Two Brothers - Jacob and Esau        
A Lifelong Battle

(When preached, each scripture in italics was read by a friend.)

Today we will look at two brothers - Jacob and Esau.
We will trace their character, their life and their end.
But first, what was their beginning?

The babies jostled each other within Rebekah, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?"
So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord 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."   (Gen 2521-26)

This was God's verdict - twins, yet such a contrast.
It was Jacob .v. Esau.  A battle that would never end.
How so?
Let us read the story.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilful hunter, a man of the open country,
while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.   (Gen 2527)

Esau was fine man (like Saul), tall, handsome, strong, confident.
He was popular, successful, self-sufficient, a 'Carling Black Label' man.
Jacob was just the opposite.
He was weak and devious, a 'wimp', tied to his mother's apron strings.

Now Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.   (Gen 2528)

It is family favourites!
Jacob is loved by his mother but is rejected by his father.
But boys and young men need to be loved and blessed by their father.
Jacob wasn't; and it marked his character.
But God said this ...

"Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."   (Mal 13 Ro 913)

Jacob was God's sovereign choice.
Does that surprise you?
Try asking yourself, "Why did he choose me?" Amazing, isn't it!!
One day Jacob was cooking some stew:
I can imagine his mother saying,
"Stir it nicely dear, and don't forget, 'a stew boiling is a stew spoiling!'"

Esau came in from the open country, famished.
He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!"
      (That is why he was also called Edom.)
Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright."
"Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?"
But Jacob said, "Swear to me first."
So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew.
He ate and drank, and then got up and left.   (Gen 2529-34)

Jacob wanted that birthright.
He wanted his father's respect and his blessing; and would do anything to get it.
Esau lived for today "Stew now!" Sex now. Prosperity now.
Buy now on credit and pay later, but never call it debt.
He says to himself, "Jacob is a weed, so I'll get it all after Dad dies anyway."
As my wife once wisely remarked:
"The treaties of men are founded on fear and are honoured when convenient."
"So Esau despised his birthright." (Gen 2534)  He had no interest in God or his blessing.

Isaac asked, "Are you really my son Esau?"
"I am," Jacob replied.
Then he said, "My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing."
Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank.
Then his father Isaac said to him, "Come here, my son, and kiss me." So he went to him and kissed him.
When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,
"Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness--an abundance of grain and new wine.
May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you.
Be Lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed."   (Gen 271-29)

So Jacob deceived his father:
he had to because Isaac would not have knowingly given the blessing to Jacob, his disappointing son.
We see Jacob as a liar, a cheat, a wimp whose character we despise,
      but he was God's choice! "Jacob I loved."
God saw Jacob as a man who would later cry out for mercy,
      through all the years of his weakness, loneliness and greed, God loved him.
"O the love that drew salvation's plan
O the grace that brought it down to man
O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary !"
How different from Mr Strong, 'I bow to no one', Mr Successful Esau.
So it happened that Isaac blessed Jacob, exactly as God wanted.
Later Isaac admits his mistake.
He freely and knowingly blesses Jacob before sending him away to Laban to marry his niece Rachael. (Gen 281-5)
But meanwhile Esau is none too pleased.

"... Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times:
He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!"
Then he asked, "Haven't you reserved any blessing for me?"   (Gen 2736)

Esau had willingly and knowingly exchanged his birthright for stew.
Later he regretted his choice, but he had not been deceived nor robbed when he sold his birthright.
And neither had he dared to tell his father Isaac.
What blessing do we desire most of God?
Esau desired blessing to boost his ego, to get on top and stay there!
Nearly 2000 years later one of Esau's descendants, an Edomite,
      was to murder the children in Bethlehem,
      rebuild the Temple, construct Masada, and Ceasarea, the second largest Mediterranean port.
      But it was the people who paid, while Herod the Great murdered and plundered and schemed to stay in power.
The "Esau's" of this world always desire wealth, reputation, position, comfort.
Sometimes they also want the friendship of church and acceptance by God.
But they are not compatible. The Esau in us must die.
The Christian life is not a religious add-on, but a re-birth.

Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him.
He said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob."   (Gen 2741)

Just like his ancestor Cain, who carefully planned the murder of his brother Abel.

