Posts Tagged ‘Revenge’

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Epilogue

What a relief. Jacob reunites with Esau without bloodshed. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.

“Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied.” Jacob is keen to say that it is God who has blessed him. Maybe he’s also making it clear, “Keep your hands off, Esau!” only in a more subtle way.

The whole family bows before Esau to show their respect. This isn’t saying, “Esau, we are all coming under your authority”, just simply acknowledging, “we are coming into your territory.”

  1. ENSURE THAT AN AGREEMENT IS REACHED
Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Restitution © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

“And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship” (Genesis 33:8 NLT).

Jacob makes it quite clear that he is not coming in any way as an act of aggression as he meets Esau. This time he’s not offering a pot of stew. These animals are a means of restitution for his deceit in the past. This is a tangible way to make amends. But there is something else implied that is another hint at what Jacob has been doing.

“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself” (Genesis 33:9 NLT). The fact that Esau has 400 men indicates that he has made a life for himself already, perhaps as a mercenary. He obviously has plenty. But Jacob needs some indication from Esau that he has abandoned his claim to his Father’s blessing.

It is important to Jacob that he shows a gesture of reconciliation, not merely mouth the words.

“But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favour with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!” (Genesis 33:10 NLT).

Strange thing to say.

Instead of struggling with Esau, Jacob struggled with God. The struggle with God meant a hip wrenched from its socket, but he did receive God’s blessing.

But why does he describe his meeting with Esau as seeing the face of God? Perhaps he sees it as a blessing. Perhaps the blessing God gave had a specific clause that Esau would not annihilate him and his family. His smile was the face of God in terms of answered prayer. His fight with God substituted for his expected fight with Esau. Perhaps this is the blessing God gave to Jacob.

But I like what the Life Essentials Study Bible says. It suggests that the animals that Jacob gave to Esau amounted to a 10th of all he had, thus being an offering to God and this is why he said: “seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” “Though it cannot be proven from this text, it would not be surprising if Jacob’s herd totaled 5,500 animals and the 550 he gave Esau represented 10 percent of his total assets, fulfilling his vow (Genesis 28:22).”

I really like this thought. He’s not setting Esau up as God, but fulfilling his vow to God to give a tenth of all he had. He did this by giving this offering of restitution for the blessing stolen from Esau. Perhaps this was the reason he gave his promise back in Genesis 28. Perhaps he always intended his tenth to be given to God in this way.

“Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift” (Genesis 33:11 NLT). 

Esau can see that God has blessed Jacob, so he accepts the gift.

Pastor Warren Wiersbe says “He was made a prince, but he was acting like a pauper” but this seems an unnecessary assumption. No pauper is able to offer such a generous gift. And if anything, God humbled Jacob, not exalted him, in his encounter. Jacob experienced a blessing with a limp, not a crown with a title.

In accepting the gift, the rift between Esau and Jacob is requited. Esau doesn’t say, “I demand my birthright and blessing back” but submits to Jacob’s favour as restitution for the deceptive manner of their taking, in kind.

Living as an alien to God’s promises for over 20 years, Jacob was abused for his labour but also enriched. And he enters the land God promises, injured and blessed.

There is nothing automatic about the blessing of God to Jacob. He didn’t simply inherit it from his father and he certainly didn’t achieve it through deceit. It could only enter his life through consent and grace. There is always a risk when You struggle with God. It is the greatest conflict you will ever face.

Years later, Jesus, descended from the line of Jacob and faced the greatest conflict ever faced by anyone, as He died on a Cross for our sin. The Cross is a crutch for those who realize that they walk with a limp. It is the reconciling plus sign for the human race. We need faith in Christ to take the journey God intends us to travel. It takes us into the promises of God for our lives.

God is not yet through with Jacob. This is a stepping stone to an ongoing journey in receiving all that God has promised, not just a happy ending to a feel-good movie. As we have seen in Jacob’s past, he has a tendency to make short-term choices which cause long-term pain, but through obedience he has arrived in the promised land. But he hasn’t completely arrived in terms of obedience, as he is yet to discover. (But that it for another time).

