From Graciousness to Grace (Reflections on Genesis 33)

Hey, everyone.

Here’s something a little different, I guess. It’s been a while since I posted on here, but just so you know I didn’t slip off the face of the earth, I figured I’d share one of my reflections with you today. I’ve started reading through the Bible chapter by chapter, day by day, and today, July 24, was Genesis chapter 33. Here’s what I got out of it:

GENESIS 33. Chanan (חָנַן) – to yearn towards, long for, be merciful, compassionate, favorable, inclined towards. Graciousness. We have encountered a derivative of this word many times before – in 6:8; 18:3; 19:19; 30:27; 32:5; and even here, in 33:8, 10, and 15 – but here we encounter it as an action, something actively poured out. These previous occurrences are the noun chen (חֵן, typically translated “favor” or “Grace”), but they are nothing without their source derivative of chanan, graciousness, without which they would cease to be. There would be no grace if there was not first a gracious person who chose to give that grace life. So we see here. As Jacob and Esau reunite, thrice Jacob says unto his brother that he desires to find favor in his sight: “To find favor in the sight of my lord” (Limso chen be’ene Adonai, v.8)…”if I have found favor in your sight” (Im na masati chen be’eneka, v.10)…”Let me find favor in the sight of my lord” (Ensa chen be’ene Adonai, v.15). And yet we see that in his acts of grace, Esau was in actuality reflecting those very qualities (attributes) that Jacob had first witnessed in the Lord: when asked of whom he was accompanied by, Jacob replied, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant” (Hayladim aser chanan Elohim et abdeka, v.5); when recognizing Esau’s grace and seeking to return such favor, as he would to the Lord, he said, “Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough” (Qah na et birkati aser hulat lak, ki chanani Elohim, waki yes li kol, v.11).

Jacob would not have recognized Esau’s grace if Esau had not first been gracious, for without that quality no grace would have been shown. Further, Jacob saw Esau’s grace as a reflection of God’s graciousness, recognizing that all grace (chen) must be rooted first in one who is gracious (chanan), and thus any humanly act of grace may only be a display of He who was at the first gracious, because if not for the eternal God having been a gracious God, no grace would have been born for humans to thus try to imitate. So human grace is founded upon human graciousness, but human graciousness is found as a replication or imitation – a reflection – of that divine grace that is shown to us, grace that is rooted in the graciousness of God. And when one experiences this eternal grace – which is evident in our every breath, yet fully realized in its soteriological power (Eph 2:8-9) – and understands the graciousness of God, they recognize that they are complete, that they have enough! This graciousness lies at the heart of love, and so one who experiences this grace has experienced perfect love, the unconditional love of God as opposed to the conditional love of man.

And if this perfect love is governed by grace, then why should we fear? For fear has to do with punishment, conditionality, give-and-take, gain-and-loss, but who can give to one who needs nothing and who can take from one who has nothing left to give? How can one who is complete gain or lose anything if his completion is unconditional? How can punishment be handed to one who is governed by grace?

And so we see that graciousness gives birth go grace, and grace to unconditional love, and when one has tasted and accepted this love – demonstrated in its full capacity by the God of creation hanging from a tree – they become like a tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in season! (Ps 1) And so eternal life has begun, for what once was dead has come to life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil now exchanged for the tree of life, from which one eats and lives forever. For from the tree of life comes all the fruit of the Spirit – this because we are only alive when the Spirit enters into us. (If we are the tree planted by streams, then only the Sprit could be the streams, for surely it was the Spirit that Christ referred to when He said, “The water that I will give to him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).).

So graciousness births grace, and grace love, and love life, for no one who recognizes and places their hope in that grace will not experience that life. This we call “faith,” and we see that faith is here synonymous with love, for love was that which bridge grace and life. Yet this love, this faith, is not the love, the faith, of the world. The love of the world is conditional and based on human emotion, and when it comes to faithfulness they are all adulterers; this love that we sepeaks of is unconditional, love rooted in desire, yes, but obligation as well. Thus when we speak of faith, it is synonymous with love, for it is our unconditional love (which is to say, commitment), governed by grace, that orders us to maintain our faithfulness, both in our service to God and in our gracefulness to man. So graciousness yields grace and grace yields love and this love we call “faith” and through faith we receive life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:8). By our dedicated love for God – faith – we have received life, and in receiving life we have been brought to completion, have been made enough.

Yet this grace, this love, this faith…it is not stagnant. No, for as we have established, it is “welling up”; we are planted by flowing streams; as Christ said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’”(Jn 7:38). Having experienced the grace (chen), we must now be gracious (chanan)! The water is living – it is flowing, welling up, and has a current! It is moving! We have experienced the noun, but must take action, must become the verb. By grace we become gracious, and by graciousness we impart grace, so that multiplication continues and soon the stream has become a sea and the sea an ocean! “Teacher, what is the great commandment of the Law?” … “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:36-39). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

They are inseparable – loving God, loving man, they must go together! Yet we must love both in the same way, for a new commandment was given: not just to love as we love ourselves (which we often do to a fault), but as He loved us. Unconditionally! Gracefully! Graciousness births grace and grace births love and this love is called faith and this faith brings life and through that life we have graciousness in ourselves, that within our completion, we can likewise give birth to more grace, that life will flow from us like streams and our Gospel may be, “[These are] the children (which is, to say, the fruit of the Spirit) whom God has graciously given your servant…Please accept my blessing (grace, love) that is brought to you, because God has dealt gracious with me (I, once dead, am now alive, and you can be too!), and because I have enough (for Christ is enough for me)” (Gen 33:5,11