Good morning! Today we continue our summer sermon series “The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful”. Today we look at a man named Esau. Let’s open our Bibles to Genesis 25.
Here’s the back story. About 2000 BC, the LORD spoke to a man named Abram who lived in what is now Kuwait. He told him, “Go to the land I will show you and I will bless you and make you a blessing. Through you, I will bless all the people of earth.” This promise pointed forward to Jesus!
So Abram believed God and went to the land that would 1000 years later become Israel. The problem was, Abram, who the Lord renamed Abraham and his wife were without children – until Abraham was 100 years old and his wife was 80. Then God miraculously provided a bouncing baby boy. They named him ‘laughter’ or Isaac.
Isaac grew up and married a woman named Rebekah and the Lord blessed them with twins. “The babies jostled each other within her and she said, “Why is this happening to me? So she asked the LORD. The LORD said, “Two nations are in your womb. The two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Gen 25:22-23
When the babies were born the first was named Esau, meaning “red” and the second, grasping his brother’s heel was named Jacob, meaning “tripper or deceiver”.
Esau was his father’s favorite. He was strong, bold, reckless, a skilled hunter who supplied his dad with fresh meat. Jacob, the younger, was more refined, quiet, relational, a shepherd and his mother’s favorite.
One day after the boys were grown, Esau came home from hunting. Jacob had a fresh pot of stew on the fire and Esau, smelling the aroma, said, “I’m starving! Give me some of that!” Jacob responded, “First, sell me you birthright as the first born!” Esau said, “What good is a birthright to a starving man?”
Remember, Esau and Jacob were grandsons of Abraham. From childhood, they had heard the stories about the great God who promised their grandfather the land on which they were living as well as descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky.
They knew God’s promise to bring a Savior of the world through them. They assumed this family line would pass through Esau and that the land would belong to him. This was his birthright as the oldest son. Esau knew all this but he despised it.
In despising his birthright, Esau also despised the God who gave it. Essentially, he was saying, “I don’t need this. I don’t need these promises. I don’t need the God of my grandfather Abraham and my father Isaac. My brain, my muscle, my skill as a hunter is all I need.”
Maybe you know someone who has despised the God of their parents or scoffed at the faith of their grandparents? They arrogantly believed their own strength and wisdom was all they needed. They despised their inheritance as chosen by God to bless the world.
Esau’s little brother Jacob was no saint. He was a liar and a deceiver, but he did respect the birthright and was willing to do anything to lay hold of it! I don’t think their father Isaac knew about the little transaction at the stew pot. But I think Jacob’s mother Rebecca did!
Let’s jump down to Gen 26. This flashes back before the boys were born. The LORD repeats the promise he gave Abraham. “I will be with you and will bless you. To you and your descendants I will give all the lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed…” Gen 26:3-4
This promise belonged to Esau until he sold to his brother for a bowl of stew. No wonder, the Lord said, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Esau had it all but he treated it as worthless. In doing so he treated God as worthless. His only god was his own pride and physical hunger.
The story goes on and Esau continues to drift away from God. He marries a Canaanite woman, an idolater, defying God’s command. He and his Canaanite wife become a thorn in the flesh of Isaac and Rebecca. Still Isaac loves his first born son, Esau most of all.
Chapter 27 - Isaac is now old, blind and about to die. The time has come for him to bless Esau and prophesy over him. He asks his favorite son to go out and get some fresh venison for him to eat. Then he will give the birthright blessing to Esau before he dies.
Unknown to them, Rebecca overhears their conversation. She instructs Jacob to go out to the sheep pen and prepare a young goat. She said, “I’ll cook it just right so your father won’t know the difference. Then you will bring it to dad and he’ll give you the blessing!”
Jacob isn’t so sure. “Dad will know I’m not Esau as soon as he touches my arm. I’m not as strong and hairy as my brother. I don’t smell like the field. Dad will figure it out and curse me instead of blessing me!”
