A Cheated Brother’s “Payback”

I have a favorite story from the life of the patriarch Jacob, but it probably wouldn’t rank as the most well-known story involving him. Jacob has one of the most compelling life stories in all of the Bible. His life spans half of the book of Genesis – chapter 25 through 50, the closing chapter. Here some of the highlights:

  • He stole the birth rite and blessing from his older brother Esau in deceptively creative ways.
  • He had a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder.
  • He worked seven years and ended up being tricked by his father-in-law, who gave Leah to be Jacob’s wife. Jacob worked another seven years to marry Leah’s sister, Rachel.
  • He wrestled with God! He came out of it with a dislocated hip and a new name, Israel.
  • He had 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • He thought his favorite, Joseph, had been killed, and was overjoyed to be reunited with Joseph in Egypt.

My favorite, however, is his reunion with his brother Esau. It’s a great story of forgiveness. Esau could have hated Jacob and sought revenge – and he might have if he got his hands on Jacob earlier. But years after Jacob’s trickery, they met up. Jacob expected the worst, but instead he got the best: reconciliation.

Jacob found a wonderful surprise in his reunion with Esau. Jacob expected payback. Instead he received forgiveness. Jacob thought he had to bring a gift to satisfy an angry brother. Instead a merciful brother presented Jacob with a gift: a clean slate, a new start. When Jacob presented Esau with a gift, Esau responded, “I already have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” (Genesis 33:9)

It was a divine moment. A moment of pure grace. Jacob remarked to his brother, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.” Genesis 33:10)

God has a way of revealing Himself in a moment of reconciliation. Though God is always present, you feel that He really “shows up” in those healing moments.

You might be Jacob, the transgressor in need of forgiveness. You deeply desire courage to say, “I’m sorry. I want to make things right.” It takes faith to believe that God can soften the heart of a person you’ve hurt … but He can.

Or you might be Esau, the person who with one act of grace can unburden someone’s guilty conscience. Through you, God might bring about a divine surprise. In a world of broken people bent toward retaliation and bitterness, you can deliver grace. Through you, God can reveal His surprising kindness.

Author: Christopher Kennedy

Senior Pastor at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, School, and Child Care in San Antonio, Texas. Husband to my beloved Ashley. Dad to the four most wonderful children in the world.

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