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Posts Tagged ‘Esau’

Photo by Yasar Vurdem, Turkey.

Photo by Yasar Vurdem, Turkey.

How many people think “I am going to die anyway” as justification for their choices? Is it any wonder, that such a form of hopelessness would drive them to despair and even despicable acts? How and when is that seed planted?

 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright today.” Esau said, “Since I’m going to die anyway, what good is my birthright to me?” [Genesis 25:31-32, CEB]

Was Esau just playing the drama queen because he was so hungry but too lazy to make his own meal? Or, was his life such that he had little to embrace as valuable? He was a man of the hunt; perhaps his life was on the line each time he went out into the wilderness. Perhaps he had experienced near death experiences? In any case, he was a man of the moment. The future held no interest for him.

This way of thinking is such a trap. I see my own son making choices that smack of this attitude, not in the least depressing at face value, just cavalier about the day, not looking at how the day’s choices might impact the next day or week or year. Has our culture spawned more and more of this attitude? Is it generational? I really don’t know.

Some time ago, my brother went through a very difficult patch in his life, his career and marriage in shambles, he was depressed. As the good sister, I had to ask, are you in danger of hurting yourself? His answer encouraged and comforted me: “Never. No matter what might happen today, tomorrow is another day and anything can happen to change my circumstances.”

This is an answer of faith, whether in the resiliency of oneself or in God. It is an answer of hope. May I have such courage always.

The second message in this passage is the danger of the other person. In this passage, that would be Jacob who seemed quite willing to take advantage of Esau’s situation, his blustering attitude, his shortsightedness. We must beware of such people in our own lives. The enemy, who might come to us as “friend” or family member, comes to snatch away from the hopeless. It is a sorrow. Hopelessness opens the heart to greater damage.

Holy Spirit, guard my heart.

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moving onThe reunion story between Jacob and Esau is the Old Testament way of foreshadowing grace to come. Esau had every right to resent Jacob and even hate him for Jacob’s deceptions. Instead, he extended unmerited grace. Time did the first part of the healing (over twenty years) and the two brothers did the rest. They chose to let go of the past.

Genesis 33:1a, 3-4
Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men . . . He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

They didn’t talk about the past, but they both knew what had happened between them. Jacob poured out his plea through the giving of very generous gifts (220 goats, 230 sheep, 30 camels plus their young, 50 cows and bulls, and 30 donkeys). Then, when he himself came forward, he bowed down seven times (and his children likewise). This gesture in this time and culture indicated that the other person was superior. By bowing seven times, Jacob was accepting the position of vassal to Esau. (See discussion by Dr. Claude Mariottini)

Instead, like the story of the prodigal son, Esau greets his brother warmly with an embrace. We do not know if this change of heart was from the beginning when he first heard of Jacob’s coming or if Esau’s heart was touched by the gifts and Jacob’s obeisance. Nonetheless, their embrace was a willingness on Esau’s part to start over. To let go of the vows for revenge and deceptions.

But Jacob does an interesting thing. Despite Esau’s offer to accompany Jacob or leave additional men, Jacob demurs. I see this as wisdom. Their unspoken agreement is tenuous at best. It’s one thing to initiate peace but another to live it. By keeping their households apart (Jacob buys land near Shechem), they can have their understanding without putting themselves at close proximity where old habits and memories could peck away at their resolve to live amiably.

In the same way should we remember this wisdom. When we forgive, especially in those most difficult cases (abuse, brokenness, and a bevy of other human sorrows), we should not expect the heart to follow quickly. Instead, we must give space and time and new patterns to develop.

I can choose to relinquish my losses from the past, but I must still be wise in building my future.

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hamsterPoor Esau. I mean it, really. Loses his birthright at the hands of his clever brother and then loses his blessing. In the natural order, he was “due” both of these things, and yet, at birth, it was prophesied while still in the womb that one would be stronger than the other and the older would serve the younger. Isaac’s blessing merely hammered that one home.

Genesis 27:34-35
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

So, what is left for Esau? What blessing does he get? Nothing much to write home to Mom about: no fruitfulness from the earth, no dew from heaven, live by the sword and serve your brother.

Like a little hamster on a wheel, much energy with no reward. Esau’s fate was being put through a very narrow opening. He lost so much and did not realize the true seriousness of it until it was too late.

Am I the same? Haven’t there been warnings along the way? Didn’t I know my choices were taking me down the road? Didn’t I sense trouble? I did, but didn’t trust it. I just kept on. Forged ahead. Assumed it was fine. All would be well.

Of course, in some ways, that is true. God showed up and did some circumstantial transformation. But there was a great cost. There were many losses along the way. I didn’t come to the things of God until my late twenties, a failed marriage, a failed career, and an isolation that can be called loneliness in the midst of chaos.

We all make mistakes in those years, don’t we? If only, if only, we had paid attention. Esau didn’t. I didn’t. So, the end has come out better than I deserved. Truly. But I know, in my heart, I know, I missed the blessing originally intended for me. I neglected the opportunity.

But, the grace of God is still greater than my error. I have a life, a family, children, a house, a car, a job. I have a comfort that is beyond anything I expected or deserved. I see that clearly. But I still remember those other days, those days when I lost the blessing intended for me. Not by the deceit of another, but by my own near-sightedness.

Forgive me Father.

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EsauLook, Esau was a simple man. He enjoyed simple pleasures and an outdoor life. Although he becomes bitter when his twin brother Jacob betrays him later, there is no real animosity at this point in the story. Esau, like most young men and teenagers, was not forward thinking. He was living a good life and no reason to believe anything would change. What would his birthright change for him?

Genesis:25:29-32
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom. Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

I looked it up, the implications of losing one’s birthright as first born son. Financially, it would be substantial, since the birthright actually takes the value of another son. Therefore, if Esau and Jacob were the only sons, the inheritance would be divided three ways: one for Jacob and two for Esau because of his birthright. But it’s possible, in Esau’s eyes, he didn’t need it or want it. Abraham was a truly wealthy man, like the Bill Gates of our world, sometimes the difference between inheriting 14 million or 7 million is almost moot. It’s a lot of money either way.

But we are a nation of money counting. Why, even people who share lottery tickets figure out their share before a single number has been drawn. We cannot imagine anyone not wanting their “fair share.”

Of course, this is all speculation. Perhaps it is like the commentators say, Esau was such a buffoon, he gave up his birthright share for a cup of soup. Maybe he didn’t really consider it binding. Who knows? But clearly, it was Jacob who was intent on the omen of God’s words to his mother, that he, the younger, would rule the older. Perhaps Jacob was the studious one and knew that the family laws of first born would prevent the predicted outcome. He just had to be sure. And like his grandparents Abraham and Sarah, he believed he had to step in and help things along. Jacob, taking matters into his own hands (along with Mom), in an effort to hurry things along, changed the course of everything.

How often do I do the same thing? How often do I push matters along because God seems to be acting (or reacting) too slowly?

God forgive me for taking advantage of the Esau’s in my life who don’t see situations the way I see them. Forgive me for leapfrogging over those people and their way of life. Forgive me for not trusting your way, your timing, your promises.

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