How Can I Be Humble?

Humility is not an accomplishment; it is a worshipful response to what Christ has done.

A friend was asking me the other day, “How can I be humble?” He felt there was pride in him, and he wanted to know how to get rid of it. He seemed to think that I had some patent remedy and could tell him, “Do this, that, and the other and you will be humble.” I said, “I have no method or technique. I can’t tell you to get down on your knees and believe in prayer because I know you will soon be proud of that. There’s only one way to be humble, and that is to look into the face of Jesus Christ; you cannot be anything else when you see him.” That is the only way. Humility is not something you can create within yourself; rather, you look at him, you realize who he is and what he has done, and you are humbled.

*Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life by Jason Meyer

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The God Who Answers Me

The 1968 Olympic games are remembered for being first. These were the first games to be held in Latin America and the first games to be held in a Spanish-speaking country. This was the first gold medal for George Foreman of the George Foreman grill. But not for grilling. It was for boxing. This was the first time East and West Germany would compete as separate teams. And then there was Joseph Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania. He was a long distance runner.

It was the Olympic marathon. There were seventy-five runners to start the race. But there would be just fifty-seven runners to finish the race. It was the halfway mark. Several runners were fighting for position when Joseph Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania fell. His leg was badly injured, bloodied, with a dislocated joint. About an hour after the gold medalist and the silver medalist and the bronze medalist finished the race, the crowd began to thin out. The sun was setting. And then word began to spread about Joseph Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania and his leg. He was not finished; he was still running! The crowd gathered and paused and waited and looked. Joseph was entering the stadium. The cheers grew louder and louder and louder as he hobbled across the finish line. Joseph Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania, a long distance runner had finished the race.

And then came the question. Why did he finish the race? Perhaps a bit puzzled, Joseph responded, “I do not think you understand. My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 7,000 miles to finish the race.”

Why Did He Finish the Race?

Why did he finish the race? His leg was injured; it was dislocated at a joint. He was battered and tattered and tired. And he was old; seventy years old and he finished the race. And this is not Joseph Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania, a long distance runner. This is Jacob of Genesis 28 and Genesis 29 and Genesis 30 and Genesis 31 and Genesis 32 and Genesis 33 and yes, even Genesis 34. The big idea of Genesis 35 is that this Jacob finished the race. And this affects me.

This affects me for a most unsuspecting reason. When Jacob started this race, this journey, he was forty years old. I am holding on to being thirty-seven years old tighter and tighter as the year presses on, but I inch ever so closer to being forty. Do you know how many days there are in forty years? There are fourteen thousand, six hundred, ten days in forty years (for me, at least). And so, this has me thinking, a little bit, about these almost forty years or fourteen thousand, six hundred, ten days. I am thinking about what I have done (and what I have not done) with all of those days.

But then I stop thinking about what I have done and what I have not done with all of those days. I stop because of Jacob. It is because the big idea of Genesis 35 is that Jacob finished the journey and he was seventy years old. Let that sink in for a moment. Jacob was seventy years old, maybe even a little older than that, when he finished the journey. I am not yet even close to being seventy. But Jacob at seventy years old finishing the journey, makes me think a whole lot more about finishing. And I am thinking, a little bit more, about these days that are paving the way to the finish. I have questions.

Why did Jacob finish the journey? Listen to the end of Genesis 35. “And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac sojourned” (v. 27). This is what Jacob had longed for going back to Genesis 28. “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God” (v. 21). Jacob said that when he was forty! And here he is at seventy, coming again to his father’s house in peace. It is obvious that the journey took a long time. But why did he finish? Even in considering Genesis 34, the darkest moment in the story of Jacob, why did he finish the journey?
Listen closely to Genesis 35:1. “God said to Jacob.” Pause there. This is too significant. When did God speak this to Jacob? I think I might know. Listen to Genesis 34:30. “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi.” Mark this verse, notice it and then read Genesis 34:31. “But they said.” And now read Genesis 35:1 again. “God said to Jacob.” See the progression? There are three speakers, one right after another. First it is Jacob, then his two sons, and finally, it is God. I think “God said to Jacob” immediately follows the events of Genesis 34. In other words, Genesis 34 does not end with this exchange between Jacob and his two sons. Genesis 34 actually ends with God speaking Jacob.

So, why did Jacob finish the journey? I love this so much and it is because in the previous chapter Jacob looks like a complete failure, as a dad, or as a man, or maybe simply as a believer. And with that in view, he finishes the journey because God told him to. Now, is that not something to hold on to?

Arise, Go Up to Bethel

Listen closely to Genesis 35:1. “God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel.’” This almost sounds too inviting or too formal. It is actually quite forceful and to the point. “Get up and go.” God speaks and when he does, it immediately follows the interchange of Genesis 34:30-31. And when God speaks immediately following the interchange of the previous verses, he says to Jacob, “Get up.” Why is that important? It means Jacob has been sitting. Jacob has been sitting, resting, for way too long. How long has he been sitting, relaxing, resting, comfortable? For about ten years, ever since he stopped and pitched his tent in a wide open and green space just beyond the city of Shechem (Genesis 33:18-20). I heard this best described as slothful ease. This will be important in a moment.

In Genesis 35:1, when God spoke to Jacob, there were a rush of commands that came forth. Arise or get up is a command. Go is a command. Dwell there is a command. Pause at this command. This is quite incredible. In the previous chapter, this word is used seven times (34:10; 10; 16; 21; 22; 23; 30). Where had Jacob been dwelling? Jacob had stopped on his journey, bought some land and pitched his tent right outside the city of Shechem (cf. 33:18-20). He stayed there for a good ten years. Then the people of the city and its leaders, desired that Jacob dwell with them and among them in the city. But God says to Jacob, and it is a command, “Dwell there.” Where is there?

