Parashah Toldot (the generations) Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

This parashah has one of the best known stories of the bible- the selling of the birthright. Esau is hungry and asks his brother, Jacob, for some lentil stew he was making. Jacob says he will give it to Esau if Esau sells his birthright as the firstborn to Jacob. Esau is hungry, probably not even near death or starvation, but as the bible says, he “hated his birthright” (took no special interest in it) so sold it for some soup. If you read carefully, you will realize that Jacob also gave Esau bread and drink. He wasn’t all that cruel.

The next thing that Jacob “stole” was the blessing of the firstborn that Isaac was going to give Esau. Now, this is also on Rebekah’s head because the whole scam was her idea. Once Esau learns of this he lets it be known he is planning to kill Jacob, so Rebekah (again with some deviousness) gets Isaac to send Jacob away.

For both a Patriarch and Matriarch of Judaism to steal, lie and cheat, you would wonder why they were so loved by God, right?

But let’s look a little closer at this. As for the “theft” of the blessing, I don’t think it is right or fair to say that Jacob “stole” Esau’s blessing. Here’s why: Jacob was, legally (for lack of a better term) the firstborn ever since Esau sold that birthright. As such, he was entitled to whatever the firstborn is entitled to receive, which included the blessing. True, Isaac may not have known about the sale (most likely he didn’t- if you were Esau, would you tell your father you sold your birthright?) so to get what did belong to him, Jacob had to use a bit of subterfuge to ensure he received what was, now, rightfully his.

As for the original sale of the birthright, we can only wonder what would have happened if Esau had refused to sell it. After all, how far away from the tents of Isaac and Rebekah could Jacob have been? Was it so far that Esau would not have been able to make it all the way there? And would Jacob, really, have allowed Esau to starve? I always say you can’t make an argument from nothing, but I have to tell you, even if Esau refused to sell the birthright I just don’t see Jacob letting his brother starve or die of thirst.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what would have happened if the birthright hadn’t been sold because the fact remains it was sold. Esau was a man of the moment- now, now, now. Jacob was a thoughtful man, planning out his moves and showing patience and maturity.

When we read about the events in the bible we need to remember to filter them with the cultural ethics of that time. It was a very lawless period, and even though there is evidence that moral codes existed, it was certainly not like anything we know today. For instance, both Abraham and Isaac said their wife was their sister so men wouldn’t kill them to be able to marry her. Therefore, if the woman was married it was morally wrong to have sexual relations with her, but if you murder her husband, then it’s OK to marry her.  Adultery is definitely out, but murder is fine. Huh?

I would go as far as to say that when Jacob bought the birthright of Esau, it was Esau who is the real villain because he had no respect for himself or his obligations that come with being the firstborn. Back then the firstborn was to not just to get a double-portion of the inheritance; he was to be the leader of the family. There were responsibilities on him because the family was more than just parents and kids- there were all the servants, too. Remember Abraham took 300 men with him to fight against the 5 kings when he rescued Lot. Isaac is very wealthy and powerful, meaning he must have had many servants. Esau, as firstborn, was responsible to take over the family business, if you will, and be the leader. From what we read about him, it doesn’t seem that he would have been all too keen on that. He liked to hunt, he was a man of strong emotions, of immediate desires and needs, and he apparently (by his choice of wives) didn’t “get it”, as far as being faithful to God was concerned. He really had it all going for him, and yet he thoughtlessly threw it all away for a bowl of stew.

Jacob, on the other hand, showed faithfulness, thoughtfulness and planned ahead whereas Esau planned as far as his nose, and no further. Esau was not a very good choice to carry on the position of Patriarch, and Jacob clearly was. The fact that he fooled his father to gain the blessing that (as I explained above) he really deserved only showed that he was willing to do what needed to be done to attain that which he was entitled to. We see this later on, when Laban tries to fool and cheat him out of the rightful payments, and Jacob turns it to his advantage. But…that’s for later on.

