The quiet shrewd man, Jacob, stuck it to his brother Esau. I think we should allow Esau’s protest in Genesis 27:36 to stand. He claims that Jacob robbed him twice (25:29-34; 27:1-35)—taking advantage of him and later plainly robbing him. Commentators like Wenham trenchantly deny Jacob took advantage of him—I think they’re wrong. No matter, we’re certain that Jacob stole what God had already assigned to him (25:21-23). But the faithful God forgave the sly deceiver and renewed His covenant to Abraham’s grandson (28:10-22). But we expect that from the God we have come to know in Jesus Christ; what we find startling and makes us shake our heads in deep pleasure is when we see humans forgive great wrongs. Genesis 33:4 is one of those beautiful texts that we maybe would do well to have it nicely printed, framed and hung where we can daily see it. Here in the face of a human we see the face of God (33:10).
“But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him,
and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (33:4)
“But while he was still far off, his father saw him…and ran and put
his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
I’ve been criticized a lot in my life and I know that I fully deserved the bulk of it though I wish I could believe otherwise. I’m also aware that the criticism has helped me in some respects, maybe more than I know. But while some of the moments when I was openly taken to task are vivid and unforgettable I remember just as easily, with profound joy and consequent assurance, occasions when I expected fury without forgiveness but saw the face of God. They were the faces of humans, of course, but it’s precisely because they were the faces of humans that they brought and bring me assurance about God. If humans can and do it, if Esau could and did it, I know the God and Father of Jesus Christ can and does it. We cannot believe that humans are kinder and more forgiving than God so when we see glad forgiveness there in humans we are seeing the face of God.
I was reminded this very morning (Jordy sent me a message by Craddock) that open-heartedness, pity as well as implicit trust, from One who knows us can unlock doors with rusty locks and cobweb covered. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, must have gotten a lot of just criticism and cold exclusion that I’m supposing froze any warm purpose in him, any friendly overtures. “If that’s how they treat me, well then, I can do without them.” Maybe he could. I’ve come across more than one who has made it crystal clear that they want no part of this one or that one or me. My fear is that they’ll die that way, isolated and the cold getting right down into their bones, dead long before they die and going to meet a God who often wears a human face. And this God looked at the human up in the tree—one who had made choices that he knew would isolate him and who lived now in a cold world with long periods of frozen silence.
Doesn’t the story in Luke 19 seem to say that there was something down in the man that wanted better? He had heard of Him but he wanted more than stories though stories are wondrous; he wanted to see Him and the one he wanted to see saw him and spoke salvation. He wasn’t morally lectured, he was embraced; he wasn’t fiercely criticized he was loved and the warmth of it unfroze whatever might have been frozen in Zacchaeus. Who can do such a thing, who can act this way? Only God we’re tempted to think.
But no, people like Esau who have been
profoundly sinned against but have a face like God can do it also!