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Jan 24, 2010

Esau Living Apart from God's Best

Passage: Genesis 36:1-8

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: Almost Perfect

Category: Redemption

Keywords: esau, bad choices, consequences, redemption, hope, genesis

Summary:

Esau made a poor choice in regard to his birthright. The consequences of which lasted for millenia. What do you do when you realize you've made a cataclysmically poor choice and living with the consequences of that choice seems unbearable?

Detail:

 

Genesis 36:1 through Genesis 36:8 (NIV)
1This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom).

2Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite—3also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

4Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, 5and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.

6Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. 7Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. 8So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

This passage is about Esau moving. There wasn’t enough room for Esau and Jacob (brothers) so they split up. By itself, the passage doesn’t mean much. It speaks of who is wives were and why he moves. There doesn’t seem to be any drama here so what’s the big deal. Context is everything thing though.

Just to give you a road map of where we're going, I'll go ahead and pose the question. What do you do when you realize you've made a cataclysmically poor choice and living with the consequences of that choice seems unbearable?

Before we answer that question. Let's feel the weight of that question and go back to the circumstances that created it. Well, you have to know the back story of Esau. We covered this a few months ago.

            Esau and Jacob were brothers. Going back further than that though these were brothers from a significant family—the family. The family traces its origin back to the first two human beings, Adam and Eve. We all know their story. Adam and Eve were in paradise and everything wasn’t almost perfect, it was perfectly perfect. They were in perfect relationship to God. They had perfect health with no death or decay. They didn’t need the public option. But God’s perfect love gave the perfect freedom to shatter that perfection, he gave them free will. They listened to the Serpent’s winsome words of wit and wiliness. Given the choice of complete reliance on God and their independence from him, Adam and Eve chose to pursue the knowledge of good and evil, independence. Their relationship with God changed, death and sin entered into the world. God made a plan to change all that and restore humanity to right relationship with him, but it was going to take time. His plan would give back humanity eternal life. The plan involved a promise made to Eve, that one of her offspring would conquer sin and death but suffer in the process. The hope of this son was passed on from generation to generation as humanity spread out from the fertile crescent valley they started out from throughout the world.

Sin had its way with humanity and corrupted it to a point where God just had to start all over again. You see humanity didn't have God given laws or civilization at this point in time. Without that sin had its way. God hadn’t wanted humanity to have laws and rules to live by. That was our choice. When I say our I mean humanity, Adam and Eve, etc. God always wanted us to have a relationship with him and be totally dependent on him not dependent on the rules. Without complete dependence on God we (humanity) would need rules to help us see that need. He gave humanity a few hundred years to figure that out after Adam and Eve’s time. We didn't figure it out so God had to start all over again. You heard the story of Noah and the flood. That's what happened.

 Genesis 6:5 through Genesis 6:7 (NASB)
5Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”

So, after that God left it up to eight people to start all over again and he gave them a few rules that amounted to eating healthy and not killing each other. Humanity was still young at this point and just needed the basics.

So everybody here and everybody in the world is ultimately descended from Adam and Eve but were also all descendent from Noah and his wife through one of his three sons and their wives. Now one of Noah sons was named Shem and from Shem came all the Semitic peoples or shemites. So a lot of your people from the Middle East like the Hebrews, Arabs, etc. all from the line of Shem.

From this line came Abram, a man who feared God because by the time they got down to Abram, man had already stopped fearing God in spite of the flood and some other significant events that happened shortly afterwards. You know the Tower of Babel, cataclysmic continental drift starting earthquakes, stuff like that. In an environment of people who worshipped idols, nature, and everything but God, Abram stood out as one who still believed God. This is big deal for humanity. So God made him a promise that he would bless him and make him the father of many nations.

This was an unlikely promise because Abram was in his 90s and his wife wasn't far behind him and was barren not having any children. Abram believes this promise of offspring in his old age, kind of, but jumps the gun. He and his wife see the impossibility of it also and they decide to try to do it themselves by Abram sleeping with his wife's maidservant Hagar. This wasn't part of God's desire and plan for Abram. So what is God do? He smites Abram! No, he doesn't smite Abram. He blesses Abram by reminding him of the promise and changing his name to remind him of the promise. His name changes from Abram to Abraham , which is like saying your name was father, now it's great father.

Now, God doesn't seem to be very impatient with Abraham at this point. However, there were consequences of Abraham's jumping the gun. He slept with the maid he did have a son by her whose name was Ishmael and Ishmael to become a father of nations as well -- the Arab nations. And as history plays out, we see that the Arab nations as the offspring of Abraham don't get on too well.