In Genesis 25:23 God tells Rebekah that she will have two sons, and the elder shall serve the younger. Jacob was God’s choice from the beginning, so we could say that anything Jacob did in order to secure his position as the birthright holder was in keeping with God’s will.

In that verse God tells Rebekah she has two nations in her womb, …”even with 

When Jacob took his entire retinue with him to return to the land of his father, Esau seems to have had many more men with him than Jacob had. Esau was the stronger of the two, but he (Edom) eventually served his brother (when Israel was under David) so what God told Rebekah was fulfilled. We can see that this shows strength in numbers is not going to get in the way of God’s plan. We see that throughout the bible, and even today- the creation of Israel, the 7-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, even in the midst of the current terrorism, Israel is the weaker of the surrounding nations yet they cannot come even close to subduing or overcoming this tiny little nation. That’s because this tiny little nation is like an iceberg- we only see the land of Israel but what supports Israel is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings- the Holy One of Israel, God, Almighty. Nothing is more powerful, so although the people of one nation may be more powerful than the people of the other, Israel has God on their side and no nation or group of nations can stand against Him.

We may not understand or even agree with what the Patriarchs and leaders we read about in the bible did, but it represents that they were no different from us than we are from each other. God is the God of doing great and wonderful things with schmo’s and schlemiels like you, like me, like Abraham, like Jacob, like Shimshon (Samson), and even with people like Jonah, who was about as unwilling a prophet as any I’ve ever read or heard about.

God can do whatever needs to be done, with whomever He chooses to do it with. If you want to be one of those He chooses, then remain faithful, listen for His guidance, accept His grace and don’t worry about the opposition.

What can man do to us when God is with us?

Beware of Advice: Part 2

Yesterday we talked about how just because something seems to be alright or feels “right”, that doesn’t make it right.

We need to know what God tells us is right, and what God tells us is wrong. I do believe that “going with your gut feeling” is often the right thing to do, but only when our “guts” are in the right frame of mind.

What I mean is this: if I was someone who had a moral foundation, a conscience, and a sense of right from wrong according to normal societal mores and biblical beliefs, then my “gut” would be trustworthy. On the other hand, if I was immoral, hedonistic, and did not know or care what happened to others, my “gut” should be the last thing I listen to.

The problem, as you most likely already know, is that the people with the least trustworthy guts are the ones that believe their guts are fine. Too often we have the inmates running the asylum instead of the other way around.

There will come a time in everyone’s death (not during their lifetime, only after) when they will be in THE court- God’s courtroom. God will be sitting on His Throne of Judgement, and on one side will be the prosecution (HaSatan, the Devil, himself) and the other side will be the Defence Attorney. Satan, which means the Accuser, all throughout your life has been trying to tell you that God is a liar; he accuses God of not telling you the truth. He started that way in Eden, telling Eve that she wouldn’t die if she ate the apple (effectively saying God lied to her, right?) Now, when you need him most, he will accuse you– he will accuse you of failing to do as God commanded. And if you say that he was the one who told you to “go with your feelings”, that “if it feels good, do it”, or that you don’t need to obey the Torah because the law was done away with when Yeshua was resurrected, God will say something like, “I understand, but what he told you is not what I told you, and what I say counts!” At that  point you’re only chance to escape damnation is the argument from your defence attorney.

But wait! Where’s the defence attorney? In the courts that men run, a defence attorney is appointed to you if you don’t have one of your own, but God’s court is not like man’s court- if you don’t have a defence attorney, you are defending yourself. And if you have to defend yourself against God’s Torah, and His judgement of how well you have obeyed Torah….OY! You’re in hot water now, Baby!

However, if you have accepted Yeshua as your Messiah and asked Him to be your Saviour, you have the best defence lawyer there is, ever has been, or ever will. He makes Darrow look like a dork, Dershkowitz look like a dweeb,  and Webster look like a wimp.  Yeshua has only one argument for the defence, and it is all He needs. He says, “Father, this one is mine.”

Not guilty by means of the sacrifice; case closed (gavel slams and shofar blows); who’s next on the docket?

