflict. It’s no longer the posture of aggression. It’s no longer the posture of I’m going to beat you. I’m going to be first. I’m going to be ahead of you. The posture has changed and it’s the posture of grace. It’s the posture of grace.. You see, whenever we experience God’s grace in our lives, it leads to a deep change in us and it not only changes us, but actually it changes how we see other people.
Grace has changed Jacob, God’s grace towards Jacob. The fact that God has never given up on Jacob, the broken Jacob, the lying Jacob, the deceiving Jacob, God has just never given up on him. And finally that grace has changed Jacob and not only has it changed Jacob, but it’s changed the way he sees people. And it’s changed the way he sees Esau. He’s no longer a competitor. He serves no load. Esau is no longer an opponent no longer someone to be vying with. Esau has become Jacob’s eldest brother and Jacob has been fighting that all his life.
Jacob has come to a point by grace to see his brother for who he is, his eldest brother. There is a, there’s a project in the UK at the moment in some of United Kingdom’s prisons and it involves taking some prisoners and training them as Baristas. Do you know what a Barista is? So it’s a, it’s somebody who makes coffee in a cafe, a Barista. And so these prisoners are being trained as Baristas and then sent out into the community during the day, to act as coffee makers to make coffee and in local cafes. And do you know what this project’s called? I think it’s brilliant. They are called, it’s called redemption roasters.
And I, I love that. These prisoners are not lost causes these prisoners can be redeemed. You know what the word redeem means? It means set free, given a future, given a new beginning. See that is seeing the world differently, that is seeing the world through the eyes of grace. And I wonder, is there an Esau in your life that you need to see through the eyes of grace? Here’s a second thought from the passage, not only how we see the world, but how we live with others. Have a look at verse four. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him. This is Esau, Esau running to Jacob and embraced him. He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him and they wept.
And then if we move on to verse 10 Jacob said, to see your face is like seeing the face of God. Now that you have received me favorably. Now isn’t this a beautiful moment? Two brothers estranged for the last 20 years. They run to each other. Well Jacob can’t he’s got a limp, doesn’t he? Esau does the running. There’s embracing, there’s weeping. And Jacob says these incredible words looking at his brother Esau – to see your face is like seeing the face of God. After 20 years what a beautiful moment of reconciliation. Could we just pause for a moment and just think about that phrase – to see your face is like seeing the face of God. Now, have you ever used that word before when you’ve met somebody walking down the street in Château d’Oex or in the Coop to see your face is like seeing the face of God? It’s got to be a special moment, doesn’t it? It’s got to be a special moment. What’s in Jacob’s head when he says those words? Well, could we just back up maybe three or four hours.
Whose face has Jacob seen four hours ago? God’s face. He’s had this wrestling match all night and at the end of it he’s wounded and he’s transformed and he renames the place. Penniel, because I have seen the face of God. And what is it that, what did Jacob see as he looked into the face of God? He saw grace. He saw forgiveness. The God who loves him and will never let him go. And whenever he looks into the face of Esau, what does he see? He sees grace. He sees a brother whom he has wronged, stolen from, and yet had a brother who’s willing to forgive him. I find that really, really moving. I find that profound.
Reconciliation, the healing of a broken relationship is part and parcel of our DNA. The Gospel, which is at the heart of our faith is described in the New Testament in terms of reconciliation where God has run towards us to embrace us so that we would be reconciled to him. And whenever we think of the cross, we are one of the understandings of the cross is this idea of reconciliation, that Christ was dying in order, that I would be reconciled to God.
And that’s what it means to become a Christian, to become a Christian is to, is to be reconciled to God, to have that broken relationship healed. And not only do we see, not only do we see it at the cross, but that reconciliation that we’ve experienced with the father is meant to be a reconciliation that that’s worked out among us. That whenever there’s a broken relationship here, that the calling on our lives is one of being reconciled. Now that’s hard work. That’s hard work. It’s very easy to say the words, I forgive you or please forgive me, or I’m sorry. That’s the easy bit. It’s working that out day by day, Sunday by Sunday.
