Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Birthright - Genesis 25:29-34

John 10:10 is our Bible verse this week.  Does anybody know it off the top of your head?  In it Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Some translations say “abundant life”.    Do you know of anybody that you would say is living or has lived a “full life”?  I don’t mean just somebody that is busy.  I mean somebody who is making a difference in furthering the Kingdom and the Kingdom is making a difference in their life.

It also doesn’t mean someone who has everything going for them.  Just because you are rich and successful doesn’t mean you are living a full life.  I think of guys like Paul and David who went through difficult times but their lives were rich and full, making a difference for the Kingdom.  I also think of my parents.  They are living and have lived a full life.  They are being used for the sake of the Lord and have been used all of their adult lives.

I asked Pop one day what he would do differently if he could live over again and he said he would take more chances.  He said he had no regrets in his life, though.  That’s hard for me to fathom.  I’m half his age and have at least one regret for every year.  Anybody else have no regrets in their life?  Is there anybody like me that has some regrets, some things they would like to change or at least forget?

I read a story about the son of a wealthy man who had reason to believe that his dad was going to buy him a new car for his 16th birthday.  He just knew that was going to happen and when the big day came his father handed him a box.  In that box he found a Bible.  The boy got so mad he stormed out of the house and never spoke to his father again.  Years later he was called to claim his inheritance after the old man died and he was going through all the stuff and found that Bible.  He opened it up for the first time and found that in the flyleaf his father had written about how proud he was of him and how much he loved him.  Then at the bottom of the page was taped a key to a Porsche.

I don’t know if that story is true or not and it doesn’t matter.  How many of us do things every day that we regret?  I have an idea that if we knew what blessings we forfeited through our disobedience to God, we would have many more regrets.

Now, don’t worry.  This sermon is not about trying to make you feel guilty.  I don’t want you to regret coming here today.  If you think you have made some bad decisions in your life then maybe it will make you feel better to study the king of regret, Esau, in chapter 25 of Genesis.

I have enjoyed going through the book of Genesis.  Do you realize we have been here since September?  Wow.  And the vast majority of the time we have been talking about Abraham.  We saw that God had promised Abe that he would be the father of a great nation and that he would own all the land his feet touched and that all the people of the world would be blessed through Abe. 

That’s a big promise from God and every time it looks like there is no way God is going to be able to make good on His promise, He always provides a way.  God provided him with a son, Isaac, and then blessed Isaac with two sons.  In between those births, life goes on.  In art, whether it is movies, literature, poetry, whatever, the passing of time is represented by water.  When you see waves crashing on the beach in a movie it often signifies that time is passing.  Not always, of course, but anyway this morning you can envision the waves of Lake Bridgeport crashing as Abraham passes almost everything he has to Isaac, and one generation blends into the next.

I say “almost everything” because Abe did have other sons with other women and he gave those sons some inheritance or gifts but because Isaac was the first, he got the birthright and we will talk about that in a minute.  Let’s look at the two sons of Isaac now.  Do you remember their names?  Jacob and Esau.  They were twins but hardly identical.  It says in verse 25 that Esau was first and he was a hairy baby and grew up to be hairy and a rough, outdoorsy man while Jacob was smooth skinned and liked to hang around the house.

Let’s pick up the story in verse 29 and go through verse 34.  Read.

There is a whole lot of talk here about “birthright” but what is a birthright.  I have 3 points this morning and the first thing I want to do is define the birthright.  What a son got from his father at the father’s passing would vary and had several variables.  In some households it might be a bigger deal than in others.  The first born son would get twice as much as any other son and so if the family had 2 sons, they would divide the inheritance into 3 parts and the oldest got two parts.  If they had 12 sons, they would divide it into 13 and it wouldn’t make a lot of difference but the oldest got 2 parts.

It would also make a bigger difference if the family was wealthy or not, obviously.  If the family didn’t have anything to give it didn’t matter how many parts you got you still got nothing.  But in the case of Esau and Jacob, their family was very wealthy and it would make a big difference.

We also find in other parts of the Bible that the birthright didn’t just include wealth.  The father would pass on the patronage of the family to the first born as well so there was honor and wealth to be had as the first born son.

You ladies may be wondering what happened to the girls in the family.  Well, this was another time and another place and when the nurse came out of the ob/gyn area and announced that a girl had been born everybody just quietly went home.  If it was a boy, they would throw a party.  Life never got much better for the ladies.

So, now we have defined the birthright.  Let’s look at Esau and how he devalued the birthright.  I always like to think about what it must have been like to see stories like this first hand.  It’s my understanding from researching this that for a situation like this to happen they were probably not right at the house.  They would set up a “base camp” some distance from the house and let the sheep graze and let the camels do whatever camels do and they would set up their tents to stay there for a few days.

It was at these tents that we see Jacob cooking some stew.  It was probably lentil stew.  Lentils were and are popular in that area because they grow well in that climate and they turn red when cooked.  Tough-guy Esau walks up after being out hunting.  He may have been gone several days.  I’m sure he was hungry but was he really so hungry that he was about to die?  I doubt it but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.  I still think if Esau had walked up and just said, “Hey mama’s boy!  Give me some of that stew or I’ll dot your eye!” that Jacob would have just given it to him but who knows?  I also wonder if Jacob was really serious when he told Esau to sell his birthright.  I bet he didn’t really think he would.  That’s way too high of a price to pay for a bowl of stew.

Now Lois makes some good stew and some good soup.  In fact, if you aren’t coming on Wednesday nights you are missing out but I guarantee you nothing is worth giving up what Esau so easily gives up.  Why would he do such a thing?  Doesn’t he realize what he is giving up?  Doesn’t he see that God’s blessing to Abe could have come through him?  He could have been in line to share in what Abe and Isaac shared, the blessings of God to all the world could have come through him but he traded it for soup.  When you read in the Bible about someone describing Yahweh as the God of Abe, Isaac and Jacob, they could be saying the God of Abe, Isaac and Esau if only Esau had not devalued his birthright so.

But read that last sentence again.  “So Esau despised his birthright.”

We have now defined the birthright and we have seen how Esau devalued and despised his birthright.  Now, it is time for us as Christians to declare our birthright.  Just like you do at the airport when you bring something back you have to declare it.  You have to show it and prove what it is.

What is our birthright as Christians?  What blessings do we get from our Father?  There is no way to list them all but I’ll start with the two verses we are learning.  John 3:16 and John 10:10.  We have eternal life with God in Heaven and we have an abundant life here on earth.  I could stop right there and not mention Galatians 5:22 and all the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.).  James 1:5 says that God is generous and wisdom is ours for the asking.

It’s time for us as Christians to tell Satan we don’t want your soup.  Satan makes a mean bowl of soup.  It will look good, smell good and probably even taste good but do you know what you get when you eat that soup?  Soup.  Instead of declaring to Satan that we have joy in difficult times we self-medicate to numb the pain and all we have is soup.

Every time we gossip to make ourselves feel better we trade peace for soup.

Every time we click on that website we are not supposed to we trade our inheritance of goodness and self-control for soup.

Every time we disrespect our parents, steal from the workplace or take God’s name in vain we devalue our birthright as children of the King and joint-heirs with Jesus to outrageous blessings, many of which we will not see this side of Heaven.

Esau never said with his mouth that he despised his birthright but his actions proved otherwise.  I’m sure if we were asked about why we despised our divine birthright we would disagree vehemently but what about the attitude of your heart and the actions of your hands?  They often prove otherwise. 

Do you want blessings from God or will you look back with regret at the memory of your soup?

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