When Jacob met Esau, many years after virtually stealing Esau’s birthright, he didn’t simply bring a gift. Jacob brought his estranged and rightfully angry brother an “approach present,” an offering to make amends for the ill will that Jacob’s actions toward his brother had caused. Here’s the brief exchange at their reunion:
If now I have found grace in your eyes, then you must take my approach present from my hand because I have seen your face as one sees the face of Elohim, and you are benevolent toward me. Please take my blessing gift that I have brought to you, for Elohim [God] has been gracious to me, and because I have everything. (Genesis 34:10-11, Concordant Literal Version – CLV)
Most translations (or versions) of the Bible only read, “present,” “gift,” or “blessing,” therefore missing the importance of “approach present.”
The critical difference between Jacob’s approach present and blessing gift, and a mere present or gift — like a dad bringing a present to his son after returning home from a business trip — is that Jacob’s approach present was an act of humble, earnest offering. Jacob fell at Esau‘s feet with his face to the ground, pleading for grace from his brother, whom Jacob recognized as one whom he had wronged and who was more powerful than he. Jacob’s approach present was an offering he carried to Esau to somehow make up for the wrong he had done to his brother, who had every right to be angry enough to wipe Jacob out.
What does this have to do with us? Fast forward with me into Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where the same distinction between approach present and gift is even more critical for us to grasp.
Most Bible versions render Ephesians 2:8 this way:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (NIV)
That’s nice, but look at it from the Concordant Literal New Testament, translated directly from Greek:
“For in grace, through faith, are you saved, and this is not out of you; it is God’s approach present…”
We’ve already seen how an approach present is vastly more significant than a gift.
Now, for the first and only time in all of scripture, God — the Father — carries an offering to us: His grace that saves us through faith! Throughout the rest of scripture, the direction of offering was always the reverse: man always brought approach presents to God.
“God’s approach present” has been virtually lost for nearly 2,000 years, relegated to a the status of a mere “gift,” which we toss around almost as casually as we ourselves give gifts to others.
The picture of God carrying an offering to human beings is unprecedented and confronts us with His love for us that is so determined that He offers not only His Son, but through Him, His favor — His grace — that saves us out of death and into life, through Jesus Christ’s faith and then ours.
God’s approach present is indeed a magnificent picture we would do well to hold before us constantly.
Blessings and Joy in the journey.