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Studies in Genesis

Studies in Genesis. Presentation 50. Jacob meets Esau Gen 33v1-20. Presentation 50. Introduction.

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Studies in Genesis

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  1. Studies in Genesis Presentation 50

  2. Jacob meets Esau Gen 33v1-20 Presentation 50

  3. Introduction It is a mistake to think that a crisis experience in our spiritual lives will be a perfecting experience. Any starry eyed expectancy we may have had at the end of ch. 32 dissolves in ch. 33. A deep work of grace had taken place in Jacob’s heart. He had been brought to a place of real surrender. But the life of faith is a battle! Believer’s are called upon daily to affirm their new identity and demonstrate their trust in their heavenly Father. Often we do not live up to our new name. The remnant’s of our fallen nature like Jacob’s constantly attempt to assert itself. The writer highlights this struggle in an interesting manner between ch. 33 and ch.50. God’s ‘new man’ is described as ‘Jacob’ on 45 occasions and as ‘Israel’ only 23 times. There was still a lot of the ‘old man’ in the life of the new patriarch. Presentation 50

  4. God’s Encouragement The morning Jacob had been dreading dawned. However, the meeting with Esau turned out to be a tender reunion. Surely the God, who had worked in the life of Jacob was also at work in Esau’s life. In both the life of Laban and now too in the life of Esau we witness something of the restraining hand of God. We read in Proverbs 2 11. 'the kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases'. There are numerous biblical and non biblical sources that record the intervention of God in the lives of powerful world leaders on behalf of his people. Presentation 50

  5. God’s Encouragement Josephus, the Jewish historian provides a remarkable illustration of this truth. During Alexander the Great’s campaign to conquer the world, the city of Jerusalem was in great peril. On route to Persia, Alexander had laid siege to the strategic city of Tyre. He sent to Jerusalem for assistance requesting arms and supplies. Jaddus, the High Priest sent word back to Alexander that he could give him no assistance since he had already sworn an oath of allegiance to Darius, King of Persia. Alexander was furious. Everyone expected him to attack and destroy Jerusalem immediately after the fall of Tyre. Presentation 50

  6. God’s Encouragement Jaddus was terrified and believed Jerusalem would be destroyed, for no earthly power seemed capable of standing against this brilliant young commander. Josephus tells us that God spoke to Jaddus in a dream and told him not to fear Alexander but instead to go out and meet him with all the people of the city. All were to be dressed in white and the priests were to wear their ceremonial robes. As Alexander approached Jerusalem his army of Greeks expected him to exact revenge upon the stubborn priest and his people. Instead, Alexander came and bowed himself down before the High Priest. Presentation 50

  7. God’s Encouragement Alexander was asked, why he had behaved in such an unexpected fashion. He replied that while he was still in Macedonia, a man dressed exactly as the High Priest had appeared to him in a dream and told him that he would conquer Asia. He had received this as a blessing from God, and now seeing God's representative on earth, he worshipped this God and humbled himself before his High Priest. God had prepared Alexander for the meeting, which the High Priest had feared. In a similar fashion [whether God used a dream as in Laban and Alexander’s case we cannot tell] God had been at work to cool the anger of Esau and encourage him to be affectionate towards his twin brother. Presentation 50

  8. God’s Encouragement This encounter between Esau and Jacob should encourage those, who have experienced strained relationships with members of their family, church members or friends. No matter how deep the rift may be and no matter how great our fear of reunion, God is sovereign and powerful enough to work in hearts, which have been antagonistic towards us. Our first duty is to see that our own hearts are right with God. Presentation 50

  9. Jacob’s Response Jacob 'went on ahead' to meet Esau v3. Remember how Jacob had behaved previously? He had sent his possessions, his wife and children ahead while he had stayed on the safer side of the Jabbock river. But after his encounter with God, Jacob no longer hides behind his possessions and his family but walks out ahead of them placing himself in the firing line. How did Jacob respond to meeting with his brother? He bowed himself to the ground and said, 'My Lord Esau'. For years Jacob had striven to gain the right of Lordship over his brother. He knew that God had made it clear that this would indeed be the case, Gen. 25.23. A deceived Isaac had blessed him saying, 'be Lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you’ Gen.27.29. But now he appears to lay to one side his great life ambition! Presentation 50

  10. Jacob’s Response Notice, that neither brother makes reference to the past. The events, which led to their 20 year separation, are not mentioned. Much emphasis is made today of, ‘laying everything on the table in order to ensure a healthy relationship’. But sometimes, what goes under the guise of this 'healthy honesty' is just another way of saying; 'I intend to get everything off my chest. The most important outcome of the discussion that I am about to have is, that I leave feeling a whole lot better’. The other party to the discussion is often left devastated by what has been said. Presentation 50

  11. Jacob’s Response Because of this it is sometimes it is better allow the door on the past to remain closed. No accusations, no recriminations, no self-justification. We sometime cannot trust ourselves to engage is a detailed post-mortem without doing more harm than good. This is what happens here. Jacob does not say we need to start by thrashing out this whole birthright and blessing business. It is better to humble ourselves under God's hand and allow him to do the exalting in due season. Jacob was discovering the truth of a famous maxim, 'The way up is down'. Esau too had clearly learned to be content with what he had. He did not want to advance himself at the expense of his brother. Presentation 50

