Forgiving somebody does not mean they get off the hook. It means you put them on God’s hook. You trust the Lord to let Him deal with the infraction, the thing that was done against you. If we surrender the thing that hurts us, if we take the medicine and forgive that person willfully every day, even if you stamp your feet the first few times you say, “I forgive them” through clenched fists, through teeth that are gritted… It doesn’t matter how you start the process, the key is to start.
Let’s jump back into Genesis 33 for God’s continuing beautiful picture of forgiveness and reconciliation between Esau and Jacob.
- Max Lucado Quote: “The key to forgiving others is to stop focusing on what they did to you and start focusing on what God did for you.”
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The key to forgiving others is to stop focusing on what they did to you and start focusing on what God did for you.
Wise words from Max Lucado, it’s kind of like when you’re in your car; you’re not always looking in the rear view mirror, just a little bit. Most of the time you’re looking ahead out the windshield. Welcome to the Bible for Busy People. I’m Erica. And yeah, we are talking about forgiveness this week and how it is a prescription. It does feel like taking medicine when you first apply it to your life, to your heart, but then just like an antibiotic works, it starts to heal you. When I was a little kid, I remember the amoxicillin, the pink liquid in the fridge. It was my least favorite thing to have to take. I just still can smell it when I talk about it right now, but after a couple of days when I started to feel better, I thanked God for it. Even in my little heart I knew that that medicine did the work it was supposed to do. And our God who is kind and loving and who never ever wants to hurt us, he knows that that’s how forgiveness works too.
Last time, you and I studied the lives of Esau and Jacob, twin brothers, and there was bad blood between them and rightfully so. And I want to just take a second here to say that if you are having to forgive somebody, and even when I say those words, I know that you may see a face in your mind, and I understand that. Been there just recently really forgave somebody. But you know what? Forgiving somebody does not mean they get off the hook. It means you put them on God’s hook. You trust the Lord to let Him deal with the infraction, the thing that was done against you. And he will, I have seen the Lord do this in my life. If we surrender the thing that hurts us, if we take the medicine and forgive that person willfully every day, even if you stamp your feet the first few times you say, “I forgive them” through clenched fists, through teeth that are gritted. It doesn’t matter how you start the process, the key is to start. Put them on God’s hook. I heard that recently and I haven’t been able to forget it. Well, we’re going to dive back into the story of Jacob and Esau. These two brothers who chose to forgive each other. Really, it was Esau forgiving Jacob for deceiving him and stealing his birthright in a very deceptive way. Years before when they met again, they embraced one another and it was beautiful. Jacob, I think from reading the Bible, was a little afraid that he saw might kill him and his wives and his children and his livestock. But instead, Jacob sent a messenger ahead with gifts of livestock saying, “Hey, I mean you no harm anymore. Can we put this past us?” without actually saying those words. And of course, as we shared last time, they reunited, they reconciled with one another. And I have to believe that God smiled in those moments. So, let’s pick up the story now in Genesis chapter 33, verse 11. This is Jacob speaking now, after they’ve wept and embraced.
Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift. 12 “Well,” Esau said, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.” 13 But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. 14 Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.” 15 “All right,” Esau said, “but at least let me assign some of my men to guide and protect you.”Jacob responded, “That’s not necessary. It’s enough that you’ve received me warmly, my lord!”
To think of these two brothers who for a time surely hated one another, despised one another, especially Esau because he was so angry and hurt by what Jacob did to him… To see them speaking so graciously to one another is beautiful, and it shows you that reconciliation is possible even in the most impossible circumstances. Picking up the story now in verse 16.
So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. 17 Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means “shelters”). 18 Later, having traveled all the way from Paddan-aram, Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the town. 19 Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. 20 And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel.
This is what it means: The God of Israel or mighty is the God of Israel. Can you imagine the thankfulness in Jacob’s heart? He was overflowing with gratitude and joy, and his first instinct was, “I need to build an altar. I need to mark this moment. I have been forgiven.” He was freed from the bondage of wondering if the relationship with his brother was irreparable. God in his graciousness, gave Esau the grace to forgive Jacob. And God gave Jacob the courage to face Esau, knowing his brother might’ve wanted to kill him. He didn’t know. It is such a gift to give and to receive forgiveness. It’s like a hug. It works both ways. And I don’t mean to make light of what you’re going through because I know that you are wrestling with something very heavy that somebody has done to you. I know that you’re listening and you’re going, I want to forgive. I don’t know how. So often it’s in the hardest places that God meets us. And he says, let me do the heavy lifting. It’s like Corrie Ten Boom. One of my favorite people who ever lived, her family hid the Jews during World War II, and they saved hundreds of lives with the help of God and His angels. And after the war, she was faced with one of the Nazis who was unkind to her sister Betsy, who died in the camps. And the man was asking for her forgiveness at this place where she was speaking. And in those seconds, she was like, God, how can I? And she felt that He was saying, just put your hand out. And Corrie did, and God did the rest. He infused her with the strength that she needed to forgive a Nazi, and he will do the same for you. The God of Corrie Ten Boom is your God and my God. Until next time, you are loved.
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