By Robert Wayne La Coste
It would appear from the outset that Jacob and Esau were destined to have problems between them. The Scriptures reveal that even while in their mother’s womb, “the children struggled together within her” (Gen. 25:22).
Parental partiality didn’t seem to help their relationship either. The Genesis account continues. “And Isaac loved Esau . . . but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Gen. 25:28).
From their youth up they simply did not treat each other as brothers. Esau was a flippant personality that took important items for granted. For a small portion of food, he sold his birthright. Jacob, taking obvious advantage of his brother’s hunger, bought a valuable commodity for a little of nothing.
Finally, to add insult to injury, Jacob lied to his own father, telling the aged and infirmed Isaac that he was Esau, so as to receive his blessing before he died. In receiving such a blessing, Jacob was in essence made Lord over Esau in all things. The elder would be subject to the younger. The behavior of both sons, particularly to each other as brothers is without excuse. While it is evident that God’s decision was to choose Jacob over Esau (“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” – Rom. 9:13), let no one think that God condones the chicanery of any man.
Many years passed between these events and the time that Esau and Jacob would see each other again. It seems almost like poetic justice that, in view of how Jacob had treated his brother he similarly should be treated by his fatherin-law, Laban. His love for Rachel constrained him however, and she finally became his wife after additional years of service to Laban.
God blessed Jacob with many children and many possessions. He became a wealthy man with many flocks and herds (Gen. 32:5). He eventually departed from Laban and took his family and all his possessions nigh unto the land of Seir, the land of his brother Esau. He sent messengers unto Esau that he might “find grace in his sight.” The messengers returned telling Jacob that Esau was coming out to meet him with 400 men! Upon hearing of this, Jacob was greatly distressed. He was so afraid he made plans to divide his people, lest they all be smitten when his brother came (Gen. 32:1-8). Is it not all together possible Jacob was afraid because of what had happened in the past? He knew what he had done to his brother. He knew of Esau’s hatred for him and he knew he and his family would surely be at Esau’s mercy.
Jacob’s fear compelled him to pray to God to be delivered from the hand of Esau (Gen. 32:9-12). He could only wait for what appeared to be impending doom!
Upon the appearance of Esau, Jacob divided his family as he had purposed to do (Gen. 33:1-2). He bowed seven times as he approached the man who would surely be his executioner. Would Esau thrust him through with the sword? Would he capture Jacob and make him watch his wives and children tortured and killed for the horrible things early in life he had done to him? Would Esau make Jacob’s family watch as Esau tortured Jacob before them? The Scripture then reads that “Esau ran to meet him.” Perhaps he was running in great haste to take his revenge. Finally at last he would have retribution. But no, something else is about to happen! Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him: and they wept.”
What? How can this be happening after all the bad deeds, hatred and years that had come between them? How? Let’s make some appropriate observations and in these observations, dear reader, let us make our teaching relevant!
Isaac and Rebekah like all parents had their faults, but they were righteous people. Even righteous people make mistakes. It’s just that mistakes with the righteous are the exception and not the rule and when one looks at the lives of these two parents, such lives are evident. Therefore, even their children are not always going to be what they should be.
Sometimes similar actions exist with all the same feelings, and emotions that divide brethren of the Lord. Brethren, perhaps not even intentionally, will take advantage of brethren, lie, cheat or in some other way hurt them. It’s wrong and it’s sinful. However, have not both come from the same spiritual parentage? Have they not both become brother or sisters in the same way? All Christians who indeed are such, became such by being “born again of the water and of the spirit” (Jn. 3:5). Paul put it this way, “For ye are all the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). Yes, by faith in Christ Jesus, we who were baptized into Christ became God’s children and consequently brethren.
In being properly taught the things of God, is there doubt they were taught the importance of family and brotherly kindness? What about the virtues of humility and selflessness? Though Jacob and Esau may have often forgotten at times these matters, they came back to them and as might be expected, to one another!
Brethren, we must do likewise. We must come together on the truth of God; that must forevermore also be our foundation! When there are barriers between God’s people, pray tell, who put them there? Surely the Father has not. We put them there and we must do all we can to take them away! I for one, have been greatly encouraged by the recent meetings of brethren both in Nashville and Dallas in an effort to do this very thing. It is my prayer that such meetings will continue. Of course, though I’m an optimist, I’m also a realist. There may never be the unity existent among brethren that once was existent, but at least we can try, yea we must try! If we do not at least try, then we have failed the Lord in one of the most serious of commandments ‘ “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
Speaking of trying, how about the local church when problems arise? Should we not like Esau and Jacob at least try to reconcile our differences? I seriously doubt that our wounds could ever be greater than the ones Esau and Jacob inflicted on each other and yet they were still brothers. No power on earth could change that fact. It’s as though this fact helped them find a way. There was a day that finally came and a common ground of mutual understanding that finally was made manifest. No, it didn’t happen overnight, but Jacob and Esau found a way. It’s as though their brotherly tie surmounted and surpassed all obstacles! As they made their approach toward each other and as they finally laid eyes on each other and then embraced as brethren, the past seemed to vanish as though it had never happened. Even if Esau had vindictive plans in route to Jacob, even if his temper burned within him, it all melted at the sight of his brother Jacob.
Brethren, we can not live and dwell upon the past. It will make us bitter and cold to those we should love the most and finally we will quit serving the Lord all together, because after all, “he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)
It Does Take Two
Like man’s reconciliation to God, it takes action on the part of both parties. Of course, God stands ready at all times to have fellowship with man. God has shared the terms of reconciliation to man, thus showing his willingness to be one with him, but man must accept the terms of reconciliation by way of obedience.
If one brother wants to be reconciled and yet the other will not, then they will never be reconciled. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, he ran to meet his father, and in turn his father met him on the road home. Surely, this must be our attitude. Brethren, we must be willing to meet each other half way and then go all the way with each other home! Home to the Lord. Home to the truth. Home, the most precious of places.
The story of Jacob and Esau like so many others of the past have been preserved by God “for our learning and admonition” (1 Cor. 10:11). What shall we learn brethren? More importantly, what shall we do with our differences? One day we must stand before the great judge of all the earth. What a difference in judgment there will be of those who at least tried to be a brother in God’s family!
The best way to be a proper brother or sister is to strive to be God’s son or daughter. When God is first and when his word is first in my heart and yours, then you and I will always, somehow, find a way!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 460-461
August 1, 1991