  12. Jacob’s Response But not all of Jacob's responses are praiseworthy. After the brothers’ tender reunion, Jacob pressed his gifts upon Esau despite his assurance that he had plenty v9. Because Jacob insisted Esau accepted v11. This gift was not simply a token of affection but a means of extracting Esau's favour. It was culturally unacceptable to receive a gift from one’s enemy. If Jacob could force Esau to take his gift, he would then have 400 witnesses to say their feud was over. Jacob's insistence shows that he wasn’t fully confident of God’s protection. He was still relying on his own resources. Do we like Jacob, tell God that we trust him, while at the same time making contingency plans?... ‘Just in case’ Presentation 50

  13. Jacob’s Response Secondly, Jacob deceived his brother. Esau offered to accompany Jacob as they made their way south together. Jacob gives, what appears a legitimate reason for not travelling together. His young children and slow moving herds would only impede Esau's progress. And so Jacob promisesd Esau that if he went on ahead, they would meet up at Seir. Esau then offered to leave some of his men behind to protect Jacob's family as they travelled but Jacob declined this offer and watched Esau and his men travel south to Seir. Presentation 50

  14. Jacob’s Response No sooner was Esau out of sight than Jacob headed in the opposite direction towards Succoth. Jacob told his Esau he intended to do one thing and then did the opposite. Imagine the scene in Esau’s home as a welcome home banquet was prepared. Sleeping accommodation made ready and provision for the care of Jacob's livestock. Then just sitting and waiting and waiting! Did Esau make excuses for his brothers late arrival until the truth dawned - Jacob was not coming! He never had any intention of coming. Esau had deceived again his brother. What a poor witness this was to Esau and his family. Presentation 50

  15. Jacob’s Response Ungodly men often make a correct assumption about God’s children and then draw the wrong conclusion. They correctly assume that our behaviour should reflect the character of God – the family likeness. They wrongly conclude when we show ourselves to be untrustworthy, unreliable, and unloving that God must be like that too. “The way we operate speaks louder than what we say. Without the practice of truth, evangelism is in danger of becoming a giant institutional mouth or, as E. M. Foster dismissed it scornfully, 'Poor talkative little Christianity”. Os Guiness Could Jacob not have been honest and told Esau that God did want him to settle down in Seir but to remain in Canaan, the land of his inheritance? Presentation 50

  16. Jacob’s Response The third failure in the life of Jacob was his choice to settle in Shechem. The problem was not that Jacob wisely chose to live far away from Esau but that he chose to settle in this ungodly environment. There is good reason to believe that he should have returned to Bethel. That was where God had revealed himself to Jacob and where Jacob had promised to fulfil his vow to God, when God brought him back safely to Canaan Gen. 28:20-22. Indeed, Bethel was the place God sent him to after the disgraceful events of chap34. Presentation 50

  17. Jacob’s Response By staying in Shechem Jacob was attempting to do what many Christians try to do - to live with one foot in both camps, chasing the ‘best of both worlds’. But they end up enjoying neither. Once we have experienced fellowship with God, we are spoiled for everything else. Even those things that once gave us great pleasure lose their power to satisfy. There is a pathetic irony in v19 Jacob paid 100 pieces of silver to be able to pitch his tent on a piece of land that was part of the inheritance that God had promised him. He pays for what God would one day freely give his people! Presentation 50

  18. Jacob’s Response In the midst of all of his mistakes there is one commendable feature recorded in v20. Jacob set up an altar, which he called ‘El Elohe Israel’. 'God the God of Israel'. As far as we know this is the first altar Jacob had built for twenty years. Perhaps Jacob had nagging reservations about settling down near godless Shechem. Did this altar act as some sort of salve to his conscience? Many Christians set out on a course of action, which they know to be wrong and then attempt to compensate for their disobedience by attending more church services, by praying more, by reading their Bibles more etc. Presentation 50

  19. Jacob’s Response The altar may have been built as a salve to Jacob’s conscience but it also served as a reminder of the fellowship into which God had called him. The best thing the disobedient believer can do is to continue to expose himself to the Word of God. If we are on the slippery slide to spiritual disaster, we are most likely to be helped by the quickening of God’s Word to our minds and hearts. God can not only stop us in our tracks but draw us back up to himself. The worst thing a disobedient child of God can do is to think; 'Because of my disobedience, I must stop attending worship services and stop reading God's Word '. Presentation 50

  20. Conclusion The great spiritual turning point in Jacob's life did not guarantee that he would be immune from backsliding. Jacob, though a new man, is still struggling with the remnants of his former sinfulness. He is still learning and that can be a painful process as we will discover in ch.34. There are two things here to remember. First, no matter how marvellous or how deep an experience of God we may have had that in itself does not immunise us against subsequent failure. Secondly, when we do fail God does not give up on us but perseveres with us and seeks opportunities to draw us back to himself. Presentation 50

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