What does it mean to reconcile a relationship? What are some of the greatest stories of reconciliation you have ever seen or heard? Elizabeth Barrett was involved in a childhood accident that caused her to be an invalid. She also had a tyrannical father that treated her with disrespect. When she became older she met Robert Browning. Elizabeth’s father disapproved of the relationship and request for marriage. So in 1846 they married in secret and sailed to Italy where they lived for the rest of their lives. Her parents disowned her, but she did not give up on trying to communicate and reconcile with her parents. Almost weekly she wrote her parents letters. Not once did they reply.
After 10 years of writing her parents Elizabeth received a large box in the mail. Inside the box she found all her letter; not one had been opened. Today Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s letters are among the most beautiful in classic literature. Had her parents only read a few of the forgiveness packed poems their relationship with Elizabeth might have been reconciled.
Jacob Steps Up Like a Man [Genesis 33:1-3]
Jacob is now a new man with a new name and new future of God’s blessings and faith. After wrestling with God he is now empowered to meet his brother. While he sees his brother coming with a posy of 400 men, Jacob puts his people in ranks. He put his servants on the frontline, Leah and her children in the middle, and Rachel and her children in the back of the pack. Rachel gets the safe spot because he loved her and Joseph.
Jacob does hide out in the rear to take cover; rather he steps up to the front line. He doesn’t know if he will be killed, but it is a rick he’s willing to take believing in the promises of God. He has faith in God’s protection enough to put himself in harm’s way for the first time in his life. As a sign of humility and apology he bows his body before his brother. What we see is a complete change in character for Jacob.
Jacob Reunites with his Brother Face-to-Face [33:4-11]
In one of the most forgiving moments in Scripture the prodigal brother comes home. Esau responds like a mature older brother, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.” [Genesis 33:4] The reunion between Jacob and Esau comes after twenty long years of separation. It is a beautiful portrait of forgiveness. Esau runs to Jacob and lovingly embraces him in forgiveness and welcomes him home.
Jacob blessed his brother with generous gifts that he attributed to God’s provision. Esau did not need them because he too had become a wealthy man. Also, he releases any and all claims on his birthright. Jacob compares seeing Esau like seeing God [cf. Genesis 32:30] because both now and when he wrestled God Jacob is graciously spared. It is obvious that God had been working on the hearts of both men.
Esau offers his Protection [33:12-20]
Because of his many animals and young children Jacob was not able to go jump fast in making the journey all the way home. Esau offered to leave some men to protect Jacob’s household, but by faith he declined stating that God would indeed protect him. Jacob then worshiped God by building an altar at Shechem, which was the first place where his grandfather Abraham had been visited by God and built his own altar [cf. Genesis 12:6-7; 28:20-22; 31:5]. What a wonderful portrait of a transformed man now worshiping the God of Abraham and Isaac, but also now the God of Jacob.
Put yourself in Esau’s shoes for a moment. It is not often that we think about the situation from his perspective. What would you have done? Would you have been hesitant to reconcile your relationship with your brother? What should you do if you are hesitant to reconcile? Look to the example of Jesus Christ. He reconciles man to God and is our means and motivation to reconcile with one another [2 Corinthians 5:11-21]. Jesus is the Reconciler. And you might also consider:
1. Be honest about your motives. Make sure your desire is to please God and not get revenge [cf. Joseph and his brothers].
2. Be prayerful about the situation. Jesus said that you must pray for those who mistreat you [Luke 6:28; cf. Hebrews 4:16].
3. Be willing to admit how you have added to the problem [cf. Matthew 7:1-6].
4. Be mindful that God is sovereign over the situation [1 Corinthians 10:13].