Home Page Logo

JACOB OR ESAU

by Ray C. Stedman



Now this morning, I would like you to turn to the shortest book in the Old Testament, the book of Obadiah. Now, do not panic – you can find it if you take time. It is found on page 719 of my Bible, right between the prophet Amos and the prophet Jonah in the latter part of your Old Testament. I would like you turn with me to that book, if you will, please.

Some of you who have read the book of Obadiah know that this book sounds like merely a pronouncement of doom against an ancient and a long forgotten nation – the nation Edom. But I want you to listen carefully as we read it together, because there is more here than meets the eye.

The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom: We have heard tidings from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: "Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!" Behold, I will make you small among the nations, you shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, thence I will bring you down, says the LORD.

If thieves came to you, if plunderers by night--how you have been destroyed!--would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out! All your allies have deceived you, they have driven you to the border; your confederates have prevailed against you; your trusted friends have set a trap under you--there is no understanding of it. Will I not on that day, says the LORD, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau? And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter. For the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever. On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. But you should not have gloated over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted in the day of distress. You should not have entered the gate of my people in the day of his calamity; you should not have gloated over his disaster in the day of his calamity; you should not have looted his goods in the day of his calamity. You should not have stood at the parting of the ways to cut off his fugitives; you should not have delivered up his survivors in the day of distress.

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you, your deeds shall return on your own head. For as you have drunk upon my holy mountain, all the nations round about shall drink; they shall drink, and stagger, and shall be as though they had not been. But in Mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor to the house of Esau; for the LORD has spoken. Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. The exiles in Halah who are of the people of Israel shall possess Phoenicia as far as Zarephath; and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb. Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD's. [Obadiah 1-21]

Now we know very little about this man Obadiah. We know that his name means, “the servant of Jehovah,” and like a servant, he keeps in the background and it is impossible to discover much about him. He comes on to the stage of Scripture and delivers his message and he is gone, like a servant. Very likely, he was a contemporary of Jeremiah the prophet, but that is about all that we know about him.

But the little book that I have just read to you is the story of two nations: Israel and Edom. Those of you who are acquainted with the Middle East know that Edom is the ancient nation south of the Dead Sea, which is now divided between Israel and Jordan – those two nations. But, this book is also the story of two men, the most famous twins in all history – Jacob and Esau. Someone has said that every nation is but the length and shadow of its founder and this is true in regard particularly to these nations of Israel and Edom, for God put these two men, Jacob and Esau, into an enlarger and He blew them up to the size of a nation. Israel, even though it is a nation, is still Jacob, and Edom, as a nation, is still nothing but Esau. The nations follow the steps of their founders.

These two men, as we read the record of Scripture, were in perpetual antagonism one to the other. We read, in the book of Genesis, that even before Jacob and Esau were born, while their mother was carrying them, that the children struggled within her. This marked the course of these two lads’ lives as they grew up. They were twins, but Jacob was mother’s darling and Esau was father’s little man and they struggled continuously. The whole record of their lives is one of perpetual conflict.

Now, it did not end with the men either. As we trace the story of these throughout the breadth of the Old Testament, we discover that the nations they founded carried on the same antagonism. All the way from Genesis clear through the books of the Bible to Malachi, you find an unending record of a perpetual conflict between Jacob and Esau—all the way; a thread of unbroken antagonism. In the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, you remember that remarkable statement that is quoted again also in Paul’s letter to the Romans, where God says, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.” This has caused a lot of trouble for people. They felt that this indicates an unfairness on God’s part, but in the New Testament you find the reason why this statement is made, for you discover there that these two men were a symbol of a perpetual antagonism at work in human nature. It is stated for us very bluntly and flatly in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the fifth chapter, when he says the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit and the spirit against the flesh and these two are contrary one to the other so that you cannot do the things that you would. In Jacob and Esau you have God’s picture worked out in terms of human life, so it is visible in the flesh—incarnate, if you please—that we might see what is at work in our own lives in this perpetual antagonism between two conflicting principles in human life – Jacob and Esau.

