Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Incredible Strength of Esau

Yesterday I shared how Jacob and Laban had a father-in-law/son-in-law relationship that left something to be desired. Laban had been dishonest in his dealing with Jacob and after a while Laban started to dislike Jacob. Jacob ended up fleeing with his family that led to a confrontation with Laban. The result of this confrontation was that Jacob and Laban agreed to go their separate ways. They put a pile of rocks on the ground and agreed to stay on their own side of the rocks. The agreement means that Jacob ends up in the same basic area of land as his brother Esau.

Jacob cheated and stole Esau's birthright and blessing. Esau vowed to kill Jacob which is what caused Jacob to end up with Laban in the first place.

Jacob is now left to face his brother. I am sure that Jacob could have simply avoided Esau if he really wanted to but to his credit he decided to face up to what he had done. Jacob sent some messengers to Esau to ostensibly see how Esau would react. The reaction that the messengers report doesn't seem quite what Jacob was hoping for but probably about what Jacob expected:

"And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, 'We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.' Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, 'If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.'"

It can be frightening to have to face the consequences for our actions. Especially when those consequences are impossibly big. I am sure Jacob figured that Esau coming out with 400 men meant only one thing.

Fortunately for Jacob, Esau had very different intentions than what was expected:

"And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept."

Jacob went out in front of his family in order to face Esau. Yes, Jacob had first sent gifts to Esau. But when it came right down to it Jacob faced Esau. Jacob didn't try and use his family as a shield. Jacob didn't try and run away. Jacob stood alone before Esau.

There were two acts of strength and courage in this story. The first one was Jacob standing alone before Esau. The second one is when Esau forgave Jacob. Jacob's act took an incredible amount of strength. But it is Esau's willingness to forgive Jacob that I find really impressive. Letting go of the hurt when someone has wronged me can be very difficult. One of the hardest lines for me in the Lord's Prayer is:

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

What I have found to be helpful in forgiving others is when I remember just how much forgiveness I need. I realize that my forgiving others is still a work in progress. But like anything else the more I forgive others the better and easier it becomes.


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