And Afterward I Shall See His Face

It takes approximately 14,000 steps to walk seven miles. And when two people walk seven miles together, it takes approximately 14,000 steps. But when Jesus joins two people walking seven miles together, it still takes approximately 14,000 steps.

This is what happens in Luke 24. Two people walking seven miles together, taking approximately 14,000 steps. And they are walking and talking about all that had happened. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Jesus joins in on the walking and the talking. “What happened?” he asked. He must be the only visitor, they say, in all of Jerusalem who has no idea of all that had happened – how Jesus was a prophet mighty in word and in deed; how the chief priests and rulers delivered Jesus up to be condemned to death and crucified; how all had hoped that Jesus was the one to rescue Israel; and how now it was the third day; his tomb empty, but no one has seen him. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus exclaims. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then comes my favorite part; Luke 24:27. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

By the way, it takes approximately 1,000,000 steps to walk 500 miles.

And Jacob Went on His Way

Genesis 28 was about Jacob. Genesis 29 was about Jacob. Genesis 30 was about Jacob. Genesis 31 was about Jacob. And Genesis 32:1-21 is about Jacob. And the big question we want to ask is, how is it about Jacob?

First, listen to Genesis 32:1. “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.” Pay close attention to the angels of God. This only appears twice in the Old Testament. The first time is when Jacob left home. And when Jacob left home it would be the furthest he had ever been away from home; about 500 miles. And it takes approximately 1,000,000 steps to walk 500 miles. When Jacob first left home, he was looking forward to returning home. He was so eager to return home that he left home without a pillow. And when night came and using a stone for a pillow, he had a dream. What did he see? The angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder (Genesis 28:12).

When Jacob saw the angels of God, he also heard God speak. So eager for the day when he would return home, he heard God promise, “I will be with you every step of the way and will bring you home” (Genesis 28:15).

Twenty years later and Jacob went on his way…home. And on his way home, the angels of God met him. And twenty years later, finally going home, he sees the angels of God and hears nothing. He hears God say nothing. But Jacob is so excited he proclaims, “This is the camp of God!” He even named this very spot the place of two camps, referring to the camp of God and the camp of Jacob meeting in this very spot. And it could be that the mere sight of the angels of God, which must be more than just two angels, was a reminder to Jacob that not only was he going home, but it was God who was bringing him home…just as he promised.

Then Jacob Stopped and Remembered

Genesis 32:1-21 is about Jacob. But it is not about Jacob going home. The word angel means messenger. And so it is somewhat interesting that when Jacob sees the angels of God, he hears no message. But listen to Genesis 32:3. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother.” The word messengers in verse three is the same Hebrew word for angel. It may be that seeing the angels of God reminded Jacob of the first time he saw the angels of God and what God said when he saw the angels of God. But the focus of Genesis 32:3-21 is about what Jacob did when he saw the angels of God: Jacob stopped.

Jacob is on his way home and has been longing for home ever since he left home. And when he is finally making the 1,000,000 steps toward home, he stopped. And it is so moving. He stopped and remembered. Jacob stopped and remembered his brother Esau.

Notice the rest of verse three. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.” Jacob is on his way his home, but Esau is not on the way home. Esau is out of the way home! I read it said that although Esau is not on the way home, spiritually, he is the only way for Jacob to get home. Why?

Jacob’s relationship with his brother was broken. Jacob was the one who broke it (cf. Genesis 25 and 27). And it was Jacob who was seeking to repair it (cf. Matthew 5:23-25). So, he sends messengers with a message for his brother. It is really just three things. He has been staying with Uncle Laban until now. He was coming home now. And he was coming home now pretty wealthy. Why does that or any of it matter? At the very least there is no self-serving reason for Jacob to be seeking out his brother Esau. But also notice that Jacob calls Esau “my lord” and himself “your servant” (Genesis 32:3-5). What is Jacob up to? Is this more scheming?