The book of Obadiah turns the spotlight upon Esau, primarily, the man of the flesh, and Edom, the proud nation, and answers for us the question, why does God hate Esau? We get the clue, I think, to this in the third verse of this little book, where God says:

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" (v 3)

In that word, pride, you find the Holy Spirit putting His finger upon the root of all human evil. You remember, in Proverbs, we are told in the sixth chapter:

These six [things] doth the LORD hate: yea, seven [are] an abomination unto him: {Proverbs 6:16 KJV]

And then it goes on to list seven follies of human life and the first thing on the list - number one on God’s list of abominations - is a proud look, so that pride is that essential evil which is in the human heart. As we study the record of the Scriptures, we learn that this is an imposter, an invader of human nature. It is the satanic nature Implanted in the human heart, so that all of us born into this Adamic race are born with a congenital twist, a distorted outlook on life. It is what we call then the independent ego that evaluates everything only in terms of its importance or its unimportance to me. We soon discover that we, in this sense, are in the center of the universe.

Pride can appear in the human heart in a thousand different ways; it is a master of disguise. This is the subtlety of it. We seldom recognize it because we so frequently think we have identified it in one particular form or several particular forms: haughtiness, prejudice, and a few of the usual forms; and we say if we are free from these, then we do not have pride. I think one of the most enlightening studies of Scripture is to go through and discover the multitudinous ways by which pride manifests itself in the human life. There are a few mentioned here. It can appear for instance as self-sufficiency, as you have it in verses three and four here:

. . . you who live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who say in your heart, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, thence I will bring you down, says the LORD. (v 3-4)

This reference, by the way, to the cleft of the rock in this passage can be taken very literally, because this is a reference to the ancient capital of Edom – that marvelous, fascinating city, one of the most mysterious cities of all the world—a city that I have longed to visit. Probably, if I had my choice of all the cities in the world I would most like to see, I think it might be Petra, the capital of ancient Edom – that rose red city of the rock hidden away in the valley south of the Dead Sea; a strange city with great carved temples built right into the rock or carved out of the living rock with giant doorways, some 60 to 70 feet high; and vast temples carved back into the rock; a silent city, dead, forgotten, uninhabited now. It takes a special arrangement to visit it, because it is off the beaten path. Some of you have seen pictures of this city and this is the capital of ancient Edom and is what the prophet is referring to here when he says they dwelt in the clefts of the rock. You approach the city of Petra through a very narrow defile, about two or three miles long – a crack almost – a crevice in the rock that runs through. It is only a few feet wide, hardly possible to even drive a team of horses up this narrow divide. Because this was the only approach from the east, it was long regarded as an impregnable fortress; those who dwelt there felt they were secure. But shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, the Roman soldiers, who captured Jerusalem, also captured the city of Edom – the Romans built an amphitheatre there, the remains of which are still to be seen – and took the city. This prophecy, about the downfall of Edom was completely fulfilled. God brought them down from their high places and they were lost and scattered among the nations.

This is all a picture, of course, of what goes on in the human heart whenever a man claims to be self-sufficient. This is clearly evident in the man who says, of course, “I do not need God. I can live without God. After all, you religious people, you like God. You get a great deal of comfort out of this, but I do not need that kind of thing. I can live without this. I am self-sufficient; my own wisdom, my own strength, my own ability to obtain what I need is enough for me.” That is the attitude which is reflected here in this statement of Edom, “Who will bring me down to the ground? I have all that I need.”

This same attitude of heart is also very evident in Christian lives unfortunately. Isn't it the same thing when a Christian person says, “ Well, I admit I need God in danger and in times of fear and in times of pressure, but I am quite able, thank you, to make my own decisions about the girl I marry, or the career I follow, or the friends that I choose and enjoy, or the car I drive—I don't need God for this.”So we spend most of our lives making what we regard as our own small decisions and only find room for God after our second heart attack and a few other crises like that.

This is why many Christians live for literally years of their lives exactly like non-Christians. There is no perceptible difference between them. As far as they are concerned, for great areas of their lives God might just as well be dead for all that they are reckoning upon Him or relating Him to their situation. There is no difference in their active philosophy between them and the man who says, “I do not need God at all” or “there is no God.”

It is this attitude which the prophet now says is that which God hates, which opposes all that He wills to do in human life, which robs Him of His right to use our redeemed bodies as the instrument continually of His life in us. This is pride; self-sufficiency is one mark of it.

There is another form of it in verse ten - violence :
           
For the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever. (v 10)

You read in the paper of a man who is brought into court for beating his wife or some neighbor calls in a report of a child that has been beaten – even a baby, sometimes. Every now and then, in our papers, almost every week, we have a report of a child beating where some little boy or girl has a bone broken or internal damage done. You say, “What is behind this kind of thing? What makes a man or a woman lose their control and become violent in these hideous ways, even against innocent ones?” The answer is always, an unbroken ego – a spoiled and cowardly spirit, which is centered only on self. In other words, pride again—in the heart.