Pastor Ross

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WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 58

The plan had taken months of preparation and even before his triumphal entry back into David’s presence, Absalom knew the pathway he intended to take. Firstly he had to gain for himself a reputation as one who cared for the people. Easy enough. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.

His father, the king, refused to see him face to face. As he had walked home, fuming with revenge, he devised an additional strategy. It was simple but effective, and fetched the faint flicker of a smile to his otherwise dark demeanor.

Absalom went immediately to the Tent of Meeting, his long hair blowing in the breeze and a good size crowd gathered out of curiosity. They had all heard of his return and he was now a celebrity.

As he stood before the priest he asked for the razor and the kings scales to be brought. He was there to complete his Nazirite vow but so much more interested in symbolising his father’s injustice. “My banishment is at an end!” he shouted and the atmosphere was electric with cheering and well wishes.

Some of the women were crying as Absalom presented offerings as if he was presenting them to the Lord: a lamb without defect, a ewe-lamb without blemish and a ram without fault, as the law required. He saw these animals not as sacrifices but as symbols of himself. Flawless. I am the innocent victim of your injustice, father, and you will pay! “Behold, the sacrifice!” he shouted. He was handsome and without guile and the people saw him as a hero returned, and many thought he was despised unjustly by his father the king.

Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, he shaved off his hair and weighed it according to the Royal standard of king David before the people, as a measure of his humiliation. It was then burned in the fire as a sacrifice. It was a very moving event. It worked. It gave him much favour in the eyes of the people. His hair weighed about 200 shekels worth of pity by the kings own scales.

He felt like Samson, shaved of his hair and now imprisoned in his own house, blinded to the sight of his father’s favour. And like Samson, he determined to get his revenge. You will pay, father. You will pay.

Another vow was made that day. His hair began to grow again, along with his popularity, but for him, each inch represented the growing resentment he felt towards his father. He endured two full years in Jerusalem, without any contact.

Absalom took great pains to associate himself with the important people of David’s court and spent time building relationships. Ahithophel was a key target, since he was the grandfather of Bathsheba.

Although David had apologised to Ahithophel for the disgrace brought on his family through adultery with his granddaughter, Surely, you want revenge, thought Absalom, to avenge the loss of reputation. What about the murder of your son-in-law? Absalom knew he could work on these areas of hurt.

Rising early each morning, Absalom stood beside the road that led to the city gate. He was here to greet anyone who came to the city with a case to be heard by the king for judgement. Most of them knew who he was, so his attention to them in a time of need made them feel important and cared for.

Those who recognised Absalom immediately came and prostrated themselves on the ground before him. He reached down and lifted them up, hugged and kiss them in the warm greeting of an equal and a friend.

“What city are you from?” he asked, because he was only interested in those who were from Israel. If they were, he questioned them about their case and showed great interest in what they had to say. Then he added, “I can see that your claims are valid. As you are probably aware, I am a man who has been trained through the hard process of justice. If you know anything of me you will know that to be true. But my journey so far has made me well acquainted with the law. You have a very good case but I’m not sure that you will get the justice you deserve. It’s a pity that you have no advocate before the king.”

It worked each time. The man would look to him and say, “My lord, are you not able to defend me before the king?”

Absalom would laugh and then look seriously at the man. He would say, “If only what you are saying could be done. If I were appointed as judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me, and believe me, I would give him the justice he deserves.” And so the scenario had been repeated each day.

I have stolen the hearts of the men of Israel from you, father. He was seen as a man of justice and great wisdom, but also as a friend. Now the deception was almost complete.

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration which doesn’t avoid the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”


 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 52

Solomon was there as they celebrated the sheep-shearing with Absalom. He watched as his brothers drank and ate and witnessed the horror of that night.

He saw Absalom speaking with his servants. He watched as they stepped back with their mouths aghast at something Absalom was saying. What did he say to them to make them so nervous? He observed them go about their duties with ashen faces for some time. They seemed somehow clumsy. One dropped some wine that his brother Amnon had ordered and had to get some more. Another seemed agitated.

