Today’s reading is Genesis 27. We’ve been following the story of Abraham, seeing how God first promises great things to the progenitor of His chosen people and watching how miraculously God works through those who have faith in Him. Now Abraham’s son Isaac, having lived a long an accomplished life, is preparing to pass on his substantial birthright and inheritance to his son. But in what should be a celebratory family occasion in the blessed lineage of Abraham, we instead relate to a family struggling with selfishness and sin.
In Genesis 27:29-34, we see Esau, in a fit of feverish hunger, offer up his birthright to his deceiving brother Jacob in exchange for a simple meal of bread and lentil stew to sate his appetite. Again in Genesis 26:34-35, we see Esau marrying two Hittite brides, violating the laws of Abraham which forbid God’s people from finding brides among the local Canaanites. Not only does this endanger his legal claim to his firstborn birthright, but makes life “bitter” for his parents in the process, causing great stress and concern. While I’m sure this last sentiment may resonate with some readers, we see Esau tends to take as he wants in the moment, despite the blessing and direction of God.
In the climactic moment of our passage, as Isaac readies to pass on his blessing to his favored son Esau, his wife Rebekah attempts to control the situation through her own doing, fulfilling the promises God gave her: her sons would begin two nations, the older serving the younger. Taking advantage of her husband’s old age and loss of faculties, Rebekah creates a scheme of her own volition to instead pass the birthright to Jacob, her own preferred son. Dressing himself to more resemble his brother, Jacob tricks Isaac into believing he is in fact Esau, bringing his favorite meal and covering himself in goat skin to replicate Esau’s hairy skin. As Esau finds out about this injustice and cries out in bitter anger, he comforts himself with sinful thoughts of revenge and murder and his father passes.
Even as the tale of Jacob and Esau begins, I am convicted by how this passage forces me to confront my own sinful pride. We see it in Rebekah’s plan to bestow Isaac’s blessing upon Jacob. In an attempt to fulfill God’s promise through her own volition, she creates her own plan for transferring the blessing through deception and trickery. When Jacob learns of this plan, the only objection he raises is the fear of being caught and rebuked! I for one often find myself wondering what is right to do, and wondering how to do it in my own way under my own will. Not even the most fool-proof plan we craft could be more rewarding and gratifying than what God has planned for us, and he can do so in ways far more just and righteous we could plan. Rebekah was explicitly told by the Lord that she held the beginning of a nation in her womb, and had every right and reason to believe God would provide the means to enact His will. Yet she and Jacob attempt to do what they believe is “right”, without regard for honor or honesty, showing a lack of trust in the Lord’s work and unwarranted confidence in her own ability.
We also see our own pride and short-sightedness in Esau’s brash, upfront behavior. Esau was to receive the blessings and birthright of his accomplished father – a great responsibility as well as a magnificent gift. Without thinking of his future and without respect for his position, he tosses it aside for momentary satisfaction and physical fullness. He goes so far as to despise this wonderful birthright! Like Esau, we, as troubled sinners, are excellent at tossing aside the love and inheritance of our Lord without a second thought for a moment’s satisfaction. Without realizing it at the time, our clouded judgement forces us to focus on trivial, meaningless frivolities in an attempt to satisfy our hunger for more – a hunger only He can satisfy. We toss aside the incredible birthright God has given us in exchange for moments of sin and weakness.
Ultimately, this self-reflection points us to the greatest truth we see in this passage: that God is greater than our pride and deception and short-sightnesses and bitterness. We have access to a priceless birthright: being the children of an incredible God whose plans are perfect and infallible, and who can use us, even in our most sinful moments, to further His kingdom. We know we never have to give up our inheritance into the kingdom of God for a moment’s happiness, for unlike Esau’s fleeting birthright, ours is eternal: the guarantee of our Lord and Savior being by our side for all time. We know we will never need a humble momentary meal to sate our appetites, for we now know as Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
Today I will be praying for you, that when you are thinking of how to fill and soothe your own soul, that you would joyfully keep your mind and heart on your birthright, knowing that the Lord’s plans and gifts are far greater than fleeting pleasures. I pray that by spending time in the Scripture and in prayer when you are in need, that you would listen to the Lord’s plans for you and hold to the blessings He has planned for you. God bless.