The last time that we saw Esau in Genesis, he was simmering in a stew of revenge against Jacob, who had deceived their father Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing that was rightfully due to Esau. Jacob knows that he has done wrong, and he knows that Esau is filled with a righteous wrath of justice, but God has called Jacob to return to his homeland. This means that Jacob must face Esau. How does he do this?
Please read Genesis 32:3-8.
Because Jacob has a healthy fear of his brother, and because he rightly feels guilt over his evil deeds, Jacob tries to appease his brother with a friendly message. When the messengers return, warning Jacob that Esau is coming with a great force, Jacob prepares for the worst by separating his family and possessions into two camps, so that at least one will hopefully survive Esau’s wrath. Later, we will see how Jacob tries to appease his brother with gift after gift, hoping that will ease his wrath, but still fearing the worst.
Many people in our Judeo-Christian society relate to God in the same way that Jacob relates to Esau. They may not have a full understanding of the gospel, but they do have a conscience that convicts them of their sin; they do have a sense of absolute morality, and standards which they know they have violated; and they have at least a cultural understanding that there is a God who will judge us for our actions.
This is the bad news that causes many people to view God the way that Jacob views his brother: He is out there ready to justly pour out His wrath upon me for my shortcomings… and I am going to have to meet Him!
So what do we do? Many people take the track of Jacob and try to send gifts in order to appease God. We try to do good deeds, and we hope that we have done enough that they will outweigh the bad ones for which we deserve to be judged; we try to go to church, put money in the offering plate, volunteer for a ministry or whatever else our conscience tells us needs to be done to appease this wrathful God.
Unfortunately, like Jacob, we learn that none of our good deeds are enough to assuage God’s wrath. Just like Esau was coming with four hundred men, so God is inevitably coming with myriads of angels. And we fear that they are coming in righteous judgment, so we hide from God, ignoring Him while we live our lives and hope for the best, while fearing the worst.
The Good News is that we don’t have to hide from God (and we couldn’t if we wanted to!). God is indeed a wrathful God who will pour out just judgment on sin. But God is also a loving God who doesn’t want His children to suffer. How does God reconcile these two aspects of His nature? At the cross.
At the cross where Jesus Christ gave His life as a sacrifice on our behalf. At the cross where God’s just wrath over our sin was poured out on our substitute. At the cross where God demonstrated His love for us by taking our place under judgment.
Because of the cross, we no longer have to fear like Jacob that wrath is coming. We no longer have to try to appease our judge. We can rest assured that wrath has already been poured out, the price for our sins has already been paid, and there’s nothing more that we need to do.
No matter what Jacob did, Esau was still coming with 400 men. God is coming with myriads of angels to judge the world, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. But, if we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, and accepted the sacrifice that He made on our behalf, then we don’t have to fear God’s coming. In fact, we can rejoice in it! Because our Judge has become our Savior, and we will spend eternity thanking Him for what He has done.
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