Solomon was wise enough not to drink wine that night. He sensed something in the air. He didn’t recognise it immediately. It was alien to the celebration. He tried to find it in the concern of Absalom’s servants but it was not there. What am I missing? he thought. Then he caught a glimpse of it in Absalom’s eyes, and suddenly, as if by revelation, he knew what it was. It was the bitter/sweet smell of revenge. He stood up, but it was already too late!

Time seemed to slow down in the next few seconds. Solomon shouted, “Nooo!” but as he opened his mouth Absalom was also shouting to his servants, “Strike him NOW!”

Amnon looked up in the confusion to see hatred burning in Absalom’s eyes. Pure terror enveloped him as he tried to get up.

The killing was quick and came from behind, the blade curling in an arc with it’s shocking task. Amnon saw Absalom’s smiling disgust only momentarily as he received the full shock of Absalom’s terrible gift. Stabbed several times, Amnon now lay on the ground, blood pooling around his lifeless, crumpled body. His brothers reeled back in horror.

Suddenly the silence was broken as Solomon shouted, “Get away as quickly as you can! Move now!” He had realised that Amnon’s death would not be enough for one who was intoxicated with revenge.

Solomon had been right. For a moment, Absalom had thought to eliminate all competition to the throne, but Solomon had responded too quickly. His brothers had each mounted their mules and were escaping.

In the chaos that ensued Absalom looked down at Amnon lying at his feet, and after what seemed like an eternity he said, “Let them go.” Strangely the satisfaction he thought he would feel was still mixed with unrequited frustration.

Absalom’s chief servant still held the dagger in his hand, it’s blade soiled with Amnon’s blood. “The blade of your retribution, my lord,” he said as he returned it to Absalom. It was a Canaanite dagger with an iron blade and a beautifully carved hilt.

Pastor Ross

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WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 49

Absalom immediately went to his father, the king, expecting justice. He was almost shouting with rage as he said, “He raped her! Tamar told me she struggled to get away, but there was nothing that she could do! This is outrageous!” 

“Calm down Absalom,” said David.

Calm down? He ordered her out of his house! He shouted at her and told her to ‘Get up, go away!’ as if she was one of his slaves to do his bidding. She felt so bereft and violated she refused. She no longer had any place to go. She could not bring herself to return to the palace as if nothing had happened.

He had an opportunity to show integrity and compassion! All he showed her was contempt. He just called his servant and ordered him to throw her out and to lock the door behind her! To abuse her and throw her out like that is pure wickedness! He wouldn’t listen to her.

She made it known publically that she had been violated by putting ashes on her head, and she tore the long-sleeved garment that she wore. You should have seen her. She was so distressed and she was crying out loudly for help. Everyone around her saw how distressed and shocked she was. That’s the state in which I found her.”

David said, “Where is she now?”

I took her to my house so she’ll be safe.”

He did not mention to David that when Tamar had explained all that happened, he had said, “I want you to keep silent about this, Tamar.”

But that doesn’t mean that I will not seek retribution.

“If I know Amnon, he’ll try to blame her and she will be the one who’ll end up being punished. But the facts are clear.” I intend to get justice.

David was very angry, and Absalom expected that Amnon would be taken before the elders of the city for judgement.

The elders will probably force him to take her into his household as his wife to avoid royal disgrace. That’s not enough. Charges must be laid. Rape carries a death sentence. Absalom was not sure that they would allow a prince to be charged with rape? Surely he will not escape the consequences of breaking the law simply because he is a prince. 

But David did nothing. He was unwilling to act in terms of justice and discipline. Perhaps as David thought about his own sin with Bathsheba and how he had escaped with his life, he thought that Amnon deserved to live also. But nothing at all was done.

Absalom resented David for not acting and hated Amnon all the more for raping his sister and getting away with it. He wouldn’t speak to Amnon or anyone else about the matter in any way.

You will pay! Absalom would find a way to give vent to the hate that festered within him both for his father and for Amnon. After two years it became white hot, hammered and tempered with iron teeth into the shape of revenge.

