I was reading an article from the Christian magazine The Briefing recently, when
I was stopped short by one particular sentence:
‘Esau was the one who had sold his birthright and his part in God’s promise.
He had been part of God’s covenant people, but he valued his own appetites
Do you know the story? It’s in Genesis 25. Esau is one of two brothers, the sons
of Isaac, himself the son of Abraham. This is the family to whom God has given
some incredible, world-changing promises – he will bless them, and through
their family all the nations of the earth shall be blessed! (Genesis 12.1-3). This
purpose and blessing is passed through the sons of the family, and Esau is the
firstborn; the promise is part of his inheritance. But in a single moment, after an
exhausting hunting trip, Esau reveals his priorities and disregard for God by
exchanging his birthright for a bowl of stew!
Rather than the fleeting mistake that it seems to be, this decision probably
represented a subtle shift in Esau’s thinking and direction over time. If he had
really valued the covenant promises and the God who upheld them, such an
exchange could never have been made, no matter how hungry he was!
Hebrews 12:16-17 comments on the episode like this: ‘See that no one 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.’
It’s a decision of appetite and desire over God that had lasting and tragic
ramifications. Yet we do this all the time! We make the same exchange in small
ways, in the things we choose: Effort-less entertainment instead of time in
God’s word, sleep instead of prayer, compromise in the things we read and
watch instead of purity of mind and heart. We give in to our desires in hundreds
of small ways that can feel pretty harmless at the time.
If you’re well practised in giving in, one day you might forfeit something
important. We are all filled with desires and appetites, both good and bad. The
problem comes when we allow them to take precedence, affecting the way we
love and serve God, and training us over time to prioritise our appetites over
our obedience to God. This decision had tragic results for Esau. No, we’re not a
key player early in God’s salvation plan, as Esau could have been, but we should let this be a warning to us.
What are your appetites? Which ones vie to take control? If you’re anything like me, just thinking about all this makes you ready to give up! I’m full of wrong desires and misplaced priorities!! Please keep reading…
An answer to our appetites
The Bible doesn’t ignore or downplay our appetites, and God knows all the sinful tendencies of his people! So he signposts the way to the real feast! A feast that leads us to Jesus:
‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.’ Isaiah 55.1-3
‘…Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’” Deuteronomy 8.3b
‘ Jesus said to them, ”I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”’ John 6:35
(And a few verses later – lest we think it’s all up to us) ‘ It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’
And Galatians 5.16: ‘But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.’
Let’s not be like Esau, but save our appetites for the real feast!