There is one more command in Genesis 35:1. “Make an altar there.” What happens at an altar? Worship. But where is there? It is Bethel. Bethel is important for one reason. Bethel is mentioned three times in Jacob’s journey. The first time is Genesis 28. It is where Jacob first heard God’s voice. Listen to it. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15). What did God say? Simply, God made promises. Twenty years later, Jacob hears God’s voice a second time. It is summarized in Genesis 31:13. “I am the God of Bethel.” Just simply notice that God says, “I am the God of Bethel.” It continues. “…where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.” Here God does not make promises. Instead, he reminds. He reminds Jacob of a vow Jacob made. When did Jacob make this vow? Back at Bethel, in Genesis 28 when God first spoke and made promises. What is God up to? Mentioning Bethel and reminding of Jacob’s vow is meant to remind Jacob of God’s promises. Jacob only made the vow because of God’s promises.

In Genesis 31, God sought to remind Jacob of Bethel and in Genesis 35, God sought to remind Jacob of Bethel. Why? It is because over time as Jacob was making this journey, God’s Word, God’s promises grew strangely dim. And I think it is why Jacob stopped at Shechem and stayed for a while and grew comfortable. God’s promises had grown strangely dim to him. One of those promises God made at Bethel was, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (28:15). Remember that promise.

Jacob Responds

Genesis 35:1 is when God speaks and it is all about reminding Jacob about Bethel. Concerning Bethel, God simply reminds Jacob that he is the “God who appeared to you” there. So, Bethel is significant and when God appeared to him there, he spoke to him there. Now here is what is so great; Genesis 35:2-4 is Jacob’s response to verse one. There are just two things I want to point out about Jacob’s response. First, look at verse two. “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.” As far as we know, there was only person who had taken foreign gods with them on this journey. It was Jacob’s wife Rachel and he was ignorant of it (31:19, 32).

But now, apparently, Rachel is not the only person of Jacob’s household who has foreign gods with them and this time Jacob is not ignorant of it. Where did these foreign gods come from? May I suggest that these foreign gods were from Shechem and it is because Jacob stopped near Shechem all those years ago (33:18-20). May I suggest further, that Jacob had a foreign god? Now, what could be a foreign god? Money, power, prestige. I do not think any of those things were a god, an idol to Jacob. I think his foreign god was comfort. Remember, God’s first command to Jacob was, “Get up!”

Now listen to verse three. Listen to what Jacob says about God. “[God] has been with me wherever I have gone.” Do you see what just happened?! Jacob is remembering Bethel! In remembering Bethel, he is remembering one of God’s promises! “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” This promise had grown strangely dim as Jacob sat at the idol of comfort.

The God Who Answers Me

But this is the part I could not wait to get to. And it is the part that has affected me the most. The reason we came back to Genesis 35 this week is because I have been asking questions. And the question on my mind all week was, how do I finish? And I am not talking about this sermon. I am talking about the journey. And even then, I do not think I am asking the right question. Part of me hopes that I am far off from the finish line. Some of you are a lot closer to the finish line than me. I am only 37. But when should you be asking, how do I finish? The better question, though, is, how am I finishing? This is regardless of age, too.

Listen to verse three. Listen to what Jacob says about God. This is his response to what God said. It is so great. “The God who answers me in the day of my distress.” What does Jacob say about God? He is the God who answers me. And it is really not, as some have translated it, “the God who answered me.” God is the God who answers! Who does he answer? Me. Who is me? (cf. John 1:12 and Matthew 6:9). Now, you will love this; the word answer, can mean, to sing a response.

But the point is that God answers me. Meaning, he is answering a request or a call. Therefore, who is doing the calling? Me! So, this tells me two things about how I am to be finishing the journey. Or what I really need more than anything else in finishing the journey. I need God’s Word. I need his promises. And I need to pray. And I need both of those things simultaneously always as a I finish.

I have one more thing to show you. Notice that Jacob says that God answers him in the day of distress. This word for distress appears in Psalm 34:6. “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” And do you know what Psalm 34:8 says? “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Would you like to be tasting and seeing that the Lord is good? As you are finishing the journey?

Putting Pen to Paper

I quickly called this “Putting Pen to Paper.”  That is quite a strange title, is it not? What else would there be to do with a pen? It was the quickest title I could come up with in a short amount of time. I thought it clever at first. But it is actually just a way to say that I had to get my thoughts out on paper.

I am 37 years old. I have never thought much about being 37 years old until this past Saturday. I was writing out my sermon notes for Genesis 35. This chapter acts as the closing scene to the life of the patriarch Jacob. And the best estimation is that in this closing scene Jacob is at or near 70 years old. He is finishing his journey. It was a journey that began in Genesis 28 when Jacob was just 40 years old. And that is when it hit me – that is about my age. I am almost 40.

It causes some evaluation, some inventory taking. What have I been doing for the last 37, almost 40 years? That is some time to consider. Then in just looking at the life of Jacob, his life is so transparent in the Bible, what about the next 30 years? That seems to be the line in some country song, I am sure. What if God is so gracious to give me another 30 years? What will I do with those years?

And for some reason, Saturday evening, I had this desire to read a biography; a good, challenging biography. Sunday morning when I entered my office at the church, there it was. A biography. A good, challenging biography. God has granted a dear friend of mine a book ministry. And he thought I would like to read a newer biography on the life and ministry of Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Is that not amazing? It made me think this evening how incredible it is that God, the omniscient God knows our every thought (cf. Psalm 139). And what does God do with that knowledge?

It is a biography, a recent biography, by Jason Meyer. I had to read the foreword and the introduction twice only because each are worth their weight in gold. Anyway, one statement in particular pierced me. Of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones it was said, “The Doctor…” He was a medical doctor before he was a preacher. Perhaps he was a twentieth century version of the nineteenth century Charles Spurgeon. Yes, if you are familiar with Spurgeon, Dr. Lloyd-Jones had that kind of preaching impact. “The Doctor never got over how far down the Most High God came to save him.”

I think this it. I think this is what I have been longing for or missing. To never get over how far down the Most High God came to save me. Being a Christian was the most wonderful thing in the world to him.

It took the book ministry of a dear friend to get me one sentence or two that I might delight in God on a Tuesday evening.

