Eitan Shiskoff

Executive Director
Tents of Mercy Network
"[They] were enslaved because they were not rooted in the solid ground of their worth before God. Jealousy consumed them both ..."

"On my knees, I asked forgiveness for our Jewish pride, for intentionally or unintentionally insulting them by projecting a superiority of ownership ... we are God's chosen sons and daughters, with a place in His heart that no one can take from us."

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.

Essential Questions

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

Reconciliation of Jacob & Esau by Rubens
Before Esau reached him, Jacob bowed seven times until they met (Genesis 33:3). This demonstration of humility, repentance, and reconciliation won Esau's heart. They embraced and kissed, with tears. Having received the true blessing of a new identity from God, Jacob was secure enough to extend grace and favor to his brother - from whom he had previously snatched the blessing. Now he says "Here, take my blessing ... because God has dealt graciously with me and I have enough" (Genesis 33:11). What a striking change. Jacob really became Israel, through meeting God (Yeshua) face to face (Genesis 32:30).

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.

By Eitan Shishkoff
Donate to the work of Ohalei Rachamim.
Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.
Name Display my name ?
Yes No
Email Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comments.
12:20 01Jan15 Carol Hess -
This is so moving and illustrates so beautifully how God's true heart of repentance and grace in us can be reflected on to others, and result in the deep changes that usher in reconciliation. This is the true Shalom from which peace between nations springs and this is the story of "one new man"! Many thanks for sharing this wonderful truth!

15:37 01Jan15 Sue Mann -
What a great way to start my New Year. Thanks for sharing your heart and your candor.

21:09 01Jan15 Jesse Bruton -
That was fantastic, Eitan. Thank you so much for sharing such a profound revelation.

21:14 01Jan15 David Jones -
Good Word, Eitan! Prov 15:23

00:06 02Jan15 Susan -
I was moved to tears at your story. Thank you for sharing your heart.

17:57 02Jan15 Anonymous -
What a blessing to understand who we are in Yeshua and to appreciate and be a blessing to all. As we all embrace our identity in Yeshua we are free to bless the nations.

23:47 04Jan15 Gloria Putnam-Kilgore -
My comments would be exactly the same as those of Carol Hess. I would that we could all deal with our atitudes - especially in the "church" as we know it. We would love and walk so circumspectly, prudent to consider all circumstances and possible consequences.

02:51 06Jan15 AMK -
Thank you for this inspired word. "God has chosen me", is the essential ingredient to peace. Hearing this good news from the lips of a Jewish person is especially meaningful.

05:48 18Mar15 Ruth Macdonald -
Thank you. This is God's heart: reconciliation between each other and not just with Him.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: Delicious Diversity
Daniel Juster's article in French: Delicieuse Diversite
Eitan Shishkoff: Sowing into the Harvest
Guy Cohen: The Dream and the Tears
Asher Intrater: Teamwork Leadership
Asher Intrater: Faithfulness as Faith Refined