I have found my decision making skills are poorer when I am hungry. I am obviously not alone, as research has found that grocery shopping when you are hungry leads people to buy more high-calorie foods than usual. Esau seems to have had this problem too as he made a terrible decision when he was very hungry!
We are starting to see the line leading to Christ being formed from Abraham to Isaac and then to Isaac’s son, but which one?
Isaac married Rebekah and after 20 years of marriage and prayer, God gave them twin boys! But even before they were born the rivalry started. While pregnant, Rebekah was told by God that there were two nations inside her and the older would serve the younger.
When the sons became men they were very different. In Northern Ireland we would use the phrase “they’re like chalk and cheese!” Esau was the oldest son and he was a hunter gatherer with red hair. He seemed to have a wild temperament, and jumped in first and thought later as he was ruled by his emotions and feelings. Whereas Jacob, the younger son, was even-tempered and more civilized, a clever man who thought things through. He made the most of every opportunity and liked to live among the tents, cooking the food rather than catching it.
One day, Esau arrived back home and was really hungry. The good news was that Jacob had some red lentil stew bubbling. Jacob used this opportunity to ask Esau to sell his birthright to him for the measly price of a bowl of stew. Astonishingly, Esau agreed, yet it wasn’t just an ‘ok whatever’ kind of agreement. Jacob made him swear an oath and he did.
When offered the choice between a single bowl of lentil stew to fulfil his immediate need or his birthright, a future promise for him and his descendants, Esau was happy to choose the bowl of stew. In Hebrews 12:16 Esau’s actions are used as a warning and he is described as an immoral, godless person for selling his birthright for a single meal.
Looking at this story, we can quickly see the foolishness of Esau in choosing immediate fulfilment over what was of lasting value. However, before we judge Esau too harshly, do we Christians also make this same foolish choice when we value the things and pleasures of this world as greater than all we have in Christ? There is much that is good in this world, God made it after all. God has given and trusted us with all that we have in order that we might bring glory to Him with it. But what if our attention and time is focused on getting more money, more stuff, bigger houses and cars, rather than on walking with God and doing His will? Which of these will last into eternity?
The American missionary Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He knew that all the world offers, while it can at times seem so desirable, is empty – of much greater value is the new creation promised by God. Jim Elliot’s desire was for people of all nations, tribes and tongues to know the Lord and he and his friends died as a result of this desire. However, like a seed planted, those who came after, including his wife, were able to lead many of the tribe they had hoped to reach to the Lord.
Esau is a cautionary tale to us all. We are to hold lightly the things of this world which will pass away, but have our hearts inclined to the things that will last into eternity. In the parable of the sower in Luke 8:14-15 Jesus also warns us “As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.”
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