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Brothers At War – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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May 15, 2024 1:00 am

Brothers At War – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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May 15, 2024 1:00 am

Inheritance issues can divide families permanently. Jacob, the younger brother, connived for the birthright of Esau, the older. In this message from Genesis, Pastor Lutzer tells of two incidents which caused division for these brothers for over twenty years. Where was God in the ultimate family dispute?

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In Touch
Charles Stanley
The Urban Alternative
Tony Evans, PhD
The Urban Alternative
Tony Evans, PhD
The Urban Alternative
Tony Evans, PhD
In Touch
Charles Stanley

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jacob and Esau are classic examples of how different two children can be. Like in any family, conflict was almost inevitable. Jacob the younger connived the birthright of Esau the elder, and the lifelong battle began. Today, lessons from the family of Isaac.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, it's amazing how the Bible never sugarcoats its accounts. It really does tell it like it is. And you know, Dave, this is one of the reasons we know that the Bible is the word of God. If this were the word of man, these stories would have been smoothed out, so to speak. You would have had two brothers who perhaps had some conflict, but in the end, they got along very, very well. But here we are confronted with a reality that all of us have experienced. You know, I look at my own family. I'm the youngest of five children, and all of us are so very different, different in our talents, different in our attitudes, even though we have the very same parents.

And in this story, you have twins, and they of course go in completely different directions. I've written a book entitled When You've Been Wronged, and one of the chapters is entitled Families at War When Trust Fails. For a gift of any amount, we're making this book available for you. Here's what you can do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let us consider the reality of a family torn apart by conflict. Because the family is such a basic unit of society, and because it is there that we learn our identity, our self-worth.

There we are to be accepted and cared for and nurtured. Because it has such potential for unity, it also has great potential for division, deep division, lasting divisions. I think of all of the families that are torn, torn by jealousy. When one person has more than the other, there's a separation because of those jealousies. When there's favoritism among children or among parents. When there's meanness, people taking advantage of one another. Somebody perhaps taking the other person's credit card and then not paying it back and on and on.

You could give a list of things that go wrong. This issues sometimes divide families permanently. Recently, I was talking to someone, a young couple in financial need, and they were invited to live in the home of his parents. And so they went.

What they discovered was that there were all kinds of hidden agendas. It really wasn't to help them after all, it was to help the parents in ways that I will not go into. And in the process, as strife and division began to rise, the son took the part of his parents against his wife. Can a wife ever recover from that? I suppose so, but it's not easy when she has a husband who will not defend her. By the way, that was a bad idea because the Bible says, for this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother.

Don't go live with those relatives no matter what they offer you. Usually it's a bad idea. Well, today I'm going to tell you a story. It's a true story. It's a biblical story, but because we're going to cover so many chapters in the Bible, I'm going to tell it to you rather than reading it to you, which I hope you do on your own. It's the story of a man by the name of Isaac who marries a woman who has a very wonderful name. Her name is Rebecca.

That's a lovely name given to at least one lovely woman that I know. But I want you to take your Bibles now and turn to Genesis, Genesis chapter 25, where we have the story of Rebecca who's pregnant and she has struggles within her and she asks the Lord about it. And in chapter 25 in verse 23, the Lord answers her and says, two nations are in your womb and two people from within you shall be divided. The one shall be stronger than the other and the older shall serve the younger.

That was a switch from the usual way it was. First borns always had the inheritance. They were the ones who passed on the family line and in this case, the older one shall end up serving the younger. And then what we discover is that one is born, verse 24, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, his body like a hairy cloak, so they named him Esau, which means red, which is related to the word Edom. Afterward, his brother was born and his hand was holding Esau's heel, so they called him Jacob, which means heel snatcher.

Later on, it's going to mean cheater. These two brothers developed in accordance with their gifting and their abilities, their natural characteristics. Esau ends up being a hunter, loves to go outside and he becomes the favorite of Isaac. Jacob stays home, apparently loves to cook and becomes a favorite of Rebecca. And thus the stage is set for conflict. By the way, the purpose of these messages is so that conflict will be resolved. And I hope that you listen because it is a story of conflict, but in the end it's a story of reconciliation too.

Now two things happen that cause division that's going to last for 20 years and really even beyond the 20 years. Two things happen and we zero in on Jacob. Esau is out hunting, the Bible says, and he comes home and he is famished. Verse 30 of the same chapter, Esau said to Jacob, let me eat some of that red stew for I am exhausted.

Therefore his name was called Edom. Jacob said, sell me your birthright now. Esau said, well, I'm about to die anyway.

What use is a birthright to me? Jacob said, swear to me now. So he swore to him and gave Jacob the birthright. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew and he ate and drank and rose and went his way.

Thus Esau despised his birthright. He's saying, I want what I want and I want it now. I'm hungry and my desires and my appetites are so strong that I need exactly what I need at this moment. And I'm not interested in the future.

I'm interested in the here and now. He sacrificed the permanent on the altar of the immediate. Bad idea, but he sells his birthright. That's incident number one. Incident number two is Isaac thinks he's going to die. Now actually he doesn't die.

