Michael Youssef - Restoration and Restitution
We have been delighting ourselves for some time now in the past several messages of watching how the grace of God works in the life of Jacob and learning, in the process, how the grace of God works in our lives. Here we come to this point after God wrestled with Jacob, after God won and Jacob surrendered, after God blessed Jacob, after God confirmed the promise that he made to his grandfather Abraham that through him, the line of the Messiah will be born, after the joy of meeting the preincarnate Christ, after the joy of victory and the blessings of surrender, now the time has come for Jacob to face something that he avoided for 20 years. For a full blessing of surrender to take hold, there might be something that you need to do, and that's what I want to talk to you about today.
Jacob may have dreaded taking this step. What was it? Facing his brother Esau with all of the dread of the past 20 years later. Beloved, that could not have been easy. It could not have been easy. You read the text and read it carefully, you will sense that. You see, after Jacob had cheated his father and pretended to be Esau and then he received the blessing of firstborn, after his mother Rebekah told him to go away until the anger of his brother Esau subsides, after Jacob surrender and receives the blessing of God and the renewal of the promise of God, now he needs to clean up some past business. And that's not just reconciliation, it's not just reconciliation, but restitution. Parenthetically, whenever the Holy Spirit reveals to you something that took place, I don't care how many years ago, and then you're determined to make it right, restitution has to be part of that determination.
In many ways, lack of reconciliation and restitution is not only hinders our effectiveness and the effectiveness of God's blessing upon us, but it also hinders answer to prayer. Are you with me? But not only that, it will always cloud the atmosphere, not from God's side, not from God's end, but from our end. It clouds the atmosphere in our relationship with the Lord. Now, the New Testament makes that even clearer. If you inwardly experience the forgiveness of your sins from the Lord Jesus Christ, then you must outwardly express that forgiveness to those who have wronged you. The word "restitution" has been a missing word in our vocabulary in our society today. Please hear me right. Unwillingness to make restitution cheapens repentance. Unwillingness to make restitution throws doubt on the authenticity of repentance. Even partial restitution is inconsistent with true repentance.
Look with me now at Genesis 33, verse 3. You see, when Jacob's life was transformed by his surrender, as we saw in the last message, he knew in his heart that restitution and reconciliation must follow. And so he bows to Esau seven times. Seven times he bows to Esau. You ask, what's the big deal about that? Well, you see, for 20 years earlier, Jacob tricked his father and stole the firstborn blessing from his brother. Now after Jacob lost to God, now after God changed him from Jacob or Yakob into Israel, God prevails. God also changed Jacob's heart. I'm gonna say more about this, actually, in the next message. If there is a true repentance, there has to be the fruit of that repentance. If there is going to be inward transformation, then there has to be an outward demonstration. If there is going to be an inward surrender, it must be followed by outward restitution.
Some of you might be stubbornly refusing to make confession and restitution. I don't know, it's between you and God. But I can tell you that the true blessing, the full blessing, the full joy, can only fill your heart when you come clean with God and with those whom you wronged. Let me make something very, very, very, very clear here because I know somebody's gonna misunderstand me. This is a very sensitive issue, and I want to be careful. Private sins, or secret sins, need to be confessed only to the Lord. Be very careful that you go out and you blab stuff that is not that person's business. A secret sin, private sin need to be confessed to whom? The Lord. Only sinning openly against someone, only that someone has to receive your confession and your restitution. Jacob's experience of forgiveness of his sin by the Lord himself made him willing to confess his sin against his brother.
I know, I know, and you know that Jacob could have said, "My mother made me do it". Hello. I know, "The devil made me do it". And you know what? He would have been partially right. "My mother made... or after all, God's promise was to me and not to my brother Esau". He could have said, "Esau, God said, will serve me, not the other way around. God said Esau is subservient to me, not the other way around". No, no, no, no, he didn't do any of this. He bowed and he called him, "My lord Esau". I'll explain that in a minute. Because after God touched his hip, Jacob recognized his wrongdoing and therefore, no rationalization, no explanation, no justification, only the confession and restitution. Hear me right, please. Some of you may need God's touch of your hip pocket. Hello.
Martin Luther said it's the last part of the body that gets baptized. You might have been unfaithful to the Lord with the blessings and the bounties he's given you. You might have been keeping the tithes and the offering that belongs to the Lord, doesn't belong to you, but you're keeping it. You need to make restitution before it is too late. And perhaps, for some, it may be very close to being too late, but do it today. Jacob recognized the wrong he did. He confessed it, he repented of it, and then he insisted on making restitution. Bowing seven times, insisting on calling his brother, "My lord Esau" is a mark of respect. It's the expression of repentance in those days in that culture. And he insisted whether Esau needed it or not, he insisted that these gifts be accepted by his brother.
Jacob insisted that Esau would receive that restitution. When God touches your heart, when God forgives all of your sins, when God blesses you with salvation, when God ministers to you by his grace, when God exercises mercy towards you, then you have no choice but to exercise mercy toward others. You must be ready to right the wrong even if it happened 20 years ago. Let me ask you this, only between you and God, are you carrying bitterness in your heart towards someone? Are you harboring that bitterness in your life towards someone? Are you loaded with anger and resentment towards someone? Have you knowingly wronged someone? Have you knowingly took advantage of someone? Have you cheated someone? Have you cheated God and said, "Well, God doesn't need it"?
Let me plead with you. I can tell you most assuredly, there is no amount of public singing, there is no amount of public prayer, there is no amount of Bible study attendance, there is no amount of teaching and preaching that you can hear, there is no amount of preaching and teaching that you can do, because I'm speaking to the preacher as well, that will substitute for confession and restoration. Someone will say to me, "Michael, you just don't understand me. You don't understand my predicament. Michael, you just don't understand my world. I only took what is due to me". Most likely, I don't understand. The older I get, the more I'm discovering the more things I don't understand. But it doesn't matter whether I understand or not. I'm only a flawed fallen sinner saved by grace like you. What matters is God and his Word.