I have been in Christian homes where a woman has sat and told me a story of what has gone on and her eyes, both of them, have been as black as they could be, bruises on her legs and on her arms, and she has told me how her husband, who was a Sunday school teacher and respected in the church, had beaten up on her the night before. What possesses a man to do a thing like that, especially one who is a Christian? Why should it be? It is always traceable to this root of pride, as the prophet reveals to us here. These manifestations are but varying manifestations of the same deadly root in the human heart of pride.

You find another manifestation of it, perhaps a more common one, in verse 11 - indifference :

On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. (v 11)

After many years, now, of marital counseling and talking with others who work in this area, I have found that, by far, the major cause of trouble between a husband and wife has been the simple indifference of the husband to his wife’s needs and her concerns. The one continual complaint of women in marriage about their husbands is, “He always treats me like I am just a piece of furniture. He ignores me. He never seems to realize what I think or care about.” It is strange, is it not? Why is it that in courtship, the man is very concerned about his sweetheart and he is always asking her, “What would you like? Where would you like to go? How do you feel?” But the minute they get married, it is, “When is dinner? Where is the paper?” and “What is on TV?” Now, why is this? It is Esau at work, is it not - that force in human life, which God hates, because it destroys the love which is why He has entered the human stream at all that He might grant unto us?

There is another form of pride in verse 12 - gloating :

But you should not have gloated over the day of your brother [God says to Edom] in the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted in the day of distress. (v 12)

How frequently you hear this in children, “Nah, nah, nah!” It is good for you! You got what is coming to you!” We think it is confined to them, but, unfortunately, it is not. It is such an obvious form of pride, really, that we adults are not bold enough to talk like children to each other about it and we disguise it sometimes. You hear that the boss is sick, what do you say? “Nothing trivial, I hope.” What do you say when someone fails around you? What is the first phrase we think of when somebody has obviously failed? What do we say? “I told you so.” Or, if we do not say that, if we had not told them, we say, “Well, I could have told you so.” You heard of the epitaph on the hypochondriac’s tombstone; it said, “I told you I was sick.” Why is it that we like to rub salt on someone else’s wounds like this? What is behind this perverse delight in another’s failure? It makes us happy when someone else is in distress. What is it? It is Esau, is it not, in his pride and unconcern – gloating over the destruction of another?

There is another form in verse 14 – exploitation :

You should not have stood at the parting of the ways to cut off his fugitives; you should not have delivered up his survivors in the day of distress. (v 14)

When the Babylonian armies came against Israel and took them captive, Edom took advantage of the situation and rounded up the fugitives. They did not dare attack the main army, but when the main army was defeated, they found the refuges out and killed them. God says, “You exploited the situation; you took advantage of them. You took an unfair advantage. You utilized another’s weakness or bad luck to your own advantage. You should not have done that.” That is Esau.

The other day I was in a board meeting and we were discussing the contract let on a building and it turned out, in the report that was given, that the contractor has underbid the building because he made a mistake in his figuring. Immediately, somebody on the board spoke up and said, “Well, let us hold him to it; we have got a contract.” Fortunately, he was only kidding, but that is the immediate reaction of our heart, is it not – ah, we have got an advantage? The fellow does not realize, maybe, that we have got something on him that we can take advantage of. How often do you hear those phrases? “Well, that is just your hard luck” or “Finders, keepers, losers, weepers,” we say.

I am not pointing any fingers this morning, but I am just wondering if any of you have been thinking that you might be able to get a good buy in a car from one of those victims of the [word unintelligible in audio file] up in Redwood City? Have you? Is it not strange how quick we are to say, “Well, I could never do a thing like that,” and thus utilize someone else’s evil or wrongdoing to show ourselves in a better light, take advantage of someone else’s fall for our own advantage. All of us, I think, are on the lookout, are we not, for that old coin that nobody knows the real value of, or the antique chair that looks like it is just an old wreck, but is really worth a couple of hundred dollars? Or we search the want ads to find the widow who is selling her husband’s golf clubs and does not know the value of them. Where does this hunger for exploitation come? It is that pride of the heart, which God hates, which is the destructive force in human life.