He still lives for more than 40 years, but he's convinced that he's going to die. So he says to Esau, he says, I want you to go out. I want you to get some game, go hunting. And after you've done that, come on back and I will give you the blessing. Rebecca overhears it and says to Jacob, let's do this. Let's trick my husband, namely your father. I'm going to fix something that he thinks is going to be the game that Esau would have found.

And I'm going to take a goat and I'm going to fix it in the way that he loves it the most. And then you go in and you pretend that you are Esau. Jacob says, well, wait a moment. You know, my skin is smooth and my brothers is very hairy. And Rebecca thinking to herself says, no problem.

I'll put some skin of animals on you and he won't be able to tell the difference. And so you'll get the blessing. Well, that's the context now for chapter 27. You'll notice that having all of that background, Jacob said to his father, I am Esau, your firstborn. The old man asks, who are you? And he says, I'm Esau. Lie number one. Then Isaac says, how did you get the game so quickly? He says, well, the Lord has blessed me. Lie number two. And then he says, well, you know, you have the voice of Jacob.

Come near me. And then the old man feels the arm of Jacob and it is rough and hairy. And so he thinks that it's Esau. But he does ask again in verse 24, are you really my son Esau?

Lie number three. Yes, I am Esau. So the dying man or the supposed dying man, Isaac, gives to Jacob the blessing that he thought was going to Esau.

Wow. Esau comes back from the field and he finds out what happened and he is angry and Isaac himself is beside himself because he had been tricked by his own wife and by his own son. And so he becomes very, very upset. And as a result of that, you have strife now between these two brothers. I think it's time for us to pause and to ask this question, who really won in all of this trickery?

Who won? Well, we could say it's very clear that Rebecca won and Jacob won because after all, they got the blessing. Yes, they did get the blessing, but with it they got strife and they got a family that's going to be divided permanently. Isn't it interesting that Jacob spent most of his life trying to get through manipulation what God intended to give him anyway was God's intention that he be the one to have the blessing. God would have worked it out some other way, but he thought he had to help God out and get what he thought he had coming to him no matter how.

Well, you can understand the rest of the story. It says in the last part of chapter 27 verse 41, now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him. And he says, the days of the morning for my father are approaching. He was expecting his father to die. Then I will kill my brother. So now you have Rebecca coming up with another plan and she says, you know what you need to do? You have to leave and you go to my brother Laban and you work for Laban far away. So Jacob leaves.

He has an experience of meeting God. He goes to Laban. He ends up marrying two of Laban's daughters, which means that he marries his cousins and he begins to have a family. And in Laban, he has met his match because Laban is a cheater just like Jacob. In fact, there's a society on the face of this earth I will not name, but they agree among themselves that they will deceive themselves.

I'm told it's mutually agreed deception. So here you have Jacob working. He's deceiving Laban. Laban is deceiving Jacob and on and on it goes.

But after 20 years, Jacob thinks to himself, it is time now for me to turn back and to go and to leave. And so he leaves and we have a very interesting story because Laban begins to pursue Jacob, believing that Jacob had stolen his gods. This is a fascinating story because in chapter 31, you find that Laban pursues Jacob and says, surely you have taken my gods. This is actually in chapter 31 verse 30.

That's worth a sermon on its own, isn't it? You've stolen my gods. Turns out actually one of his wives had, but he didn't know it. She had taken the family idols so you can see idolatry was still a part of their lives at that time. But Laban and Jacob decide to part. They decide to go their separate ways and they make an agreement.

They set boundaries. I want you to notice the text. It says in verse 49 of chapter 31, the Lord watched between you and me when we are out of one another's sight. I saw that in a den of a Christian one time hanging on a wall. The Lord watched between you and me while we are absent one from another. I had to smile because you know, in context it doesn't mean that at all. Now that's a good verse taken out of context, but actually the context of the verse is this. I don't trust you. You don't trust me. We're going to put up a pillar here and God help you if you put your pinky over this line and may God have mercy upon me if I put my pinky over the line because you stay in your part of the country and I'm going to stay in my part of the country and let's make sure that we don't get involved in our lives again. May God watch over you when I'm not looking at you. That's the context.

And so they set up this pillar. Could I say that there are times when we need to put boundaries on other people? Some of you women have to put boundaries in your relationship with men. You have to say, here's where the line is and God be merciful to you if you step over that line because sometimes it's not possible to have reconciliation. Sometimes relationships absolutely need boundaries because there are some people who are never going to change and there are some people, don't take this wrongly, with whom you can never really reconcile. And the reason is because if you try to reconcile, it'll always be on their terms and always having expectations of manipulation that are all a part of the reconciliation process.

So it may be better to simply separate from them. I was in Germany recently, as some of you know, with my wife Rebecca and I came back a few days earlier than she did and she stayed there and she asked me to water the flowers that we have at home. So I watered them. But then I began to think that maybe I missed some. So over the phone I said, you know, I think I may have missed some flowers. She said, well, how many did you water? I said, five. And she said, five.

