January 14: Unexpected Rivalries
Genesis 25; Matthew 18; Ecclesiastes 5:12–20
When in survival mode, you have to compete against anything that could hinder your survival. Strong competitors, like professional athletes, often can’t explain their almost inhuman acts under pressure; adrenaline takes over. The same thing that the ancients used to escape from wild animals is what makes us win. Yet, for all the good that comes from a competitive survival instinct, it can result in ostracizing others. Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, reminds us of this.
From the prophecy of Yahweh forward, we know that they will be rivals: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). Yahweh didn’t necessarily desire that the two would feud. A division doesn’t always mean a strained relationship, and the word “divided” in Hebrew doesn’t imply derision.
Those of us with siblings know how frustrating the relationship can be, but we also know that when siblings learn to appreciate each other, they can be a great support system and a comfort in times of need.
Like many siblings, Jacob and Esau are opposites: the older red and hairy when born—per his name (Esau)—and the younger, Jacob, grabbing his brother’s heel—like his name, “He who takes by the heel,” or idiomatically, “an ankle biter.” Indeed, the ankle biter rules his brother, but his brother makes the choice for it to be so (Gen 25:29–34). Esau, when exhausted (and likely near death), gives into his survival instincts, allowing his competitive brother to take charge.
There is no doubt that Jacob is a swindler. But aside from the scandal, this story teaches us something about Yahweh: when given something by Him, no amount of competitiveness makes it worth forfeiting. We never know the results of the poor decisions we make in times of destitution. Esau was unaware that his impulsive, perhaps angry actions would mean forfeiting His descendants’ place later in God’s kingdom. And Jacob didn’t know that his zeal for winning and financial certainty would plague him for the remainder of his life. He may have been rich, for a while, but he wasn’t happy or joyful.
What competitions do you need to give up? How is competitiveness impeding your relationship with God and others?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Now Abraham had taken him another wife called Keturah, Which bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And Jokshan, begat Sheba, and Dedan: And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. Also the sons of Midian were Ephah, and Eper, and Hanoch, and Abidah, and Eldaah, all these were the sons of Kerurah. And Abraham gave all his goods to Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son (while he yet lived) Eastward to the East country. And this is the age of Abrahams life, which he lived, an hundred seventy and five years. Then Abraham yielded the spirit, and died in a good age, an old man, and of great years, and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the land of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, before Mamre, Which field Abraham bought of the Hittites, where Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife. And after the death of Abraham God blessed Isaac his son, and Isaac dwelt by Beer Lahai Roil Now these are the generations of Ishael Abrahm’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian Sarah’s handmaid bare unto Abraham. And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, name by name, according to their kindreds: the eldest son of Ishmael was Nebajoth then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Midsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns and by their castles: to wit, twelve princes of their nations. (And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred thirty and seven years, adn he yielded up the spirit, and died, and was gathered unto his people.) And they dwelt from Havilah un oShur, that is towards Egypt, as thou goest to Asshur, Ishmael dwelt in the presence of all his brethren. Likewise these are the generations of Isaac Abraham’s son, Abraham begat Isaac. And Isaac was forty years old, when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramite of Padan Aram, and sister to Laban the Aramite. And Isaac prayed unto the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and rebekah his wife conceived. But the children strove together within her: therefore she said, Seeing it is so, why am I thus? wherefore she went to ask the Lord. And the Lord said to her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be divided out of thy bowels, and the one people shall be mightier than the other, and the elder shall serve the younger. Therefore when her time of deliverance was fulfilled, behold, twins were in her womb. So he that came out first was red, and he was all over as rough as a garment, and they called his name Esau. And afterward came his brother out, andh is hand held Esau by the heel, therefore his name was called Jacob. Now Isaac was threescore years old when Rebekah bare them. And the boys grew, and Esau was a cunning hunter, and lived in the fields: but Jacob was a plain man, and dwelt in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, for venison was his meat, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob sod pottage, and Esau came from the field and was weary. Then Esau said to Jacob, Let me eat, I pray thee, of that pottage so red, for I am weary. Therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me even now thy birth right. And Esau said, Lo, I am almost dead, what is then this birthright to me? Jacob then said, Sweat to me even now, And he swear to him, and sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils: and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: So Esau contemned his birthright . Genesis 25
- The same time the disciples came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdo of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whosoever shall receive one such little child in my Name, receiveth me. But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe be unto the world because of offences, for it must needs be that offences shall come, but woe be to that man b whom the offence cometh. Wherefore, if thy hand or thy foot cause thee to offend, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life, halt, or maimed, than having two hands, or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye cause thee to offend, pluck it out an dcast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. See that ye despise not one of thes elittle ones: for I say unto you, that in heaven their Angels always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave ninety and nine, and go into the mountains, and seek that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety an dnine which went not astray: So is it not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover, if thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault, between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast won thy brother. But if he hear thee not, take yet with thee one or two, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be confirmed. And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the Church, and if he refuse to hear the Church also, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a Publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. Again, verily I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree in earth upon anything, whatsoever they shall desire, it shall be given them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them. Then came Peter to him, and said, Master, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I shal forgive him? unto seven times? Jesus said unto him, I say not to thee, Unto seven times, but Unto seventy times seven times. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain King, which would take an account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which ought him ten thousand talents. And because he had nothing to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his children, and all that he had, and the debt to be paid. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, refrain thine anger toward me, and I will pay thee all. Then that servant’s lord had compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But when the servant was departed, he found one of his fellow servants which ought him an hundred pence, and he laid hands on him, and throttled him, saying, Pay me that thou owest. Then his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Refrain thine anger toward me, and I will pay thee all. Yet he would not, but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. And when his other fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came, and declared unto their lord all that was done. Then his ord called him unto him, and said to him, O evil servant, I forgave thee all thar debt, because thou prayest me. Oughtest not thou also to have had pity on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? So his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall mine heavenly Father do unto you, except ye forgive from your hearts, each one to his brother their trespasses. Matthew 18
- There is an evil sickness that I have seen under the sun: to wit, riches reserved to the owners thereof for their evil. And these riches perish by evil travail, and he begetteth a son, and in his hand is nothing. As he came forth of his mother’s belly, he shall return naked to go as he came, and shall bear away nothing of his labor, which he hath caused to pass by his hand. And this also is an evil sickness, that in all points as he came, so shall he go, and what profit hath he that he hath travailed for the wind? Also all his days he eateth in darkness with much grief, and in his sorrow and anger. Behold then, what I have seen good, that it is comely to eat, and to drink, and to take pleasure in all his labor, wherein he travaileth under the sun, the whole number of the days of his life, which God giveth him for this is his portion. Also to every man to whom God hath given riches and treasures, and giveth him power to eat thereof, and to takehis part, and to enjoy his labor: this is the gifts of God. Surely he will not much remember the days of his life, because God answereth to the joy of his heart. Ecclesiastes 5:12–20