Now the Sons of Jacob Were Twelve

It was Thursday. It was the same, but different kind of Thursday. Like every Thursday, there is my Bible opened to the book of Genesis. Like every Thursday, there is my notebook and a black fine point gel pen. Like every Thursday, music plays; a playlist called thinking music. It is strictly instruments, no singing except maybe my own. And like every Thursday, I write. I think through every verse in the text for Sunday, from the first verse to the last verse and just write out every thought, every observation, every connection. It is all done in seeking the big idea of the text. And it is called wrestling. I find myself wrestling with the text and it is exhausting. But this was a different kind of Thursday. I was frustrated and at a loss. I just could not get it. In fact, I wrote in my notes more than once and in big letters – I DO NOT GET IT. So, I took a walk.

I had never walked this walk before. But I knew that in order to get back to where I started, four right turns were needed. It was after the second right turn that all did not seem right. The third right turn was not appearing. So, I kept walking and looking and hoping. Before long, and it seemed long, the third right turn appeared. But there was a slight problem. At the third right turn I realized that I was no longer in North Olmsted. This was the Giant Eagle parking lot in Fairview Park. All I really knew to do was to make the third right turn. And the fourth right turn was nowhere in sight. This walk, planned to be just ten minutes, took just a bit longer.

It was, perhaps, the same, but different kind of Thursday. But out of desperation he took a walk, a walk he had never walked before. All that would be needed though are four right turns. He was about my age – 40 years old – when his walk began. This is Genesis 28 and his name is Jacob. This walk, planned to be just ten minutes, took just a bit longer.

Genesis 35:1-29 is the fourth right turn. And at the fourth right turn, Jacob is nearly 70 years old.

But Jacob Finished the Journey

The big idea of Genesis 35:1-29 is that Jacob, this 70 year old man on a walk that took just a bit longer than anticipated, finished the journey. His journey was to find a wife and come home. It sounded simple enough. But Jacob not only found a wife, he found two wives. It would be twenty years before Jacob would make the third right turn to head home. And on that third right turn, he stopped. Then he started to walk and stopped again. And then he was delayed. And delayed again – his leg was injured. On that injured leg, he walked again, but delayed some more. He soon started walking again and then he stopped. He built a house and some barns. And after a while, he started to walk again. But then he stopped again. He put up a tent, bought some land and stayed for quite some time.

It seemed innocent enough to stay some time. The Bible says that Jacob was enjoying some peace, the first in a really long time. His injured leg was a bother and a city was in view. When is the last time that Jacob saw a city? So he stopped just far enough to keep the city in view but also have some space and peace (Genesis 33:18-20). But regardless, the point is that he stopped. God had commanded him to go, to go home, but he stopped and made a home.

Decisions have consequences. Jacob’s particular decision has been called partial obedience which is always disobedience. And Jacob’s particular decision would affect his daughter. Jacob’s particular decision would affect his sons. Jacob’s particular decision would affect an entire city (Genesis 34). And as these consequences unfold before Jacob’s very eyes, he remained relatively silent. What was he thinking?

We would agree that in Genesis 34, Jacob does not look good. He was rather disappointing and shamefully so. He had disobeyed God and the effect on his family seems from our viewpoint so irreparable! What does a man do? And this is not just any man, this is God’s man. This is a man that knows the personal touch of God. He has seen God. He has experienced God and through weakness discovered how much it is that he needs God. And in Genesis 34, just to be completely blunt, he looks like a total failure. But God had told him that he was to go home. It may have been a long time ago, but God had told him to go home.
The big idea is that Jacob finished the journey. In all that we have seen, and it seems like we have seen it all, Jacob’s life is so transparent before us, he finished the journey. The big question then is, why? Why did Jacob finish the journey?

The Struggle in Finishing the Journey

Again, Genesis 35 is the final leg, the fourth turn of the journey. And what is so incredible is that even in the final turn there is still a struggle in finishing the journey. The struggle in finishing is real. It was real for Jacob.

Listen to verse one. “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.” Pause here for a moment. At this particular point, Jacob is only about 20 miles or a day’s journey from Bethel. He was at the city formerly known as Shechem. And he had been there for maybe ten years. Genesis 35:1 tells us that when Jacob began this journey back home, the target stop before getting all the way to the home of his parents was Bethel. Apparently, in all that time, those maybe ten years, Jacob never made it to Bethel. Bethel is where Jacob heard God say, declaratively and clearly, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15). And it at the very least gives some indication to the struggle in finishing the journey. How though did Jacob initially struggle in finishing the journey? Could it be that the words of Genesis 28, some thirty years prior, grew strangely dim? At the time, Jacob was really excited about these words. At their sound, he put together a stone pillar, poured oil all over it, called the place awesome; that it was God’s place, God’s house and the entrance to heaven. He even made a vow. He said that if God would do all these things for him, then God would indeed be his God.

And I just wondered, how often for me, does God’s Word grow strangely dim? And how do I let it happen? It is an attitude of “what have you done for me lately, God?” It is a dangerous attitude. So, how do I undo that attitude? Listen to how Jacob finishes the journey.

So, this first verse gives an indication to the struggle in finishing the journey. And God told Jacob to get up to Bethel, which geographically is down, and dwell there and make an altar there. God reminds him “I appeared to you there. Remember that? You saw me there.” And Jacob will get to Bethel. And he will build an altar there at Bethel. And he will worship there at Bethel. And he will put up another pillar there, like the first and maybe the first is gone or maybe it is there, it would be neat if it was there as Jacob put up this second pillar. He will pour oil and wine over the second pillar (Genesis 35:5-15). And perhaps Jacob, in not doing the same thing as years before by pouring wine or a drink offering over the pillar, is saying this moment is a moment of renewal. It is not like the first. It stands on its own.

But once Jacob got to Bethel there was a death. This too indicates the struggle in finishing the journey. It is the things we do not see coming. He did not anticipate this and either do we. Her name was Deborah. It is her first mention by name in Genesis. She was Rebekah’s nurse. Rebekah was Jacob’s mom. What is Deborah doing here? How did she get here? It is reasonable to assume that Rebekah had died and when she died Deborah was sent to meet up with Jacob. He was not there when his mom died. He left home with the thinking that he would soon see her. He never would. And when Deborah died, he buried her here at Bethel and called the burial place, “the oak of weeping.” It hurt his heart when she died.

