Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 4 October 2017.

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.  Hebrews 12, verses 16-17.

Esau.   We’ve talked about Esau before, early on in discussing Chapter 11.   Refreshing your memory, Esau was Jacob’s brother who was rash, impetuous, and emotional.   He and his brother knew their father and grandfather had been promised by God Himself that He would make them into a blessed nation.   It was their family inheritance; it set them apart from everyone else on the planet.   It’s logical to assume Esau grew up hearing these accounts (first-hand even, from both Abraham and Isaac), yet Esau treated God’s promise with casual contempt.  One time, Esau’s emotions got the best of him and it had eternal consequences for mankind.   He traded his birthright – perhaps the most important thing a man of antiquity possessed – for a bowl of stew.   Later, following his brother’s trickery, he was subjected to being a second-place citizen in his own family even though he was first-born.

Admit it:   the reason Esau did this was that he was godless.   Specifically, he craved less God in his life except when it served his own purposes.

Then there’s his brother.  Jacob’s deceit was two-fold.  First was the verbal acquisition of Esau’s birthright by taking advantage of Esau’s own foolishness.  Then came the physical blessing of their father, Isaac, through active deception and playing on Isaac’s own loving words.  No objective analysis of Genesis 25 and 27 can reach any conclusion other than that Jacob was a crafty deceiver, maybe even dishonest.  He must have been a conflicted man, harboring deep, real faith in the living God while still clinging to the worldly ways of taking what you want.  Before the world was made, God had marked Jacob to carry His lineage and fulfill His purposes.   Even without Jacob’s participation, I’m sure God would have found another way to include him.  It’s amazing how God can turn human dysfunction into Divine glory.

Yet none of this excuses Esau.   Esau treated the gift of divine birthright as a cheap thing.  He didn’t regard it as important.   He didn’t consider the implications of rejecting it.   Instead of saying to himself “I’ll get a bite someplace else”, Esau demanded his weaker brother feed him.   Jacob pressed Esau with what must have seemed a silly demand, that Esau forswear his first-born birthright to property, blessing, and special status as God’s chosen vessel of the redemption promise.   Rather than taking this seriously, Esau flippantly signed away his birthright in exchange for a full stomach.   I hope it tasted good; I’m betting Esau didn’t give it a second thought.

And when the time came for their father to die, Isaac wanted to bless his sons respecting that birthright.   Jacob tricked Isaac and got the blessing that had been intended for his older brother.   But Isaac was a man of character, an upright and faithful follower of his Lord.   He couldn’t go back on his word even when his favorite son pressed him for something you and I might consider fair.   The firstborn blessing had been given and Jacob would become heir to all Isaac was and owned.   And it had happened because Esau had shamefully regarded God’s promise.

Moral of the story:  don’t treat God’s gifts cheaply.

I mentioned yesterday that it seemed strange that the writer of Hebrews would talk about the powerful concept of sexual immorality in only a few words before spending the next two verse talking about Esau’s immorality.   Those words were almost an off-hand comment.  Yet perhaps the message of these two subjects actually fits together.   It’s not about the sex; it isn’t about hunting for wild game.   It isn’t about the lust for flesh or the lust for status.   Immorality is immorality no matter what form it takes, and the writer cautions followers of Jesus to be on our guard against it.   If we, like Esau, treat God’s gifts cavalierly, it should be no surprise to us when all we receive in return are cavalier rewards.  If we, like Esau, think God-less thoughts from our hearts, is it any surprise we might find ourselves dis-inherited and at war with the world of our own making?

For further reading:  1 Genesis 25:29-34, Genesis 27:30-40.

My Lord, I pray You had mercy on Esau.   And I pray here for Your guidance that I might not treat Your many gifts flippantly.   Help me to appreciate Your value in all times.  

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 10 August 2017

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.  Hebrews 11, verse 20.

Perhaps the story of Jacob and Esau is a good example of ‘mixed blessings.’  If you don’t know much about Jacob and Esau, they were twins born to Isaac and his wife, Rebekah.  Esau was born first, only minutes before his brother, but was the blood-born heir as firstborn.   Yet God wasn’t with Esau as He was with Jacob, and Jacob shrewdly talked his brother out of Esau’s birthright, then deceitfully gained his father’s first-born blessing by posing as Esau.  Shady story?   Perhaps, yet I’d ask you whether or not such things happen in our world today.   You know they do:  from families to nation-states, each of us acts in our own best interests.

Sometimes those interests are in line with how God is blessing us.  That was the case with Jacob.

When Isaac was old and nearly blind, he wanted to give his formal, ecclesiastical blessing to his first-born son.   In cahoots with their mother, Jacob and Rebekah schemed to deceive Isaac so that Jacob, and not Esau, would receive that blessing.   You’d be mad enough to kill if your younger brother had taken away everything that was supposed to be yours.   Esau was, and he swore to kill Jacob, then prepared to make good on that vow.  That’s what happened yet in being both fascinated and repulsed by this story, don’t overlook the miracle of it.

Isaac blessed his sons because he had faith his God would bless them accordingly.   What’s more, God blesses Jacob and Esau both after the deception.

Isaac lived his life knowing God, having seen God bless both his father, Abraham, and himself.  Isaac gave his blessing when he was old and while Abraham was still alive.   In doing this, Isaac is a witness to his belief that God was good and would bless and prosper the world as He said He would.   Such faith in adherence with worldly customs like birthright blessing shows trust in God and thankfulness for all that God has given us.  Isaac seems like a bit-player in Biblical history yet his faith is most important.   God made the covenant with Abraham to bless the world through him.  It is Isaac who puts that covenant into motion by passing on his faith-based blessing to his son.   God kept that covenant promise despite Abraham’s shortcomings (like lying about the identity of his wife) or Isaac’s (who did the same thing about his own).

And when the world (via Jacob) intervenes with the sin of deceit, God still uses that to make good on what He promised.  Hearing about Esau’s vow, Jacob, again with the help of his mother, flees to her homeland and is, himself, deceived by his uncle.   Jacob falls in love with his cousin, Rachel, yet is deceived by Rachel’s father into marrying her sister, Leah, in exchange for seven years of work.    Eventually, Jacob marries both Leah and Rachel and fathers twelve sons who will become the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

In the meantime, God blesses Esau by giving him wealth and a large family through his cousin Ishmael’s line.  Esau never forgot his vow to kill his brother, yet God blesses him with the spiritual gift of mercy.   Many years later, a wealthy Jacob returns home to submit to his brother’s will (itself an act of faith).   Instead of murder, Esau forgives his brother, and the families are reconciled.   When God sees Jacob’s willingness to submit to his brother’s punishment for the deceit of years before, His heart is moved and He renames Jacob “Israel.”   The rest, as they say, is history.

Read the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau in Genesis; start in Genesis 27.   I’m hoping you see how yesterday’s themes of foreshadowing, devotion, reason and resurrection play out in all their lives because, in some ways, they are both the picture of the life of Jesus to come as well as a picture of the kind of lives even we live today.  Each of our lives is a bag of mixed blessings.   It’s my prayer you come to see how, mixed or otherwise, they’re all still blessings from above.

For further reading:  Genesis 27.

Lord, thank You for mixed blessings.   And thanks for the story of Isaac and his dysfunctional family.   May it be a blessing to my own.