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It’s easy to read the story of Esau and Jacob in the Bible, and cast judgment. Roll our eyes at how ridiculous Esau was, how impatient, how, well—dumb—he was to trade something as important as his very birthright for a bowl of stew. We would never do that, would never succumb to such ridiculous temptation over a growling stomach. Right?
The story goes as such from Genesis 25:
“The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!”
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
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“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.
Bottom line, Esau grew hungry, got impatient, and settled for so much less than God intended.
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I have no choice but to put down my stone of judgment, because there have been multiple times in my life where I grew hungry, got impatient, and settled for so much less than God intended. Maybe it wasn’t over a birthright, but it was over a relationship. A book contract. A job.
It’s so easy, as Esau well knows, to trade our birthrights for a bowl. To grow hungry for more, for different, for better, to get impatient over God’s timing, and to arrogantly decide that we know more, know different, know better, than the Creator of the universe and the Lover of our souls.
One aspect of this story that cannot go ignored is Esau’s dramatic overreaction. “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
I wasn’t there, but I sincerely doubt Esau was literally about to cross over into Heaven because of his hunger pains. The Bible doesn’t say anything about him nearly starving to the point of physical death. I am convinced this detail is included to remind us of how terrifyingly simple it is to let the here and now overshadow the real and true. All Esau could think about was his stomach, about relieving his discomfort, right then, no matter the cost. Nothing else mattered in that moment to him, at a time when everything should have mattered the most.
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What is your growling stomach today? What are you tempted to hand over for the pleasure of the moment, for the temporary sating of your hunger, for the desperate rush to ease the ache in your stomach, your heart, your soul?
What are you getting in exchange for your righteous place as an heir of Christ? Momentary satisfaction? Brief relief? Fleeting pleasure? Temporary respite from pain or hardship or heartache?
It won’t last. In a moment, that bowl will be drained, and you will be left with a bloated stomach, indigestion and a regret that won’t dissipate.
I think it’s the last line that breaks my heart.
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So Esau despised his birthright.
Esau hated most what should have been his biggest blessing.
He jumped ahead of God, took matters into his own hands, and ruined it big time. He traded his blessing for a bowl, his birthright for broth, and was left with an empty mug and an emptier heart.
If you’re hungry, and impatient, and considering a trade right now, please reconsider. Think of Esau, imagine of how he felt when he walked away from that meal, from his destiny. There’s not a bowl of stew, a job, a relationship, a contract, a friendship, a material possession, or a sin that is worth trading in your purpose.
Thankfully our God is a Redeemer, a Restorer of all things broken. If you’ve already made an unfortunate trade, it’s never too late to be restored back to your original purpose. The key is in not despising that purpose, in not letting your sin and any lingering condemnation turn you away from your future as Esau did. Humble yourself before God, hand over that bowl, and repent. Ask Him to fill your hunger pains and lead you forward.
I know how your stomach growls, I know your strength fades weak. I know your heart pounds and your mouth salivates and your tongue swells in desperation, but please, just hold on. God provides for His children, and He promises that no eye can see nor ear can hear what God has prepared for those who love him.
So love him. Trust him. Step away from that bowl, cling to your heirship in Christ, and wait on the Lord. Wait expectantly. Wait fervently. Wait patiently.
Your feast is coming.
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her ninth Love Inspired novel will release January 2014, while her first YA novel, ADDISON BLAKELY, CONFESSIONS OF A PK, released 2012 through Barbour Books. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and www.writergetsreal.blogspot.com.