Esau, the Hero?

img_20161110_095240I love Old Testament stories from the Bible. I know many of them like I know my own hand. I see myself in them at times. I think that’s a sign of maturity. Before, all I could do was look at them and think, “Wow! They did what?” And, “How could they not believe God if he said he would do it?” Oh, it’s easy to rail and condemn … until you’ve lived through similar circumstances. Some of my best loved and most encouraging tales are of those “rejected by man but later revealed to be handpicked by God.” (George Johnson)

I give you the example of Esau and Jacob, fraternal twins. Esau grew up beloved of their father, Isaac. Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. Esau was wild and hairy, an outdoors-man and likely every thing a man could want in a son. He was the epitome of macho. But his younger brother stayed at home. Jacob grew up near his mother, attached to her apron strings, likely tending livestock as he would later do for his Uncle Laban. Jacob was not a hunter and rugged like Esau. But he was cunning. Jacob and his mother plotted to trick Esau out of his blessing (he’d already foolishly given away his birthright to Jacob). Because Esau’s anger was so great, Rebekah sent Jacob away fearing that his brother would kill her dearest son.

While on the run, Jacob found God and began to serve him. The Lord blessed Jacob, raining blessings that continue to follow his descendants to this day. But Jacob had to deal with his own thorn – the deceit of his Uncle Laban. From the onset Laban lied. He tricked Jacob into marrying his daughter Leah when Jacob really loved Rachel. Then Laban repeatedly changed the terms under which Jacob labored. Jacob reaped what he’d done to his brother Esau many times over and had a long while (at least 14 years) to think about it. Time has a way of doing that, causing us to soften our views and regret some of the decisions we’ve made. One day, Jacob decided he’d had enough of Laban’s lies, took his family and ran. Laban caught up with his daughters and son-in-law but being warned of God, merely kissed his family good bye. He and Jacob made a pact to not harm each other and Jacob promised to take good care of his wives.

Jacob returned to his homeland, after a wrestling match with an Angel of the Lord and receiving his new name (Israel), to find his brother, Esau, coming to meet them. “Oh, God,” he must have thought. Now, I have to meet the man I have so grievously wronged. Having been cheated by Laban, Jacob surely fully understood by this time what he’d done to his brother. He prepared to meet Esau with trepidation, dividing the women and children into camps to ensure someone would get away. He sent droves of animals ahead of him as gifts for his brother, hoping to soften him up for the reunion. Jacob was afraid, well and truly, not only because of retribution but because it was deserved. But when he finally saw Esau, something strange and unforeseen occurred:

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. (Genesis 33:4)

In this, Jacob knew that his brother, with whom he’d shared a womb, missed and forgave him. Esau inquired of all the animals that came before the party. When told they were gifts, Esau replied, “Keep them, I have plenty.” You see, in all those years, Esau had done some thinking, too. He’d had time to come to terms with what happened. But also, he saw that whatever blessing Jacob had taken away didn’t prevent him from also being blessed. God had given Esau a good life, as well, just because he was Isaac’s son and descended from Abraham. And maybe because Esau, too, had undergone a change of heart.

I see now in this story two examples: both Jacob and Esau were rejected in the beginning by either parent. But they both came into their own blessing and gift with no need to be jealous of, or compete, with the other. Each had plenty. Many things are said of Esau in the Bible, not often good. He was despised of God, perhaps because of his haughty spirit. Or maybe simply because God wanted to turn the order of things on end, having the eldest serve the younger, as He is often wont to do. But I have learned something about Esau that is not mentioned in the Bible – his capacity for love. And I’m not just talking about brotherly love, I mean agape love, that love that forgives the ugliest of sins and offenses against us. Godly love. Who woulda thunk that the oft maligned Esau would prove to be such an example?

I said all that to say this: You never know what someone will do or who they will turn out to be. They may surprise you – in a good way. Donald Trump has been elected President of these United States, incredulously. Someone that began as the butt of jokes has turned the tables and is now become leader of the free world. I take heart in Esau’s example today, for he also began as a despicable man, the villain in the story. He eventually came to be a man able to minister grace and mercy to his offender. God is able to heal relationships and this country. Whatever your party affiliation, I suggest you pray for DT and his reign, and not in a negative way, because what he will do affects us all. Perhaps, he will prove to be like Solomon, who asked the Lord for wisdom to rule the great kingdom of Israel at the beginning of his reign. I believe and hope for the best but the truth is, we won’t know for about four more years just how all of this will impact us. Whether he turns out to be good or bad, time will reveal. But this I do know, if he is President, God has ordained it, for whatever reason. “We may throw the dice, but the LORD determines how they fall.” (Proverbs 16:33) May the Lord bless and keep us all.


2 Responses

  1. George


    • loriaboyle

      George, so true! I am dismayed at the number of Christians that staunchly support ANY candidate and become so bitterly embroiled in political battles. America is looking for a savior, but they won’t find him in the white house. We, of all people, should know this.

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