It was on this day in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln revoked orders that had been issued by Ulysses S. Grant expelling all Jews from military districts under his command. Grant’s General Order #11 ordered Jews off of their property simply because they were Jews. This was the first time this happened in America. General Grant felt that certain people, including some Jews, were profiteering off of the Army and so he decided to ban all Jews from his military districts. It would seem that Grant fell victim to this ancient hatred and suspicion that Jews were crooks, tricksters and, to use a biblical term, supplanters. This misconception goes all the way back to the very beginning, when Esau hurled this accusation at his brother, Jacob.
And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” (Genesis 27:36)
What Esau said wasn’t exactly true. While Jacob did deceive his father in order to obtain his blessing – albeit at the insistence of his mother – Jacob didn’t take away his birthright; Esau sold it to him for a bowl of soup. Esau falsely accused his brother and, since that time, many more – including theologians, politicians, and Civil War Generals – have fallen into the trap of thinking that Jacob (Israel) is a supplanter, a trickster and a deceiver. The reality, however, is that Esau was the trickster, deceiver and the accuser of his brother. Esau, and the spirit he represents, accuses others of what he is guilty of. Interestingly, as President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant presided over one of the most corrupt administrations in American history.
What do we learn from this? Perhaps we should be careful about rushing to judgment and accusing others of things lest our own sins be found out. Here’s what Messiah said:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
It’s also good for us to remember what John said in one of his letters:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (1 John 4:20)
If we are truly Christ’s disciples, we will not hate our brother and we will not accuse our brother. We may not agree with him and, in some cases, we may not really like him, but we’re not going to hate him. We’re not going to wish harm upon him or pass judgment on him because, more than likely, we don’t understand his situation completely. In short, if we are followers of Christ we are not supposed to do the things Esau did.
Instead, let us be quick to be compassionate and extend mercy because all of us will need mercy bestowed upon us sometime in the future. We have all benefited from God’s compassion and so let us be ready to help our brother instead of heaping condemnation and ill will upon him. As His disciples that is what we are to do. Messiah said that the world would know we are His disciples, by our love for one another. Our prayer today is that the Father will help us to be careful about passing judgment and be very quick to extend mercy. We are all in need of His mercy which are new every morning. So then, let us pass that along to our brother.