Jacob and his family would soon continue from Bethel. The journey was not over. And as they journeyed, they stop. They stop about two hours from a little town called Bethlehem. And surprise! Rachel goes into labor. Rachel was pregnant?! Who knew?! The reader, us, do not know until now. It was a hard labor. She gave birth to Jacob’s last and youngest son. She called him son of her sorrow. Jacob changed his name almost right away. He loved this boy. He named him son of honor or Benjamin. Rachel then died. Another funeral. He would build a pillar over her tomb, near Bethlehem (cf. Matthew 2:18; Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 31:15). He loved Rachel. He always loved Rachel. She was his first love and now she was gone. This too is the struggle in finishing the journey (Genesis 35:20).

But Jacob presses on. He is finishing the journey. Then his oldest son does something dumb and wrong and immoral. He slept with a woman not his wife. It was Rachel’s servant and a woman who was also the mother of two of Jacob’s sons. It seems Reuben did this so as to remove an honor from Bilhah of becoming the favored woman of the house over Reuben’s mother Leah. This too is the struggle in finishing the journey (Genesis 35:22).

Now the Sons of Jacob Were Twelve

It leads to a transition (Genesis 35:22b). The birth of Benjamin and this sinful act of Reuben leads to a transition. “Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.” There is this short record of Jacob’s family given, not in birth order, but according to motherhood (35:23-26). These twelve sons will later be called the twelve tribes of Israel or in Acts 7, the twelve patriarchs. It is very interesting. And of the twelve patriarchs, three so far – Simeon, Levi, and Reuben – have all earned disfavor from their dad due to their actions (cf. Gen. 49:3-7). Reuben, Simeon and Levi are all full brothers (have the same mom). Their fourth brother Judah will become, along with Joseph, a major focal point of Genesis and the unfolding redemption story of the Bible.

Still a Struggle in Finishing the Journey

In Genesis 35:27, Jacob will get home. He will finish the journey. And after he finishes the journey, his dad, who he longed to see (cf. Genesis 28:20-21) will die. A third funeral. It is here that he sees his brother Esau again.

However, it is still a struggle in finishing the journey. It is my struggle. I struggled with this chapter more than I struggled with Genesis 34 and it was not until I saw the big idea that I realized why. I think about quitting more than I think about finishing. And the Bible has a lot more to say about finishing than it does quitting (cf. Colossians 4:17; Revelation 14:12; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-3).

So, how do you finish the journey? Look back at Genesis 35:1-3; 10-12. Why did Jacob finish the journey? It was because God told him to. And after God told him to finish the journey, Jacob exhorted his entire household, including himself, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments” (35:2). The New Testament says it like this, “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

So, how do you finish the journey? It is never too late to finish the journey or to think about how to finish the journey. How did Jacob finish the journey? It is Genesis 35:10-12. It was by the help of God himself. All God did was remind Jacob of his promises, his old, steadfast promises. And God called himself God Almighty or El Shaddai – the God who makes things happen by his power and might.

By the way, God is never mentioned in Genesis 34, but Genesis 35 is filled with him. His name is mentioned some 23 times. And it is all in finishing the journey. Finishing the journey begins and ends with him. His call to you is to get up, go and finish. Being faithful because he is faithful. And as the journey progresses and gets longer than anticipated and has more disappointments or frustrations or stress than needed, be renewed by his promises, his old, steadfast promises.

Jacob Though Still Remained Silent

When the phone rings, hours after bedtime, there is every reason to be nervous. But when it is Friday morning, the warmth of the Cleveland sun can be felt, it is 8:41 and the phone rings, well, there is not much reason to not answer. But when the automated voice messaging system of the high school says that your daughter, who was dropped off at school and carefully watched as she entered the building at 7:10, is missing…your heart sinks. How can this be? Where could she be? “Oh God, do not let it be!”

Four minutes pass and you can give God great thanks at the hearing that your daughter is just fine. She is where she needs to be; in second period, eager to do some learning. The first period teacher took attendance a bit too hurriedly. What then do you do? Other than wanting to have a firm, but gentle, conversation with attendance takers about attendance taking, and double checking and triple checking, what do you do? Particularly, as a father what then do you do? You get quiet. And in that silence, you look forward to 2:15 p.m. when you can wrap your arms around your little girl and not let go for a really long time. You also buy her ice cream in the evening.

That We Would See Silence

It has been said that Genesis 34 could have some advantage for a men’s Bible study. But when preaching it, such as right now, there is uncertainty that anything could or should be preached. There are books about Genesis that say something about every chapter but this one.[1] Is that not something, in preaching or in books that there would be silence when it comes to Genesis 34? I think it is appropriate. I think it is appropriate that when it comes to Genesis 34, we would see silence.

Genesis 34, not unlike the chapter before it or the chapter before it or the chapter before it, has been about this man called Jacob. And in Genesis 34:5 we hear about Jacob. “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.” Jacob remained silent and as the chapter continues we hear Jacob say nothing until all is said and done at the very end of the chapter. Genesis 34 is about silence. And so, we may want to ask and think about, why was Jacob silent?

A Daughter’s Story

It begins with Genesis 34:1. “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land.” What do we hear in this very first verse? We hear names. There is Dinah. There is Leah. And there is Jacob. And the key word is daughter. Dinah was the daughter of Leah and Leah was married to Jacob and Jacob was Dinah’s father. This is all we learn in those first few words of this first verse. Now Leah and Jacob have seven children – six sons and one daughter. Two of these sons – Simeon and Levi – have a significant part in this chapter. And Jacob has five other sons with three other women. But he only has this daughter. And it is that word daughter that really sticks out. Dinah the daughter.

Genesis 34 is Dinah’s story. It is a daughter’s story. And what is her story all about? Her mom was Leah. Leah is mentioned just here in her daughter’s story. Her dad was Jacob. He is mentioned all throughout his daughter’s story. And her story begins that she “went out to see the women of the land.” Note the word see. Some translations have the word visit. Dinah went out to visit the women of the land. The word women could strictly be translated as daughters. Dinah a daughter went out to visit the other daughters of the land. The word see or visit has the sense to get to know. She apparently went alone and perhaps without her parents’ knowledge or permission. Dinah was most likely a teenager and the only teenage girl not just in her house, but in her neighborhood. So, take verse one for what it is; Dinah was inquisitive and innocent and naïve. She wanted to get to know some girls her age.

