Forgiveness and Reconciliation – Genesis 33


In chapter 32 of Genesis we saw how Jacob had a faith crisis. He struggled with his upcoming encounter with Esau. He was concerned for his own safety and the safety of his family. In his faith crisis, Jacob was humbled by the hand of God. He learned that God’s way is always the best way and that God had not given up on him. God has a way of staying faithful even in our disobedience. Even when we take life into our own hands and fail to trust God, He never gives up on us.

In chapter 33, we see the much-anticipated meeting between Jacob (whose name has been changed to Israel) and Esau. In this encounter, we learn a very valuable lesson in forgiveness and reconciliation.

Jacob and Esau Meet (v. 1-4). In order for forgiveness and reconciliation to be made, there must be a meeting. There must be a coming together to work things out. There are two actions that we see here. (1) Jacob bows in humility. As Jacob approaches Esau, he takes protective measures for his family. It is interesting the order that Jacob puts his family in. He puts the handmaids and their children on the front lines followed by Leah and her children and then Rachael and her son Joseph in the rear. This showed how Jacob loved Rachael more than the others and his favoritism for Joseph is clearly seen. Jacob then leads the way and as he approached Esau, he bows to the ground seven times. Jacob knew the promise of God and he knew that God’s plan would be fulfilled. However, he was also aware of his past sins and the hurt he caused Esau in those early years. Therefore, not knowing how Esau would react, Jacob humbles himself and gives honor to Esau. When it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation, there must be a display of humility by one or both of the parties involved. Jacob’s display of humility showed that he was admitting his wrong and was asking for grace and mercy. It is a humble thing to admit when you are wrong. However, reconciliation is never possible without and admission of guilt. This is true even in salvation. In order for one to be saved, he or she must come to grips with their sinful state. You cannot be saved unless you first understand that you are lost. You cannot be forgiven, unless you realize your need to be forgiven. (2) Esau embraces in love. Esau responds to Jacob in a very surprising way. He runs to Jacob, not in vengeance, but in grace and love. The fact that Esau embraces Jacob shows that he was a changed man and that the sins of the past had been forgiven. This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He came to us. He ran to us, not in vengeance and wrath, but in love and grace. He came not to judge us, but to rescue us. My friend, I am very glad that God ran to me!

Jacob and Esau Reconcile (v. 5-15). As Jacob and Esau meet there some sort of negotiation that takes place. The fact that Esau begins by asking about Jacob’s family is a sign that Esau has put the past behind him and held nothing against Jacob. However, Jacob insists that Esau accepts the gifts that he has been offered. Though perhaps reluctantly, Esau accepts the gifts. This goes to show that in order for reconciliation to take place, there are at times a need for retribution. In order to feel cleared of his guilt, Jacob felt the need to provide retribution for his past sins. This was not for Esau’s sake, for Esau had already forgiven Jacob. However, this was for the sake of Jacob’s own conscious. The brothers then agree that they needed to move on and go their sperate ways, however, an arrangement is made for a future reunion. When we are reconciled to God, an arrangement has been made for a future reunion. There is a Heavenly home waiting for all those who are reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus!

Jacob and Esau Move On (v. 16-20). Jacob and Esau go their separate ways indicating that they have moved on. When forgiveness and reconciliation take place, both parties must move on. The past must be left in the past. The sins of the past should no longer be held against each other and life must go on.

Is there someone you need to reconcile with? Is there someone you need to forgive? Perhaps a meeting is needing to finally lay things to rest. Perhaps it is time for you to move on and let go of the past.

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