Please turn to Genesis 33:1-20. In Genesis chapters 30-32, God has been preparing Jacob to trust in Him and to acknowledge Him alone. That theme continues in this passage which recounts the meeting between Esau and Jacob and this much anticipated reunion of the brothers. This passage can easily be divided into three parts. First, you see Jacob preparing for his encounter with Esau in verses 1-3. Then, we read about this surprisingly affectionate and emotional encounter between Esau and Jacob in verses 4-11. Finally, we see Esau pleading with Jacob to come back with him to Seir. However, Jacob very tactfully avoids that temptation. Yet, as he avoids the temptation to return with Esau, Jacob falls into another one by failing to return to Bethel as God had instructed him.  

I. The way of exaltation is the way of humiliation. 

In Genesis 33:1-3, Jacob is preparing again for this encounter with his brother. After taking appropriate precautions, Jacob steps forward to meet the approaching Esau. When Jacob comes near Esau, he prostrates himself seven times. It is important to recognize that Jacob is bowing seven times before Esau who has been prophesied by God to be the lesser of these two brothers. God had promised to Jacob that nations would bow down to him, and that he would be the master of his brothers in Genesis 27:29.  But not before he would prostrate himself before Esau seven times. Never was that kind of discipline more needed in anyone than in Jacob. Here was a man who needed the divine humbling of the Lord to prepare him for the position of exultation which God had planned for him and had promised to him through the covenant prophesy. But God, because He loved Jacob, was preparing him to serve in that role. Before he was going to be capable of sustaining the role as the head of the covenant, Jacob would be required to humble himself. God often humbles us in life before a great blessing as well. The Lord does that because He loves us. God does that because that is the discipline which He chose for His own Son. Jesus, who rules over heaven and earth, is abased and is humiliated on the way to His exultation. Let us not ever forget that whom the Lord would exalt, He first humbled. 

II. Jacob acknowledges God's kind providence in every aspect of his life, including Esau's kindness. 

In Genesis 33:4-11, we read about the reunion of the brothers. Jacob has sent many presents hoping that after Esau has received all these gifts, he will not be angry with him. Derek Kidner describes this scene beautifully when he says, "This meeting is a classic of reconciliation. The stream of gifts and the demure family processions are almost comically over-organized, and they give us some idea of the load that was on Jacob's conscience. And also the sheer grace of Esau's reply." We are expecting Esau to be angry. However, the same spontaneous Esau who gave up his birthright for a bowl of soup, is now spontaneously overjoyed at this reunion with his brother, Jacob. Though Esau is the one who ultimately will dwell apart from the covenant, and apart from his father's spiritual heritage, we see a great deal of the common grace of God in him.  

It is also important to look at the work God has done in Jacob’s life. In verse 5, Jacob provides a serious and thoughtful reply to Esau's question, "Who are these with you?" Jacob says, "These are the children whom God has graciously given to your servant." Jacob acknowledges his children and his family to be the gracious providential gift of God to him. He is not responsible for the blessings and he has not earned them. Jacob not only appreciates his covenant children, and the covenant family, he recognizes that God alone is the one who has given him this family. 

Then, in verse 8, Esau asks Jacob, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?”  Jacob is surprisingly honest in his answer when he says, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” However, Esau stuns us again when he says, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself” in verse 9. That statement from his brother brings Jacob to his knees and brings about a recognition in his heart. In verse 10, Jacob says, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.” Jacob is humbled in his response, and he acknowledges that God, not his gifts, gave him Esau's favor. As Jacob had to learn to trust God and to acknowledge God's providence in every area of his life, we also need to learn the lesson that God will work on us until we resort to Him alone.   

III. We are never immune from the temptation of ingratitude.

In Genesis 33:12-16, Esau tries to get Jacob to come with him to Seir. Then, in verses 17-20, Jacob travels towards Bethel but stops first in in Succoth and then in Shechem. There are a couple of lessons that can be learned from this passage. Jacob displayed wisdom in  not going back to Seir with his brother. Even though Esau has been gracious, and in God's mercy there has not been a violent meeting between these two brothers, Jacob is the heir and the head of the covenant. It is his responsibility not to mix and intermingle with his brother who has chosen another way. This would have inevitably happened had Jacob gone back to Seir and settled there with his elder brother. 

However, Jacob was not right in what he did in verses 17-20. Specifically, Jacob failed to display complete obedience to God’s commands. First, he stopped in Succoth where he built a house and booths for his flocks. Then, he moved to Shechem where he bought land and settled. The proper response of gratitude for the Lord's providence would have been complete obedience to the summons of the Lord. Jacob shows us in this passage that none of us are ever immune from the temptation of ingratitude. No matter how great the gift that God has just given us, none of us are beyond being ungrateful for it and falling into the temptation of disobedience. That is exactly what Jacob did here, and he paid for it dearly as revealed in Genesis 34. Because God loves us so much, He will not allow us to become comfortable in disobedience. When we fall short of that obedience we endanger ourselves, and God disciplines us until He brings us out of it. Those lessons are for all of us, just as surely as they were for Jacob. May God speak to our hearts with His lessons designed just for us.