Now listen closely to Genesis 34:2. “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite.” Just pause there. Again, this is Dinah’s story; a daughter’s story. In this daughter’s story, the dad is present. And in verse two we are introduced to Shechem. Who is Shechem? Notice how he is introduced. He is a son. And his dad is a man named Hamor. So, in this daughter’s story, there is the daughter’s dad and there is Shechem a son and his dad.

Who is Shechem? Keep reading. Just so interesting how he is described. Shechem is “the prince of the land.” The land was previously called the city of Shechem (33:18). At first, we might think that the name of the city was Shechem. It very well may be that this city had a previous name, but Shechem the man, the son was so prominent that this city was just called Shechem’s city and eventually would just simply be known as Shechem. What does that tell us? Shechem is not just prominent, but powerful. He is in charge. And I would say he is more in charge than his dad.

Shechem saw Dinah. And when he saw her, he seized her. And when he seized her, he laid with her and humiliated her. Genesis 34 is in the Bible. And it is hard to read as much as it is hard to hear. A woman was raped. A young woman was raped. I want us to listen closely to the next two verses. “And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob.” Pause there. Who was Dinah? Keep listening. “He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her.” Pause again. Note the word tenderly. It means to speak romantically or reassuredly. What is Shechem reassuring Dinah of? But something not to miss is the fact that Shechem spoke. And he keeps talking. He tells his dad, “Get me this girl for my wife” (34:4).

So Jacob Held His Peace

Again, pay close attention to how things are worded. “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah” (34:5). Who was Dinah? How is she identified both in verse three and now verse five? It is as a daughter! Jacob had heard what had happened to his daughter. His sons were out working in the field when he heard what happened to his daughter. His daughter was raped! “So he held his peace.” Jacob remained silent.

One of my favorite authors said this about Genesis 34, “The Bible does not spare its readers the awful truth.” What is the awful truth of Genesis 34? What makes Genesis 34 so hard to read and so hard to hear? Again, pay close attention to how things are worded. Keep listening to verse five. “But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.” The impression is that Jacob remained silent, but not for long! He waited for his boys to come home. He waited for his boys to hear him speak.

But then in verse six, we are reminded that Hamor is coming to Jacob’s house. And who is Hamor? He is Shechem’s dad. And this dad is coming to do what? Speak! He is coming to speak with Jacob. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons come in from working, hear about what has happened to their sister and, rightly so, become indignant and very angry. Why? The Bible is very clear. Because Shechem “had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done” (34:7). What is outrageous? What must not be done? All of it. A man is not to seize a woman. A man is not to humiliate a woman. A man then does not speak romantically or reassuredly to a woman. A man does, though, speak up for a woman. I know, a woman is more than capable of speaking up for herself, but when her voice is silenced, there is one man she should be able to count on to speak up.

A Man Speaks Up

In Genesis 34:8-12, a man speaks up. It is Hamor, Shechem’s dad. He shares that Shechem is just head over heels in love with Dinah. Where is Dinah, by the way? He requests that Dinah become his son’s wife. And the proposal also includes that this marriage between these two families be the first of many marriages between these two families. It is because there is prosperity to be had in this land. Then there is apparent silence. Dinah’s brothers are angry, but under control and silent. Jacob seems to be just silent. Then another man speaks up. It is Shechem! Shechem, the man who did this outrageous thing, what ought not to be done, came with his dad. He cannot take the silence, however short it was, much longer. He says, “I will give anything and do anything to have your daughter and your sister as my wife.”

Then Men Speak Up

In Genesis 34:13-17, another man speaks up, joined by another man and another man and another man, none of who are Jacob. Jacob’s sons are talking. They are about to give their reply. This is just amazing. These brothers are fit to be tied (angry). But note that it is under control. How so? They have enough of a mind to speak deceitfully, meaning they have a plan, and the patience to see this plan through. They cannot do it. They cannot give their sister to this man. And what right do these brothers have in giving away this woman in marriage? Jacob, the dad, is sitting right there, silent! They can do it, however, if Shechem and all the men of the city become like Jacob’s sons – circumcised. This is important. The circumcision was holy. It was a sign that one was in covenant relationship with God. These sons are misusing the covenant and its sign for their own design. And Jacob was silent!

More Men Speak Up

Shechem and Hamor are more than happy to agree to these terms. Listen to Genesis 34:19. “And the young man did not delay to do the thing.” And Shechem and Hamor gather with all the men of the city and share this proposal. Then more men speak up, all in agreement to become one people with Jacob’s family. And why? There is prosperity to be had (34:23).

And then as the men of the city are recovering, it was the third day, two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, slaughter the entire town of its men. The sons of Jacob then plunder the town of all its wealth and children and women (34:29).

Jacob Though Still Remained Silent

Blood soaked, the sons return to their father’s house and for the first time, Jacob speaks. “What have you done? Your actions, this murderous tirade, will make me a stench in all the land!” What is it that finally awakes a response from Jacob? The actions of his sons. But the sons so readily bring up the whole point of the chapter. This is Dinah’s story. “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

No one, except the daughter, shines in this story. This is Dinah’s story. This is a daughter’s story. And what exactly is her story? Through it all, her dad though still remained silent. Jacob never said a word for or about his daughter.

There are lessons here. There is a lesson about parents and their children. There is a lesson about sin and wicked men and the wicked things wicked men do. Rape is wicked. But so is “the placid acceptance” of the wicked things wicked men do. Hamor could have taken care of his son. And by taken care, I mean whipped. He could have whipped his son. Hamor could have rescued Dinah. She was being held in Hamor’s house the whole chapter!

Jacob though still remained silent. He never said a word for or about his daughter. Why does God not spare us this story? It is because God the Father speaks. He has a word for and about you, especially if you can relate to a story such as this. It is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

I like that word complete. It means to make fresh. It means to make ready and renew. And notice it, “for every good work.” Dinah is heard of one other time in the Bible. It is Genesis 46:15. It is simply that she was Jacob’s daughter. No husband is mentioned. No children are mentioned.

