Enemies for a Reason

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, May 24, 2016 0 comments

by Bill Seng

A former pastor at the church where I attend wanted to make it clear to us that there are always going to be people in our lives that will give us a hard time. Instead of looking at these people as obstacles, he encouraged us to look at them as opportunities. God puts all people in our lives for the sake of our personal growth. When somebody is a pain in my neck, my responsibility is to learn what God is trying to teach me through them. The Amalekites were one of those groups of people who were destined to try the faith of the Israelites.

In the book of Judges, the Amalekites are one of the groups of people hired to fight against the Israelites. The prophetess, Deborah, informed Barak that God was calling him to fight against and defeat the assembly of armies that the Amalekites would be a part of. With God on their side, Israel easily triumphed over them. Within the context of this story, the Amalekites are merely a side note, but it is interesting to learn where they came from. To understand who they are, you must understand the story of Isaac and Rebekah.

Isaac was the only son born of Abraham through his wife Sarah. He was the child that God had promised to Abraham, through whom God would create many nations. After Isaac married his wife, Rebekah, they were dismayed to find out that she was barren. As an answer to prayer, God “blessed” Rebekah by allowing her to carry twins. God said of them, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

The twins were named Jacob, who would later be renamed as Israel, and Esau. Esau was considered the older of the two children, thus he would be the servant of Israel. If you read the story of Jacob, it’s difficult find the correlation between the prophecy and these children. It was, however, Jacob who received the greatest blessings. On the other hand, Jacob’s other name, Israel, would become a metaphor for the relationship his descendants would have with God. Israel means “to wrestle with God.” Because of Israel’s strained relationship with God, people would be put in their path who would force them to turn back to him.

I participated in a club wrestling team when I was in middle school. It was in addition to the practices I would attend at Glenwood Middle School, and sometimes wrestlers from rival schools would attend these practices. One day, an ambitious and stern young wrestler came up from Donnell Middle School. We avoided each other until the end of practice when we had to compete against each other. Without divulging too much, we both left that practice not very happy with each other. A few years later, we were placed in the awkward position of having to wrestle on the same team and attend some of the same classes. We got to know each other better and even started to become friends. Eventually, he had a huge impact on my faith walk, and I would like to think that I had an influence on his as well. It’s been nearly 20 years since we first met as enemies and today we are best friends.

In terms of Israel and the Amalekites, the relationship was never healed. The Amalekites became one of the Arab people groups and to this day, they are at odds with the Israelites. But Jacob and his brother Esau had a happy ending. Esau forgave and showed forgiveness toward his brother and Jacob experienced the hand of God at work in healing his relationship with Esau. You never know what purpose people might serve within the course of your life. In the end, we must be open to what God might teach us through them and what God might teach them through us.

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