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
- because you have had everlasting enmity. NASB
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 us 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 sons. 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, he vowed to kill Jacob. This was not a happy family. His 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 anger, hatred and bitterness.
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
Mother Rebekah realizes the depth of Esau’s anger and seriousness of his threat and 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
So Jacob is on the run to uncle Laban’s while Esau is seething with anger and resentment towards his younger brother.
Insert your family story, change the names & context, but make it yours. At some point each of us has had to deal with some sort of family tension, event or encounter that has presented us with holding onto a grudge.
It’s past time to let it all go. It’s past time to be healed and to heal the broken relationships as much as possible. Pull up the anchor at this harbor and sail on a new course free from those hindering grudges. Freedom and healing will not come unless and until we do.
Jacob and Esau met again, they didn’t kill each other and they weren’t best bros either. But they got over it and more importantly, God used it in both of their lives to bring about good. That is what you can trust Him to do for you too.
Cue up Elsa, “Let it Go”.
The doctor is ready to heal you from what you are horboring.