Grace and mercy abound in this passage of Scripture in a way that brings peace and joy. Jacob’s fear was immense as he had deceived his brother and fled for his life as Esau could very well have killed him. Coming to meet Esau, Jacob was so fearful that he methodically arranged his family in a way to protect those most important to him should Esau attack. Jacob approached his brother with caution and humility as he bowed to the ground knowing that his brother had a right to be furious over Jacob’s deceptive actions. He even came prepared with gifts of retribution to offer Esau as a way to bless his brother and restore what he could of the blessing he had stolen. It doesn’t matter how many times in my life that I read of Jacob’s journey to meet Esau, my stomach still turns in stress every time. Though I’ve never been in a situation of seeking out my brother whom at one point desired my demise, I have had to humbly seek forgiveness in the aftermath of my poor choices and shortcomings. That feeling of knowing the outcome I deserve, knowing that I in no way should be granted forgiveness or spared from harsh words or broken relationships. . . that is the feeling that swirls in my stomach as I empathize with Jacob in these verses.
Thankfully these dreadful and heavy feeling only last for a short while as we then see Esau’s reaction to his brother in verse 4, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.” Esau RAN to meet his brother! His brother who treated him so poorly! His brother whom he wanted to kill! His brother who had been living as a deceiver his entire life! Esau ran to his brother and embraced him. The power in that interaction is enough to clear away those feelings of fear. The brothers wept as they were reunited and spoke of the blessings that they’d both received. Even in the midst of so much sin and brokenness, God was faithful to His promises and graciously blessed both of the brothers.
This picture of grace and mercy that Jacob received from Esau in this encounter of redemption clearly mirrors the grace and mercy of my own redemption. Esau graciously provides Jacob with a loving reception and forgiveness. Jacob in no way deserved this precious gift and he knew this very well. Esau mercifully spared Jacob from the wrath and punishment that he was expecting. Jacob did deserve an angry and vile reunion after the way he had treated Esau and he also knew this very well. The beauty in this account isn’t that Esau made a great choice by forgiving his brother or that Jacob chose to seek Esau’s forgiveness. The true beauty in this account lies within the hearts of the two men. Their hearts were not changed by their own accord, and the choices they made were not simply good choices. This account showcases in brilliant clarity the handiwork of God. He is the one who softened the brothers’ hearts, blessed them with families, and provided the opportunity for redemption. He is the one whose redemptive power is still at work today. I pray that we continue to feel the pain of our brokenness and sin, knowing the nature of our sinful hearts. I pray that though we feel that brokenness and understand what we deserve, that we won’t ruminate in these feelings, but rather rejoice in the redemption and peace that God has provided! He truly does desire to provide us with grace and mercy, to redeem our sinful hearts for His glory, and to dwell with us as we praise Him! So go then, praise His name, and live in joy for the blessing He has provided through His plan for our sin problem!