I listen to podcast sermons in my headphones while I clean. It gives my mind something to do while I’m scrubbing who-knows-what off of my kitchen tile. I heard one the other day that mentioned the story of Jacob and Esau. It was a great message about ruining your ‘birthright’ by trading it for momentary pleasure. There was a fitting inclusion of when Satan tempted Jesus with bread because He was hungry.
Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone…” -Matthew 4:4
This hit home with me because I know what it’s like to trade my integrity for something that promised to make me happy. I thought that the payoff would be worth it. This is what drugs tell their addicts. While the chemical is still in your brain, it sends a message into the synapses that promises joy with just one hit. It doesn’t matter if the hit causes sickness or a bad trip. It’s a chemical message that speaks the language of peace in spite of the person’s memory that peace never comes. It’s always, “This time will be different.” That’s why the person has to get the drug out of their system to know the truth. The problem is, in order to get the chemicals out of the brain, the person has to recognize the lie and deny themselves the need no matter how bad it hurts.
Sometimes the chemicals aren’t lying. Sometimes happiness does come with the hit. Stomachs stop growling when you eat the bread. Sexual tension subsides when you give in. But, none of it lasts. You get hungry again and it makes you feel cheap for being so easily lured. The cycle never ends. That’s why “man shall not live by bread alone.”
Man needs something else.
You can trade your entire life circumstance for a new one, but it doesn’t reach the depths it promised it would reach. You can be happier, fuller, prettier, and more at peace, but if God is not in it, then you’ll still have the eternal ache for assurance that you’re not forever marked for destruction. That’s where the whole story about Jacob and Esau may come in handy.
Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew because he was hungry. It was worth it for a while, for someone who is shortsighted and impatient, but then he got hungry again. The preacher on the podcast pointed out that Esau needed someone to tell him what, exactly, he was trading. His legacy and the way He would forever be referred to in history was about to shift and Esau needed to hear it. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and ….” The problem was, Esau didn’t have anyone to do that for him. The deal was sealed and there was nothing Esau could do about it.
“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
I want to take the message a step further because stopping there only leaves people feeling desperate and hopeless. Those of us who have taken the bread need to know what to do now. You may have a sealed deal sitting in front of you and be fully aware that you ruined everything for something that dies when you die or lasts until you get hungry again. The truth about bread robs your momentary happiness and reveals just how cheap it is. That’s a good thing. You’ll not get those two so easily confused from here out.
Yeah, Esau could have used an advisor, but do you think he would have listened? I guess it doesn’t matter now. Which is my point. It wouldn’t have mattered then, either, because Esau’s story was written before he lived a moment of it.
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” -Genesis 25:23
It’s your choice to think God just knew it, or He planned it and so it happened. It doesn’t change the story. It would change you, but not the story or my point.
Somebody needed to tell Esau that God already had a plan for his dumb choices. Esau is long gone, but I can tell you. God already has a plan for your dumb choices. It may be too late to undo what you did, but who knows what God will bring out of it. All scripture can tell us is that it will be beautiful.
I have a problem with messages that tell a person to do everything right so they can get everything on God’s toy shelf. I have a problem with them because it’s a message of “do this to get that”. Every single one of us has made a left turn when we should have turned right. We’ve clicked “send”, we’ve answered the phone, we’ve eaten the bread. We have every reason in the world to think we’ve messed up God’s plan for us, that we’re missing out, and that we are living a second best life full of regret. What about all the things we did when we didn’t know what we were missing out on? We’re talking about God here, it could have been great…. But I don’t buy that. I don’t buy that God gives us second best when He sent His best. I think His best is ours by the miracle of Jesus, not by the miracle of us doing everything right.
Here is the thing that makes the tangles unravel. This story is not about the mistakes of Esau, it’s about the purpose of God when He made a plan for Jesus. Every single thing works into the plan of salvation, all the way down to bloodline. God chose Jacob from the outset knowing Esau would be born first. You can read Romans 9 to find the blunt answer to why God does what He does in these cases.
“…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told,“The older will serve the younger.” -Romans 9:10-12
With this in mind, it does matter what you believe. The truth is that God has a plan and you can’t mess it up. The Bible tells us that the truth sets us free, so if you’re not free, you’re believing a lie. If you’re not “more than conquerors” then you’re missing the point of the story. We’re “more than conquerors” through the gift of Jesus, not the gift of checking all the right boxes. The truth sets you free, what is false leaves you tied up in regret and hopelessness.
Every single story has one purpose and it’s to illuminate God and His plan of salvation through Jesus. It’s not about what you do: good or bad. You’ll do both of those things. It’s about coming to the realization that when you choose some temporal satisfaction in spite of the eternal trade-off, you discover that you “cannot live on bread alone.” And, because of Jesus, you get to have another go at it. Different circumstances, same drug. Only this time, you know the drug doesn’t suffice. This time, you have an edge.
If you’re facing a choice, then take this message as the advice to hold off. Your appetite will be fed with something more permanent when the testing is over. If you’re facing the empty bowl, then take this message as the advice to learn your lesson and do better next time. Traps get tighter when you think you’ve already tainted yourself beyond salvation. People keep making bad choices if they think they’ve already earned the label. If you’re already living with hopeless regrets, then what’s to stop you from clamoring for temporal happiness when eternal peace is a lost cause? That’s what I’m trying to help you avoid.
Your birthright is an inheritance from Jesus. It’s renewed every single morning. Believe that and it’s yours forever. It’s not too late for you.