Learning from God's Word: Genesis 33-36
From Jacob’s meeting with God, we come to his meeting with Esau. Before we start thinking of this as a big ‘come down’, we should note Jacob’s word to Esau: ‘truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God’ (10). Jacob is describing his meeting with Esau in terms of his encounter with God at Peniel: ‘I have seen God face to face (32:30). Before we dismiss Jacob’s words as ‘a bit over the top’, we should remember Jesus’ words: ‘as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me’ (Matthew 25:40). We are not to choose between loving God and loving our neighbour. We are to love both (Matthew 22:37-38). We honour God. We are to honour other people. The two go together - reverence for God our Creator and respect for people, created in God's image (1 John 4:20-21).
This chapter is about sin - the name of God is not even mentioned! We might well say of this chapter: ‘the less said the better’. We should, however, notice that Jacob is still turning out to be a big disappointment. Despite all Jacob’s potential (28:15-17,20-22; 32:28-30), there is still, in him, a great deal of self and not very much of the Lord. We see this in verse 30: ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious... my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household’. Where is God in all this? It seems that Jacob has become so preoccupied with himself and his own interests that he has forgotten all about God. Amazingly, the next chapter begins, ‘God said to Jacob, “Arise...”’. God was still calling him to higher things. What love! God doesn’t give up on us. He keeps on calling us back to Himself.
‘God appeared to Jacob again ... and blessed him’ (9). The Lord’s blessing does not come only once. Again and again, He blesses His people, leading us on to a closer walk with Him. God knows what we have been - ‘Your name is Jacob’ (10). He knows how often we have failed Him, yet still, He loves us. Still, He holds out before us a new and better future - ‘Israel shall be your name’ (10). God is inviting us to enter into a future of fruitfulness (11): ‘I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that you fruit should abide’ (John 15:16). Special mention is made of ‘the place where God had spoken with him’ - ‘Bethel’ (the house of God) (15). We cannot expect to be fruitful witnesses if we are not faithful worshippers. Listen for God’s Word. Take His Word with you - and share it with others.
Two prisoners looked out from the same cell. One saw the sunshine and the other saw mud! There are two ways of looking at every situation - 'Benoni' (son of my sorrow), 'Benjamin' (son of the right hand) (35:18). Spot the missing name in chapter 36? - God. Many never think of God (Psalm 10:4). Esau’s hardness of heart was more than personal. It has continued for generations - ‘two nations... two peoples...’ (25:23). He has ‘spiritual’ descendants too. God’s Word warns us: ‘See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God...like Esau’ (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation does not come to us because of our good works (Romans 9:10-13). Every attempt to save ourselves meets with the divine condemnation (Malachi 1:1-4; Romans 3:19-20). Thank God for your own salvation. Never feel superior because of it. Pray that hard hearts will be brought to Christ (1 Timothy 1: 12-17; Romans 1:16).