This morning I want to tell you an old story, but a true story, about twin brothers and their descendants.

  1. These twin boys engaged in a sibling rivalry that was so intense it would make any set of parents thrilled NOT to have these two boys as their sons.
    1. The hostile rivalry between these two boys began before they were born.
      1. They struggled against each other as unborn babies with such intensity that before birth their mother wondered what was happening.
        1. She wondered: If they cannot get along with each other before birth, why am I pregnant?"
        2. She was so concerned about what was happening in her before birth that she asked God to explain what was taking place.
      2. This is the response God gave her:
        Genesis 25:23 The Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger."
    2. We are not told anything about the boys' childhood, but the things that happened when they were either teens or men make it impossible for me to imagine that it was good times and experiences.
      1. From the moment of birth, two things were obvious: first, the boys were born in conflict, and second they were very different.
        1. The first to be born was Esau, but his brother Jacob was holding Esau's heel even as they were born.
        2. So Jacob was named "the heel catcher" which was not a good name--it meant someone who deceived.
        3. At birth Esau was hairy all over with a reddish complexion.
        4. That hairiness continued into manhood as a distinguishing difference between Esau and Jacob.
      2. These twin boys grew to be completely different men.
        1. Esau was an outdoors man, a hunter and an adventurer.
        2. The word used to describe Jacob meant "complete."
        3. To make the situation even worse, the father [Isaac] was clearly partial to Esau and the mother [Rebecca] was partial to Jacob (Genesis 25:28).
          1. The parents' favoritism and partiality made a bad situation worse.
          2. Instead of the twins growing closer together, they grew further apart.
      3. Their competition with each other grew to be just plain hatred when Jacob deliberately took advantage of Esau and then later stole from Esau.
        1. After a calculating Jacob used deception of his father to steal the family blessing from Esau, Esau planned to kill Jacob when their Dad died.
        2. I do not believe it is any exaggeration to say these two men hated each other.

  2. The descendants of Esau became the nation of Edom, and the descendants of Jacob became the nation of Israel.
    1. Generations later the nation of Israel was delivered from Egyptian slavery by God under Moses' leadership.
      1. As the people of Israel were in the wilderness, God gave them this instruction:
        Deuteronomy 2:4,5 "You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession."
      2. I find this a very insightful, interesting statement from God.
        1. Long before God gave Canaan to Israel as its land, God gave the territory of Edom to Esau's descendants.
        2. These people were the blood descendants of Jacob's family--they were his twin brother's people.
        3. Because God gave them their land, because they were descendants of Jacob's twin brother, Israel was not to take one inch of the land.
    2. There are several striking contrasts:
      1. The descendants of Esau settled on a land given them by God long before the descendants of Jacob lived in Canaan.
      2. The descendants of Esau had kings long before the descendants of Jacob had kings.
      3. Israel was to show respect for the Edomites and their land because they were descendants of Jacob's twin brother.
    3. There is also a striking similarity between the problem that existed between Jacob and Esau.
      1. Even though God told Israel to be careful and to show respect to the Edomites, in future generations Edom and Israel hated each other.
      2. As Israel lived in Canaan for a long time, there are numerous incidents of conflict between Israel and Edom.

  3. Hundreds of years after Israel lived in Canaan, after lots and lots of conflict, the prophet Obadiah gave a brief prophecy to the Edomites. I want you to consider just a few verses of Obadiah's prophecy:
    Obadiah 10-14 "Because of violence to your brother Jacob, You will be covered with shame, And you will be cut off forever. On the day that you stood aloof, On the day that strangers carried off his wealth, And foreigners entered his gate And cast lots for Jerusalem--You too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother's day, The day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah In the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast In the day of their distress. Do not enter the gate of My people In the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity In the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth In the day of their disaster. Do not stand at the fork of the road To cut down their fugitives; And do not imprison their survivors In the day of their distress."
    1. This prophecy was given by Obadiah likely at the time that Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians.
    2. There had been a long, long history of hate between Israel and Edom, a hatred that dated all the way back to the lack of respect Jacob and Esau had for each other.
      1. The territory that Edom occupied was very mountainous and shared a common border with the tribe of Judah.
      2. When Jerusalem fell to a foreign army, Edom had a ring side seat, and they were delighted to see Israel "get theirs."
      3. Because their territory was protected by its mountains, they felt very safe as they gloated over the disaster that was consuming Israel.
        1. They were happy to see Israel enduring so much humiliation and suffering.
        2. Nothing was too bad for Israel!
    3. God gave them some serious warnings and a horrible promise because Israel was their brothers.
      1. Warnings:
        1. Do not gloat over Israel's sufferings.
        2. Do not loot Jerusalem after the enemy leaves.
        3. Do not kill Israel's refuges who are fleeing.
        4. Do not imprison Israel's survivors.
      2. The promise:
        1. I, God, promise you that because of your attitude toward Israel in her time of disaster, I will destroy you.
        2. You will be covered with shame and cut off forever.
    4. "Explain all that." I cannot.
      1. "Was not God upset with Israel?" Yes.
      2. "Was not Israel suffering because they had not followed God?" Yes.
      3. "Did not God, by his specific promise, let this happen to Israel?" Yes.
      4. "Why is God so upset with Edom when Israel has been so wicked?" Edom's attitude was everything God did not want it to be.
      5. God held Edom responsible for her attitude toward Israel.
    5. I see a basic truth: God's decisions do not justify a wicked attitude toward other people.

  4. When we have been blessed by God, it must change the way we look at other people.
    1. That is basic to godly existence.
      1. We never try to play the role of God.
      2. We always understand that we are people blessed by God.
    2. God has not given us a license to hate other people.
      1. Our world is filled with hate.
      2. Our world is filled with people who hate people.
      3. God did not ask us to hate, but to love.
    3. That is a fundamental contrast between people who belong to God and people who do not.
      1. People who belong to God love other people, even if other people hate them.
      2. People who do not belong to God feel justified in hating people who hate them.
      3. You doubt the contrast? Consider these statements:
        Matthew 5:11,12 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
        1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

There is a fundamental contrast in the man or woman who belongs to God through Jesus Christ and the man or woman who rejects God. The person who belongs to God has some basic understandings about life and people. (1) Understanding # 1: "I do not belong to this world--life is not measured by physical possessions or accomplishments. (2) Understanding # 2: "Everything I have available to me is a gift from God." (3) Understanding # 3: "In all I have and all I use, I must act as God's caretaker. It is not mine. It is His. I just briefly manage it for Him."

God asks us to love all people throughout the world. I urge you to be a good manager for God. I urge you to care about what happens to people. I urge you to never forget that the greatest gift God has given you is the crucified, resurrected Jesus as a Savior.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 3 November 2002

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