You can't be serious. I said, yeah, I watered five. She said, we only have four. I said, I watered five. She said, did you water that middle one in the den? I said, yes. She said, didn't you realize that that's an artificial flower? No, didn't realize that that was an artificial flower. You know, there are some people with whom you have a relationship and it's like watering wilted silk flowers. You can do it, but it's not very profitable. They're never going to change.

They're never going to be any different. I wish I had brought a letter with me. I intended to, but I left it at home from someone who wrote to me about a mother-in-law who was really evil. Now I use that word very precisely. Not everybody who's hard to get along with is evil, but she's evil. And the reason that you can distinguish that is because here's a happy marriage that her son has with his wife. And this woman wants to come in between the two of them to create strife. She's always dividing. You've heard me say before that there are some people who get their sense of significance from being able to destroy and to divide and to hurt other people. That's where they draw their sense of significance and power.

And after reading the letter that went on two or three pages in great detail, they did what I thought was a good thing to do. They moved out of state and they moved somewhere else. One woman said, you know, my mother wants to control me so much. She is the Midwest distributor of guilt. Always making me feel guilty. Always telling me that I've not done enough for her. Always being impossible in those relationships. Sometimes you have to just draw boundaries and say, look, here's where the boundary is and may the Lord watch between you and me and let's be absent from one another.

That's what Jacob and Laban did. Now don't use that as an excuse because these people that are difficult to get along with, remember as I told you earlier, there are some who are listening to me who fit into that category and what are they doing? They're thinking that I'm talking about somebody else and not them.

That's number one. But number two, you do have to forgive them as we're going to explain in this series. You have to forgive them even though reconciliation may not be possible or maybe only partial reconciliation is possible. There are people like that, but don't ever use it as an excuse.

Yes, indeed, my friend, there are impossible people and oftentimes they do not see themselves as impossible. They see everyone else around them as impossible and you'll never meet their standards. You will never please them.

Even when you attempt to please them, they will change the goal poles so to speak and you will always miss the mark. I've written a book entitled When You've Been Wrong. Now this book deals with those kinds of issues and to the glory of God, I want to say that this book has been used in the lives of many people to deliver them from anger, from hurt that has been festering inside of them. We believe that this book will be of great benefit to you but also to people whom you know. For a gift of any amount, we're making it available. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now because this book is so important and we believe it's going to be of benefit to you, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. But in advance, I want to thank the many of you who support this ministry. You are really a part of what I like to call the running to win family. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your gifts.

Meanwhile, we do all that we can to help you make it successfully all the way to the finish line. Hope that you have a pencil or pen. You can write down Of course, rtwoffer is all one word. or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. There are now hundreds of Protestant denominations, large and small, as well as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox faiths. Clearly, the desire of Jesus that we may all be one has not been realized. Jason is troubled by all of this and he writes, I'd like to get some advice or hear a sermon about people who are struggling with true Christianity. I would like to know, Dr. Lutzer, why do we have so many different interpretations of Christianity and who is justified in being right? I really struggle about this.

Well, Jason, I don't blame you, and I think you have lots of company. When people come to saving faith in Christ, they see all of these denominations, all of them with a different label, and it's no surprise that they begin to ask the question, who is right? Now, there are different reasons why denominations have begun and why you have so many different interpretations of the Bible. The Bible is a very complicated book.

It deals with a lot of different subjects, written about over a period of many centuries. So quite understandably, there are going to be some differences in interpretation. Furthermore, we as human beings, we have limitations. Take, for example, the issue of free will versus predestination. When you look at various verses in the Bible, some seem to argue for one and some seem to argue for another. It isn't quite as clear cut as we'd like it to be. And so naturally, there are some people who would gravitate to one passage and build their doctrine on it, and others choose another.

And so because of human limitation, we have differences. It's also very difficult sometimes for us to realize that the Bible has to interpret the Bible. For example, very candidly, there are some texts in the New Testament, which if we had those alone, we might conclude that baptism is necessary for salvation. But then we have dozens and dozens of other texts that talk about salvation as faith in Jesus Christ alone. So the point is, how do we interpret all of these?

Now here's the bottom line, Jason. Despite all the differences that are out there, there are some things in the Bible that are very, very clear. It's very clear that we are sinners. We need a Savior. Jesus came to save us from our sins. He was God. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. He was raised from the dead.

And those who believe in Him will be saved. So sometimes what we need to do is to get back to the basics to understand what those are. And at times, we simply have to let go of some of the lesser issues. Now, some of the other issues are also important, but they're not as important as the message of the gospel itself.

Keep studying, keep thinking, keep praying, and God will lead you. Some wise counsel from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. It would be nice if all disputes could be resolved. In the real world, that's not always possible.

But if resolution is possible, it should be pursued. Next time, how Jacob and Esau finally faced one another after their long conflict. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-15 02:08:23 / 2024-05-15 02:17:13 / 9

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