Story of Jacob and Esau

You may remember Isaac from the Bible. He was Abraham’s son – the one who was almost sacrificed by God’s command. However, God’s intent was never to kill Isaac, but to test the obedience of Abraham.

Fast forward about 20 years and Isaac marries Rebekah. They tried for 40 years to have kids. This was probably fun at first, especially for Isaac, but I imagine at age 60 it was really wearing on the both of them.

So, Isaac prayed to God about Rebekah’s barren womb. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant with not just one, but twin boys.

Any parent who has more than one boy knows how boys like to fight. Well, in Rebekah’s case, it started in the womb. Actually, they kicked so much in the womb that Rebekah was ready to call it quits. She wanted to die!

When she asked God what was going on, here’s what He said, “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples butting heads while still in your body. One people will overpower the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

When it came time to give birth, Esau was born first but Jacob came out holding on to his heel. The boys grew up and Esau became a man’s man, an expert hunter. Jacob, on the other hand, preferred the indoors.

As you can imagine, Esau was daddy’s favorite and Jacob was a momma’s boy.

One day, Jacob was at home making stew and Esau came in starving. And, we’re not talking about how you feel when lunch is an hour late. We are talking about really starving.

Actually, he was so hungry that when Jacob made him promise to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew, Esau agreed.

Now, that’s some real hunger. I mean, just imagine trading your house for a bowl of stew. That’s probably not even close to what Esau gave away that day just to have something to eat.

The time came when their father, Isaac, was nearing death and ready to pass on the blessing that had come from Abraham. He wanted it to go to Esau, not Jacob. Mom devised a cunning plan for Jacob to receive the blessing instead.

Rebekah’s crazy plan actually worked and Isaac unknowingly blessed Jacob instead of Esau. So not only did Jacob trick Esau into giving away his birthright, but he also took away his blessing.

In other words, Jacob was now Esau’s master and all the nations of the world would serve and honor Jacob instead of Esau. On top of this, Jacob is now the one who will enjoy the blessing passed down from his grandfather, Abraham.

Genesis 27:41 MSG – Esau seethed in anger against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him; he brooded, “The time for mourning my father’s death is close. And then I’ll kill my brother Jacob.”

So yeah, Esau was ticked. And if you were Esau, I bet you’d be pretty mad yourself. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a situation like this, where someone didn’t treat you quite right?

Maybe you found it hard to forgive them? Or maybe you are still holding a grudge today?

Series Overview

Today we are starting a new series. We are going to spend the next three weeks talking about the one thing Jesus told us was most important in our Christian walk. The series is called Love Like Jesus.

We are going to look at three ways Jesus displayed love. Next week we are going to examine why Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. In week three, we are going to talk about how Jesus valued relationships and community.

But today, we going to tackle a tough topic, forgiveness. You see, Jesus forgives sinners. And if you are born again, you know that because He forgave you despite all of your mistakes.

But we’re not only called to receive forgiveness from our own mistakes, we are called to forgive others just like Jesus forgives us. That is what we are going to talk about today.

Epic Story of Forgiveness

Let’s start with the most epic story of forgiveness, found in Luke 23. To give you some perspective, we are talking about Jesus who was completely innocent, never, ever sinned, yet He was hanging on a cross between two criminals.

Luke 23:32-33 NLT – Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Jesus. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

When hearing about Jesus on the cross, most of us haven’t ever taken the time to find out why they killed him that way. Executing someone by nailing them to a cross is called crucifixion and was thought of as the most horrible, painful, tortuous, and humiliating form of execution possible.

This was not the only way they executed people back then. If they wanted it done quickly, they’d just behead them. But, if they wanted to torture and humiliate someone, they crucified them. Crucifixion for the worst of the worst.

Those crucified were left to hang in a position where they cannot fend for themselves. They couldn’t wave off the scavenging birds or kick away the roaming dogs.

They were hanging naked on display for all to see and people would come by and torture, mock, and spit on them while they were dying a slow and painful death.

In the midst of all of this, Jesus prayed the most amazing prayer:

Luke 23:34 NLT – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

In the midst of being tortured, Jesus asked God to forgive those who were torturing Him. Let’s not forget, Jesus didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not like He had this coming. Yet, He forgave those who were not just hurting Him, but killing Him.

