“For to see your face is like seeing the face of God” Genesis 33.10From David King
I’m not a big fan of mirrors. I go through the day thinking that I might be vaguely presentable, only to be shocked into reality by a mirror. In fact one of the truly awful design features of our bathroom is that the mirror stands opposite the door to the shower – who thought that was a good idea!
And yet mirrors are really important, they help us to see reality.
In my last post, I wrote of how Jacob’s story points to how God uses difficult times and circumstances to mould us and grow us, so I thought it would be good to consider how God did that in the example of Jacob’s wrestling. It turns out that the key way God does this, is by holding up two people in Jacob’s life as mirrors. So let’s consider them:
Laban – the mirror reflecting Jacob
The main cause of Jacob’s struggles is he himself, but the second biggest cause is his uncle Laban. Laban in the story is a devious liar and cheat. Or to put it another way, he’s just like Jacob. Jacob finds himself wrestling with Laban’s plotting and cheating, but in so doing sees a man who has acted just like him. The most startling example of this is the trick played on Jacob in his marriage to Leah (Genesis 29.15-27). In it, Laban takes advantage of the fact that Jacob can’t see (either because of the veil, the dark or that he is blind drunk), in order to deceive him into marrying Laban’s elder daughter Leah, rather than the younger daughter, Rachel, whom Jacob wanted to marry.
As we listen to the story we are meant to hear echoes of the time when Jacob deceived his father, by taking advantage of his blindness. Even more than that, there are parallels to do with the older and younger of two siblings. Jacob (the younger brother) deceived his father Isaac in order to gain the blessing that was due his older brother. Laban deceived Jacob in order to make sure that the younger sister didn’t get the blessing of marrying first – a privilege that was due the older sister in that culture.
In all this, God is using Laban as a mirror to help Jacob realise what Jacob is really like. But also so that Jacob will see the impact of his sin. Jacob would have suffered from the same flaw we have, the tendency to think that we are better than we are – that somehow our actions aren’t as bad as those of other people – that they are justified, but God uses Laban to wake Jacob up to the reality of what he is really like.
So a question for us today is, has God put someone in our life as a mirror on ourselves? How would you know? Well a sign would be that they really irritate you or even anger you and you have become really critical of them. In fact, if you are honest, your anger and criticism is excessive. I know recently how I was really critical of how someone had treated me, only to realise that I had treated someone else in exactly the same way in the past. So when you find yourself angry or critical of someone else, stop to pray. Ask the Lord, “Jesus are you using this person as a mirror for me?”
But there is a another mirror in the story of Jacob
Esau – the mirror reflecting Jesus
The verse above is a very curious one. It follows a night that proves to be the turning point in Jacob’s life. The night starts with Jacob all alone. He has news that his brother, Esau, whom he had wronged and who had wanted to kill Jacob is approaching with the resources to destroy him. In the middle of the night, Jacob ends up wrestling God and, in so doing, sees God face to face (32.30). The next day when he meets his brother, Jacob cries out, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God.”
What is this parallel which Jacob is drawing? When Jacob meets God in the night, Jacob has failed time and time again. Throughout his life he has lied, cheated and manipulated. Meeting God face to face should result in his death – Jacob knows that. Instead, God gives him blessing. God shows him grace.
Then when he meets the Esau whom he has cheated out of his rightful blessing, who had every right to seek revenge, Esau’s acts don’t look like the acts of a wronged brother. Esau greets Jacob, not with a blow but with an embrace; not in exacting payment, but in displaying grace; not in requiring revenge but in showing mercy. In other words, Jacob sees in Esau a reflection of Jesus. One of the lovely things about reading the Old Testament (the part of the bible that came before Jesus and looked forward to him), is that you see characters that reflect something of Jesus. If you like, they are mirrors of Jesus. None of them are perfect reflections, but they help us to see Jesus more clearly. Esau is one of these, but so are some of the fellow believers we know today.
So, as you look around the church family, you might meet some Labans whom God is using to mirror your heart, but make sure that you also keep your eyes open for the Esaus, those who show you more of Jesus.