But God speaks. He speaks to those who feel ruined and battered and used. He speaks. And he heals – by his stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5). There is healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). And he himself restores you and confirms you and strengthens you and establishes you, and all by his multi-colored grace (1 Peter 5:10). And it is all because he speaks. He speaks through his Son, Jesus the Christ who says, “Come. Come to me, you are heavy laden and burdened. And I will give you rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:28).

[1] cf. H. C. Leupold; Arthur W. Pink and Alexander MacLaren.

And Yet Jacob Journeyed Peacefully

It is about Jacob. Genesis 27 was about Jacob, but so was Genesis 28. Genesis 29 was about Jacob, but so was Genesis 30. Genesis 31 was about Jacob, but so was Genesis 32. His brother Esau may have shared the sentiment, “Hey! It has always been about Jacob! Even in the womb it was all about Jacob!” But then there is Genesis 33. And come Genesis 33, it is still about Jacob.

Jacob, along with his family, was on the journey home. This was an approximate 500-mile journey; a walk that Jacob had anticipated for twenty years. As soon as it began, Jacob was stopped. And as soon as it restarted again, Jacob was stopped again. Then he was delayed from restarting the journey a third time. He was delayed by the word of his brother’s coming to meet him. He was delayed by a restless night’s sleep. He was delayed by God who would not let him rest. God wrestled him to the ground and wrestled with him all over the ground until the break of the day. Then as a new day dawned, Jacob was delayed by the sight of his brother’s coming to meet him.

And in Genesis 33:12-20, Jacob seeks to keep moving and to get home. And as soon as Jacob renewed the journey home, he stopped. But then he moved again and stopped again. So, the big question is, why did Jacob stop? Why did he not keep heading home?

It Has Been Hard

Genesis 33 has been called a very difficult passage; a very difficult passage to interpret. Genesis 33 has three parts to it. The first part is when Jacob met Esau (Genesis 33:1-11). The second part is simply a transition (Genesis 33:12-17), a transition to the third part. The third part is that Jacob journeyed peacefully. The difficulty of the passage is these last two parts. The first part had quite a bit of drama and intrigue. There are the previous 24 hours and all Jacob endured leading up to the moment of meeting his brother face to face. And there is this picture of these two manly men weeping together in the warm embrace of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is wonderful!

But then there are these last two parts with a lot less drama and little less intrigue. So, what could possibly be so difficult about it?

Jacob began his journey home in Genesis 31. And in Genesis 31 Jacob shared his heart. His journey had started and then came to an abrupt halt. He had been stopped by his father-in-law Laban. When Jacob had his chance, he unloaded on his father-in-law. It was twenty years of pent up frustration. And it began with these words, “These twenty years I have been with you.” Listen closely to what Jacob says next. “Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks” (31:38). What had Jacob been doing for Laban for twenty years? He was a shepherd. Now listen to what Jacob says about being a shepherd. “What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes.” What does Jacob say about being a shepherd? It was hard.

A commentator made this mention, “Pastoring is hard.” Another word for shepherd is pastor. Those three words I believe apply here in Genesis 33. Pastoring is hard – this is what Jacob shared at the very beginning of his journey and at the first stop of his journey. It has been hard. And I know what you may be thinking; it is all hard. Parenting is hard. Being married is hard. Working is hard. What is not hard?

The Transition

Remember, there are three parts to Genesis 33. The first part is Genesis 33:1-11; when Jacob met Esau. And the second part transitions into the third part, so we are a calling the second part…the transition. It begins with Genesis 33:12. “Then Esau said, ‘Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.’” This all must be read at face value. These brothers just hugged it out; twenty years of estrangement and hard feelings. And Esau with what must be some exuberance says, “Come, let us go! Let us move on together! Let us travel together and I will lead the way!” I just take it that Esau is really glad to have his little brother back.

Then comes a word that we have gotten used to paying attention to; but. “But Jacob said to him…” The children are frail, and the livestock are fragile. If this family takes one more step, we will all collapse. This is rather important. What is Jacob hinting at here in this transition? You have to keep in mind that out of all 417 people, Jacob is the only one who has not showered in a really long time. He is tattered and battered and dirty. And he has not slept in twenty-four hours. He looks how he feels – a hot mess. In addition, the family was awakened during the middle of the night – nothing worse – sent packing across a river with no warning, without their dad and husband, without their protector. And the next time the family sees Jacob, he is unrecognizable and has a limp. This family, including Jacob, was wore out physically and perhaps more importantly, emotionally. So, what do they each need? Rest. And it is all because it has been hard.

Pay close attention to verse fourteen. Jacob tells his brother that he needs to sit and recuperate for a while and for him to go on ahead. As soon as the family and Jacob are ready, “I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” Seir is in the opposite direction of home, if we count home as Beersheba (cf. Genesis 28). And it is completely opposite, east, of the journey it takes to get home. It is Esau’s home and, again, take it all at face value for now, Jacob shares an intention to come to Esau’s home. When will Jacob come to Esau’s home? He does not say. It is never recorded that Jacob ever came to his brother’s house.

The transition continues and is near full completion. Esau offers that he leave some of his men behind to accompany Jacob (33:15). Esau is fully embracing Jacob’s intention that he is coming to his house sooner rather than later. Then comes a word that we have gotten used to paying attention to; but. “But he said, ‘What need is there?’” This is more important than we think. What would be the point of leaving Esau’s men with Jacob? Help. Assistance. Protection. And Jacob very clearly does not see the need. Why? The worst is behind him – Laban; wrestling with God; the anxiety of seeing Esau then actually seeing Esau. And in the tear-filled embrace of Esau, God had done more abundantly than Jacob asked or thought. What more is there to be concerned with? Things could not get worse! Is it reasonable to assume that Jacob is letting his guard down?

