Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pre-meditating Murder -- Genesis 27:41

So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

There is no doubt Jacob twice supplanted Esau. We could assign responsibility to Esau himself for losing his birthright to Jacob, but clearly he was not to blame for the loss of his blessing as the firstborn. What he ended up with was indeed a raw deal in comparison. So, Esau held a grudge against his younger brother Jacob because of the nature of their individual blessings.

Here was a man who found himself most unhappy with what life offered him through the trickery or sin of others. Evil exists. It impacts people. And sometimes the evil undertaken by others impacts us. Your spouse is unfaithful and wants a divorce. You are an innocent bystander in a mall or walking down the street and get crippled for life in the crossfire of a gang shooting. Your loved one is killed because someone succumbed to too much alcohol and insisted on getting behind the wheel of a car. Your spouse or child or parent is maimed in a war our country was simply helping restore peace in. The list is endless. The consequences are basically all the same – you feel cheated. You are definitely sad. You may even be angry. But once you are over the shock and the reality of the ongoing impact on your life hits you, there is a moment in time when you have to make one of the most crucial decisions you will ever make. It is at this point you can become bitter, bear a grudge, and even plot to take revenge. In short, you succumb to the inner pressure of becoming evil yourself. Your alternative is to accept your lot in life, take the lemon you’ve been served and turn it into lemonade by adding all the sugar you can find within you. In short, you go on doing good and living your life as best you can with God’s help. And as part of that, you turn the matter of payback or revenge or bringing about justice to the evildoer into the hands of God. Esau clearly rejected this alternative and chose the former approach, preferring bitterness.

It would be helpful here to realize some of the causes that help contribute to one’s decision as to which approach is pursued. First, there is the aspect of one’s personality and whether or not they are prone to take matters into their own hands. If I am a fighter by nature, I will want to gain back what I believe is rightfully mine. If I am a peacekeeper, then I would be content to accept what the other person has done, perhaps even arguing they were wrong and didn’t know better, and then move on with my life somewhere else or somehow differently. Second, there is also the issue of how one views God’s role in one’s life. If I believe Him to be Who the Bible tells me He is and have a personal relationship with God, then I am more likely to accept what has happened as something that He is aware of, something He will take care of with respect to justice being done, and a situation wherein He will provide for me.

Finally, one of the most detrimental paths one can follow in life also applies very well to the case of how one deals with the impact of evil caused by others. And that is the path of comparison. Esau compared his blessing to that of Jacob’s. He found it difficult to see any of the benefits in it and focused solely on what his brother got and he didn’t. Life is certainly not fair at all times. Some are blessed more than others. Some will always have more than what we have. Comparison in such cases only makes us unhappy with what we possess, be it money, things, relationships, or talents. Comparison in itself may have its benefits. For years, I compared my ability to play backgammon to that of my dad’s. As I watched how he played, one of my goals was to raise my backgammon ability to be closer to his. Many successful athletes, actors, artists, speakers, writers and others in just about any other walk of life, have benefited from aspiring to be like someone else. There is nothing wrong with that. As Christians we are to aspire to be like the Apostle Paul or more importantly to be more and more Christ-like. But all that requires great commitment, discipline, and sacrifice on our part. However, in that approach there is to be no element of us getting more or becoming better to the detriment of the person we are comparing ourselves to. There are no quick fixes. When comparison leads to a quick fix as in the case of Esau and his plan, one has embarked on the wrong path.

And that’s where we find Esau as this passage ends. He plans to kill his brother because Jacob has cheated him. But out of respect to his aging father, he is prepared to wait until Isaac dies. He knew that was not too far in the distance. This is the first clear case of a planned, pre-meditated murder that we read about in Scripture. While Cain had killed Abel, the Bible records that it just happened while they were out in the field together. In this instant case, Esau consciously plans to murder his brother at some point in the future. One does wonder, however, what he may have done had his father been much younger and in good health.

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