This is only a partial listing of the ways of Esau, the man God hates. But, the worst thing is found back in verse three again, “The pride of your heart,” God says, “has deceived you.” That is the tragedy of pride—the tragedy of Esau—that he is deceived; that is, he is this way, but he does not know it. Everyone else does, but he does not. He is blind to his own problem. He goes blissfully on, thinking everything is fine, but, suddenly, everything falls apart and he cannot understand what has happened. Look at verses six and seven here:

How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out! All your allies have deceived you, they have driven you to the border; your confederates have prevailed against you; your trusted friends have set a trap under you--there is no understanding of it. (v 6-7)

You say, “What has happened? I did not know things were going like this.” The amazing thing about pride is the way it blinds the heart of the proud, so that they never can see themselves in any sense at all. They are literally and genuinely amazed when some terrible thing happens as a result of their pride. We seldom recognize ourselves until it is too late. Everyone else can see, but you go blissfully on sawing away, totally unaware that the limb you are sawing on is the very one you are sitting on.

Remember the fairy tale of the king who loved fine clothes and he sent throughout the kingdom a search for a tailor who could make a wonderful suit of clothes for him. There appeared at the palace one day a very strange looking little man, who said he was a tailor who could make the best suit of clothes in the land. You remember how the king took him and brought him in to his inner chambers and the tailor measured him for a suit. Then he took out of his bag a cloth and he held it up, but there was nothing there. The king looked at the tailor holding up his hands and he said, “What is it?” The tailor said, “Your majesty, this is a very strange kind of cloth. It is the kind of cloth which is invisible to those who have wickedness in their hearts; but, if you are pure of heart, you can see it. Surely Your Majesty sees this cloth, how beautiful it is.” And the king said, “Well, at first, you know, the light was not quite right and I could not see it, but now, I can. It is wonderful cloth. I must have a suit made from it.”

So the tailor measured him and spent several weeks in the process of making this suit, fitting him and refitting him, measuring and altering, and, at last, the suit was finished. It came the day for the king to march out in public in his new suit. Of course, all the courtiers were called in to admire the suit and they were told its strange property and, of course, each one of them thought it was the most beautiful suit they had ever seen and they told the king so. So the king dressed in his new suit and walked out into the public streets. The word had gone out that this was a strange kind of suit that only those who were pure in heart could see. As the king walked down the street, all the populace looked on and began to comment about the beauty of this remarkable suit, until a little child standing there looked up at the king and bluntly said, “But the king has not anything on!” Somebody else heard the little boy and they looked at the king again and they said, “Yes, it is true.” The whisper began to spread through the crowd and someone started to laugh and that laugh grew to a tremendous roar. The king realized that all of his folly was exposed and in humiliation and shame, he went back into his palace and nobody has ever heard from him since.

These fairy tales have a way of getting at life and revealing us. That is exactly what takes place in our own hearts when we fancy we are not being seen. We go about with the image in our mind of what we think we are and we think everybody else sees that same image, but they do not. They see us just as we are. They see us in our nakedness and our folly. The tragedy of pride is that the one who allows it to remain unjudged in his heart is always the one who is utterly blind to what he is doing and the terrible damage he is raking in other’s lives and the awful folly that he is perpetuating upon himself because of his blindness to his own pride. This is the folly of Edom.

You say, “What can I do about it? If I cannot see my pride, what can I do?” The answer is, “Nothing. You really cannot do anything.” This is the terrible thing about this, but that is not the end of the story. Look at verses 15 and 16:

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you, your deeds shall return on your own head. For as you have drunk upon my holy mountain, all the nations round about shall drink; they shall drink, and stagger, and shall be as though they had not been. (v 15-16)

Does that sound like destruction and judgment – like that moment of truth when there comes an awakening? Well, that is what it is. It is judgment; it is destruction for Esau. In other words, there is no hope for Esau, for God is at work in human life to destroy this thing in the human heart. God is forever set against him. He will never make peace with Edom. But, when Esau is destroyed, it means triumph for Jacob. Verses 17 and 18:

But in Mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor to the house of Esau; for the LORD has spoken. (v 17-18)

This is what we might call, if you please, the ruthlessness of God. Have you discovered God like this? Have you ever found that God can be utterly pitiless when it comes to the destruction of pride in your life and heart and that He will resolutely put you through the most terrible trials and humiliation publicly in order to show you the Esau that is within and destroy this thing within you; how all your pleading and all your crying and all your praying to be delivered seems to fall upon deaf ears and God moves in utter ruthless, pitiless judgment against you? That is what He is saying here. He set about to destroy Esau and those who are his and to bring Jacob, the man of the spirit, into the full possession of all his possessions.