So to this day Edom has been in rebellion against Judah.   (2 Kgs 828)

And today the Arabs are continually at war against Israel.
A war which no peace treaty can prevent or solve.
That is also true in us.  'The flesh is continually at war against the Spirit'.
Only Jesus in us can win that war, and this he has promised to do.

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I'm disgusted with living because of these Hittite women."
Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac;
so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham,
in addition to the wives he already had.   (Gen 2746 288,9)

Esau, with his two Hittite wives, tries to curry favour. (Gen 2634)
He wanted to appear right; but his heart was wrong.
Jacob must not do the same so Isaac sends him away to uncle Laban.
Jacob leaves home and family, but not God.  
And God did not leave Jacob.
God has not left this world of his.  Not then, not now, not ever!

Jacob had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven,
and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
There above it stood the Lord, and he said:
"I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.
I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.
Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,
and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.
All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."   (Gen 2812-15)

The Angels were using the ladder, not Jacob!
I can never climb any ladder to heaven. I am saved by the grace of God alone.
"Nothing but the blood of Jesus".
Good works can please God, but they can never win our salvation.
God speaks to Jacob exactly as he did to Abraham.
God confirms his covenant. God binds himself to the worm Jacob! And he doesn't even scold him.
Later, God will speak to his conscience.
God will go with him - always!

Then Jacob made a vow, saying,
"If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking
and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house,
then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house,
and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."   (Gen 2820-22)

What was Jacob's response? It was this:
God, if you will really keep your word and give me a good life,
      then you can be my god and I will even give you part of my wealth!!
And God, if you give me what I want, I will follow you,
      but don't you take away my girlfriend, my success, or my easy life!
Amazingly, graciously, God did not reject Jacob's vow.
But compare this with the response of God's Son.
Jesus would give his life, everything, not just a tenth!
O Jacob, if only you could see the grace and mercy of God!  But for the moment it is hidden.
For 20 years Jacob serves Laban: he marries Rachael and Leah.
Patiently, God waits his time. Then he speaks to Jacob again.

The Lord said to Jacob,
"Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you. ...
I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me.
Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land."   (Gen 313,13)

God assures Jacob "I will be with you."
And Jacob obeys God ... he leaves Laban and devises a plan!
He is facing two main problems:
the murder-threatening Esau is ahead
      and behind him is Laban in hot pursuit, and none to pleased!
So Jacob is now very alone and very vulnerable.
God restrains Laban, who makes a covenant with Jacob that neither of them would cross the boundary or meet again.

Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him.   (Gen 321)

Then Jacob sends word to Esau about his return and sends him many presents.

In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups,
and the flocks and herds and camels as well.
Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac,
O Lord, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper',
I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.
I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.
Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me,
and also the mothers with their children."   (Gen 327,9-11)

Jacob here speaks the truth.
It was GOD who spoke to him ...
God, who never lied or cheated, not like Jacob.
God, who always kept his word, not like Laban.
Almighty God, who loved the unworthy Jacob.
At last the fearful Jacob had come to the end of himself. He could do no more.
All his flocks were the other side of Jabbok, even his beloved Rachael.
He knew that it was God whom he needed; and above all, God whom he desired.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip
so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob," he answered.
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,
because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."   (Gen 3224-30)

All his life Jacob had struggled with himself, with Laban, and with Esau, in the womb and out of it.
Now he struggled with God!
But this was different.
Jacob was desperate for God.
Like Isaiah in God's presence, he is suddenly aware of his own sin, and he hates it.
He cries to God for mercy.
God did not turn away from the despicable, unworthy Jacob.
God had been working and waiting for this moment for 40 years!
God loves the earnest heart that doesn't treat Christianity as an optional extra.
For God insists on a total revolution. A new birth.

Jacob deserves to die, just as we all do, yet God spares him, God saves him.
He changes his name and his nature.
There is no room for pride now.
Jacob limps for the rest of his life, leaning on his staff; leaning on Jesus Christ, his Saviour.
But what of Esau, who was still out there somewhere?

Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him;
he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.   (Gen 334)

The plan worked. God's plans always do!
Esau accepted Jacob's present. But Jacob wisely refused to go with Esau.
The flesh and the Spirit will always be in conflict. (Gal 517)

So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Succoth ...   (Gen 3316,17)

Had God finished dealing with Jacob?
By no means! There was more refining to do yet.
And thankfully God has not yet finished with me either!