But not only is reconciliation something that we’re to practice in here, that that Ministry of reconciliation is something that we take out into the world with us, into, into our offices, into our neighborhoods, and into our families, into our marriages, into our friendships. We take that Ministry of peacemaking, that Ministry of bridge building. We take that into the world. And this is what we are. By default, we are peace makers. We are bridge builders. And is there Esau in your life with whom you need to be reconciled to? I found myself reflecting upon this passage and I found myself asking the question. When people look me in the face, when people see me face to face, what do they see? Jacob said to Esau. When I see you, it’s like seeing the face of God. So what, what do people see when they look at me? Grizzly, old, grumpy man irritable. A short fuse. Or do they seek grace? What do people see in your face whenever they look at you? Do they see the face of God?
And lastly, one last thought. Have we see the world, how we live with other people. And finally how we live for God. This is verses 16 to 20. This is the last, last couple of verses, and this is intriguing because we’ve had this really beautiful picture of reconciliation. And then Esau says to Jacob, you’re coming home, aren’t you? Not In so many words. And Jacob says, no. Sorry. He doesn’t say no. He doesn’t quite say no. Sorry. Can we just back up and started out again? Esau says to Jacob you’re coming with us. And Jacob says, listen, I’ve got a lot – my wife and kids. They’re here. It’s gonna take us ages to get there. We’ll come. But it will be slowly. And then Esau says, no, why don’t I leave some men with you? And Jacob says, no, we’re fine. We can look after ourselves. We’re great. Esau goes back to Sear. If you think of the Dead Sea. Sear Is across the Jordanian border here. Esau goes back there. What does Jacob do? Doesn’t follow him. Jacob goes somewhere else. He goes to a place called Shekem. Why does Jacob go to Shekem?
Well, if we go back into Genesis 18 we see that God makes the Covenant or renews The Covenant with Abraham where? Guess where? Shekem? Jacob goes to Shekem and what does he do? He buys a plot of land. Now what does that mean? If you were to buy a plot of land, what would that say? What statement are you making?
I’m staying. This is my home. And so Jacob goes back to the place of covenant and he says, this is where I live. This is my home. And what’s Jacob doing? Jaocob’s actually living the calling on his life. This is God’s calling on Jacob’s life that Jacob would be the next link in the chain of God’s covenant relationship with Israel. And Jacob could’ve gone back with Esau to Sear but he doesn’t. He’s actually living out the calling of God on his life. And so he has to go somewhere different. It’s a really fascinating little Gospel reading that we heard tonight that Dorothy read for us and Jesus in this room and he’s teaching and there’s people around them. And somebody comes to the door and says, Jesus, your mother’s outside. Now, if that was you and somebody came into the house and said, your mother’s outside, what would you do? You would get up and you would go outside. But what does Jesus do? He looks around the room at his disciples and he says, do you see these people? Here are my brothers and sisters and mothers. The calling on Jesus’ life was meaning the creation of a new family that actually meant that he prioritized that family above his blood family. Jesus does it twice actually in the gospels. And here we have Jacob prioritizing God’s call in his life above his brother’s call on his life.
Now that doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes the calling on your life will take you a way from close family, close friends and sometimes that means Jesus first. I do remember that time when Yvonne and I sat down with my mum and dad. This is now 18 years ago. Sat down with my mom and dad. My mum had been diagnosed with cancer again and we had been invited to come here and we weren’t sure what to do. So we went and we talked to them and my mom and dad said to me, you need to go where God has called you.
And I don’t think, I don’t think if they had said that, that we would have come. They understood that there are moments when the call of the Lord on your life takes precedence over the call, perhaps of family close friends on your life. And so we leave Jacob. We’re going to move. Genesis is going to move away from Jacob and the spotlight now is going to be on Joseph. We’re going to find ourselves into Egypt. 400 years later we’ll see Moses leading them out. But this is the last moment where Jacobs takes center stage. Jacob, who in his lifetime had discovered the God of grace, the God who sees him and comes alongside him, the God in whom Jacob would discover a true source of love and value, a God who would relentlessly stick with them and not give up a god whose grace would change him and call him. The thing is, is that the god of Jacob, is the same God of today. The God who covented himself to Jacob is the same God who has covenanted himself to you. That God of grace who will stick with you through thick and thin. He’ll stick with you whenever you are resisting him and wrestling him, a God who will stick with you and just pour out his grace upon you and who will change you, transform you into the woman into the man that he wants you to be.