So, there was a broken relationship with a brother. Jacob was the one who broke it. Jacob was the one seeking to repair it. But Jacob was afraid. Esau got his brother’s message and responded with nothing. Well, he said nothing but there was something. Esau was coming. He was coming to meet Jacob, along with four hundred men (Genesis 32:6). And so, naturally Jacob was afraid (32:7).

And Jacob Prayed

Jacob was not only afraid, he was greatly afraid and distressed. He felt stuck. He cannot go back to Laban. Laban was not too happy with Jacob and who knows what Laban would think seeing Jacob turn around. Could he run away from Esau? Probably not. He had donkeys and camels and livestock and two wives and ten sons and one daughter to carry. What was he to do? He divided his camp into two camps, presumably Leah, his first wife, with her kids and her servants in one camp and Rachel, his second wife, with her kids and her servants in another camp. It was an act of survival. If Esau came to attack, he could only attack one camp at a time. And then Jacob prayed (Genesis 32:9). We have never heard Jacob pray…until now.

Listen to what he prayed. He relied on God’s Word. Twice he recites what God had said (cf. Genesis 31:3; 22:17). This has been called a Bible-believing prayer “full of Scripture; Scriptural ideas; Scriptural thoughts; Scriptural promises; Scriptural ascriptions of glory and praise and adoration to God. And Scriptural descriptions of the character of God.”[1] So, what then helps us pray? God’s written word.

But the heart of the prayer is verse ten. Yes, part of the prayer is Jacob seeking God’s supernatural deliverance from his distress. He is stuck! And he is afraid of his brother. Why is Esau coming with 400 men? But the heart of the prayer is verse ten. Listen to his prayer. “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.”

What do you hear? The English Standard translation reads “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness you shown me.” Other translations simply read “I am not worthy of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown me.” What do you hear? God did deeds, and in those deeds, Jacob was shown something. What did Jacob see? Steadfast love and faithfulness. Now watch this. In Exodus 33:19, Moses asks of God, “Please show me your glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’” Then in Exodus 34:6, God proclaims his name. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These are the same two words, same two Hebrew words as in Jacob’s prayer.

And it gets better. In John 17, Jesus prayed. Listen to the last request of his prayer. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24). And it gets better. The beginning of the Gospel of John is John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Hebrew words steadfast love and faithfulness can easily be rendered grace and truth. God did deeds, and in those deeds, Jacob was shown grace and truth. But what does it all have to do with his brother? Jacob had been shown grace and truth.

And Afterward I Shall See His Face

After Jacob prayed, he then he sent gifts; lots and lots of gifts. Jacob sent at least 550 animals as gifts to his brother, not all at the same time, but in groups. He sent a servant with each group of animals, perhaps up to ten groups. Part of it was strategic, he put 550 animals in between him and his brother with 400 men (32:13-20).

But why the gift after gift after gift? Listen to Genesis 32:20. “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” No matter what happens and no matter how many animals he puts in between him and his brother, he will see his brother’s face. And in seeing his brother’s face there is the hope that he can appease him with gift after gift after gift. Notice the word appease. It means to cover over and satisfy. The most common word in the Old Testament is atonement. Jacob is seeking to cover over his guilt and satisfy his brother’s anger, for he knows he will see his face. And the further hope is that Jacob can do enough, can give enough gifts so as to satisfy his brother’s anger and be accepted.

I want us to listen to 1 John 2:1-2. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation [similar to appease] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” We are accepted before the face of God because of Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the gift that has been given (John 3:16). He, as the gift, has been given to cover our guilt, our sins, and satisfy the righteous anger of God. And for all those who have received him, this gift, and believed in him, your sins are covered and forgotten. You stand accepted.

But what does have to do with the brother? Do I have any relationship with a brother or a sister, not just in my biological family, but in my spiritual family, that is broken or in need of repair? For I have seen grace and truth. And I am accepted in Christ before the holy and righteous God. How important is it then, to stop, put everything down, and make things right with my brother? with my sister?

[1] J. Ligon Duncan, https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-fears-of-jacob

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