Self-Evaluation

If you are more than a few months old, you’ve been hurt by someone. In fact, many of you right now are carrying around a significant wound.

Maybe someone abused you, lied to you, cheated you. Or, maybe they took advantage of someone you love. They hurt your child or hurt your sister.

Or maybe, someone who says they are a Christian did not act very Christ-like to you. Some church did something that devastated you. Someone gossiped about you, spreading something that wasn’t true.

There are even some of you that were hurt by someone who is no longer alive, yet you find yourself stuck, carrying the weight of bitterness against someone who isn’t even here anymore.

What about those who have been hurt by your mom or dad? Maybe they weren’t there for you, didn’t spend much time with you or even abandoned you.

For others, it’s not something really, really big. Maybe it’s just a family member that drives you crazy. Or that person at work where what you do is never good enough and they seem to hold it over your head.

And some of you, you’re mad at God for something that happened in your life.

And others, your mad at yourself. You did something and can’t believe you did it. You know God has forgiven you, but you can’t seem to forgive yourself.

All of this raises a big question I want us to address today. How do we forgive like Jesus forgives?

How do we forgive like Jesus forgives?

Forgiveness seems like a complicated issue. But, Jesus actually gave us two practical steps to forgiving like He forgives.

Luke 6:28 NLT – Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.

Step 1: Pray for those who hurt you.

Some of you are thinking, “Oh, I’ll pray for them alright. I’ll pray that God teaches them a lesson. I’ll pray they get found out for what they’ve done wrong and get humiliated in front of all their friends.”

That’s probably where Esau was with Jacob. “I’ll pray for Jacob. I’ll pray that he marries the most annoying woman there is. I’ll pray he ends up in a village where he becomes a slave.”

Jesus’ instructions are shocking. Pray for those who hurt me? Really?

And, just imagine how shocking this was for his live audience. They had been taught their entire lives to do the opposite of what He was teaching. They were taught to get revenge when they were hurt. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

And you know what, we’ve been taught that too. “Don’t let them take advantage of you. Don’t let them walk all over you. Stand up and be a man! Take what belongs to you!”

Matthew 5:43-44 NLT – Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!

Jesus gets it. He knows we’ve been taught to hate those who do us wrong. Yet, He tells us to love them instead.

Why does Jesus have to be like this? Why does He ask us to do something that makes no sense to our natural mind?

If you’ve been in church for long you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah yeah. Love your enemies. I got it.” And that’s easy to say until you actually have an enemy – someone who lied about you or did bad things to your little sister.

Then, all off a sudden, you have an excuse for avoiding this instruction from Jesus and you decide to hate your enemy instead. And you hold on to that hate, believing that it is punishing your enemy.

In reality, it is punishing you. The internal hatred robs you of the life Jesus died for you to have. So, you live each day in a bad mood, tired and stressed out, and making everyone else around you miserable.

I hope this is opening your eyes to see things differently. If you’ve been let down by someone, someone gossiped about you, or someone hurt your loved one, the first place to start is to pray for them.

And, don’t pray that something bad happens to them. Really pray for them.

Why does Jesus teach this? Because it forces you to change your thoughts, which in turn changes your attitude. And right thoughts come before right actions.

If you are overwhelmed with bitterness towards someone, you are going to find yourself doing things you wish you would have never done. You may even find yourself doing to them exactly what they did to you, like spreading lies.

But if you STOP those negative thoughts and attitudes by intentionally praying for the person, you in turn stop yourself from doing things you will regret.

And, don’t think you can wait until you ‘get in the mood’ to pray. Because, you may just be waiting until Jesus gets back. You have to make an intentional decision to pray for that person. Put it in your calendar. Do it every day.

So, your prayer may start something like, “God, do something in his life. Amen.” And then it may grow to, “God, do something good in his life. Something that changes his life for the better.”

And then you may even find yourself praying specific blessings into his life. Maybe a better job. Or, for reconciliation with his spouse.

Now, when you start praying for someone, the prayer may or may not change them, but it will always change you. Let me say it again, your prayers for others may not change them, but it will always change you.

So how do you forgive like Jesus? The first step is to pray for those who hurt you. The second step:

Step #2: Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Colossians 3:13 NLT – Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Why do we forgive? Because Jesus forgave us. And He didn’t just forgive us of a few things, He forgave us of everything, past, present and future.