So Abraham and Sarah, his wife, eventually do have their own son named Isaac. Isaac marries a woman named Rebekah, and after another long wait, Rebekah has a difficult pregnancy -- twins.

Genesis 25:20 through Genesis 25:23 (NASB)
20and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23The LORD said to her,

            “Two nations are in your womb;

            And two peoples will be separated from your body;

            And one people shall be stronger than the other;

            And the older shall serve the younger.”

There were struggling in her womb, and there will be struggling among these two brothers in real life. Last week we talked about favoritism in families. Last week John was talking about favoritism in Jacob's family, one of the two boys in Rebekah's womb here. I wonder where it came from? Rebekah favored the younger son, Jacob. And Isaac favored the older son, Esau. And when I say older, I mean by a minute. But it's significant enough to make a difference in that culture. The oldest son gets the blessing and the inheritance, all the perks. Isaac, the father, is the one who gives the blessing and the inheritance. Who is his favorite son? Right, Esau.

This significance was not lost on Rebekah either. I don't think she didn't tell her son about it. Check it out:

Genesis 25:29 through Genesis 25:34 (NASB)
29When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called £Edom. 31But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Not we already talked about the significance of being the older son. The birthright was legal as far as legal can be ascertained in a culture with no laws, but it was the custom that the oldest son would receive authoritative and priestly rule of the family. The birthright also won a double portion of the inheritance. That is what he was to inherit. In a sense, he was becoming a patriarch in that family. The blessing was spiritual given by the father and back then, it meant something. Now, the father or God could revoke Jacobs, obtaining of the birthright. But given the value that Esau showed for it... why?

And then we know how Jacob stole the blessing. He and his mother conspired to fool old blind Isaac into bestowing the blessing on Jacob instead of Esau. Jacob dressed up like Esau, put some goat skins on his arms to him make himself hairy like his brother and used the rest of the goat as "venison" for his blind old dad, Isaac.

 Again, the blessing was spiritual, and it was real. Just like when you fathers tell your sons, what they are, eventually they become that. If you encourage your sons and daughters, and affirm their strengths, that's what they'll become -- a summary of all those strengths and encouraging words. It's not magic. This is how Isaac blesses Jacob:


Genesis 27:28 through Genesis 27:29 (NASB)
28         Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,

            And of the fatness of the earth,

            And an abundance of grain and new wine;

29  May peoples serve you,

     And nations bow down to you;

     Be master of your brothers,

     And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.

     Cursed be those who curse you,

     And blessed be those who bless you.”

So Esau comes back after hunting down some real venison to find out that his blessing has been stolen. And for Isaac's words to have any truth or reality to them, he can't take them back from Jacob and then give them to Esau. So this is what Esau gets:

 Genesis 27:39 through Genesis 27:40 (NASB)

39Then Isaac his father answered and said to him,

            “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling,

            And away from the dew of heaven from above.

40        “By your sword you shall live,

            And your brother you shall serve;

            But it shall come about when you become restless,

            That you will break his yoke from your neck.”

 

So, how does Esau react to all this?

Genesis 27:41 through Genesis 27:45 (NASB)
41So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. 43“Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! 44“Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, 45until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”

Jacob wasn't the only one at fault here. His mother Rebekah also had something to do with this. She liked Jacob, and she didn't like Esau, or his wives. This next verse is very telling about how Rebekah really felt about Esau and the types of choices he was accustomed to making:

 Genesis 27:46 (NASB)
46Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”

Esau didn't make the best choices. In a sense you could say his God was his belly and his appetite for whatever struck his fancy. You can wait to see if his parents would approve of his choice for a wife, pages saw what he wanted and took it whether it was a bowl of soup or roll in the hay. Later on when Esau makes the connection between his mom's disdain for him and his marriage to the daughters of Heth, he gets another wife, who is descended from Abraham also, but through Ishmael. He just couldn't get it right.

Earlier I asked the question, what do you do when you've made it cataclysmically poor choice and you find that living with the consequences of that choice or choices unbearable? Now before we talk about how Esau handled this, let's put a hypothetical out there.*

What if God didn't reveal to Rebekah the outcome of what would happen between the two boys in her womb? What if Esau didn't take the soup for the birthright? What if Rebekah didn't favor Jacob and Isaac didn't favor Esau? What if Jacob was content being a shepherd? From Scripture we know Israel, but we also know that Jacobs name was changed to Israel. Wouldn't it have been just as easy for Esau to wrestle with the Angel and his name changed to Israel? I mean, it even sounds better Esau to Israel as opposed to Jacob to Israel. Abram to Abraham, Esau to Israel?