Here is good advice you can trust: Yeshua really is the Messiah God promised all those many, many years ago. I know if you are Jewish this is a hard word to accept, but please take it from me, a Jew who didn’t even care for most of my life, it is the truth. We have been told a lie since we were born, by people we trusted, who were told the same lie by people they trusted since they were born, back and back and back, all the way to somewhere around 100 CE. That’s my guess when the “Christian” religions started being developed by men, and Judaism and Christianity began to separate.

It went from: Jews who accepted Yeshua as Messiah and Jews who didn’t, the rest being Gentiles who were pagans;

to: Jews, Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus but were being separated from Torah by religion, and the Gentiles who were still pagans.

And the enemy has been trying to widen that gap ever since. He has been very successful at keeping both Gentiles and Jews from the truth, which makes his “kingdom” grow, meaning that there are more and more people being led away from God, and thereby, worshipping what the enemy stands for instead of what God stands for.

That’s how this works: there is no “middle ground”, there are no minor sins and major sins, there is only God’s way or the hell-way. The enemy doesn’t have to make you worship him, he only has to make you disobey God. It isn’t a choice to be bad, it’s only the choice not to do as God says. You can be a “good person” as far as the World is concerned: a loving parent, a faithful friend, go to worship every weekend, and even tithe. In fact, you can believe in Jesus, too! All of this won’t save you if you disobey God and ignore His commandments.

It takes more than just saying you believe. You need to want to do as God says, you need to provide good fruit, and you really, really need to read the Bible (the whole Bible) and accept that what God said is the way to be is as valid now as it always has been.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, any individual human being can do to save him or her self from the sin we are born into, and from our sinful nature. On our own we have no defence before the Lord. But when we have Yeshua as our defence attorney, it is His actions that save us. But we need to have him in our corner, and the way to do that is to accept His messianic calling as true, to accept we are sinners who can’t stop and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name (because we have no righteousness on our own), and to do T’Shuvah (to turn) from our sinfulness and live our lives as best we can doing what God said we should do.

And I mean what God said we should do, not what the Rabbi, Priest or Pastor tells you. Not what your “whatever” guru says, not what Cosmo recommends and certainly not what any other, non-Believing person tells you is alright to do.

You need to read the Bible and believe that God is in charge, Yeshua will stand for you if you stand for Him, and the enemy will do whatever he can to get you to ignore God’s commandments.

When I used to sell siding and window replacements, off telemarketed leads, often I was stopped at the front door and told that no matter what I said that person was not buying anything from me, so if I was going to try to sell him something (it was always the man who said this) I might as well leave right now. My answer was to ask him a question: “When you buy something, do you do it with no information at all about the product or do you want to know what you are buying?” The answer was, as I designed the question to elicit, always that they bought something they knew about. That was my lead to then say, “Of course you do- that’s the sensible way to buy. So, you do whatever you want to do- it’s not my decision and I won’t tell you how to spend your money. All I ask is that you let me give you the information you need to make a wise buying decision when you are ready. Is that OK?”

More often than not, the more obstinate someone was about not buying that day, the more likely I was going to make a sale.

The enemy is a better salesman than I ever was. I sold windows, I sold siding, I sold insurance, I sold estate planning, I sold advertising…all the things I sold were good products that helped people. The enemy sells pleasure, he sells ease, he sells hedonistic rewards and he sells sin, which is what we are made up of. What he sells looks like fun, it seems to be okay to have, it feels good, tastes good, and we want it. But what he is really selling is death and damnation.

God doesn’t sell anything- He is giving it away. But it costs you- you need to separate yourself from the world, you need to obey, you need to let go of friendships and family, you need to be alone in many ways from those you know and work with. The free gift of salvation is very costly in human terms; whereas the enemy sells you something that looks good but kills you, God gives you something that is hard to accept and costly in human terms, but will result in everlasting joy.

Tough call; yes, it is. It goes against our nature, but it is essential for us to make that choice. That’s why you need to know about what you are buying.

There is death for sale and salvation for the taking: learn about each so you can choose well.