Esau had much reason to hate his brother Jacob. Their aged and dim-sighted father Isaac was prepared to give his first-born son Esau the blessing for the future that was rightfully his. But Jacob disguised himself as Esau and stole his blessing from the lips of Isaac.
”From the dew of heaven
and the richness of the earth,
may God always give you abundant harvests of grain
and bountiful new wine.
May many nations become your servants,
and may they bow down to you.
May you be the master over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
All who curse you will be cursed,
and all who bless you will be blessed.” (Genesis 27:28-29)
Even though this blessing wasn’t rightfully Jacob’s, once given it couldn’t be taken back. When Esau learned of his brother’s treachery, he begged his father for another blessing. Heartbroken at being tricked, Isaac gave his son the only blessing he could muster:
“You will live away from the richness of the earth,
and away from the dew of the heaven above.
You will live by your sword,
and you will serve your brother.
But when you decide to break free,
you will shake his yoke from your neck.” (Genesis 39-40)
Though it wasn’t the blessing Esau wanted to hear, it would prove to be the wisest blessing Isaac could have given. Seething from betrayal, Esau planned to kill Jacob. But catching wind of his plans Jacob fled to another land.
Many years later we see Jacob tired of hiding from Esau and the consequences of his choices. He sends word to his brother he wants to meet with him. When Jacob’s servants return they tell him Esau is already on his way with over 400 men.
Jacob fears the worst but goes to meet Esau anyway. When they meet, we witness one of the most powerful scenes in the Bible:
Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. (Genesis 33:3-4, NLT)
And here we see the miracle of Isaac’s blessing. When Esau decided to break free from his brother’s servitude of pain, it wasn’t through his original plans of revenge. Vengeance would have only deepened his pain and spread it to those around him.
Instead, Esau shook off his brother’s yoke through different means–forgiveness. Unknown to Esau at the time, Isaac had blessed him with the grace to forgive his brother, which turned out to be the greatest blessing of all.
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the horrible events of September 11. In its shadow, we’ve taken Esau’s first path of retribution. Whether we agree or disagree with that path is irrelevant. But the consequence of this decision has undeniably revisited the pain of that day upon thousands more families, American and international alike. And yet there is still no sense we’ve shaken off the painful yoke placed around our necks 10 years ago.
Like Esau, we’ve been heinously wronged by our brother. And like Esau, our Father has blessed us with forgiveness and the power to forgive. This blessing gives us the ability to move beyond the offense of yesterday toward the hope of tomorrow. Vengeance will never see this hope because it lives in the pain of the past. So if we desire to move beyond the pain of September 11, then we must do so through the hope of Christ’s forgiving example.
Let us now shake the yoke from our neck by invoking the blessing of Esau. Not by pulling others into the mire of our pain, but by grasping Christ’s hand of forgiveness to pull us out. Then following His example, let’s extend our forgiving hand to those still stuck in their own painful morass.
Will it be difficult? Yes. Will it fix all the world’s problems? No. Should we forget about the sacrifices made that day and every day since? Absolutely not–we must always remember our heros.
But without forgiveness we will never be free of the offense that took those heros from us. It will continue to haunt our collective consciousness. And for the worse, it will define who we are as a nation and how we relate to our brothers both outside and inside our borders.
But if through God’s grace we extend the same forgiveness he gave us, then we will find ourselves once again living in the richness of the earth and under the dew of heaven. We will stop living by the sword and be free from the yoke of our brother’s offense.
After Jacob’s tearful reunion with Esau, he had this to say to his brother:
…And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! (Genesis 33:10, NLT)
Jacob likened Esau’s forgiving face to God’s face. Of all the descriptions of God’s appearance in the Bible, this is by far my favorite–forgiveness is the face of God.
Today we have the opportunity to show the world the face of God.
Live The Mission,