There you have the story of the whole of the New Testament and the work of Jesus Christ in the human heart. And the weapon that He uses is the judgment of the cross. Remember that New Testament scene when Jesus was sent by Pontius Pilate to Herod the king and as Jesus stood face to face with King Herod, you discover there the representative of Jacob and the representative of Esau standing, confronting one another. For Herod was an Idumean and Idumean is simply another spelling of the word Edomite. Herod was an Edomite of this nation of Edom and Jesus was the son of Jacob. There is Herod the Idumean—proud, arrogant, rebellious.

He watches the cruel mockery of his soliders as they strip the Lord and they dress Him in royal robes and bow before Him and mock Him. Herod brought Jesus before him and asked Him many questions, we are told. But, Jesus stood silent and would say no word to Herod. For the son of Esau there was no answer at all from the son of Jacob – nothing to discuss. There is no compromise possible; there is nothing to say, so Jesus is silent. As you read on, you see the final issue between these two, for the prisoner before King Herod went out to a cross and to a grave and from it, He emerged a king – King of kings and Lord of lords. All the kingdoms of the earth became His. But the king went out to disgrace and to ultimate exile and to a grave and, beyond it, he is nothing but a prisoner, bound by the chains of his own making forever, eternally.

God is simply confronting every single human heart with this question: Which are you this morning - a king or a prisoner? Do you know anything at all yet about that ruthless cross which denies to you any right to be vindictive and self-sufficient and indifferent and violent or gloating in self-righteousness? Have you really learned yet, as a Christian, to reign with Christ, not in heaven someday, but right now to possess your possessions, to enter into the experience of all that is available to you in Him? Is all your kingdom the Lord’s or are you still a prisoner? Even after, sometimes 20-30 years of being a Christian, are you still a prisoner to Edom, to Esau? Are you still bound by those unbreakable chains of your own folly because you refuse to enter into the death that sets you fee - that death of the cross, that willingness to obey God in this respect, to look upon these things as He sees them and call them by the name He calls them and turn from them into the liberty of Jesus Christ? This is the eternal question brought before us in such a book as Obadiah.

There is so much of Esau and so little yet of Jacob in us; so much of this continual manifesting of the pride of the heart because we have not yet passed through the experience of the daily healing of the cross. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “If any man will come after Me, let him take up his cross daily and follow Me.” For it is the word of the cross that is the power of the cross. Whenever you and I feel these temptations – and we will always feel them, we are never free from that - but we are no longer willing to defend it; we no longer excuse it; we no longer pass it off as human nature and something we can do nothing about. But we say, “This is that thing that God hates and this is that thing which the cross destroys, and I choose that. I side with Him. I will no longer let that be there. I claim the ministry of His cross in my life now, at this moment.” At that moment, we pass out of the bounds and out of the misery and out of the abject betrayal of Edom into the glory and the liberty and the life and the freedom of Jacob. Has that happened to you? That is what God is talking about.

PRAYER

Our Father, we know that these things are not written merely for our satisfaction, our curiosity. They are not dull and dusty writings recorded about some long ago event that has no interest to us. These things touch the very place we live. These principles are now at work struggling for mastery within us and each one of us knows it.            

Our Father, we thank You for the revelation given so clearly here of Thy unending enmity against Edom, of Thy pronouncement that he shall never succeed. He will never bring us into the place of victory that we want.

Teach us then the consummate folly of protecting Edom, Esau, following after him, trying to work out our problems this way.

Grant unto us Lord, that willingness to let pride be humbled and to find that self-humiliation that sets us free, brings us into the experience of liberty and victory – that Jacob shall possess all his possessions and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s, for we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

 



Title: Jacob or Esau
By: Ray C. Stedman
Scripture: Obadiah
Catalog No: 2057
Date: October 13, 1963

(Grateful appreciation to Judy R. Pierson for transcription - October 2007)

Copyright © 2009 by Elaine Stedman — This material is the sole property of Ray Stedman Ministries. It may be copied only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies and/or of this data file must contain this copyright notice. This data file may not be copied in part, edited, revised, copied for resale or incorporated in any commercial publications, recordings, broadcasts, performances, displays, or other products offered for sale without the written permission of Ray Stedman Ministries. This material is from the Official Ray C. Stedman Library web site at http://www.RayStedman.org. Requests for permission to use this material or excerpts thereof should be directed to webmaster@RayStedman.org. This Copyright notice supercedes all other Copyright notices.

Copies of any message or sermon translations must be furnished to webmaster@RayStedman.org in PDF format, with contact information and qualifications concerning the translator(s) provided separately in English.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional