Breaking the yoke of bitterness (part 1 of 3)
My brother! Finally we are going to meet. I can’t wait to tell him how I’ve changed. I’m so happy! My own twin brother, my family, my flesh and blood—we haven’t seen each other for so long. But will he forgive me?
I was so foolish. I once hated my own brother. I wanted to kill him. He deceived me and took what was mine! He took everything from me! It was my own fault really. I am a brash man of the field. I have made a lot of stupid mistakes, and paid dearly for them. I lost everything for one meal. But no matter now. I am blessed greatly. I have gained much, learned much and forgiven much. I can’t wait to see my brother to tell him all that I’ve learned. Here he comes now!
What is this? Who approaches me? I’m told it is a shepherd, with two hundred female goats and twenty male goats. So I ask my servant to find out more. Where is my brother? The report comes in. The shepherd approaching sends the following message: “These goats belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us. Please sir, make sure you heard that last part, your servant Jacob is coming behind us. Did you get that? Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.”
I’m stunned. Why would my brother not approach me? Surely he doesn’t think I’m still angry at him? But before I could process this strange gift of 220 goats, another shepherd appears, this time with two hundred ewes and twenty rams! That’s 440 animals! What is this? Why such a gift for me? Has my brother lost his mind? Again the same message, “Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.” A third shepherd approaches. He brings thirty female camels with their young, and the same message, “Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.”. Is this going to take all day? What’s the meaning of this?
Then I remember—the blessing. Our mother always talked about God, how God had given her a blessing about her sons before we were born. I never believed such nonsense. Our family? Chosen ones? A vision from God? Hogwash! But what if it were true? What if our mother really had heard from God? I remember it well. She told us the story so many times. God had said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” I always liked the “one people will be stronger” part. I was always the stronger one. But of course I hated to hear the part about the older becoming a servant to the younger. I was the older! I will serve no one! Or so I thought. I was the older twin, but only by a matter of minutes. But still. I was the older. And stronger.
Our mother’s words, whether from God or from her own thinking, did actually come to pass however. My brother and I did in fact separate. The land could not support both of us. So I moved far away, to Seir. And we become a great nation! God blessed my family in Seir abundantly. Yet in spite of all my efforts, I, the older, did in fact serve the younger. I despised that my whole life. I was so bitter because it seemed to me that my mother made her vision come true. How could I believe this was God’s vision when my mother helped my brother take my birthright? But now I’ve come to terms with this. In spite of my mother and brother’s deception, it was indeed my own fault. I sold my birthright to my younger brother for one meal. And then indeed, I became a servant to my brother.
At the moment I sold my birthright, a yoke of bitterness was put on my life. Everything I did was a reaction against that moment. The more I tried to prove that I would never serve my younger brother and the more I tried to show my parents how strong I was, the heavier the yoke became. Nothing I did could remove the yoke. I became so bitter toward my parents and their holy God-speak that I married Judith, a Hittite, just to show them that I was in control. And then I also married Basemath to really tick them off. Through all of this my soul became empty. I thought I was free. I thought I was becoming stronger and stronger, more independent and worthy of being served by my younger brother. The vision from my mother would never come to pass, I thought. I would not allow it. Every day I told myself, I will never bend my knee to my brother. And yet the reality was that my brother was ruling over me all the more. The yoke of bitterness nearly choked me to death.
As I look up from my thoughts, I see… another shepherd?! What is it this time? Forty cows and ten bulls. And the same message! “Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.” This is really creeping me out. Sure I would have reveled in this moment ten years ago. But now? I don’t care anymore! I don’t want my brother to bow down to me! I just want my brother back! I’m so weary of being separated! I am the one who should bow to him. He is a better man than I. He is the faithful one. He is the one blessed by God. He is the one who pleased our parents. I only brought grief to our family.
Surely my brother is ready to meet me now. Night approaches. Is that him riding in the distance? Alas, no. Those who approach my camp are more of my brother’s servants. They bring twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. And they say yet again that my brother is on his way. So now I must wait until morning to see what the new day will bring.