Sept 28, 2008
Scripture: Gen 25:19-34
Sermon Title: "Giving the Promise Away"
Hear now these words from the book of Hebrews:
"...lift your drooping heads and strengthen your weak knees,
and make straight paths for your feet,
so that what is lame may not be put out of joint,
but rather be healed.
Pursue peace with everyone and holiness...
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God...
See to it that no one becomes like Esau,
an immoral and godless person,
who sold his birthright for a single meal.
You know that later,
when he wanted to inherit the blessing,
he was rejected,
for he found no chance to repent,
even though he sought the blessing with tears."
This letter, written to Jewish Christians, was created with the emphasis on faith: faith that carries you through the storm, faith that carries you through persecution, faith in things not seen, but are there, right around the corner for us to enjoy and be blessed by.
This particular portion of the letter points to Esau, a man who gave away his blessings for the sake of a bowl of food, who forfeited God’s long term promise for an immediate moment of gratification.
It warns us not to make the same rash decision he did.
We, as individuals, as a church, and as a nation can certainly benefit from these timeless reminders about faith, and being too quick to give away the promises that faith brings.
Today we resume last year’s sermon series on the Book of Genesis. If you recall, God created the world out of nothing, using his spirit and his voice.
Then we observed how God chooses to bless the entire world through the family of Abraham and Sarah, and after many years they have a child named Isaac.
Our sermon series begins with Isaac, now a middle aged man, married to Rebekah.
As with her mother-in-law, Rebekah is barren, which creates a problem: how can God keep his promise to bless the world through Abraham’s family, if Abraham’s son can not produce a child?
Unwilling to sit by and do nothing about it, Isaac does something: he prays. And Rebekah becomes pregnant, with not just one child but with twins.
Things are not easy. In fact, there’s conflict from the very beginning. The boys wrestle while in her womb, they fight even while being born, and as young men the conflict continues.
These two boys could be do different. Esau is born covered with red hair all over his body. He likes to be out in the field, to hunt with a bow and arrow and prepare savory stews.
Jacob is born and stays as smooth as a baby’s bottom. He’s a quiet man, preferring to stay inside tents, creating lentil soups with homemade bread.
Esau makes rash decisions, focused on the present, not thinking about future consequences. Jacob is cunning and manipulative, willing to stab anyone in the back. He is a patient man, focused on the future and the possibilities of what can be.
Truth is that neither son looks promising. Neither son seems fit to carry on the blessings God has promised. This becomes clear in verses 29-34.
Esau comes in from the field. He is starving, famished. Jacob is cooking a lentil stew. Esau, thinking only of his immediate needs, orders his younger brother to feed him. But his brother is no fool. He has a plan "Sell me your birthright" he says.
The birthright was a big deal. According to custom, the first born enjoyed a special status all his life, second only behind his father. First born got to eat first. First born inherited a double portion of his father’s estate.
The first born would carry whatever special promises God had made the family.
This was not kids stuff or a game. For Esau to give up his birthright meant he would give away all the future blessings he was bound to receive. But, as we witness, for Esau future blessings or possibilities was of no concern when he had a need for instant gratification.
"Fine, he says," hastily. "I am about to die of hunger, what use is a blessings that exists in the future when all I can think of is now?"
"First swear to me you’ll give up birthright" Jacob says.
Esau makes an oath, something that can not be reversed, and in silence, he eats, drinks and walks away, despising what was promised to him.
How could Esau do it? How could he give away the chance to be the one who’s family would bless all families?
How could he give away the promise of prosperity, fertility, the privileges, the responsibilities?
All so he could eat red stew quickly and silently, like an animal being fed slop at the farm?
How could Esau be so fixated on his immediate needs and gratification that he gave the promise away?
How, how, how?.....
.......We can ask them same of ourselves.
We do it all the time, don’t we? Going for the quick fix, the instant gratification. This isn’t just a story about the past of Gods people, but also a story about the present.
As individuals we can be like Esau, giving away the promise of future possibilities for what we want now. Look no further then the credit card culture we are in.
It used to be people saved for what they wanted and paid cash on the barrel head and learned to do without when they couldn’t pay. But not now.
We gather, we hoard, we collect, we want more. We charge, not trying to think about the interest rates and how much further in debt we’re growing.
Used to be a time when young couples got by with one car and a cheap, small apartment, saving and scrimping until they could move into a house. But now people move immediately into a house or a condo with a mortgage they can barely make and utility bills that keep getting higher and higher.
As a church we are also guilty of giving away the promise. Instead of allowing the minsirty to dictate the budget, we allow the budget to dictate the minsitry and wonder why we are shrinking in size.
When someone comes up with a brilliant way to do God’s work, instead of making plans on how to do it we hear we are too old, or we are too young or we are too busy to put God first because the world has fooled us into doing things the worlds way.
And we do this as a nation. In just a few months we have the opportunity to vote. We can vote with the notions of promise, hope and faith.
Or we can vote as Esau would: an immediate reaction, out of hunger and fear, voting for what amounts to short term solutions then what are beneficial long term solutions filled with promise.
Soup in the belly may be good for now, but its not worth it if means giving up the promises for growth, new life and blessings in the future.
Soup in the belly may be good for now, but its not worth anything if it means our children will starve.
Esau gave away his blessings, he gave away God’s promise. But we don’t have to.
Although the temptations are real and can make things hard, we can hold on, be strong, remembering the promises God has given, looking forward to them becoming true, trusting and holding God to the promises he gave so long ago.
We don’t have to settle for lentil soup when we have the promise of greater blessings. We can lift our drooping heads, we can strengthen our knees. We can pursue peace and be holy.
We can hold on, seeing to it that others know about the grace of God, allowing everyone to hold onto their promise, to repent, and, through tears of joy, give thanks for the blessings we receive.
Let us continue to have faith that looks beyond present circumstances and look towards the promises God has in store.
All thanks and praise be to the Spirit that restores our drooping shoulders, the son who embodies the promises of God, and the father who wants nothing but the best for all his kin.
Amen and amen.