A Lesson from … Esau?

“And Rebecca took the beloved garments of her older son Esau that were in the house…” (Gen. 27:15).

וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת-בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל, הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת

I am always amazed that we can read verses of Scripture, and even teach them year after year, and miss one beautiful detail.

If anyone knows anything about Esau, it is that he and Jacob struggled, and that Jacob was chosen by God over him to continue the covenant established with Abraham. He is portrayed, and rightly so, as a wild man, “Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field” (Gen. 25:27), one whose brides caused bitterness of spirit to his father and mother (Gen. 26:34-35).

Still, there is an interesting detail in the verse above regarding the preparation of Jacob as Rebecca disguised him, she used הַחֲמֻדֹת, אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ, בַּבָּיִת, beloved, precious (הַחֲמֻדֹת) garments belonging to Esau that were in her house.

Esau had his own house, wives, family, so why were his beloved garments there? The rabbis explain, that when Esau would appear before his aging father Isaac, he would change into his favorite, most important clothes; clothes that he kept in his parents house. Why?

Esau loved and respected his father. Isaac was nearly blind at this time (Gen. 27:1), and he would not notice the quality of Esau’s clothing. He couldn’t see Esau’s clothing. Yet, Esau could. Rather than appearing before his father in the same clothing he had hunted and butchered in, Esau, for the love and respect of his beloved father, change into his best clothes before visiting Isaac.

Rebecca, knowing this, used those very beloved, purposely placed clothes, to deceive Isaac when she disguised Jacob; and it was perhaps in those very beloved clothes that Jacob ran for his life (Gen. 27:43). In his anger, Esau then did what was displeasing in his fathers eyes, and took a daughter from his uncle Ishmael (Gen. 28:8-9).

Esau wore his finest garments in order to show respect for his father, a gesture that Isaac was unable to recognize. It was from a genuine love and respect that Esau had for him, after all, Isaac and Esau shared a close father and son relationship (Gen. 25:28). Esau was not posturing to gain favor, as that he already had. No, it was Jacob who wore Esau’s outward expression of love and respect in order to complete the ruse of his mother, thus trampling on Esau.

The life and lessons of Esau are often overlooked in light of his many mistakes, but the love he had for Isaac should not be overlooked. It was genuine. Esau was not perfect, but neither was he outside the Abrahamic tent of kindness.

Even after his brother steals his birthright and blessing, and runs for his life, it is Esau who, years later, “ran to meet him (Jacob), and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept” (Gen. 33:4). This action was rooted in the same love and respect that Esau had for their father, kindness perhaps learned from Abraham himself.

Sometimes a small detail, even the placement of clothes, can open our eyes enough to see someone differently than we have before. God did not choose Esau, and that is His sovereign design; but there are still valuable lessons we can learn from him, as it says in Pirkei Avot 4:1, “Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all men, as it is written, “I have gained understanding from all my teachers” (Psalm 119:99). And Paul exhorts us, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Ro. 12:9).

Esau loved Isaac, and he ultimately showed his love for Isaac by loving and welcoming home his brother Jacob, and years later they, together, buried their father (Gen. 35:29).

Be well. Shalom.

Friendship

When we study the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles, we note rather quickly that the apostles did not always get along. They disagreed. They contended for favor. They mocked and grew frustrated with each other. Yeshua knew that in His absence, they could potentially divide what He had united.

In John 15:17 we read, “These things I command you, so that you may love one another.”

We don’t often realize it, but the human – from our earliest stages of development – must be taught, reminded and corrected about how to treat the human other. When your children were young, do you recall telling them to “be nice,” or “share”? What you were actually doing was teaching them how to be a friend.

Messiah, in John 15:17, is laying a foundation of friendship among those who will carry His message to the world; a world that will not be a friend to them, in fact, it will hate them (Jn. 15:18-19; cf. Jas. 4:4). His foundation allowed for the dynamic of human relationships.

The human heart longs for friendship; it is, after all, consistent with our design, having been created in the “image and likeness” of the Godhead dwelling in perfect communion.

The Scriptures have much to say about the nature of friendship:

The wounds of a friend are faithful (Prov. 27:6). Their counsel is sweetness (Prov. 27:9). A friend sharpens our countenance (Prov. 27:17). “A man with many friends may be harmed by them, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).

Unlike the family we are born into, friendship is a choice. Remember the words of Messiah, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (Jn. 15:16). The beauty of this choice is that He chose us with our imperfections. He didn’t wait for us to be: perfect, totally reformed, well-dressed, well-mannered, agreeable. He chose us as we were; and by communion with Him, He changes and ultimately perfects us (Ro. 8:28-29).