But Rebecca puts Esau’s clothes on Jacob. She covers his arm and neck with goat skin, and hands him the food to take in to her husband. Jacob went to his father’s bedside. “Father?” “Yes, my son”. “I am Esau, your firstborn.” Jacob lies, “I have done as you told me. Sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.”
Isaac said, “Come near so I can touch you and see if you are really Esau.” There are lots of lies and secrets at work in this dysfunctional family system. When God set up his plan to bring a Savior into the world, he didn’t choose perfect people or perfect families.
Why? Because there were none! He chose sinful people from imperfect families, but he did chose people who would seek him, value him, and believe his promises. Jacob, for all his faults, inherited the promise of God because he believed what Esau rejected.
Some might say Isaac blessed the wrong boy … but did he? Remember what the Lord told Rebecca? “Two nations are in your womb. The two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Gen 25:22-23
On the surface it seems like God is being unfair and that he’s rewarding Jacob for being a cheat. But that can’t be right. God is perfectly just, so something deeper is going on here. That’s something we need to remember when life seems unfair to us.
Remember, Esau is the one who sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. I think Jacob knew Esau had no time for God or for the promises God gave to Abraham. He knew Esau scoffed at the idea of giving up his own plans to become a blessing for the rest of the world.
But Esau, like Jacob was a grandson of Abraham. God’s promise “I’m going to make you into a great nation, and through you the whole world will be blessed” belonged to both of these young men even though Jacob was the one through whom the Messiah would come.
Imagine Esau and Jacob on the same football team. The coach says, “Jacob is going to play quarterback. Esau, I want you to play middle linebacker.” Both men are given equally important roles to play for the team. But Esau said, “Because I’m not quarterback, I don’t want to play.”
You could apply this to the church. Not every player is chosen to be the pastor, but that doesn’t mean all the other jobs are not just as important! No one should say, “Because I’m not the pastor, I’m not needed.” The work of being a blessing to the world belongs to us all!
Esau, instead of doing his part to fulfill God’s call to be a blessing to the world, gets his pride hurt and sets out to murder his brother. He bails on the call God has given him. Rebecca sends Jacob to her father Laban to protect him from Esau. But that’s another story.
This story is about Esau. Like the Lord foretold, Esau and his descendants become the nation of Edom. They lived in the desert sands south of the Dead Sea. 1800 years later one of these Edomites became King Herod the Great who murdered the babies of Bethlehem in a failed attempt to prevent the birth of Jesus.
So what can we learn from Esau who traded his place in the ancestry of Jesus for a bowl of stew? Who jealously tried to murder his brother. Who allowed himself to become part of Satan’s attempt to prevent the birth of Jesus?
First, we learn we have a choice to make – and we must make it every day. Don’t sell your God given birthright for anything this world has to offer. Esau’s god was his belly and his physical desires. He grew up hearing God’s promises. He knew about the miracles God had done for his father and grandfather, but he rejected it all in order to serve himself.
Second, the writer to the Hebrews called Esau a “profane” man. The word means one who misuses God’s name. The LORD gave us his name so that we might walk and talk with him, praise him, thank him, and call on him in time of need, so that we might become partners with him in the redemption of the world.
Esau treated God and his name and his promises and his blessings with contempt. How do you treat God’s name? How about his call on your life to be a blessing to the world?
Esau’s story challenges us to consider whose kingdom we are building. God isn’t calling you to be perfect. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob certainly weren’t perfect. But the Lord called them to make a choice. He’s calling us to the same choice.
God’s purpose is to bless us and make us a blessing so that the whole world will be blessed through us. But we have to leave building our own kingdom behind and make his kingdom our priority just as Jesus did when he left all the entitlements of heaven, to take on the responsibility of giving his life so that sinful people like us could be saved from God’s righteous judgement and experience the blessings of heaven.
Will we do that? Or will we be like Esau. Will we reject the Lord and his plan to save and bless the world in favor of trying to build our own kingdom - a kingdom that will end up the same as Esau’s did - a dry and empty kingdom of sand? Prayer…