2003 issue 22


bird - thinkingthinking points

 

by Mickey Chiang

Brothers-in-war

[Genesis 32 & 33]

As twin brothers, Jacob and Esau were of the same blood, but bad blood developed between them.  When Jacob outdid himself and stole the blessing their father meant for Esau, Esau was determined to kill Jacob [Gen 27:41].  But Jacob stole even that pleasure from Esau by fleeing to Haran, some 800 kilometres away.

There, Jacob acquired two wives, concubines, many children, and great flocks and herds of livestock.  But eventually, Jacob had to flee from his father-in-law who was even more crafty than him!  With the father-in-law now a father-in-war in hot pursuit, where could Jacob go but home to Canaan?  But when vengeful Esau heard Jacob was coming back, he rounded up 400 men and marched over 150 kilometres to intercept Jacob.  What kind of a welcoming committee is an all-men posse of 401 men?  So did Esau come to kiss, or to kill, Jacob?  Well, Jacob was “in great fear and distress” [Gen 32:7], so what does that tell us?

But crafty Jacob quickly thought of a plan.  He sent a series of mixed droves of sheep, goats, camels, cattle and donkeys ahead of him, as gifts to Esau.  Each drove was some distance behind the next.  Each drove represented considerable wealth for Esau.

Imagine you are Esau receiving gift after gift after gift of great wealth.  Wow.  Was that why Esau spared Jacob’s life?  Actually, no.  For Esau rejected all the gifts!  How do we know this?  The Bible tells us so.  Gen 33:1 says: “Jacob looked up and there was Esau, with his 400 men”.  If Esau had accepted the droves, they would have become his droves.  Wouldn’t he have assigned some of his men to take control of his droves?  Yet, all 400 men were still with Esau, because he did not consider the droves to be his?  Moreover, Esau accepted the gifts only after much insistence by Jacob [Gen 33:11].

But how cunning Jacob was!  If Esau had started to kill the men in the first drove, those in the droves behind would have either gone into battle [and reduced the size of Esau’s force] or retreated backwards, [thereby giving Jacob advance warning of Esau’s real intentions].  But if Esau had accepted the gifts, then he would have assigned men to take over each flock, and this would have reduced the force Esau could bring up with him to the meeting with Jacob.  The odds against Jacob would have been reduced.  But Esau had, finally, outfoxed the crafty Jacob.  He had all 400 men with him.

So now, without any advance warning from his men ahead, Jacob looked up and saw Esau and all of his 400 men bearing down on him.  Not a single man had been assigned to guard the droves.  But perhaps Esau had come in love of Jacob?  Did Jacob see love in the way Esau was approaching, or impending disaster?  What does his actions tell us?

Jacob went ahead, somewhat timidly, followed by his concubines and their children, then his less-loved wife Leah and her children, and finally his beloved Rachel and her son Joseph. Why this arrangement, if Esau did not look like he was going to devour all of them?  Jacob was indeed terrified, and remained scared even after Esau embraced him.  Why else would Jacob call his twin [his equal] “my lord” at least five times [Gen33:8-15] and equate his face with the face of God?

However, we all know that Esau did not kill Jacob after all.  As it was not because of Jacob’s gifts, then was it because Jacob “bowed down to the ground seven times” before Esau?  Or was there another reason why Esau spared Jacob?

The answer is in Gen 32:22-31.  The night before Esau arrived, what happened to Jacob?  Didn’t he have a wrestling match with God, in which God “touched the socket of Jacob’s hip, so that the hip was wrenched” [32:25]?  As the sun rose, Jacob “was limping because of his hip” [32:31], and that was how Esau saw Jacob [33:1].  Esau had come to kill Jacob, but how could Esau kill a defenceless cripple?  What kind of a heroic act would it be for Esau to kill a pitiful cripple in front of his 400 men?  When Jacob painfully bowed down to the ground seven times before him, could Esau’s bitter heart prevent all the bitterness from draining out as it was replaced by pity?

Wasn’t it wonderfully wise and merciful of God to come from Heaven, fight with Jacob and cripple him, in order to save his life?  Say, is God similarly saving you in some way through the little troubles or ailments presently afflicting you?

chapel banner

We were privileged to have Rev. W.A. van Leen as our chapel speaker on 21 May.  He shared on the theme "God Weeps Too!"  The year 2003 has not got off to a good start for many people.  Disaster and tragedy marked the beginning of the year for many people both here in Singapore and around the world.  In addition to these, community troubles, personal traumas through ill health; loss of loved ones; unemployment, etc… the cumulative effects of these things can lead to hopelessness and despair.  They also make for a depressing and frightening view of the present situation and the future as well.   There are no simplistic solutions to these troublesome and painful complexities of life.  But in the midst of these tragedies and depressing situations we can give support to each other and walk the journey with those who are hurting and troubled.  Such identification is at the heart of the Christian life.

The biblical message is one of God totally identifying with suffering humanity through the incarnation.  Taking part in human life and experience makes God "reachable."  Jesus assures the weary and burdened that He will share the load: "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:28 -30).

The shortest verse in the Bible is Jn. 11:35: "Jesus wept."  When the Lord arrived at the home of His friend Lazarus, He found Mary and Martha weeping over their brother who had died some days before.  Jesus identified with them in their grief and burst into sobbing.  He wept.  Towards the closing of His ministry, He went to Jerusalem and it says in Luke 19:41 "As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it…."

Rev. van Leen quotes from a song, "God Weeps Too," written by a Californian singer and songwriter, Eli.  He sings of the suffering and pain of: the illiterate man struggling to make ends meet; the widow in her loneliness; the survivors of man's inhumanity to man; or our questioning of God when bad things happen, etc… and then share his insight:

            "And God weeps too, God weeps too

             Though we question Him for all that we go through

             But still it helps me believe

             And my pain it does relieve

             When I think that

             God weeps too, God weeps too."

In spite of the disasters and tragedies of this, still young, year of 2003 there is hope and encouragement and help to each other whenever, and wherever, possible and God shares the burden with us.  He feels our pain and weeps.

Chapel speakers for the next two weeks are: Mr Edwin Tay (4 June) and Pastor Song Young Hak (11 June).

News Bits

  • Away from office. Dr Ng Peh Cheng will be in the U.S. from 4th June to 30th June. She is attending a conference, visiting churches, education­ institutions­ and libraries to keep abreast of works in the field of Christian Education. Appreciate prayer for good health, safety and fruitful learning.

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Mr James Goon  26/5

Mr Peter Lim Hong Sing  26/5

Mr Danny Tan  27/5

Mrs Joyce Moh  29/5

flower pot

Ms Celeste Yee  29/5

Mr Yoong Yuen Soo  29/5

Elder Richard Chia  31/5

Ms Gesulgon Jireh-May  1/6

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This page is updated on 29 May 2003 by Leong Kok Weng 
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