February 14, 2014

XOXOXO's Part I: An Embrace of Grace & A Hairy Kiss

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I present to you the mushiest and affectionate series of posts that I will probably ever type for the brethren other than a love letter to my beloved wife Sharon. The focus of the post will be hugs and kisses (or XOXO’s). 

Hugs and Kisses are the imagery conjured when we think of affection and love. They are outward signs of compassion and endearment. Just as we perceive them today, so too they would’ve been perceived in the times narrated in the Bible. As such we see many instances of embraces and smooches all over the Good Book.

All of them portray an underlying sentiment or emotion. Some but not all portray a truth but rather act as deceptions but some actions are as genuine as the emotions they represent. I will primarily focus on the book of Genesis, Exodus, some history books and one incident from the New Testament that most readers will probably predict long before I get to it because of its heinous deception and betrayal that it heralds.

When we enter into the time of the Patriarchs we are literally bombarded with family affections. It almost seems that there are a disproportionate about of hugs and kisses in the Ancient Near East. It is probable that we see these actions disproportionately because at this time in human civilization and in the place of biblical narration, the hug and the kiss were a common social greeting. There are other things going on though. I also suggest we see a lot of kissy-face and hugs because to some extent, we are dealing with one great extended family called humanity. We are all under on heard in the Church-Jesus. God is the Father of us all and we are called to love Him and one another as much as we love life itself...so kisses and hugs should not seem out of the ordinary in a family.

On to our text.

Genesis 27:27 ~ “So he [Jacob] went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.”

There is deception written all over this incident. The bestowal of the kiss is in pure affection for an eldest son (which Jacob was not) from Isaac. The recipient Jacob is acting in duplicity and is taking his brother’s patriarchal blessing which is not a material inheritance or birthright …a common misconception. To say that Jacob steals Esau’s birthright is an injustice to Jacob as Esau had essentially forfeited it for a bowl of stew and it just isn’t true either. Jacob’s deception to his father with his conniving mother’s assistance is just as deplorable as Esau’s forsaking of his birthright in chapter 25. Jacob is not the only one to blame...all are complicit in this narrative except Isaac.

What we do see in this passage is God’s approval as it is allowed to take place. In so doing we see that it accurately propagates Jacob’s destiny as the lineage of the Christ as opposed to Esau. Through Jacob we will see the promises of Abraham continued as it is repeated many times as a reminder. Like God's blessing to Abraham, the blessing is irrevocable...true to the nature of an immutable and unchanging God and His promises. So we see a continuity between Abraham and Jacob: The continuity comes in the form of grace and blessing in covenant. Abraham’s blessing comes directly from God to Abraham and his decedents. In Jacob we see the faithfulness of God and the promised passing on of blessing to later generations even though the route to the end result (Jesus) does not follow the most probable assumed (by humans) path. The path to Christ will take further unorthodox avenues to produce the Messiah including a detour through a kinsman redeemer (Boaz and Ruth) and even through two probable prostitutes (Tamar, Rahab). It is almost as if God purposely takes unsightly and demeaning detours of lineage to make a point that Paul will later draw out in 1 Corinthians. It is only because of God that humans were able to continue a lineage that would produce a Messiah. It’s nothing that we do as believers.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ~ Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord

Here again we see God working through the sins of humans. God was not the impetus of the deception but God allowed it and turns it into a positive of salvation. It is Jacob who will father Judah. Judah being the tribe that will give rise to Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

Genesis 33:1-4 ~ “Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 

Having betrayed his brother, one would thing that Esau will seek revenge and kill his brother Jacob. Jacob apparently fears the same outcome. In the end, we see that this is not the final outcome between Esau and Jacob. When we move to Genesis 33 we see a paradoxical turnaround. Even after the foreboding visions and visitations of angels, we see a classic biblical paradox. When man thinks things will go a certain way based on our human experience, because of God’s involvement…they go just the opposite way. Instead of a murder akin to Cain and Abel…we see a reconciliation. We see a classic biblical case of grace and forgiveness from the one that was wronged. Strangely, we see God’s attributes that will be later shown in Christ’s death on the cross manifested in Esau who is essentially the image of the one outside of God’s blessing.

In Jacob we see guilt manifest.  In Esau we see forgiveness manifest. Scripture never tells us that Esau is not saved so it can be implied that both were saved. In two brothers (not unlike Cain and Abel) we see that people guaranteed of salvation can be both guilty of sin and repentant and also forgiving and willing to reconcile. Jacob (and we as readers to some extent) expects that there will be a heavy bargaining or cost for past sins but through God’s grace and actions, there is no need of such appeasement. Esau approaches his brother Jacob like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son…with open arms and no hard feelings. Just like us when we repent of our sins and turn to Jesus. 

One comes in repentance knowing the error of his ways and the other comes with grace and forgiveness willing to embrace and forget the past sins. To Esau the past was buried as far as the east is from the west. Jacob goes to great extent to protect his own well-being not trusting in God. He shows a lack of faith that God would have his best interest in mind and all Jacobs efforts are in vain as God has already balanced the scales when it comes to Esau.

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