Messiah was mocked for the friendships He kept, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19). Why would Messiah be a friend to tax collectors and sinners? Why did He desire to be a friend to you?

Let’s consider some Hebrew words that are translated “friend” in order to gain a broader perspective on friendship.

1. רע, from “see,” rendered as neighbor, companion and friend.

2. חבר, fellowship, friendship, to be knit together.

3. אהב, love, friend.

4. ידיד, friend.

So a friend is someone you see, spend time with, have affection for, and with whom you share kindness, even stress.

While חבר reveals to us how the lives of friends are “knit together” like a tapestry, the final word that I shared above explains how that is accomplished. ידיד, simply means “friend,” however it is formed by combining two words that create a beautiful visual.

יד + יד = ידיד, (yad + yad); יד means “hand,” so the picture of friends are those living “hand in hand.”

I appreciate what Tim Keller writes about friendship, “Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.”

The Basis of Friendship is:

1. Covenant – with the Lord and others. Part of the stipulations of covenant with the Lord is that we will reach out our hand, see above, to neighbors, strangers, brothers, tax collectors and sinners, etc.

2. Time and Consistency.

3. Connectedness and Presence.

4. Sacrificial (Jn. 15:13) and Careful.

5. Honesty – truth in love.

6. Counsel.

In messianic faith, our friendships are an outgrowth of the friendship we have with Yeshua. What did Yeshua say? “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (Jn. 15:14). This is a conditional statement. We must do what He has commanded: love one another; love the stranger, neighbor, enemy; do to others what you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12).

He is the covenant Lord. It may sound strange to our ears, but He has the authority to set conditions of our friendship/relationship with Him. Friendship with Yeshua is only possible because of His redemptive work on the Cross that has torn the curtain blocking intimacy with God. The grace of forgiveness begins, maintains and keeps His friendship with us, and others.

Yet, Yeshua was able to share friendship with sinners because of His intimacy with the Father. Communion with Yeshua is the avenue by which we develop friendships and relationships with the lost, and ultimately fulfill our calling in His commission (Matt. 28:18-20), without relaxing our grip on His hand, or His grip on ours.

Be well. Shalom.

Have you been Bartimaeus?

(Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus was a blind beggar. He is the least of beggars we might say, as he sits outside of the prosperous, yet cursed city of Jericho (Josh. 6:26). He has nothing. He is not treated with kindness, which should be provided according to the Torah. He has suffered a medical incident that has caused blindness (I want to see again). He also suffers because of his name.

Bartimaeus is a Hellenized rendering of, not a proper name, but an Aramaic phrase used as a pejorative. “Bar” meaning “son” and “Tamai” meaning “unclean, defiled, contaminated or a fool.”

His condition in the flesh was understood to be the result of a curse, or ritual defilement or unconfessed sin, or a defect of some sort inherited from his father- and people like this were to be avoided. While he would be allowed to beg, few would reach out their hand to him – until Yeshua/Jesus.

When Bartimaeus heard that Yeshua was coming, he called out. Yeshua heard him. While those around him shushed him, Yeshua rebukes shushers by having them bring to him the vary one they attempted to silence.

How did Bartimaeus respond when called? He threw off his cloak, he jumped up, and he went to Yeshua.

Bartimaeus had one possession before Yeshua called him: his cloak. The cloak protected him from the elements. It identified him. He used it to beg. It was his only home.

When Yeshua called Bartimaeus, he tossed the cloak aside, and never returned to it; as he immediately began to follow Yeshua as a new man. The “son of the unclean one” received back his humanity from the author of life itself.

Many of us spend a great deal of time ensuring that we do not become a Bartimaeus – rather than considering how we can reach Bartimaeus; but we also need to remember the time when we were not all that different from him.

We need to ask ourselves: What is our cloak, our covering, our protection that we hold onto that we need to throw aside?What are our possessions that keep us from faithfully following Yeshua? What is in our name, our history, our identity that keeps us from following Yeshua?

When Bartimaeus threw his only garment aside, the source of his livelihood, he was blessed, and perhaps his spirit cried, “I greatly rejoice in Adonai, my soul exults in my God. For He has put garments of salvation on me, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10).

Garments of Yeshua/Jesus.

Paul writes, “Let us walk properly as in the day – not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and envy. Instead, put on (as a garment) the Lord Messiah Yeshua, and stop making provision for the flesh – for its cravings” (Ro. 13:13-14).

Let us leave behind how we were defined, and walk in how Messiah identifies us – leave behind your cloak and put on Yeshua.

After Yeshua called and healed Bartimaeus, he was clean, and he was called by a new name; a name not known to us, but certainly known to Yeshua. You, dear reader, are not who you once were, laying aside your old identity, He has given you a new name, and clothed you with Himself.

Be well. Shalom.