Genesis 27:41; 33:1‐11
Alan Hall, associational missionary
Mulberry Baptist Association
Patient: “Doc it hurts when I do this”
Doc: “Well then don’t do that!”
Athletic types might argue, “No pain, no gain” but the doctor in the illustration makes a good point that can be applied to relationships. I translate it this way, don’t poke at sore spots and don’t make mountains out of molehills – good advice for lasting relationships. But for those times when relationships do get injured, showing humility is critical to restoration.
Our Bible study examines the relationship between twin brothers Jacob and Esau. They have been in conflict since before they were born (Gen. 25:19‐26). They most definitely have relationship struggles. Jacob (the deceiver) and the younger twin, has deceitfully obtained the birthright from his father Isaac meant for the oldest son, Esau. Realizing what has taken place, Esau asks his father for a blessing too. Esau’s anger burns when the blessing he receives is not nearly that of Jacob’s blessing.
Self‐centeredness can destroy relationships – Genesis 27:41
Esau is so angry that he vows to kill his brother Jacob. Not only has Jacob stolen his blessing, but also his birthright. These were important concepts in Old Testament times because they determined family order and property rights. The birthright was the right of the oldest son, in this case Esau. It insured that the recipient would be respected, that he would serve as the priest of the clan, and receive a double portion of property.
The blessing stolen by Jacob gave him great bounty, authority over his brother, and blessings for those who blessed him and cursing for those who cursed him. It was incredibly self‐centered for Jacob to snatch these away from his own brother.
Family feuds that last for decades have started over much less. Families split over household items, vases, furniture, and photographs when an estate is divided. Marriages crumble when we don’t get our own way. Relationships are damaged when we fail to relate, only considering ourselves.
Displaying humility can rebuild relationships – Genesis 33:1‐4
It has been said, “Humble yourself before God, before He humbles you.” However it comes, humility is needed. Jacob flees when he hears of his brother’s death threats. Jacob himself is deceived when he wants Rachel for his wife and receives Leah instead.
Twenty years have now passed since Jacob fled from his brother’s threats. In Genesis 32 the time comes for Jacob to meet again with Esau. Successful Jacob has no idea how his brother will greet him after all this time. He is prepared to offer great gifts to appease his angry brother. But things change when Jacob has an encounter with God.
When his struggle with God is over Jacob limps away blessed and humbled. A transformed Jacob no longer hides behind his wives and children as he approaches Esau and his 400 men. He takes the lead of his family and faces his brother. Jacob humbly bows seven times before the brother he had wronged. Esau receives Jacob, not angrily, but running to him, greeting him with hugs, kisses and tears.
Coming face-to-face with God is humbling. Jacob said in Genesis 23:30 “I have seen God face-to-face, and I have been delivered.”
Time spent with God helps us better spend time with others. Jesus left the glory of heaven and humbled himself to come to us redeeming our broken relationship. In what relationships do you need to display humility?
Be willing to forgive and move on — Genesis 35:5‐11
“Then Esau said, ‘Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you’” (Gen. 33:12). Esau now offers companionship and protection to his once-hated brother. Jacob, following God, goes his own way, but a broken relationship has been mended. Sometimes we just need to be willing to forgive and move on, not looking back, not stuck in the past, but learning from it.
He builds an altar in Bethel to remember God’s help for him some 20 years earlier. Jacob, now called Israel, is able to move forward with the blessing of great promise. God is good at forgiving. God is good at mending broken things.
Help for humble relationships
What a comfort and blessing it is to restore a broken relationship. Unresolved conflict and the accompanying bitterness is a heavy burden. It draws our focus away from Christ. Broken relationships are not always resolved as we would like, but it sure helps to have humbly made the effort.
Here are some passages helpful to me. Discuss additional verses that help you and may help others mend relationships.
- James Chapter 4:6. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We are at odds with others, ourselves, and God. The source of conflict is that we want what we want. We need to submit to God. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” (4:10).
- Ephesians 6:10‐18. Relationships require the armor of God. Withstand the flaming arrows that are so often the words that we speak and hear.
- Psalm 19:14. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.”
- Ephesians 4:26‐27. Deal with relational struggles in a timely manner; don’t make mountains out of molehills. Don’t poke sore spots if it isn’t necessary.