Devotional & Reflection

Week 1, Feb 2004

Gen 33 :
Reconciling Humility

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 33 v1 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his e1Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants. 2 He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the maidservants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. 8 Esau asked, “What do you mean by all these droves I met?” “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said. 9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

Can reconciliation ever materialize if two conflicting parties were too proud to acknowledge their wrongdoing? Can there ever be reconciliation if a wrongdoer were too proud to admit his wrongdoing as in the case of Jacob?

Jacob could have rationalized and justified stealing Esau's birthright. After all, Esau despised his birthright (Gen 25:34). But such deceptive ways and means were not of the Lord. God had blessed Jacob in spite of his deceptive schemes and strategies. And God could have blessed him more - with less painful consequences - without his deceptive schemes.

Something had happened in Jacob’s inner life since his years of “exile” from home and his parents. Whereas he was a supplanter and stealer before, he had now learnt to be humble. Whereas he wrested the first right to blessings from his elder brother earlier, he now bowed very low. He bowed to the ground seven times before his brother (Gen 33:3). What a reversal! And this was even in the light of God's promise to him that many nations and peoples would bow down to him in Gen 27:29.

Is God calling us towards reconciliation with a brother or sister? Then we need to ask the next question: “Am I proud?” We may be smart, educated, effective, wealthy, productive, attractive etc.... And because we "possess" these blessings, we may be “cocky” or arrogant. This pride can hinder us from taking the first step towards reconciliation. Jacob took 20 years to walk this journey to reconcile with Esau. Would it take 20 years for our reconciliation with those whom we have hurt?

How often have we found it difficult to say “I'm sorry” - especially to our subordinates, spouses and even our children when we have erred? Every now and then when I have to say sorry to my children, I still find it difficult to do so. But if I want to maintain and build a bridge to relating with my children and inculcate integrity, I have to take the route of humility and say sorry when I have erred.

The other route of “pride only breeds quarrels” (Prov 13:10) prolongs conflict. In the corporate world, Prov 16:18 often comes true: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Sometimes there is no need for humbling ways of saying sorry. There is no need to bow to the ground seven times like Jacob. At times, there is even no need to say “sorry.” Sometimes all it takes is to open the lines of communication and misunderstanding is cleared.

Imagine the great fear and distress Jacob had prior to meeting his brother (Gen 32:7). Nevertheless, Jacob obeyed God to return to the land of his fathers (Gen 31:3). We too may suffer great fear and distress like Jacob before reconciliation. We think: What if we lose face or get hurt again? What if the other party is not ready and does not want to reconcile and attack us instead?

In Gen 33, Jacob was still a strategist. In the uncertain meeting with Esau, he grouped his family from his maidservants first, then Leah and Rachel. Many of us (including myself), who are trained in the corporate world, are strategists like Jacob. We have strategies, counter-strategies, fallback strategies and back-up plans just in case the first strategy of reconciliation does not work.

But all of Jacob's painstaking planning and strategizing to appease Esau was not necessary. This was because God knew Esau's heart was ready for reconciliation when God instructed Jacob to return to the land of his fathers (Gen 31:3). God had answered Jacob's prayer in Gen 32:11 to save him from his brother's hand.

In seeking reconciliation, we need to ask God for the appropriate timing just as in Jacob's reconciliation with Esau. Both parties’ hearts are ready. God will instruct you - just as He instructed Jacob to return to the land of his fathers. Then we need to overcome fear and learn to humble ourselves. Open lines of communication. In some instances, gifts and an offer of restitution are required. These principles are worth reflecting.

1. Whom have I hurt or offended?
2. How can I raise my awareness level so that I am aware that I have hurt or offended someone?
3. What can I do and how can God help in the reconciliation process?
4. What lessons can I learn from Jacob?

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