Then here it comes. Esau goes his way toward his home (33:16). And Jacob goes the opposite direction (33:17). Why would Jacob really not go with Esau or to Esau’s home? God commanded Jacob to journey home, the home of his fathers (31:3). God commanded Jacob to return to the promised land (28:15). It was not God’s will that Jacob go to Esau’s home outside of the promised land. But is it not curious that Jacob never shared that with Esau? Instead, he left Esau with the impression that he would meet up with him soon at Esau’s house. Maybe it was because Jacob was not ready to fully trust Esau. Or maybe Jacob was being Jacob.

And Yet Jacob Journeyed Peacefully

Notice verse seventeen. This is where it all transitions into the third part of the chapter. It starts with a word that we have gotten used to paying attention to; but. “But Jacob journeyed to Succoth.” Jacob moves a little west. It is closer to the path he needs to get home, but not much closer. And notice that when he moves a little west, he stops. He is still close to the Jabbok and Jordan River. But why did he stop? When he stopped he built a house. How long would that have taken? And then Jacob built some sheds for all his livestock. How long would that have taken? Better yet why is he doing it? Why is he building a home for his worn out family and his worn out livestock?

Notice then verse eighteen. Jacob moves again. He moves further west. This is to the other side of the Jordan and he stops again. Why did he stop again? And when he stops, he stops at the city of Shechem. Shechem is not only the name of the city, but the name of a man who lives in the city. He has brothers and his dad is Hamor. So, Jacob moves his family across the Jordan and stops in this city, buys some land and he stays. The impression even after reading the next chapter is that he stays for a while.

Why though did Jacob stop? And not once, but why did Jacob stop twice? I know part of this passage seems to be saying something about obedience. Jacob was told, commanded by God to return home (cf. 31:3). Succoth, although Jacob built a home there, was not home. Shechem although within the boundaries of the promised land, was not home. Beersheba was home. I want us to notice that Bethel is really close to Shechem, some 20 miles or a day’s journey. Bethel is where God promised Jacob “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go,” and note this, “and will bring you back to this land.” So, it seems the destination could be Bethel. This was the place Jacob called God’s house. But maybe Shechem was close enough. Maybe it was good enough to be within the promised land and travel to Bethel, travel even to Beersheba, home, whenever Jacob wanted. Jacob got close enough. Close enough is called partial obedience and partial obedience is called disobedience. God’s command was to not be close enough.

Why did Jacob stay in Shechem? The people were friendly. They sold him a piece of land for what seemed like a friendly amount. He was near the Jordan River, a major river. The ground was fertile. His family liked it there. It was comfortable. Notice that Jacob took his time to get to Shechem. It was slow. Jacob saw no need for a rearguard. He slowly moved into Shechem. And he came with such ease. “And Jacob came safely,” (Genesis 33:18). Another word for safely would be “in friendliness,” or “peacefully” (cf. Genesis 28:21). Things were going great. Jacob even built an altar and worshiped. He called on the name of the Lord – God is the God of Israel! But the cost of his comfort would be seen soon enough. This is Genesis 34.

But our big question was, why did Jacob stop? Keep in mind how the journey began. It had been hard. And Jacob at the end of Genesis 33, not the end of the journey, was tattered and battered and dirty. Why did he stop? He was tired. Being tired he let his guard down and grew comfortable.

I am tired. The journey is not over, and I am tired. So, what can I do? (cf. Matthew 11:28-30).

1. Listen for and to God’s voice. This is only possible with God’s written word. Recently and it is with being tired, this, hearing God’s voice, has renewed my spirit. I have heard him speak in the Gospel of John. I heard him yesterday morning in Proverbs 29. “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint [get discouraged], but blessed is he who keeps the law” (29:18).

2. Lift up my voice. Recently, and it is with being tired, this, lifting up my voice, has renewed my spirit. It is prayer. And it is not just praying for myself, but spending time praying for others. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you” (Jeremiah 29:12; cf. Ephesians 3:14-20).

3. Get with God’s people. I knew I was in trouble when I watched a program where a man volunteered to experience solitary confinement and I envied him. Recently, and it is with being tired, this, getting with God’s people, has renewed my spirit. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Jacob was tired. He let his guard down. He grew comfortable. He got as far as he could on his own strength. It was partial obedience. The cost would be immense.

When Jacob Met Esau

Yesterday morning, I sat in my study awaiting a second cup of coffee, listening to the voice of God. I was reading 1 Peter 2. Then I bowed my head and lifted my voice to God. I was praying. I prayed for me. I prayed for my daughters. I prayed for my wife. I prayed for you by name. Then I made one request for our church. As soon as the request passed my lips, I stopped, stunned. I had just asked God to touch our church.

The Touch of God’s Hand

As Genesis 32 nears an end, it was night. Jacob was left alone, when out of the darkness he felt the grip of a man tossing him and tossing with him in the dust of the ground. Each man was in the grip of the other until the breaking of the day. Who was this man? His name was never given and his coming never announced.

Listen closely to Genesis 32:25. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob…” Who was this man whose own strength and endurance thus far was apparently being matched by Jacob? “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket.” Who was this man? This man would only be known by his touch. Last week, it was shared that the word touch is much too tame. It does mean to strike or to deal a devastating blow, which implies that this will hurt. It means to wound. But this week, I came to appreciate just the word touch. The word touch does convey a certain ease. Listen to the rest of Genesis 32:25. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.” Who has the power in the mere ease of his touch to put out of joint a man’s hip? Jacob knows this man. And Jacob knows this man because of his touch.

Listen to Genesis 32:30. “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” Who was this man? It was God himself. It was God as a man who out of darkness wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day. The touch was the touch of God’s hand. And it was God who wounded Jacob.

