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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Jacob and Esau (part three)

Friends may come, and friends may go . . .

But enemies endure.

So they tell me – and from what I’ve seen of families, it’s probably true. There’s nothing like a family, after all, to keep a grudge alive. And when it comes to family feuds . . . well, you’ve got your Montagues and Capulets. Your Hatfields and McCoys. Not to mention your two great-aunts, Beulah and Mabel, who haven’t spoken to each other since the Great Potato Salad Fiasco of 1973.

To be sure, you may want avoid this subject entirely – and to be honest, this week’s lesson in the quarterly really isn’t all that bad.

But if you want my advice, I’d save this week’s lesson on the Book of Proverbs for next week; that way you can skip the following week’s lesson on the Song of Solomon. (And trust me – you don’t want to spend an entire Sabbath School lesson discussing the Song of Solomon! There’s stuff in that book that is still illegal in the State of Idaho!)

Instead, I’d suggest you spend this week finishing-up the story of Jacob – the story of a family feud that just would not disappear on its own.

Genesis 25:21-34; Genesis 27:1-28:9
Quickly review the cause of Esau’s feud with Jacob – who do you blame the most? Notice the three ways people try to deal with this conflict:

  • Esau dreams of revenge.
  • Rebekah tells Jacob to leave until things “blow over.”
  • Isaac pretends that nothing has happened.

Which of these three strategies appeal the most to you? What has been the result in your life? What are the results in Jacob’s family?

Genesis 32
It’s been 20 years since Jacob saw Esau! What message did Jacob send? What does this message suggest about Jacob’s hopes? His fears? What message comes back to Jacob . . . and how does Jacob respond? What does Jacob’s prayer tell you about Jacob’s priorities? How did Jacob try to “buy” peace with Esau – and how effective was this? When have you tried something similar – and how did it work for you?

Genesis 28:10-22 and Genesis 32:22-32
Compare Jacob’s first vision (i.e. Jacob’s vision when he was leaving Canaan) with his second (i.e. Jacob’s vision when he was re-entering Canaan). How are they similar? How are they different? What has changed in Jacob’s life – and in his relationship with God?

Genesis 33
The Bible gives no explanation for Esau’s behavior in this chapter; obviously, something has changed in his life – but we don’t know what. (In some sense, forgiveness is always a mystery!) What does Esau do when he sees Jacob? How do you account for this? Has there been a real reconciliation between the two men – or is there still some wariness between the two? Why does Jacob refuse Esau’s offers . . . and was he wise to do so? Can you think of times you’ve had to do the same thing (or times you should have done the same thing!).

General reflection:
Who is the “Esau” in your life – and what are some of the ways you’ve tried to deal with this person? What hope do these chapters give you for your relationships? What guidance? What warnings? What would it take for there to be a reconciliation with the "Esau" in your life?

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