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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Both the passage of time (twenty years) and unforgiveness separate two brothers. Jacob hurt Esau when he deceived their father and stole Esau’s blessing. 

Esau could easily justify his anger and murderous thoughts against Jacob who had stolen from him. 
Jacob could, just as easily, justify the deception of his brother because of Esau’s marriages to pagan women. 
Forgiveness is one-sided. Forgiveness occurs when one party moves toward the other. Reconciliation, however, is two-sided. Reconciliation occurs when both parties abandon their self-justification, release the other’s debt, and move toward the other. 
Esau, though a pagan man, never looked more like God than when he not only forgave Jacob, but warmly embraced him in reconciliation. That’s why Jacob says, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” (Genesis 33:10) Grace, administered through a pagan brother, broke through the cloud of guilt and shame that hovered over Jacob’s life for the past twenty years. Pardon is given and the relationship is restored. That’s so like God! 
This scene of reconciliation between the brothers offers several truths about forgiveness and reconciliation:
  • A person is never more like God than when they forgive another.
  • Harboring unforgiveness toward another, therefore, is ungodly. No matter who you are. 
  • Reconciliation occurs when two forgivers move toward the other. 
Reconciliation in relationships expresses the heart of God. God could easily justify His anger toward ruined and rebellious sinners, but at the cross God forgives by allowing His spotless substitute to take the wrath that man deserves (at great cost to Himself) and offers man total reconciliation. Like Jacob, man must humble himself and receive this gracious gift. Fully forgiven. Fully restored.

Intermarriage and the people of God
  • Seth’s descendants began to intermarry with Cain’s descendants and the whole world becomes corrupt save one man, Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives (Genesis 6:1-8) 
  • Abraham forbade Isaac’s taking a wife from among the Canaanites and sent his servant to the home place of his relatives to procure a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24:3-4). 
  • Esau’s marriages to Canaanite women grieved the hearts of Isaac and Rebekah and they sent Jacob to obtain a wife from among her people. After 20 years of living among Laban’s family Jacob returns to the land of promise. 
Intermarriage among the Canaanites again becomes an issue when Jacob returns to the land of his fathers. First on the agenda is revenge for the rape of Dinah by a Shechemite prince. The Shechemites use this incident to tempt Jacob and his sons to become one with their people. Jabob’s sons pretend to comply, demand the circumcision of the Shechemites, and kill them while they are vulnerable. 
Perhaps, had Jacob returned to Bethel where he had met God before and where God had promised to meet with him again this entire incident would have been avoided (Genesis 28:13-22; 3113). Nevertheless, this occurrence demonstrates once again God’s displeasure with pagan intermarriage. The Shechemites summarized the consequences of intermarriage, “Won’t their livestock, their property and all their animals become ours?” (Genesis 34:23). With intermarriage comes a loss of identity and possessions. 
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"Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob's sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor." (Genesis 34:13)

God meets Jacob as he flees from Esau and gives Jacob a promise that he and his descendants would return to and inherit Canaan (Genesis 28:13-15). Twenty years later Jacob now faces a choice--would he rely upon God to fulfill His promise or would he inherit Canann by allowing his daughter to marry Shechem who promised him "you can settle among us; the land is open to you." Unfortunately we will never know the answer to that question because his sons take the matter into their own hands. They trick the Hivites into being circumcised and then kill them all on the third day while they are laid up in pain. 

Jacob has taught his sons to scheme by his own example. Jacob reaps in his sons the fruit of a lifestyle of scheming although he himself had now renounced that lifestyle. (He was a recovering schemer!) The seeds he sowed in the lives of his children (especially Simeon and Levi) are now bearing the bitter fruit of disobedience, deception, and destruction. Jacob was not pleased by their taking the lives of those who had shamed their sister. Later, on his deathbed, Jacob cursed Simeon and Levi's willfulness and anger (Genesis 49:5-7).

Scheming may seem like an easy and viable way to solve your problems now but the ultimate price later may be far greater than any you want to pay. Children of schemers often become masters of scheming.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Genesis 33:1-35:29
  • Why were the Shechem's people so anxious to intermarry into Jacob's family?
  • What do the Hivite's offer that might induce Jacob to consider allowing this marriage to take place?
  • What had God promised Jacob regarding the land of Canaan?
  • What has Jacob learned about God over the course of his life regarding the promises of God?
  • What plan do the brothers concoct to avenge their sister's honor?
  • What does Jacob command of his sons as they prepare to return to Bethel to worship?
  • What is so significant about Bethel?
  • What happens after Jacob's encounter with God in Bethel?
  • What does this tell you about spending time with the Lord?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom needed to teach your children not to scheme.