Why would God wound Jacob? This might be the most important reality of Genesis 32. Jacob realized by that touch that he had seen God face to face and had been delivered. And so because of that touch, Jacob gave the place a permanent reminder. He named it Peniel, which means the face of God. And because of that touch, God gave Jacob a permanent reminder. “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” The permanent reminder was a limp. Jacob would never walk the same. Your walk matters. There is a third permanent reminder. Eating. For generations to come, the offspring of Jacob would not eat of the hip socket, so as to remember that God touched Jacob. Why would God wound Jacob? It was for his own good. Jacob wrestled with God throughout the night, gripping God as a fighter. But then came that touch. And what then did Jacob do because of that touch? He would not let go of God. He held fast to God, he gripped God not as a fighter, but now as a desperate man in desperate need. When that hip went out of socket, Jacob could no longer rely on his own strength, his own ability, himself. Why? “If we in our own strength confide; our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”

When Jacob Met Esau

What then does this have to do with Genesis 33? Genesis 33 is about the day when Jacob met Esau. But when did Jacob meet Esau? Notice the very first word of Genesis 33. “And Jacob lifted up his eyes.” The word and (now or then) connects to what was said previous or in this case, what happened previous. And what happened previous in relation to Genesis 33:1 is Genesis 32:31. “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” The sun comes up, it is a new day dawning. Jacob passes the place he just named as a permanent reminder, the face of God. It is the place he saw God face to face. It is the place that God answered his prayer (cf. Genesis 32:11). He was limping and as he was limping he lifted up his eyes and looked. BEHOLD! This word is for us the reader. See what Jacob sees as he limps. “Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him” (Genesis 33:1a).

Genesis 32 and Genesis 33 and Genesis 34 are like dominoes. A guiding principle to reading these three chapters is that the preceding chapter affects the proceeding chapter. So, Esau was coming, and Jacob was limping because God touched him. And four hundred men are coming too, four hundred men who are with Esau. And Jacob was limping.

Jacob was in no way ready for this; he had not slept in 24 hours! He knew his brother was coming, but this soon? Jacob was limping. Jacob was tattered and battered and dirty. Where did the time go? He made his way to his family. They see their husband. They see their dad. What must they be thinking and feeling at the sight of their limping, battered and tattered and dirty husband and father?  And what was he doing? He was dividing the family. Jacob did this once before at the word of Esau’s coming. He divided his family into two camps so as to increase the odds of survival (cf. Genesis 32:7). But now at the sight of Esau’s coming, Jacob divided the family again – the two servants with their children in front; Leah and her children behind them; and Joseph and his mom Rachel in the rear (33:1b-2). Was Jacob speaking? Were they all asking questions? Was he answering? Was this, too, an act of survival, Jacob’s own survival?

Jacob moved, still limping. He moved to the front of his family. Then Jacob moved again, still limping and he bowed himself to the ground. Oh, the pain! And with his one good leg, he struggled to get up again and he moved again, still limping, bowing himself to the ground a second time. Jacob will do this a total of seven times, and oh, the pain! Up again and moving again and bowing again. It is an act only reserved to greet a superior, sometimes a royal superior. Before Jacob left home, some twenty years prior, his dad blessed him saying, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you” (Genesis 27:29). Yet, here Jacob was bowing down to his brother with his hip out of socket. And he was limping because God touched him – do not lose sight of this; it is a domino. Jacob’s future was that he would be exalted, and God’s path to fulfill this purpose was humility.

The Prodigal Brother Returned

The tension builds with each bow and with each wince of pain for Esau draws nearer. The 400 men draw nearer and nearer, too. Jesus told a story, a story with a lesson to be applied. It is called a parable. And this parable is known as the parable of the prodigal son. The son had it all, wealth and position and wanted it all now. He wanted his inheritance now. His father gave it to him and he ran out into the world and “squandered his property in reckless living.” He was then brought low. Humbled. Broke, he hired himself out to work in the fields with pigs. Soon he was eating with the pigs. And he wanted to go home. He saw the path to home. He would ask his dad to welcome him back home, not as a son, but as a servant. “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

The father demanded that the best robe be put on his son and a ring on his hand and shoes for his feet. A celebration was to be had that night with the best steak dinner. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). We sing with tears and much joy a hymn based on this story – Amazing Grace. But did you ever wonder how Jesus got the idea for this story? Listen closely to Genesis 33:4. “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”

This is the prodigal brother returned. Jacob is the prodigal brother. Jacob anticipated the unleashing of his brother’s anger upon him, but instead was met with amazing grace. How? It was in that limp and through the path of humility. It was because of the touch, the wound, of God. Esau’s heart would not be softened in Jacob’s own strength. No, God had softened the heart of Esau. He had won the battle. Notice that the brothers wept. It is such a glorious picture of the biblical reconciliation of brothers and forgiveness.

Esau looked up through watering eyes. Picture it, these are some of the manliest men in the Bible weeping! Esau sees all these women and children. “Who are these?” he asked. Jacob responds that these women and these children, his family are God’s gracious gift to him. Then Esau asked what was meant by all those animals, the droves and droves of animals given as a gift to Esau. It was an offering; Jacob’s offering seeking Esau’s forgiveness. At first, Esau graciously will not accept the gift, but at Jacob’s insistence, he needs to accept it to show that forgiveness has been granted (33:5-11).

Seeing Your Face

Then Jacob shared with him that seeing his face “is like seeing the face of God” (33:10). Jacob has put it all together. Why did God wrestle him the night before and tatter and batter and bruise him into the dust of the ground? Why did God wound him? There was a purpose in the wounding for Jacob’s own good. It was humility. It was humility for when he would see the face of his brother.

There are three parts to Genesis 33. We, here, have only covered the first part. The first part is when Jacob met Esau (Genesis 33:1-11). The second part is to act as a transition (33:12-15). And the third part is about Jacob’s partial obedience (33:16-20). We will walk together through the last two parts next week. But we need today just this first part.

I have asked God to touch us. I do not think we are a prideful church. But the root of all sin is pride. And the Bible talks very bluntly about pride. It says to kill it (cf. Luke 9:23). Why did God touch Jacob?  “Sometimes a wound is a very special act of God’s grace. How often we need to be wounded because it is so easy for us to trust our own skills and ability.”[1] What is the point of the wound? In part, humility: to grip God because we are a people in desperate need of him. But why is humility so necessary?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:6-8). Who does our adversary the devil as a roaring lion seek to devour? Those who trust in their own skills and ability – the prideful.

The touch is a gift and for our own good. I have asked God to touch us, but I first need to ask God to touch me.

[1] Ligon Duncan. https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-meeting-of-the-brothers