Genesis 33:1-17 Humility and mutual submission is the crowning glory of the church
Genesis 33:1-17 Humility and mutual submission are the crowning glory of the church
1 Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2 He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. 7 Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. 8 And he said, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.” 10 Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. 11 Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” Thus he urged him and he took it.
12 Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” 13 But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.”
15 Esau said, “Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth.
It is not difficult to decipher Esau’s intention when he brought an army of 400 men with him. Although it has been 20 years since Jacob left Canaan, what Jacob did has left an indelible mark on their relationship. And since there is no telling what Jacob had become or what he might have up his sleeve, it is wise for Esau to armour himself for the meeting. At the same time, the angels were at work encamping around Jacob as a shield. Jacob’s humility and submission has indeed brought peace and prosperity to the holy family. Today’s devotion teaches us that humility and mutual submission are the crowning glory of the church through which unprecedented number of souls will be won to Christ.
Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him.
Jacob approached his brother fearlessly while bowing to the ground seven times signifying complete capitulation and respect. Indeed, Jacob had not only learned to submit to his brother who is the first born, he has learned to entrust himself to the protection of the angels.
Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Esau’s response to Jacob’s gestures needs no clarification. Esau lowered his guard and ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. Esau, in this instinctive gesture has displayed divine love in fully forgiving his brother. However, Jacob has prepared elaborate gifts as a peace offering (To find favor in the sight of my lord) which Esau politely refused. But Jacob’s insistence on Esau to receive the gifts are based on two reasons: Firstly, Jacob, in being forgiven by Esau against whom he has committed a near unpardonable sin, described him as the very image of God: for I see your face as one sees the face of God. Secondly, one must never withhold the offerings due God as they are holy. Therefore, Jacob sees the peace offering due Esau as holy and not to be withheld.
Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.”
Esau’s offer of land reveals the kind of person he is: hospitable and keen to restore trust among kins. But Jacob’s reluctance hints of mistrust or perhaps a more profound intention. But a more probable reason is Jacob’s return to his homeland in Canaan at the Lord’s directive which definitely does not include Seir. Nevertheless, it does not infer an disingenous Jacob. The verbage, “until I come to my lord at Seir” leaves room for interpretation. For one, no definite time of arrival is stated, and the use of singular “I” implies that not all his household will come. Esau’s offer of protection is also politely turned down. On this very positive note, the brothers go their own ways (Jacob to Succoth and Esau to Seir. See the map below). Although Esau’s abode is in Seir (the Land of Edom), beyond the southern boundaries of Canaan, he is still in control of Canaan which explains his eventual vacation of Canaan later (see Genesis 36:6-8).
Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock.
This records a major milestone to Jacob’s career: a return to Canaan from Paddan Aram. Here, the goal has been reached and the promise fulfilled – a fitting conclusion to 20 years of wanderings. God is faithful to fulfil His promise if believers stay faithful to His instructions and not give up.
Believers seal their forgiveness by offering their lives as a gift to God
Jacob deems it appropriate to give gifts to Esau because he has received so great a forgiveness. Jacob’s insistence despite Esau’s refusal shows the import of this gesture. And for Esau to reject the gift is tantamount to not letting Jacob realise the full extent of his forgiveness. Therefore, Esau, in accepting the peace offering has forever laid to rest all enmity between the two brothers. In short, every forgiveness must be sealed with an offering (from the offender) to be received by the forgiving party. The apostle Paul teaches how believers should respond in order to experience the full extent of God’s mercy and forgiveness,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
In short, our forgiveness is sealed when we offer our lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Unless we come to this realisation, we will never fully enjoy the abundance of God’s forgiveness. Many churchgoers live in guilt and poverty despite frequent reminders of Christ’s irrevocable work on the cross because they have not offered their lives to Him. Yet many offer a gift that cause them nothing because they deem God’s forgiveness as free. Hence, it requires only a token gesture of thanksgiving.
Until we seal God’s forgiveness by the willing and unreserved offering of our bodies, we may never experience the full measure of abundant living. In offering our lives to God, we come to experience what is good and pleasing and perfect will of God – the indescribable joy, significance, and the glory of realising the purpose of our existence.
Humility and mutual submission are the crowning glory of the church
The encounter at Peniel had Jacob recognised God as One who humbled Himself and wrestled in human form. It is unthinkable that God, the Creator of the infinite universe would wrestle with him till daybreak. For Jacob had come to understand the virtues of humility and being the “least” as the greatest manifestation of God. By that, Jacob had a change of heart and humbled himself as he approached Esau. Until Jacob comes to the point of humbling himself before man, he cannot enter the promised land, not to mention the heavenly kingdom.
The virtue of humility expresses itself in mutual submission. By mutual submission…
- We recognise divine truth as greater than our personal opinions or experiences. Thus, we respect one another’s views as contributing to the divine truth.
- We honour the individual’s role and calling in the body of Christ and no task is considered less important or more important.
- We recognise God’s design of heaven as a united body of believers. And each believer is inter-dependent on one another for growth and wellbeing.
- We uphold two greatest commandment of God: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor like you love yourself. – Matthew 22:37,39).
- We recognise that no individual is good by himself, but all have their source from the One – the Lord who is to be praised.
- We serve one another by putting the interests of others before ourselves.
The Lord exemplifies humility by calling all men (and women) his brothers: He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim Your name to MY brethren, (Hebrews 2:11-12). He would deign as a condemned criminal being crucified stark naked before hypocrites while the devil had his last laughed. In so doing, Christ submitted Himself before God and before humanity as a slave (see Matthew 20:28).
Many people in wanting to become prominent seek the place of honour in their company or even in the church. They want to be called leaders, directors, CEO’s, and pastors with their image and good name plastered all over social media. They can’t wait to show off their successes in hopes of being known among the masses. However, God is not impressed by achievements, but by one’s love and humility! Jesus taught,
But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12.
If God’s people are to practice love and humility in mutual submission, we will see unprecedented numbers coming to God in repentance. Regrettably, the struggle for prominence among Christians have veiled the true glory of Christ, which is humility and love for the poor. And that has distracted the churches from the true endeavour – sanctification of humanity towards godliness and mercy towards the marginalised.
Do you constantly struggle with thoughts of whether you have “done enough” for God? Perhaps, the issue is that you have yet to offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Hence, your conscience is in agony because of an unfinished business in your life. Make every effort to set aside time alone as Jacob did (see Genesis 32:24) and to encounter God as Jacob did at Peniel (see Genesis 32:30). Tell God that you will not relent until you see Him face to face.
Are you always trying to obtain people’s endorsement for your good works in your company or church? An impure motive will cause our “righteous deeds” to be rejected by God. The prophet Isaiah said,
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6
Therefore, I urge us to awake from the mindset of the world and work to exalt those who are hidden so that they may be encouraged. There are many who are working faithfully but are deprived of due reward and recognition. Paul said,
Those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. 1 Corinthians 12:23-24a
Dear Lord, I recognise the price that you paid for my salvation. I dedicate my whole life, my time, and my resources as an offering for your use. Whether in small or great ways, I will work to the best of my ability and I will direct the applause of the world towards you. I desire to be a platform so that Christ will be magnified and so that others may have opportunity to shine. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.