Saturday, November 17, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 32 - Jacob and Esau

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 21st October 2007 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 25:7-11, 19-34

Isaac married Rebecca when he was 40, but only had children when he was 60. He had to wait for 20 years. Isaac prayed to God so that Rebecca could have children. In the ancient culture, an unmarried woman was a disgrace. And a barren wife was also a disgrace, no matter how deeply her husband love her. Isaac was faithful to his wife although she was barren, and he continued to pray for her. Isaac and Rebecca’s marriage was predestined by God. The Bible specifically mentioned about how Rebecca was brought out from Mesopotamia by Abraham’s chief servant for Isaac.

God gave Isaac 2 sons which represented two nations, where the older would serve the younger. The Scripture said God loved Jacob but hated Esau. Why did the Scripture say the elder would serve the younger before they were born? God is just, we cannot say He is biased or unfair. He was revealing His will. In the progression of events to come, God’s will unfolded.

The first child was very hairy like a garment, so called him Esau. The second child grabbed hold of his brother’s feet. Since birth, Jacob already showed himself to be one who always snatched every single opportunity. Esau and Jacob had very different personalities. Jacob was a quiet man who always stayed in the tent, while Esau was lively and always went hunting.

Isaac loved to eat delicious food. This was his weakness. Isaac especially loved Esau because he tasted Esau’s food. He did not love Jacob as much because Jacob only stayed in the tent and was not a hunter like Esau. He was biased towards Esau because Esau could cook. Later on, following the mistake of his father, Jacob was also biased towards his son. Esau took it as his most important purpose in life to please his father. This kind of filial piety is not based on the truth.

When the most important thing is not treated as most important in our life, we will end up wasting a lot of time on secondary things. And we will regret before leaving the world because we have not done many things we ought to do. We ought to examine ourselves whether we prioritize our lives properly. We need to ask whether we treat the absolute as absolute and relative as relative.

What are the absolute things? Those are the things important in the eyes of God. We must put God above our parents. God is the Creator of our parents. Esau was only pleasing to his father, but not interested in what pleases God.

Who was Esau? He was the firstborn. In Jewish culture, the firstborn is most important. The firstborn represents the entire family and would receive double portion of the father’s inheritance. God would bless the first son. But Esau did not understand this. When we put God first, He would bless us. From human perspective, Esau was very filial. But in the eyes of God, Esau was not pleasing to Him. Jesus said we are not worthy to be His disciples if we could not leave everything and follow Him.

Was it because God determined Esau to be rejected? Throughout the course of history, Esau proved himself to be unworthy. On the other hand, Jacob was not willing to lose even one moment of opportunity. Jacob’s life was marked by grabbing of opportunities. God spoke through Isaiah that among the Israelites there was none like Jacob who clung to God and His promises.

Many of us would just waste away our time and opportunities. Young people today should rise and grab hold of the Word of God. When Jacob wrestled with God, he would not let the Angel go until he received His blessings. God loves those who seek after Him.

Esau and Jacob represent two kinds of Christians. There is a group of Christians who seek after God. Another group of Christians would just waste their lives. Some would wake up early in the morning to read and study God’s Word. Others would just come to church on Sunday and even then fall asleep. Some would drive long distance and take leave just to listen to a sermon. Others would not turn up even though the church is just across their house.

When God sees from heaven, He sees some people who just waste away His grace, while others cling so tightly to it. Earthly father Isaac loved Esau because he cooked good food. But the Heavenly Father loved Jacob because Jacob honored God and grabbed hold of every opportunity to be a part of His will. Jacob’s greatest regret was that he was not the firstborn, so he was not born with the privileges like what Esau had no matter how hard he tried to catch up.

Many people who are not born with many privileges fight hard and advance a lot in life but others who are born with a lot more privileges betray themselves using the grace God have given them. This is a sad and pathetic world. We should never look down on ourselvew just because we are not born in good circumstances.

In Jacob and Esau’s case, we see that the one born with inferior circumstances could surpass the one who was superior. The most beautiful music was composed by Beethoven who was deaf. One of the greatest hymn was written by John Newton who was blind. One of the greatest physicists is Stephen Hawking who could not even move. We often blame God because of men’s inabilities. On the contrary, God would rebuke us using these people. A person like Helen Keller who was blind, deaf and mute was a great writer. God would ask us, since we are not blind, not deaf and not mute, what have we done? We are not worthy to ask God questions.

Although Jacob was not the firstborn, and his father did not love him the same way, but he grabbed hold of God and pursued things invisible beyond the material world. One day when Esau was back and tired from hunting, he saw Jacob cooking some red stew. He asked Jacob to give him some food. Jacob was very sly. He asked for an exchange. He would give some stew to Esau but asked Esau to surrender his birthright.

Birthright was unseen but the food was visible. Here is a battle between the spiritual and the worldly and the irony between what we can see and what we cannot see. The Apostle Paul said that we should fix our eyes on what is unseen and not on what is seen because what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal. A person who only takes care of immediate needs will have short-sighted spirituality although he might have some temporal enjoyment. But a far-sighthted person looks at long term investment so would not be satisfied with temporal enjoyment.

Many people think that Christians are idealists and look at the world as the fight between idealism and materialism. But Christianity is neither idealism nor materialism. Both concepts are the products of fallen reason. Christianity is about the truth. The truth that God create the world. The truth that comes from God’s revelation alone.

According to materialism, only material world exists and it is the material world that decides the thought process. Idealism on the other hand, believes that the material world does not exist, but is only a projection of the ideal. In summary it believes that reason decides the material world.

Christianity, however, teaches that God created both the material world and our reason. We can use our thinking process to understand the material world. But the existence of all things are contingent and only the existence of God is eternal and incontingent. And only through the Word of God can we understand the truth.

Esau saw the material things to be important. He despised spiritual things. His entire worldview and value system were material. This was how Esau lived. Jacob looked at God’s eternal will as more important than the material world. The need of our heart for the truth is more important than our material need.

Jacob asked for Esau’s birthright and made Esau to swear. In this way, he pulled God into the negotiation to secure not a human witness, but an Eternal Witness. He could see the essence of things that were invisible. Esau could not see the value behind the invisible things. Esau represents all who look at temporal things. Temptation from the material need is great indeed. Jacob represents Christians who could be far-sighted.

We must learn how to live our lives from this example. We should not make the the mistake of short-sightedness. Do not take run after things that are temporal but prepare ourselves for eternity. If we are able to see eternity in this temporal world, our life value will be elevated. When we see God, His throne and what is of eternal value, we will despise material world and be counted among the blessed and the wise.


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