My point is that yes, God knew the outcome of this. Esau still had choices to make though. So Jacob, so did Isaac, and so had Abraham before when dealing with Hagar. And all these choices had consequences.

Now we know the consequences were a little bit longer lasting than Esau's lifetime. He didn't get God's best he got his best. That is Esau's best. He established for himself a name and a nation and that nation has been a thorn in the side of Israel for thousands of years. Some scholars trace the Edomites to the present day Palestinians. I don't know if that's true or not seems kind of poetic though.

And don't get me wrong, Esau didn't fare all that badly really, because I don't know that were really talking about sin here. I mean, it was stupid to trade his birthright for a bowl of soup, maybe even foolish. You can act so foolishly as it to be called sin I believe or negligent or whatever you want call it. And he still did well for himself. He still gets a nation named after him. They called it Edom, which means red. When Esau was born he was covered in hair and some would suppose it was red hair. Or it could be from the color of the soup that he traded his birthright for. Either way, he prospered so much that he couldn't live on the same piece of land with Jacob.

Of Edom's descendents there were some great people. There were even some great things like King Herod As in Herod the Great. He was descended from Esau. King Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus when he was born and Jesus descends from Jacob.

So this isn't about the choice between wickedness and godliness, that would be in easy sermon to preach. This is about choosing between God's best and our best.

And this brings us to answer the question of how Esau dealt with his cataclysmically poor choice. His first reaction was that he was going to kill his brother, but fortunately his mother sent Jacob away. And Jacob got to deal with some consequences of his own. He married into a family with a father-in-law who is at least twice as deceptive as he was and stayed there for 20 years. This gave Esau some time to cool off.

Genesis 33:4 through Genesis 33:11 (NASB)
4Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. 7Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. 8And he said, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.” 10Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. 11“Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” Thus he urged him and he took it.

But 20 years is a long time and plenty time for somebody to get over something. But that doesn't mean it's guaranteed. Esau chose to forgive and not be bitter. He lived with his choice and made the most of it. I think if he would've tried to kill Jacob God would hit the smite button.

Now we know the consequences were a little bit longer lasting than Esau's lifetime. He didn't get God's best he got his best. That is Esau's best. He established for himself a name and a nation and that nation has been a thorn in the side of Israel for thousands of years. Some scholars trace the Edomites to the present day Palestinians. I don't know if that's true or not but it seems kind of poetic though.

Of Edom's descendents there were some great people. There were even some great things like King Herod As in Herod the Great. He was descended from Esau. King Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus when he was born. Jesus descends from Jacob.

Red bean soup or birthright? This isn't about the choice between wickedness and godliness, that would be an easy sermon to preach. This is about choosing between God's best and our best. And certainly that also can include the difference between choosing godliness and choosing wickedness or sin.

Our best is living for stomach, our lusts, and our fulfillment. God's best is feeding the poor, purity before marriage and blessing others -- self-sacrifice. Our best is making lists and checking boxes, developing a set of rules to follow to get closer to God. God's best is sending his own son to take our punishment for us not checking those boxes and following those rules.

Real-life, what do these concepts of choosing between good or best and living with not choosing best look like in real life?*

There was a young man who was raised in a godly home. This young man left his home and move to the big city, and there he sowed his wild oats. He didn't ask himself the question, what would Jesus do? He lived for himself doing the things that some young men can do when they live in a big city. It was the life of the prodigal son. They were girls to be had, there was wine to be drunk, and there were many toys to be played with. This went on for years. And then one day, he realizes he's empty. His lifestyle doesn't satisfy. He meets a group of people who live a life that he knows is good, they live a life of purity and wholesomeness and he wants that for himself. The young man hears what these Jesus people have to say, and he accepts it as truth, the Holy Spirit comes in and lives within his heart. And soon, very soon, his desires start to change. All of a sudden, he doesn't want all the toys, some of which were the girls that he had. He doesn't want all the drunkenness and partying. Now, he wants to live a less exciting life. But one that is purer and wholesome and involves a family, including a wife and kids. The problem is, he spent many so years as a young man nurturing this other way of life. He doesn't know how to be a family man who works a steady job. He doesn't have the emotional equipment to be in a relationship with a real woman, he doesn't have the stress coping ability to maintain a steady job or the self-discipline to create and maintain a budget to provide for his family that he wants now.

It takes a while for him to figure all this stuff out and as he does, he starts to realize that his life has been made up of a series of bad choices that have crippled him. He's going to have to wait until he is ready to have those godly things in his life that he wants. And his quest for immediate gratification makes it all the more harder. Now, God's best would've been for him to not to have that wild lifestyle that involved revolving door relationships and undisciplined living in the first place. But the young man hadn't chosen that.