Then God said to Jacob,
"Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God,
who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau."
So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him,
"Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.
Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God,
who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."
So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears,
and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.   (Gen 351-5)

Jacob knew what God required of him.
No foreign gods.
So he destroys them all. He was obedient and insists that his household are too.
There was no compromise.  We cannot make 'deals' with God.
Jacob is no longer a wimp, but a man of God!

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him.
God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel."
So he named him Israel.   (Gen 359)

God goes on and on blessing Jacob!
Why does he still go on limping?
Why does his dear wife Rachael die so young?
Why is Joseph "lost"?
Why is there a famine in Israel, the land of promise!?
Why is there an enforced exile?
Why does Jacob have to die in Egypt, and not in Israel?
What happened to God's promise? God's faithful covenant?
How do we know God's blessing?
What are the true signs?
Do you bless your children playing with them on the beach?
Do you read them stories at night, and pray with them?
Do you also send your children to school?
Or make them help wash up?
Do you put them to bed when they would like to stay up later?
Do you make them tidy their rooms?
Do you both love and discipline them?
If you know how to bless your children, how much more does God know how to bless his children.
God's blessing is not always ice cream and a happy sing-song!
The greatest blessings of God to the Church have been through the fires of persecution and hardship.
You want revival?
Then see this nation as God sees it and weep!
Blessing is not me having a good time, but seeing the gracious plan of God being fulfilled.
But back to Jacob ...

Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron),
where Abraham and Isaac had stayed.
Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years.
And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.   (Gen 3527,29)

So another chapter of life ends.
Jacob and Esau meet for the last time.

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household,
as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan,
and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob.
So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir. ...
Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.   (Gen 366,8 371)

Jacob inherits the land as God promised.   Or did he?
There is a famine, Jacob's sons go to buy grain in Egypt.
Joseph is "found".
And Jacob has to go down to Egypt leaving the promised land, again.

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba,
he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, "Jacob! Jacob!" "Here I am," he replied.
"I am God, the God of your father," he said.
"Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.
I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.
And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."   (Gen 461-4)

Once more God goes with Jacob.
God never leaves him, never!
But Jacob would never return to Israel - except in a coffin!

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshipped
as he leaned on the top of his staff. ...   (Heb 1121)

When Jacob blessed his sons, the old man was still leaning on his staff.
Jacob has nothing of Egypt to give them, and in Israel he only had a cemetery!
Abraham had bought it at Hebron.
So he dies a foreigner in Egypt.
But he was buried in Israel.
Now he lives in the Kingdom of God because he longed for, and saw, the day of Jesus Christ.
Jacob died in faith.
But that is not the end; not by a long way.
Many, many times in scripture God says, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
God and Jacob are alive, and together, for ever!

All these people (Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) were still living by faith when they died.
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. ...
Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.   (Heb 1113-)

How will you live?
Like Esau, Mr Strong, self-sufficient, 'give me all I want, now'.
Or like Jacob, the wimp, the cheat whom God loved and transformed.
Make no mistake, it is God, not a man, who declares, "Jacob I loved and Esau I hated."

And how will you die?
As a pilgrim and stranger on this earth?
Or as one who treats it as his home and is really quite comfortable here?
Do you live and die as one seeking a better country, where Christ is welcomed as King.
Do you bless others with the whole truth, leaning upon your staff?
We must be like Jacob, live by faith, and die in assurance,
      wholly dependant on the revelation of the love and grace of Jesus.


Come, O thou Traveller unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee;
With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by thy name,
Look on thy hands and read it there;
But who, I ask, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

In vain thou strugglest to get free;
I never will unloose my hold!
Art thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold:
Wrestling, I will not let thee go
Till I thy name, thy nature know.

Yield to me now; for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or thou never hence shall move,
And tell me if thy name is Love.

T'is Love! t'is Love! thou diedst for me!
I hear the whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal Love thou art;
To me, to all, thy mercies move:
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

I know thee, Saviour, who thou art,
Jesus, the feeble sinner's Friend;
Nor wilt thou with the night depart,
But stay and love me to the end;
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life's short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness, I
On thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from thee to move:
Thy nature and thy name is love.