Sowing in Tears
Text: Genesis 33
Proposition: What God builds often seems unsteady, fragile, on the edge of ruin and yet what He builds lasts for eternity because it’s built to depend on Him. Introduction: ‘Sowing in tears’ refers to how we hope in God and how that shapes the way that we respond to crisis. It’s a phrase that comes from Psalm 126, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” It’s like a picture of a farmer in drought who has the seed corn that he could use to feed his family and takes it and buries it in the ground with a hope of harvest. There’s no guarantee that harvest will come but in hope, by faith, he buries what he has been clinging to and clings to God instead. To sow in tears describes the struggle to be the person God has called you to be, to learn to trust God and others when the circumstances are pulling you to only trust yourself. In the story before us this morning we see the reconciling of two brothers who haven’t seen each other for 20 years. Their relationship had always been adversarial and competitive. When they last saw one another the older brother swore he would kill the younger when he next saw him. Now the younger brother, a man named Jacob, is returning home. For 20 years he’s been someone else’s work hand, a well kept slave of sorts. If we were to read just the surface story we would see an account of two people reconciling but there is much more at stake. From this younger brother would come 12 sons, from these sons would come the nation of Israel and from Israel would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ. From the Messiah would come the sacrifice that one day brings an end to sin. From the death of sin would come the death of death and with that the very eternal life that Jesus so often talked about. So struggle, conflict, failure are part of what God uses to make people be more than they were, to take these people who sow in tears in the crisis and bring them to a place where God is more clearly seen, more powerfully evidenced. The other component to all such God designed struggle is that Satan, the enemy not only of God but of all that God seeks to achieve, which means you and I, seeks to get us to short circuit God’s plans by caving in to pride, to self justification or just to give up. Always there will be a spiritual battle behind the physical struggle. Let’s look briefly at how Jacob dealt with a crisis that could either lead to his death or to an awkward reconciliation.
1. Jacob had hoped to quietly slip back into the land of Caanan. Before he can even cross the Jordan he hears that Esau has learned about his return and is riding hard with 400 horsemen towards him. I can’t help but believe that God orchestrated that discovery for Esau. It exposed Jacob and brought him to a place of wrestling with God. God pushes us toward crisis so that we would reach out to Him, cry out to Him, that we would sow in tears.
2. Jacob looks up in the early morning dawn and sees a defeat. Likely what he actually sees is the dust of 400 horsemen as they gallop towards him. He knows the history between he and Esau but all he can really see is dust in the air. He hasn’t considered that if God could change him then God could also change Esau. He believes that Esau hates him when really all he can see is dust. Sowing in tears means that we have to stop reviewing the history of what has happened and begin to believe in what God is about to make happen.
3. Jacob moves toward Esau, in humility and respect. Seven times he bows to the ground as he approaches Esau. His whole family is walking behind him, seeing him do what he is called to do, to be a leader of his people. Before, Jacob would sacrifice others to get to where he wanted to be, now God has brought him to the place of learning how to sacrifice himself. Sowing in tears believes that in and of myself I can do nothing. My way doesn’t work, God’s way does.
4. Jacob risks moving towards Esau and in this place discovers an Esau that runs towards him, hugs him, weeps on his neck and kisses him. So what changed Esau, why were Jacob’s fears so unfounded. I think that God awakened in Esau the truth that this fraternal twin of his, this Jacob the deceiver, is his family. Their mother was dead, their father soon to be gone, this was family. The sowing in tears brought a brother back as the first promise of the harvest of faith.
Jane Erskine Stuart once wrote: “It is good that we should have to submit to what we do not understand. It teaches us the law of faith and hope. It is good that we should have to do what we should rather not, in circumstances not of our choice. It is good that there should always be something to prick us on, something to remind us that we are in an enemy’s country, belonging to a marching column. It is good that we should meet with checks and failures in what we undertake, to keep us humble and prayerful. All these things belong to sowing in tears.”
We need to always remember that Jesus, though he is the Son of God, the Savior, this Jesus also sowed in tears in order to bring a harvest of sheaves with Him. He too submitted. He too lived by the law of faith and hope. He too did what He would much rather not have had to do. He was in an enemy’s country, a man under authority, the Father’s authority. He had failures and crisis to deal with and His response was always humble and prayerful. The servant is not greater than his Master, we will sow in tears, don’t be surprised by that. Look past the surface story and see what God is seeking to do in you. Paul once said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I think that ‘all things’ has at its core the truth that God will lead me to sow in tears that I would one day come back with singing, bringing my sheaves with me.