Remember the story of Esau and Jacob from Genesis 25:29-34? Over the years, I’ve read this story several different times, always thinking how absurd and foolish Esau was. It seems unfathomable that somebody would trade their entire inheritance for a bowl of stew. I have always thought that Esau was so different from me and different from most everybody else I know. I mean, truly, this man must have been out of his mind to trade his birthright as the first-born son of Isaac for one lousy meal. Nobody I know has ever been this hungry. I have always had a hard time relating to Esau and it never even occurred to me that there was a deeper meaning behind this story that might apply to my life. To me, this had always been a story about an impulsive, foolish, hungry guy who got played by his jealous brother.
Then one morning, I was thinking about this story and it was almost as if a curtain had been lifted that allowed my eyes to see it in a way that I had never been able to before. You can call this what you like, but I believe that God reveals things to us in His perfect time. Maybe my heart wasn’t ready to learn a deeper meaning to this story about Esau before that morning. Maybe my pride and quick judgment of Esau prevented me from learning anything from his story. I don’t know exactly why on that particular morning my heart was ready for more, but I’m thankful for the insight and it’s been on my heart since then to write this…so, months later, here I am. Maybe what I’m about to write has been obvious to everybody else and I’m just late catching on, and that’s ok. All the same, I feel compelled to write this so I’m going to. I’m smiling right at this moment as I type because I know that I can be stubborn. What has taken me so long? The truth is, I didn’t want people speculating about my life. I guess I’ll chance that because God already knows my heart.
I am not all that different from Esau. Maybe nobody is. Esau chose something right in front of him, that he really really wanted. He knew it would give him instant gratification. He traded that for the inheritance he was promised to receive at a later date. I think Esau’s is a story that we can all relate to: weakness of the flesh. It’s hard to deny our flesh and follow God every day. I’m not just talking about stew here, people. I’m talking about any sin that we know we have but we refuse to give up because it’s our “one thing”. We’ve all heard it, I know I’ve said it. But what, really, is our sin costing us? It’s not like we’re trading our birthright the way Esau willingly did, right? (I just want to take a minute here, because this was my train of thought that morning and it took a few moments for that lightbulb to come on, so we’ll wait just a minute or two…LIGHTBULB MOMENT!) As a child of God, a Christian believing that Jesus is the son of God who died and rose again, I have an inheritance far greater than what Isaac was leaving to Esau. It’s mine even though I did nothing to deserve it or earn it. It’s a gift, God’s grace to me, and all I have to do is claim it. Part of that inheritance is eternity in heaven, which of course we have to wait until we’re dead to experience, but there’s more. Jesus’s blood made it possible for us to have a whole and right relationship right now- with God. Because of Jesus, we can stand in the presence of God because we are cleansed by His blood. We don’t have to wait until we die for that. It’s ours, now. That closeness with God is part of our birthright when we are born again. When I give into my flesh, act or think in a way that is outside of God’s will for my life, am I trading that thing or thought for my inheritance from my Father? Maybe, if not for Jesus’ blood being shed for me. I get to ask for forgiveness and even better, I am forgiven. Score!
What about those sins, or maybe just that one sin, that one thing that I just don’t want to do without? That temptation that seems to always be stronger than I am? That sin that I repeat, knowing that I’m outside of God’s will- what happens with that? What is my one thing that I am possibly trading my inheritance for? (I bet you’re wondering too by now, but let me encourage you to do better than that. What is that one thing that you are possibly trading your inheritance for?) To be forgiven we need to repent and walk away from our sin and when we do God removes that sin from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) If we return to that sin, should we then be forgiven? How many times do we get? Is there a limit? Peter asked Jesus himself this same question. “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) The answer? “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22 NIV) or “Seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22 KJ). Forgiveness is ours, as many times as we need it. We don’t have to lose our inheritance because we give into temptation. The warning here is to never feel like our sin is so great that we no longer deserve God’s forgiveness and stop seeking it. We never deserved it in the first place. We didn’t earn it and we can’t “un-earn” it. It’s a gift of grace. This is not a free pass to hold onto our sins and give into those temptations. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2) Why would we want to live a sinful life when Jesus has made it possible to be right with God? Who in their right mind would choose to eat stew when they could feast at a table with the Almighty God? Only a crazy person like Esau? I used to think so.
What is my ‘stew’? What do I let come between God and I? What am I trading my birthright of standing in God’s presence for? It can come in so many forms. Gossip, holding grudges, lying, criticizing others, bad attitude or rudeness, jealousy, pride, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, sloth- those seem like the small ones compared to adultery and murder and worshipping false Gods, but all sin is the same to God, right? What about that sin that I keep returning to? My “one vice”? It better be pretty good because every time I indulge in it, I’m separating myself from my God.
Esau was foolish. I am more foolish. We have more in common than I would have thought. We both are tempted by sins of the flesh but Esau’s giving into his temptation lost him great wealth. I have much more at stake. Does this mean I will never choose sin over God again? Of course not, but I will never look at stew the same way again.