The Burial

Breaking the yoke of bitterness (part 3 of 3)

As the messenger approached me, a feeling of dread overcame me. Today would be no ordinary day. It has been years since I last saw my brother Jacob. So I am taken aback to see one lone messenger approaching my camp. No great gifts this time. Just one messenger with one message. I fall to my knees, weeping aloud as hear the news: “My brother Esau, Blessed be the True Judge. Our father Isaac has fallen ill and will not recover in his old age. He has only days to live. Please come to Mamre, near Kiriath Arba. And we will bury our father together.” Immediately I gather men and supplies for the journey. I missed the chance to bury our mother, Rebekah, but I won’t miss the burial of our father. So I set off to meet Jacob again.

Our meeting this time is again with tears. But these are not tears of joy. These are tears of sadness. Our father has died. As my men setup camp, my brother Jacob and I sit around the fire. We laugh and cry long into the night, eating lentil stew and sharing story after story. We are the patriarchs now. Tomorrow we lay our father into the earth, to join Abraham, Sarah and Rebekah in the grave at Mamre.

That night I did not sleep well. I pondered my life, as only death can make us do. All my life I lived as an enemy of God. I despised the things of God. Who needs them? And so much hatred for my brother. So much bitterness toward my mother. Anger and bitterness have been my yoke. Oh how I wish I would have said good-bye to my mother Rebekah! But I was too blinded by my rage and my ambition. I made a good life for myself, nearly as good and blessed as Jacob. And yet, my whole life has been bound by this yoke—the yoke of anger and bitterness, hatred and ambition. It was always “me against the world”. Who is God? Where is this God my forefathers worshipped? What did God do for me? What good is such a God to me if I’m excluded from our family’s blessing even when I repent with tears? And if my family’s God is so great, why was my mother and brother so deceiving, so full of lies and so arrogant?

My whole life has been lived by making my own way, surviving without this God of Abraham, the God of my family. But tonight, the night before I bury my father with my brother, the night of pondering my life, I suddenly feel so alive, so free. The face of God? That’s what my brother saw in me the last time we met. What if this God of Abraham is the God of peace? What if this God is the God of forgiveness? Peace is in my heart now, and I am at rest.

My musings are interrupted by Jacob’s gentle voice, “It’s time.” Today I am here with my brother and we will bury our father together in peace. Clearly my brother’s tribe and I cannot live together, for our possessions are too great for the land. We must part ways after the burial. Still, peace reigns between us now. Peace that I cannot understand. Peace that should not exist. Peace that most will misunderstand when our story is told. Peace that melts away the past, staining all my sins with tears of forgiveness.

Today I am no longer bound to my brother in anger. I am now a patriarch in my own right. My tribe is on a path different from my brother Jacob, that’s for sure, for the seeds of my sins have been sown into my descendants. Yet I believe one day we will be blessed by the God of our fathers. Maybe there is One True God, the God of Abraham? Maybe the peace I feel today will arise between God and his enemies one day? My people will be bound by a heavy yoke and live as enemies of God, just as I bore the yoke and was God’s enemy and my brother’s enemy. Sadly, that’s unavoidable now. I am content however, knowing that peace will win in the end. Forgiveness will triumph. These are my thoughts as my brother and I bury our father Isaac. My yoke of bitterness toward my brother and my family is gone. And with that, I realized the last part of the blessing, given to me by my father Isaac, has come true for me: “you will throw his yoke from off your neck” (Genesis 32-36).

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