Summary: Esau sells Jacob the birthright showing how he despised God’s blessings. Are we guilty of despising, that is treating as cheap God’s blessings? Find out what warnings and encouragements we can learn from this episode of "Jake TV."
(As “The Price Is Right” theme song plays, invite three contestants forward.) Welcome to the Price Is Right brought to you today from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church! Before you is a lovely bag of Skittles. The contestant who comes closest to guessing the retail price of this object without going over the actual price wins the item and a chance to win another lovely prize. (After the winning contestant is determined, invite him or her forward for the next game.) Before you now are three objects: a can of tuna, a DVD player, and a Bible. Stack these objects so that the least valuable item is on the bottom and the most valuable item is on top. You may begin. (The contestant should put the can of tuna on the bottom and the Bible on top.) Well done! (Give contestant a piece of candy.) But why did you put the Bible on top of the stack and not the DVD player? This Bible only retails for $10 while the DVD player costs $60. Of course, God’s Word is the most important thing we have in this world isn’t it? It’s more valuable than anything we can buy. (The contestant may be seated.)
Although our contestant correctly identified the Bible as the most valuable item here, don’t we often forget how precious spiritual blessings are? As a result we often treat God’s Word, worship, even Holy Communion as if they were something cheap, like a plastic toy that comes from a cereal box. That’s the attitude Jacob’s older brother Esau demonstrates in our episode of Jake TV this morning. Let’s find out what warnings and encouragement we can glean as we watch Esau sell Jacob the birthright.
In our Nanny 911 episode last Sunday we learned about the birth of Jacob and Esau. Although twins, the boys weren’t identical in appearance or in character. Esau was covered in hair (in fact the name Esau means “hairy”) while Jacob had smooth skin. Esau loved the great outdoors and the thrill of hunting wild animals while Jacob stayed close to home caring for his father’s flock and puttering around the kitchen with Mom. Although Jacob was younger and the quieter of the two boys, God promised that he would be the dominant one, and the one to receive the birthright usually reserved for the eldest son. Receiving the birthright not only meant inheriting a larger portion of Dad’s estate, it meant benefiting from the promise God had given to Grandpa Abraham that the savior would come through his family line. The birthright is something each boy should have valued and sought – not so much for the property one stood to inherit but for the honor of being a direct ancestor of the Messiah. What happens in our episode shows that only one boy truly valued this blessing.
One day, Esau came home from a hunting trip famished. As he drew near the tents his family called home, he smelled something delicious. He quickened his pace to the outdoor kitchen where he found Jacob stirring a pot of lentil stew. Esau said to his brother: “Quick, let me have some of that red stew!” (Genesis 25:30a) That English translation doesn’t quite capture Esau’s desperate impatience. Esau literally barked: “Let me gulp some of that red stuff. That red stuff there!” Esau didn’t care what Jacob had cooked up, he just needed something to fill his stomach, and now! (Esau’s identification of the stew as that “red stuff” helped another nickname he had received at birth to stick. Because Esau was not only hairy but had darker skin than Jacob, he was called “Edom” – Hebrew for “red.” Now he would also be known as Edom for having called his brother’s stew that “red stuff.”)
Jacob answered his brother’s demand with a demand of his own: “First sell me your birthright” (Genesis 25:31). While Jacob’s stew may have been aromatic, his attitude was unsavory. When your brother is hungry and asks for food, you don’t say: “I’ll sell you some” (John Jeske). What was Jacob up to anyway? Jacob was trying to secure the birthright that God had said would be his. Do you see the irony in this? Jacob was trying to purchase something that already belonged to him (Martin Luther)! How often don’t we do the same when we think that there is something we must do to get into heaven? Jesus proclaimed from the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). With that he assured us that all has been done for sinners to enter heaven. Jesus paid for every single one of our sins. There is nothing we must do to secure eternal life. God doesn’t need our help in the matter. He’s done it all through Jesus! Believe it!
While Jacob was guilty of thinking God needed his help to fulfill his promises, he at least knew what was worth securing. His older brother Esau didn’t have a clue in the matter. When Jacob demanded the birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew Esau responded: “Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32) And so after swearing to give Jacob the birthright Esau ate and drank and left with hardly a thought of what he had just given up. The sacred writer sadly comments that in so doing Esau despised the birthright (Genesis 25:34). Esau didn’t think the birthright to be worth more than a couple of loonies you and I might throw to a sidewalk vendor selling corndogs. Esau thought this way because he lived for the immediate and not the ultimate (Richard Lauersdorf).