And I don’t know about you, but Jesus had to forgive me of a lot and He will probably have to forgive me of something tomorrow. Yet, He took my life of sin, forgave it all, and invited me into a new life with Him.

I don’t know how many lies you’ve told or how many people you’ve hurt. I don’t even know how many times you’ve sinned against God or how ‘bad’ your sins are. But what I do know is, when you give your life to Jesus, He forgives all of it.

He gives you a clean slate and even promises to forgive your sins tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how bad you’ve messed up, Jesus forgives it all.

And this is where you obtain God’s power to forgive others in your life. It’s when you realize how Jesus has forgiven you.

You probably can’t muster up forgiveness on your own, but when you receive Jesus’ forgiveness in your own life, the power of the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to forgive others, regardless of what they’ve done to you.

Forgiveness vs Unforgiveness

Let’s play out two stories. One where you choose to hold on to your bitterness and one where you choose to forgive.

So, you choose to stay bitter. Every time you see him, your mad. He’s at every family gathering, so you’re miserable at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every time you think about him, you get mad. It’s 3am? You’re mad.

Every time you see their post on Facebook, you get mad. You spend 15 minutes typing out a hateful comment and then delete it. Because you have to punish them. You don’t want them to know that you even notice them.

You’ve probably heard it said that, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Is that your game plan?

So, let’s play the story from the other perspective.

You follow what Jesus said to do and pray for your enemy. And you don’t just do it once, but you do it every time those negative feelings start to arise.

Then, you take regular time to reflect on how much Jesus has forgiven you. This amazing display of forgiveness overwhelms you and empowers you to forgive even the worst thing that has been done to you.

You walk away in freedom and enjoy your life. And that person you hurt you? They found their way into freedom and are now serving Jesus themselves.

Jacob and Esau Continued

Now, let’s head back to finish the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob deceived Esau twice and Esau was ready to kill Jacob, for real. So, Jacob ran for his life. He didn’t grab his shoes or nothing.

Years went by, Jacob got married, not just once but twice. And to make things more interesting, they were sisters. Not only that, but he was tricked into marrying the older sister by his father-in-law. He only intended to marry one.

That’s a story for another time. But, if I peaked your interest, you can watch this Jerry Springer episode in Genesis 29 & 30.

While Jacob was hiding from his brother Esau, he managed to have 11 sons with 4 different women. He also became very rich during this time. Then, the time came for Jacob to go back home, where Esau lived.

He gathered his rather large family and all of his possessions and head off. His father-in-law wasn’t happy about him leaving, of course, but they were able to settle their differences.

Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to tell Esau they were coming with lots of cattle, donkeys, sheep and also servants. In other words, “Hey brother, I know you hate me, but I have some cool stuff!”

The messengers returned and told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him, not alone, but with four hundred men. This scared Jacob, and rightfully so after all that he did to Esau.

So, Jacob divided all his belongings into two groups. That way, if Esau attacked, the other group had a chance to get away. I don’t know about you, but I hope Jacob put me in the group that could get away.

Then, he prepared three different gifts, all very generous, and sent them ahead so that Esau would have received the three gifts, one after the other, before he made it to Jacob. You know, trying to soften Esau’s heart.

The time had come. Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his four hundred men. He led the way, bowing seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran up and embraced him, held him tight, and kissed him.

And they both cried in each others arms. Not the ending I was expecting, but if it ended any differently, all the women in the room would be mad. I mean, you can’t have a good story without a good ending.

But, here’s the point. Jacob practically stole everything from Esau. Yet, somehow, Esau found a way to forgive Jacob.

Next Steps

I don’t know if you are carrying an offense. It could be something really significant, or it could just be that annoying person that gets under your skin.

The world is going to tell us to get back at our enemies. But Jesus tells us to pray for them. And then we are supposed to forgive them, not in our own power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit that comes upon us when we realize how Jesus has forgiven us.

So, whoever did you wrong, I want you to take moment right now and pray for them.

Next, I want you to take a moment to think of all the things Jesus has forgiven you for. I mean, really think back. And remember, you didn’t earn His forgiveness, He gave it to all of us as a free gift.

Now, receive the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive. Let the offense go and step into freedom.

Kade Young

About the Author

Kade Young

Kade Young is the lead pastor of NoLimits Church.