As Jacob insisted that Esau receive the gift, he reluctantly accepted it. Question, did Esau need it? It's very clear in the Scripture. It doesn't matter though. Did Esau appreciate it? It doesn't matter. Did Esau deserve it? It doesn't matter. You are doing this for the Lord and for you. Here's something else I don't want you to miss. The most important step is to purpose in your heart. That's the very first and most important step, you purpose in your heart. You purpose in your heart to confess. You purpose in your heart to make restitution, or you purpose in your heart to ask for forgiveness. Remember, God is the one who is working on the other end of things. He's not only working on you, but he's working on the other end. Even if the other end are not believers, it doesn't matter we're gonna see in this story in Esau right now. God will not only enable you, he will empower you. He will provide the opportunity, he will provide the resources, but you have to begin by purposing in your heart.
Let me now show you from the Scripture what I mean. You see, everything you read in the Bible about Esau, everything we know about him from the Scripture, he did not fear God. He was into himself. He was into instant gratification. He was a wild man. In fact, that's the word used here. He was a wild man, but God had already gone ahead of Jacob and he changed Esau's heart. God is working on both ends. In fact, he's working on many fronts, but he works on both ends when there is a purposing in the heart. When you're purpose in your heart to right or wrong, God will go ahead of you, God will prepare the way for you, and God will change the heart of the other person. God will do things that will absolutely surprise you.
Here's something else that will bless you if you take it to heart. Jacob and Esau never actually talked specifically about the problem or the sin. You notice that? They didn't talk about it like we like to talk things to death. I'll move on. They've never discussed in details the old hurt. They never said to each other, "Hey, let's hang out together and hash this thing out". No. They didn't say, "Hey, let's get our kids together and have a barbecue and you and I talk together, have a heart-to-heart talk". They never even got it off their chests, something we like to do, which is okay. But you know why? Do you know why? I am absolutely convinced because sometimes an embrace, an embrace can speak much more eloquently than words. Please watch this. Before God touched Jacob, before God wrestled with Jacob, Jacob sent the others and the gifts ahead of him. You notice that?
But here, after God had wrestled with him and he lost to God and God won, what happens? He goes in the front to face Esau. That's the power that God gives and only God can give. The Holy Spirit does not waste words. The Holy Spirit is the author of that book from Genesis to Revelation, amen? Now that Jacob has been conquered by God, now that he's been conquered by God himself, now he has the courage to face his past. Now that Jacob has been conquered by God, he has a renewed strength to go and face the painful past. Question, where did that renewed power and strength come from? Where'd it come from? It came from the one who changed him. You see, it's a complete job. It's a complete job. When God starts his work, it's a full job. I told you in the last message that I am one of those people absolutely delighted to be called a loser to God.
Let me tell you something else that's very important here about not resolving conflicts, not resolving past hurt and past sin. I want to tell you something very, very important about bitterness if it is not dealt with. Bitterness, if it is not dealt with biblically, biblically, it never goes away. It doesn't disappear and is forgotten. No, no, no, it goes underground. Are you with me? And that's why the Bible speaks about the root of bitterness. The root of a tree is hidden, you can't see it. It goes underground. Whenever the Bible talks about bitterness, it talks about it, not as a fruit, but as a root. Why? Because it goes under the soil of your life. And when it goes underground, it poisons the soil of your life and hurts you and a lot more people around you. Just before you think that I'm lecturing at you, trust me, trust me, I'm not.
Let me admit it to you openly, restitution, confession, it's not easy. It's not easy. Producing the fruit of repentance is not a walk in the park. I'm telling you that because I'm speaking from experience. Correcting past wrongs can put a dread in your heart. Facing past sins and wrongs can give you a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. Do I know what I'm talking about or not? But if you do it in the name of Jesus, if you do it for the sake of Jesus, and if you do it in the power of Jesus, you will receive strength that you have never experienced before and have never known before. Why do I say this? Because often, God is gonna go ahead of you, and he's gonna prepare the other party.
The question is this, what if he got to a person that you know you wronged him and he knows you wronged him, and you go and ask for his forgiveness and confession genuinely? What if he refuses? What if she refuses? Read my lips. It is not your problem. That is not your problem. It is now their problem and God's problem, amen? But why is restitution very important to you, it's very important to me, it's very important to us who love Jesus? Because it humbles us before God and man. Jacob humbled himself before Esau. Beloved, that could not be easy because it also helps us deal responsibly with the consequences of our action. It reminds us of how costly obedience is. One thing it does, it polishes our testimony. It polishes our testimony. When Esau saw his brother's true humility and a change of demeanor, when Esau saw his brother's humility in confession and repentance, he was overwhelmed. He immediately recognized that his brother became a changed of man. Beloved, one of the greatest marks of maturing in Christ is to be able to say, "I'm sorry. I wronged you". Listen to me, very few of us, including this preacher, preach on the power of asking for forgiveness.
Let me conclude by saying that there are, in the plural, unique blessings in asking for forgiveness, truly unique blessings. It will not only give you genuine peace, it will not only remove the shadows that are hanging over you, it will not only restore you to full spiritual health, but the Bible makes it very clear it will bring about answers to prayer, prayers that you have prayed for a long time and God has not answered. And I say that on the authority of God's Word because Psalm 66:18 says, "If I cherish, if I hide, if I don't confess, if I keep sin in my heart without repenting of it, and confessing it and repenting of it, God will not answer me".