Finding Grace in Man's Eyes (Gen 33)
In Genesis 33, Jacob was about to meet Esau. His faith in God was to be tested again. Will he seek to please man or to follow God?
In Genesis 33:1-11, Jacob was on his way to meet Esau. He had divided his family into four groups. When he saw Esau, Jacob was eager to please him and “he bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother” (Gen 33:3). Although it was their custom to greet by bowing, Jacob’s action of bowing seven times demonstrated his eagerness to find grace in the eyes of Esau. Jacob acknowledged that God had been gracious to him and had blessed him richly (Gen 33:5) and wanted Esau to receive his gifts (Gen 33:10). Jacob regarded seeing Esau as to seeing the face of God (Gen 33:10). He equated God’s grace to the grace of Esau accepting and taking his gifts (Gen 33:11).
Esau wanted Jacob to return with him to Seir (Gen 33:12). In order not to offend Esau, Jacob gave excuses to Esau (Gen 33:13-15) so that Esau and the folks that accompanied him would return to Seir first while he and his entourage would follow slowly behind them. Jacob never went to Seir but journeyed to Succoth (Gen 33:17). He had sinned against God by lying to Esau. Jacob was afraid that the truth would offend Esau. Thus, he chose to sin against God by lying. Jacob had chosen to please man rather than to please God. As such, he did not obey God whole-heartedly. Jacob went and settled in Succoth and then to Shechem (Gen 33:17-20) instead of returning to his father’s house in Bethel, which he had promised God.
There is a fine line between pleasing man and pleasing God. As Christians, our focus and purpose in life must be to seek God and to please Him above others. We must not please men and, as a result, sin against God. We are to be polite and courteous towards men for God’s sake but never for the purpose of obtaining favour or approval. The true test comes when we need to choose between pleasing men or following God’s commandment. Our intention and heart’s desire must always be to follow God whole-heartedly. We must never find loopholes or give justifications with the purpose of excusing ourselves from following God. We must always seek to please God rather than men.