He opens his Bible and reads:


Romans 8:28 through Romans 8:29 (NASB)
28And we know that £God causes some things to work together for mediocrity to those who love God, to those who are called according to His whim. 29For those whom he vaguely knew about, He also thought it might be a good idea to become conformed to a loose resemblance of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many losers;

Wait, did I misquote that? Who thinks that's what it says in the Bible? You know, sometimes I think that's what it says in the Bible. I mean, not my head, but in my heart. I think it says something like that. Instead of this:

Romans 8:28 through Romans 8:29 (NASB)

28And we know that £God causes all things—not some but all, both good and bad, choices made by us and choices made by others.

 to work together for good—as in not bad, first rate not second

 to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose—as in planned, designed and not left to chance.

. 29For those whom He foreknew—as in completely, intimately, including all potentialities for making good choices and bad ones

, He also predestined -- as in predetermined, as in God's plan for your life is guaranteed to succeed

to become conformed to the image of His Son, -- as in shaped, chiseled, changed to be like Jesus, the son of God

so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;-- as in of the same father, and DNA as Jesus to be looked at with the same love and affection as the one who is perfect. 

 God has a plan for this young man, a plan that will be a good not just from God’s perspective but also from the young man. If he follows God’s will for his life and takes the time to heal the damage he’s done to himself through his wild living, he could go on to have the perks that come with Godly living…who knows he may be a part of someone else’s redeemed life.

God’s like that, that’s how he rolls. The redemption of one man’s broken life often is integrated with the redemption of individuals around him. It’s not just him and Jesus, it’s we and Jesus. This young man does get the happy ending…eventually he finds a godly woman who was estranged by her husband and a few young kids who need a daddy. God’s plan of redeeming mankind is both general to humanity and specific to our individual brokenness. He’s that big.

So, let's say you're there. Maybe you're not the young man. But maybe you're somebody closer to my age or older, and you look back and you see some choices that you made that now you realize weren't God's best. They were your best, and now you're living in the consequences of that and you're not liking it so much. And if you are there, you know it. So I won't offer questions that don't need offering. I'll offer this one though, what do you do now?

One. Repent. Even if it's not a sin you can really put your finger on, recognize that you chose your way over God's way and acknowledge that. When I say repent, I mean turn away from that willfulness that doesn't want to do things God's way. I’m not saying walk away from your circumstances. If there is sin, an actual sin that you know about, all the more need for repentance. Confess it to God and to the person that you sinned against. Make restitution, where possible. Stop living for yourself and stop sinning in that area.

From this point on, seek God's will for your life. And for those who don't know how to do that, it means prayer, reading the Bible, The Word, seeking Fellowship among God's people and worshiping with God's people. I'm not saying God can't speak if you go off on a mountain somewhere by yourself, I just mean if you're not in the practice of listening to God's voice you might not recognize it and there are other voices, you might want to be around some people who do recognize His voice and from a trusted source.

Two. Acceptance. Accept that God does have a plan for your life that cannot be frustrated by you. God's ultimate goal is for you to be conformed to the image of his son not to be conformed you to the lifestyle that you could have had if you had made the "right choices" or to be conformed to having "the right spouse, car, job, whatever." Also, accept your circumstances, don't try to kill Jacob, meaning don't try to squirm out of the circumstances you're in, let God deliver you through them. God will use those circumstances, to conform you to the image of his son and bring you happiness in this life and the next. When I say the next life, I mean heaven, I don't mean another lifetime just so we're clear on that. We're not Hindus up in here.

And that is my advice. And of course there are exceptions. If you're in the sinful relationship, that is outside the context of marriage or family, you might need to exit that situation. If you're in a marriage where your life or your kid’s lives are physically threatened by an abusive spouse. You might need to physically separate yourself from that situation. I didn’t say divorce, but that also be necessary.

Scripture teaches us to repent and turn from our wiki wiki ways. It teaches us to seek God, it teaches us that God has a plan for our lives, and it teaches that we can’t frustrate that plan for our lives. We can frustrate our own plans and desires, but God's good plans for our lives, we cannot frustrate.

Oh by the way... disclaimer. This only applies to those who are called according to his purpose. That's what Scripture says, isn't it? “who are called according to His purpose.” So how do you know if you are called according to his purpose? Well, if you believe that Jesus Christ died as the one and only payment for your sins and shortcomings and that he rose from the dead and you trust in him as your only hope of salvation and eternal life, then can know you are called according to his purpose. If you want to know more about what it means to trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior talk to me afterwards or Pastor Charlie or the person brought you.