Sunday Sermon 3.6.21
Recently in my reading, I was struck with a phrase that has been reverberating through my spirit, mind and soul. It was this:
“Because you harbored an ancient hostility…”Ezekiel, the Prophet, chapter 35 verse 5
Other renderings put the same phrase this way –
- because you kept this age-old grudge. The Message
- because you kept eternal hatred. NLT
- because you cherished perpetual enmity. ESV
- because you maintained perpetual hatred. CSB
The challenge to me was to inspect within myself, those areas that may be harboring any type of grudge, resentment, or bitterness; those unresolved, concealed or secret hurts, or offenses. God was calling me to identify them for what they are – hurts, painful events, and to let them go by allowing Him to uproot their poisonous taproot of resentment and bitterness.
I believe this same experience is what He would have for all of us. He is wanting to completely heal us of all of our grudges, bitterness and resentment. He wants us to be whole and unhindered by negative, past feelings, memories and experiences. Letting go of the anger, bitterness, hurt and pain of the past allows us to focus on the present.
“When we hold on to grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.”Piedmont Healthcare, Angela Buttimer MS, NCC, RYT, CPC
In the book of Hebrews, we find this very same issue being addressed:
“Make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.”Hebrews 12:15 TPT
The Apostle Paul adds this piece of insight to this whole issue of anger, bitterness, resentment and grudges:
“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV
It is apparent that unresolved anger leads to poisonous roots growing in our heart, and yields a place for the devil with his toolbox of sins to grow.
One last quote and then we will look at a story.
James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote the book of James, and also knew a thing or two about envy, and selfish ambition left us this piece of wisdom: (geesh, can you imagine dealing with the envy, bitterness, resentment, and misunderstanding in this home between these brothers??!)
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts….such wisdom is earthly, unspiritual, demonic…”James 3:14 NIV
All of us have had conflicts from which grudges have grown. Those grudges sorta become our consolation prize- we were wronged and now we get a grudge. It seems to serve as a way to compensate for our negative feelings.
A perfect example of this is found in the story to which Ezekiel was referring in our opening statement about harboring ancient hostility.
The story begins in Genesis 25, where we see Rebekah about to give birth to twin boys who we now know as Esau and Jacob.
Even from the womb these boys were jostling, wrestling and competing. Gen. 25:22 As they grew, they developed very different likes and lifestyles. Esau was an outdoors, hunter kinda guy, while Jacob was a stay at home, cooking in the kitchen type. Esau and his Dad were close, Jacob and his Mom were close. Gen. 25:27
The first glimpse we have of growing tension between Esau and Jacob is when Esau comes in from a long and exhausting hunt and is famished. Cooking in the kitchen, is guess who? Yep, Jacob. Esau asks Jacob for some of his yummy, red, stew, so Jacob finagles a deal – food for your first-born birthright. Esau easily caves and swears an oath to Jacob, stew for my birthright. Genesis 25:34 says that Esau hated his birthright.
Esau had given up his firstborn position in the family. Some would say Jacob tricked Esau out of it. What do you think?
Either way or both ways, Jacob was now considered the firstborn son with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. And so it begins, the grudge holding, bitterness and resentment.
Some years later, when Isaac, Esau’s dad was old and blind, he asked Esau to hunt him some game and prepare him a meal, because it was time for Isaac to pronounce his Fatherly blessing on his son. Overhearing this request, Rebekah called for Jacob and told him to fix up Dad’s favorite venison meal. While Esau was out hunting, Jacob was cooking in the kitchen.
Making a long story short, Jacob and Rebekah hatched a plan that worked and one in which the Father’s firstborn blessing would be pronounced upon, you guessed it – Jacob!
When Esau returned to Dad and heard that Dad’s blessing had been given to Jacob, all were shocked and surprised! This was not a happy family. Esau’s grudge was now exploding and all of his pent up anger, bitterness, resentment came cascading from his lips and life. Jacob was gonna be toast if Esau had his way. This was no small grudge anymore, this was a pot boiling over with hatred, hurt and blame.
“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”Genesis 27:41
When Rebekah realizes the depth of Esau’s anger and seriousness of his threats she arranges for Jacob to steal away and live with her brother in a distant city “…for a while, until your brother’s fury subsides… when your brother is no longer angry…and when he forgets…” Gen. 27:42-45
Pausing here, we can see clearly that Esau is harboring hostility toward his twin. Who knows how many years these wounds had been festering and infecting Esau and his relationships with his family members, as well as others that he related with.
It is no secret that holding onto grudges and negative feelings affects your health and your relationships with others. In fact, as you play over and over those negative, wounding, bitter memories, your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined, so your body reacts as if you are having the same experience over and over.
“Living in this chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increases inflammation and the stress hormone – cortisol.”Piedmont Healthcare
Esau was in a very unhealthy state. His blood pressure was elevated and he was now at risk for heart disease. His prolonged feelings of resentment were also impacting his metabolism, immune response and organ function. He was probably even dealing with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Facts from Neurocore)
Esau’s choice to harbor hostility was certainly not a safe harbor.
What Esau harbored during all those years growing up and following Jacob’s departure to Uncle Laban’s, ate away at not only himself, but he passed it on to his descendants, his sons, grandsons, and eventually to all of his ancestry. His offspring through time became the kingdom of Edom. In the kingdom of Edom, each had been programmed with the ancient stories of Grandpa Esau (or Great Granddad Esau, etc.). They were well versed in what happened between Grandpa Esau and Uncle Jacob. They all knew about the loss of the birthright and the blessing. They all had learned to:
“harbor an ancient hostility…”Ezekiel 35:5
Although Jacob and Esau’s grudge holding match lasted twenty years, (which to me is a long and serious grudge) before they reunited with gifts, tears, humility, hugs and favor; (Gen. 33) the affects of that grudge on their family was centuries long!
It is quite scary to think that as a parent, my unresolved grudges as well as my resolved grudges impact my family. They have heard stories, seen reactions, and formed opinions. They have partaken of my poisonous resentment. Even after I resolve with that family member, the root of bitterness has been planted in them.
Additionally, that twenty year period of my grudge holding (or whatever the length of time in your life) has allowed the taproot of bitterness, anger, resentment, blaming, hatred, anger and hostility to sprout and even blossom. The poison has permeated my life, my thoughts, perspective, and relationships. What I have been harboring needs healing and uprooting.
That infection in you, God wants to heal. That sensitive area that you guard is what He seeks to puncture and drain. Those inflamed emotions and memories, He will restore to health.
God has the cure for what you are harboring.
In releasing it to Him, you are not excusing anyone’s behavior and you may not forget what happened, but it will break its hold on your life. Then you and the Lord will face that pain and walk through it together. He will empower you to live a life free of poisonous grudges and bitterness. He will free you from those ancient hostilities.
He will provide full healing for what you are harboring.
Go with God.