Pastor Ross

P.S.

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Genesis 26:12-25 – FOREIGNERS GO HOME!

Foreigners Go Home!

He is not afraid to let others excel to the point where they are better than he is. He is not THREATENED by others rising to the top. I like that about Pastor Brian Houston. How can I expect to grow if I am not willing to encourage others to reach their full potential in life and be all that God intends for them to be?

The trouble is when I begin to focus my attention on great preachers all of a sudden my ability to make a difference seems so small in comparison. They have such incredible impact in people’s lives all around the world. I can choose to either praise God for their influence or get JEALOUS, CRITICAL and INTIMIDATED BY THEM. When Isaac begins to prosper, he gets up close and personal with the destructive consequences of jealousy.

On reflection Isaac didn’t exactly get things right along the way when it came to his relationships. He uses his wife as a shield to protect himself without considering what this would do to her. He is rebuked by the Philistine leader, Abimelech, and regarded with suspicion from then on. It’s like getting the Mayor of the city offside.

All this probably contributes to the REJECTION AND JEALOUSY of Isaac by the local residents in Gerar, especially when God starts to prosper him. You can almost hear them say Not only is he a liar but these foreigners are stealing our jobs and livelihood!” You know how the conversations go when overseas investors take over iconic homegrown businesses.

Not having a belief in God and therefore not having an appreciation of God’s blessing in another persons life, the Philistines express their PROVINCIALISM and JEALOUSY by vandalising Isaacs property. They fill Isaacs wells with dirt, leaving him without a water supply (Genesis 26:14-15).

This is the Bible’s first act of VANDALISM. I’m sure there was graffiti saying “FOREIGNERS GO HOME!” Obviously the locals in Gerar were threatened and intolerant of strangers. Without water Isaac is forced to move (Genesis 26:18-22).

What makes it worse is that these vandalised wells had been in the family for years, built by his father Abraham. If it was me, I’d feel a little angry. Filling in a well with dirt was equivalent to an ACT OF WAR, a crime, an act of terrorism. Isaac had enough men to take these guys down. RETALIATE! REVENGE! GET EVEN! Perhaps Isaac is too much of a WIMP to try this. He doesn’t do anything but dodge the blows. Some suggest that he is just a PEACEFUL man. Whatever.

Isaac takes the easy way out. He moves from Gerar to Beersheba, singing the “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. “… You got to know when to turn away, know when to run.” His relationship problems with his neighbours are reflected in the names he gives to the wells he dug. Esek – “argument”, Sitnah – “hostility”. He’s not having a good day by the time he gets to the end of Genesis 26. Ever feel like this? Alienated? Rejected? Excluded?

JEALOUSY and prejudice is a terrible thing. It’s like a splinter that irritates you and becomes infected. It also separates you in terms of your relationships. It seems that even Abimelech is jealous and intimidated by Isaacs wealth and power. And since a leader sets the culture, he orders Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.” (Genesis 26:16 NLT). “FOREIGNERS, GO HOME!” God promised this land to Isaac and his descendents but now he finds that he is a foreigner in his own land.

Jesus had the same thing happen to Him. John 1:10-12 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they REJECTED Him. But to all who believed Him and ACCEPTED Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

God always has a way of turning CURSING TO BLESSING and Isaac keeps moving until God opens the way for him. It takes a while but I know that as I trust in God He dispels my fears and reaffirms His desire to bless me and impact future generations. He brings me to the place where, like Isaac, I can dig wells such as REHOBOTH, which means “the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22). That’s when I know that I am SUSTAINED by Him and, like Isaac, I build an altar to WORSHIP Him and spend time listening to what He has to say about my life (Genesis 26:23-25). I return to that place where I am closest to God.

Beersheba is an invitation to DRAW CLOSE TO GOD. It speaks of that place where God says to me “Be strong and courageous! …. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT). It is that place where God says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). Philippians 4:6 (NLT) echoes these words “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” It is a place where you are ACCEPTED as a child of God. You can find Him waiting for you there right now.

Pastor Ross