There's nothing like missing an important scene from a movie. During Christmas vacation, one of our big group activities was to see the new Star Wars movie at the theater. We knew that it would be too intense for Daniel, and my Mom and I weren't really into seeing Star Wars anyway, so the three of us, along with my niece Anna, opted for the lighter film “The Good Dinosaur.”
At some point in the movie I dozed off. When I came to, I realized that the Good Dinosaur's father had died. How did that happen? I didn't want to whisper during the show, so I waited until after the movie was over to learn about the details I had missed. It turned out that my Mom and Anna had fallen asleep during the same scene! And Daniel didn't remember what happened. So we still don't know.
Today, as I was reading about Jacob's hasty departure from Haran, his father-in-law chasing him down, his wrestling with the Angel of God, and then his dreaded meeting with Esau, I thought about an important scene that's missing from the Bible.
What happened in Esau's life during those years that Jacob was building his family and greatly increasing his flocks? A pretty incredible transformation must have taken place, because the meeting of the two brothers is one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. But in God's sovereignty, this "missing scene" of Esau's life was not recorded. So Esau is at the top of my list of people I'd like to see in heaven as I want to know his story...
When we last saw Esau he had arrived on the scene moments too late. His younger brother, full of deceit and following a plan designed by their mother, had tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing that should have gone to Esau. And he pitifully begged of his father, “Haven't you reserved any blessing for me?” (Genesis 27:36) Then we saw the darkness develop in Esau's heart as he plotted to kill Jacob as soon as their father died (v. 41). Jacob caught word from their mother though and fled to her brother Laban's home in Haran, to wait until Esau's fury had subsided, and followed his father's advice to choose a wife from Laban's daughters (he ended up with two of them).
Fast forward to Jacob's return home 20 years later: he was clearly terrified of meeting his brother again, for he was convinced that his brother must still want to kill him. So he sent messengers on ahead to prepare the way.
“When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, 'We went to your brother Esau and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.'” (32:6)
Jacob must have truly been shaking in his boots!
“In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, 'If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may still escape.'” (v.7-8)
He then prayed to God for His protection and sent a sizable gift of animals on ahead to his brother, hoping to pacify him.
That night an Angel of God appeared in his camp, and after an exhausting struggle with him, Jacob declared, “I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared.” (v.30)
The next morning he set out to meet his brother and bowed to the ground seven times as he approached.
“But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”
Jacob had to insist that Esau keep all the gifts that Jacob wanted to give him, saying that “to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” (33:10)
And that's a perfect picture to me of forgiveness. Of extending grace. Of unexpected blessing. To see the face of God (that Jacob had just seen the night before when he wrestled with an angel) in the face of his very own brother. The brother that he thought was surely coming out with 400 men to finally get his revenge. Instead, Esau reflected God to his deceiving younger brother. And radiated with peace and contentment, because something big had changed in his heart. The hardness had broken. He had experienced Grace.
And though we don't know the details of how God transformed a big, hairy, hard-hearted man like Esau, we know He did. Because we saw the beautiful later scene of his story called Forgiveness.