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Jacob & Esau

Genesis 33:1-20

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. following Reminiscere
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Wed, Mar 3, 2010 

In Genesis 33, we read the conclusion of the story of Esau and Jacob.

Previously, Jacob tricked Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau.  Jacob desired the blessing of God and he set his heart upon the birthright of the patriarchs.  Esau, on the other hand, despised the birthright.  God declared, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."  That means that Jacob was called by God's grace and eternal election to receive the kingdom of God, but Esau rejected the grace of God.  Esau did not care about the spiritual blessing of being a part of the Seed of Abraham.  Esau only cared about earthly blessings and power.

When Jacob, who desired the blessing of God, received the birthright, then Esau was filled with rage.  He began to plot to kill Jacob.  Jacob was sent away, alone, with his brother's murderous rage echoing in his ears.

Twenty years later, Jacob was no longer alone.  He had two wives and eleven sons and a great company of servants and flocks.  He was a wealthy man because the blessing of God was with him.

When Jacob returned to the land of Canaan, Esau came to meet him.  Remember that Esau's last words for Jacob were, "I'm going to kill you."  This same Esau was bringing a small army of four hundred men with him.

What did Jacob do?  He did not run for his life.  He did not try to meet Esau in battle.  Instead, he sent gifts - lots of gifts.  He sent 200 female goats and 20 male goats, 200 ewes and 20 rams, 30 milk camels with their colts, 40 cows and 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys and 10 foals.  That's a lot of animals.  The size of the gift demonstrates the great desire Jacob had to make peace with Esau.

You might say: "Well, of course Jacob wants peace!  He sees Esau coming to kill him.  Jacob only wants to save his life."  That is partly right.  When Jacob first made the gift, he seemed scared for his life.

But then something happened.  God came down as a Man and wrestled with Jacob all night.  Jacob won - not because he was the better wrestler.  With one touch, this God-Man dislocated Jacob's hip.  God could easily win.  But Jacob refused to let Him go until He blessed him.  Jacob so valued the blessing of God that he clung on tightly for that blessing.

Now Jacob, having been blessed by God face to face, knew that God would not let him be destroyed, because he knew that God and His blessing would be with him.

Therefore, would Jacob fear Esau when Jacob had wrestled God Himself and walked away alive?  Would four hundred men make Jacob quake when he had faced the Lord of hosts?  Instead, Jacob went walking (or rather, limping) straight to Esau.  He did not hide.  He met Esau face to face, and made peace.

What lesson shall we draw from this man, Jacob?  First, we should eagerly seek peace with our brothers on earth.  Spare no expense.  Go to any lengths.  Seek their favor, as if you are seeking the face of God, as Jacob says.  If we have given offense to anyone, particularly within this little flock, should we not give everything we possess, even risk our own life, to make peace with them?

Very often we are consumed with pride and self-justification.  We often say things like, "Well, it is really his fault."  Or we say, "What I said was true, so it doesn't matter that I hurt him."

Secondly, we also learn from Jacob to trust in and confess the grace of God.  Jacob openly spoke to Esau about the source of the great blessings Jacob had received.  He introduced his children as those "whom God has graciously given your servant."  Later on, Jacob confessed that "God had dealt graciously with me."

Jacob was not only talking about his earthly blessings, because he had realized that he received his blessings because of the grace of God - that God had not looked upon Jacob as his sins deserved, but only by His eternal love.  That rich grace chose Jacob before he was even born.  So Jacob, at the end of our reading, called the altar he built by the name, "God, the God of Israel."  Israel was Jacob's other name, given by God.  So Jacob was saying that God is his own God.  He was not only the God of the universe.  He was the God who watched over Jacob and blessed him in many ways.  He was the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, but also Jacob's God, the God of the great promise to send the Deliverer through the Seed of Woman, who is Christ.

More than that, because the God-Man came and blessed him, Jacob trusted that God would be with him.  The God-Man has come to you also, who existed from eternity, begotten by the Father, yet also born of the Virgin Mary.  This God-Man has come to you and blessed you.  His blessing is more than merely a kind of hallmark card of fervent wishes.  God blesses you, and you are forever blessed.  His face shines upon you because He gave up His very life to make you His own.  He chose you from before you were even born so that you could be His child for all eternity.  This is a blessing upon which you can trust and depend.  You need never fear anything in this life, for the God-Man is with you.

So are you less blessed than Jacob?  Are you not much more blessed?  Jacob received a new name, Israel.  But you, the New, Spiritual Israel, have received the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in your Baptism.  Jacob looked forward to the promise of the Messiah.  You have seen the full revelation of Christ's glory, as you gaze upon the Holy Scriptures and upon the Holy Cross, where Christ's fullest glory is revealed.  Jacob met God in the shape of a Man, but he did not know His Name.  You know the Name of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Immanuel, your Savior and Redeemer.  Jacob had herds and flocks to eat, but you feast upon the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God.

You have received overwhelming flood waters of God's grace in the salvation poured out in the death of Christ.  All you receive is a gift from God.  Nothing is earned, because you are sinners.  Yet the God of Jacob graciously fills to overflowing your cup of blessing through Jesus Christ your Savior.

May you always trust in and confess with your mouths the grace of God.  He has been merciful, and will only give you more.  In the Name of your gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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