It didn’t matter what I did, I always got the short end of the stick with my brother, Bill. Growing up in the Ozark Mountains during the Great Depression was hard enough. But, Bill, three years older than me, made times tougher. Truthfully, I admired him; he was like a superhero to me. Bill was smart, funny, and charming and the apple of Ma and Pa’s eye. I was more quiet and introverted, and my subdued disposition helped to give boisterous Bill all the attention.
We grew up on a small farm. We were very poor, the poorest of the poor, but we were Christians. When we prayed for our daily bread, we prayed literally for we never knew when our next meal would come. My family of ten, Ma, Pa, and seven siblings, depended on the Lord for everything.
Our little ram shackled house was barren and could hardly contain our active family. We kids still had room for “scrapping,” and Bill and I “scrapped” all the time. One day during our fighting Ma came in with the old hickory switch. We knew we were in big trouble. Bill ran out the door, slammed it, and blocked it with his body to foil my escape. I heard Ma’s heavy footsteps with the stick swishing. My heart sank. Sure enough, I got the whipping, and Bill escaped laughing all the way into the woods.
Another time Ma made a beautiful, delicious molasses cake with raisins, a rare treat in those times. The cake’s aroma drove Bill and me crazy. We could almost taste the sweetness in the air. Ma placed it on the kitchen counter to cool. Pa called me outside to muck the horse barn so I left the house. Bill, overcome with lust for the cake, dove into it and ate some. He then proceeded to help me in the barn. When Ma discovered the crime, she was furious! She called Bill and me indoors and confronted us about the damaged cake. Bill, again, charmed himself out of the situation, and I was left holding the blame. Needless to say, Bill chuckled at supper when I had to sit all by myself and watch forlornly while the family devoured the cake.
Bill and I loved each other and spent many wonderful years of laughter and companionship. Sadly, he died in World War II in Italy. I’ll never forget him, and all the times he got the better of me.
The Bible also gives an account of two brothers, who in various times got the better of each other. Jacob and Esau were twins, the sons of Isaac. Rebekah, Isaac’s beloved wife, felt the twin’s harsh rumblings in her womb during her pregnancy, a fore-shadowing of things to come. When they were born, Esau was first with Jacob clinging onto Esau’s heel.
As Esau grew, he became Isaac’s favorite son. He was a handsome hunter, a rugged outdoorsman. Jacob had the quiet spiritual nature, which Rebekah loved. But, as the first born in tradition, Esau had the rights to the birthright and blessing of his father.
One day when they were fully grown Jacob was cooking some stew. Esau returned from a hunting trip famished. He was so hungry, he thought he was dying. When Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright,” Esau did – just for a lousy bowl of stew. In that incident, Esau, in foolishness, got the short end of the stick.
Years passed and Isacc grew old and blind. It was time for him to pass down the blessing, a sacred honor, to Esau. Because Rebekah favored Jacob, she and Jacob plotted to get the blessing. Jacob approached Isaac with hunter’s stew, kissed him, and received his father’s blessing. Minutes later Esau came to Isaac and asked for that blessing. When he learned that the blessing had been given to Jacob, he was livid. Still, the blessing was just and bound. Jacob was blessed of God, and he would become the father of many nations. Esau vowed to kill Jacob. But, both lived long lives, and, surprisingly, both became fathers of great nations.
It seems like Esau got the short end of the stick in that event, but, truly it was God’s plan all along. Through Esau came the Arabic nations. Through Jacob came God’s son, Jesus Christ. The enmity that existed between Jacob and Esau exists to this very day.
Genesis 25 and 27 NIV
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