Take My Blessing, I Have Enough
by Eitan Shiskoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network
The bar mitzvah boy beamed with the pride of accomplishment and basked in the joy of approving family and friends. It was a Sabbath morning worship service a few weeks ago at Tents of Mercy.
Netanel, at age 13, was fully secure. What gave him that security within? He was surrounded by loving parents, doting older siblings, and tender-hearted grandparents.
Loved, blessed, and accepted, the lad had no fear of being replaced or of losing his position in the family. This security and well-being is exactly what each of us craves. It is the foundation for all of our relationships and interpersonal encounters. Sadly, many of us - and most of the human race - are not equipped with such a foundation.
Where can we find the solid ground upon which to base our lives? How can we truly love others, without manipulation, disappointment, and offense? What can I do when someone offends me or usurps my place, especially within my own family? How can I deal with the aggressive and critical society around me?
Feelings of rejection, jealousy, and finally revenge have caused wars and untold human suffering (James 4:1, 2). In recent months, Israel and the USA have experienced serious social conflict that validates this formula. The tensions in Jerusalem and Ferguson, Missouri - while radically different in historic background and issues of justice - bear similarity. In both cases a minority perceives themselves to be under privileged and overly targeted. African Americans and Palestinians view their place in society as oppressed and delegitimized. We are not talking here about right or wrong, justified or incited, but about human emotion and "the street". Anger fuels the smoldering fires of insult and discrimination, setting hearts aflame with indignation.
Stolen Birthright and Bitter Loss
Isaac and Rebekah's twin sons began their rivalry in the womb even before birth. Esau was born first, with Jacob's hand grasping his heel (Genesis 25:26). Into young adulthood their differences mounted. Esau was Isaac's favorite; Jacob was Rebekah's. Their competition spilled over when Esau returned from a hunting expedition, famished. Jacob's stew smelled amazing. Offered a meal in exchange for his birthright, Esau jumped at the chance, failing to weigh the consequences.
In the ancient Near East, a birthright was a serious thing. The firstborn received double the inheritance of all other claimants and the unique blessing of the father. No wonder Jacob wanted it!
When blind Papa Isaac approached death's door, he wanted to bless his firstborn, Esau. Instead, through deceit, Jacob stole the blessing. Upon realizing what his brother had done, Esau wept bitterly, screaming "Bless me - me also, O my father" (Genesis 27:34). He vowed to kill his brother in revenge. This reaction encapsulates the desperate feeling of being put down and pushed aside that we all experience at some point in our lives. Like Jacob, we want the blessing of the firstborn, not second place. Jealousy and resentment paralyze us, and our lives can become a losing battle as we strive to prove our worth and capture the status we crave.
Jacob, fearful of death at Esau's bitter hands, had to escape. And Esau was left to live with loss, deprivation and hatred. Both Jacob and Esau were enslaved because they were not rooted in the solid ground of their worth before God. Jealousy consumed them both - first Jacob, then Esau.
A Transforming Encounter
Fast forward. Jacob leaves, finds a wife, is deceived into marrying two sisters, sires twelve sons, and gathers a huge retinue of people and possessions. In caravan, the patriarch hears that his brother is approaching with four hundred warriors and fears total destruction. That night, alone and insecure, Jacob is visited by a man and wrestles with him all night. Again, the issue is blessing. Jacob demands a blessing before releasing the Lord (evidently a pre-incarnation appearance of Yeshua). Here is the right source of blessing. It is available to each of us and not dependent on birth order, education, family background or national origin. Jacob receives the blessing of a new name - a new identity. He had been Yaakov, the one who "cuts corners to get what he wants". But now he will be called Yisra-el, Israel, the one who has prevailed with God and receives a princely inheritance. In the bargain, Jacob's hip is touched, put out of joint so that he will have to limp, in a weakened, more dependent, less cocky state.
Secure, I can Extend Grace
The Lord recently dealt with me regarding my attitude toward certain Palestinian believers in Yeshua. It had bothered me that they didn't affirm the Biblical promises of the land of Israel to the sons of Jacob - especially since I am one of those sons. It happened in a Jerusalem conference attended by both Jewish and Arab/Palestinian disciples. During worship I found myself remembering Jacob bowing before Esau. I saw that Jacob's encounter with Yeshua changed his heart toward his brother. It no longer mattered what the original claim was, he decided to honor Esau. Moved to realize the relevance of his example, I did what Jacob did, before my Arab/Palestinian brothers.
Being secure in my own identity in Messiah and knowing God's promises, I affirmed my brothers without demanding that they grant me the birthright I cherish.
On my knees, I asked forgiveness for our Jewish pride, for intentionally or unintentionally insulting them by projecting a superiority of ownership. I affirmed their value as absolutely equal to that of Jewish believers, and them as joint heirs of sonship before God. Their response was unforgettable. Several began weeping. Two leaders got up and repented of their own pride and competition. One acknowledged the Messianic Jews as his "fathers". I was stunned. It was a small taste of Jacob and Esau's joyful reunion.
Answer to Essential Questions
The solution to Jacob and Esau's angry offense toward each other was the embrace of God-given sonship. Like them, we all need to rediscover and abide in the bedrock truth that we are God's chosen sons and daughters, with a place in His heart that no one can take from us. When I know WHO I am and WHO God has made be by His amazing, transforming grace, I am able to withstand the storms of rejection that assail me. I am even empowered to reach out to others, to impart blessing to them - the very blessing I have received. My place as His son frees me from the debilitating sense of dissatisfaction and defensiveness so that I am not looking to others to validate me, but am able to "validate" them.
"Behold what manner of love Father has bestowed, that we should be called children of God" (1John 3:1). "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Messiah ..." (Romans 8:16-17).
We can all be as the bar mitzvah boy, unashamed before the entire congregation - filled with love and approval. So it can be for each of us, as sons and daughters of the same Father, who gives the coveted birthright to all.
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