SERMON TITLE: FORGIVENESS: A REFLECTION OF GOD’S REDEEMING LOVE
SERMON TEXT: “ ... to see your face is like seeing the face of God”(Genesis 33:10).
SERMON THESIS: Forgiveness on the part of the person wronged reflects God’s redeeming love.
INTRODUCTION: There are different ways in which we communicate with others. One way, of course, is verbally. That is to say, through the spoken word. Another way in which we communicate with others is through what is called nonverbal communication. That is to say, body language. Concerning nonverbal communication, the face is, perhaps, the most important part of the human anatomy that we use in nonverbal communication. With the use of facial expressions, we communicate feelings of joy, sadness, grief, disbelief, anger, contentment, questioning, fear, sorrow, displeasure, excitement, disappointment, etc. In biblical language, the face, can communicate either a blessing or a curse.
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace' (Numbers 6:22-26).
Then on the curse side, we hear the Psalmist say...
“My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with shame at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge” (Psalm 44:15 NIV).
The face, you see, in biblical language reveals the very presence of God. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, with the Ten Commandments in his hand, the Bible says...
“It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses' hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him” (Exodus 34:29).
Then in the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul wrote...
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
Nonverbally, we communicate with others through our facial expressions. In our text, it was in the face of Esau in which Jacob saw the image and likeness of God, revealed through his act of forgiveness. Jacob said, “... to see your face is like seeing the face of God”(v. 10). I submit to you that the image and likeness of God is never more readily reflected in the face of another person as it is in the act of forgiveness.
In this message, I am going to share with you three principles from our text, Genesis 33:1-11, that reveal when the image of God is most reflected in the human face. Thus the question: When is the image of God most revealed/reflected in the human face?
I. WHEN THERE IS ACCEPTANCE AND FORGIVENESS TOWARD THE PERSON WHO HAS WRONGED YOU. As seen in our text, there was acceptance and forgiveness shown toward Jacob, on the part of his brother Esau. Jacob, in turn, was moved deeply by Esau’s forgiving kindness. He saw in his brother’s face, “the face of God.” The Bible says...
“Jacob said, "No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably” (Genesis 33:10).
Thus the question, “When is the image of God most revealed in the human face? This question has been answered like this, “The forgiveness and acceptance which people see in another’s face may remind them of God.” You and I are reminded of God’s forgiveness toward us when Jesus cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:34). If we could have seen Jesus’ face as He spoke these words of forgiveness from the cross, we would have beheld the face of God.
As seen in the forgiveness Esau gave Jacob, when we accept and forgive someone who has wrong us, our face to the one forgiven will be like seeing the face of God.
Second, When is the image of God most reflected in the human face?
II. WHEN THE UNNATURAL ACT OF FORGIVENESS IS DEMONSTRATED ON THE PART OF THE OFFENDED. The Bible says, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept” (Gen. 33:4). You might ask, “What is wrong with this picture?” What is wrong with this picture is that forgiveness is unnatural. Esau had been offended twenty years earlier by his brother, Jacob, and the natural thing to do would be to kill him. In fact, this is what Easu had threatened to do immediately after Jacob had stolen his blessing some twenty years earlier. The Bible says...
“So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob." (Genesis 27:41).
1. It was unnatural for Esau to forgive Jacob because of what he had lost. The Bible tells us what Esau had lost...
“Then he said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing." And he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" But Isaac replied to Esau, "Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?" Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father." So Esau lifted his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, "Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. "By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck" (Genesis 27:36-40).
Not only had Jacob robbed Esau of his birthright, he had stolen his blessing as well. In light of all that had gone before, the natural thing for Esau to do to his brother, Jacob, as he had planned, would be to get even.
2. It was natural for Esau to get even, but he chose to do the unnatural thing. He chose to forgive his brother, Jacob. Again the Bible says, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him”(v. 4). This was the Godlike thing to do. The thing which he did was more Godlike than human. It was in this act of forgiveness on the part of Jacob’s brother, Esau, that Jacob saw the likeness of God, in the face of his brother. He said, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God”(v. 10).
Question: Have you done the Godlike thing toward the person who has wronged you? Or have you done what comes natural? At a previous pastorate, a staff member said to me, “You have gone beyond forgiveness!” That statement sure sounded strange to me as I remembered how Jesus responded to Peter’s question concerning forgiveness in The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant...
“Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).
When we do the unnatural thing, forgiving those who have wronged us, we are reflecting God’s redeeming love to others.
Third, When is the image of God most reflected in the human face?
III. WHEN NOTHING IS EXPECTED IN RETURN FROM THE ONE WHO IS SEEKING FORGIVENESS. Esau did not expect anything from his brother Jacob. He said to him, “I already have plenty, my brother, keep what you have for yourself” (Gen. 33:9).
One writer said, “The best way to reflect God to others is to forgive them freely, expecting nothing in return.” True forgiveness does not demand“tit for tat,” “eye for eye,” “tooth for tooth,” “No I owe you’s,” nor does true forgiveness demand a “pound of flesh.” After all, according to Paul, love “keeps no records of wrongs”(I Cor. 13:5). As seen in the behavior of Esau, toward Jacob, he had not kept a list of wrongs suffered.
CONCLUSION: Have you been reflecting God to others by forgiving them freely? As a lost person, will you come to the Lord Jesus Christ, just as you are? Jacob discovered that he could not earn, nor did he deserve his brother’s forgiveness. The same is true of the lost person. They cannot earn God’s forgiveness, nor do they deserve it. God offers it freely with no strings attached. Lost person will you receive His forgiveness today? The choice is yours!!