Esau and the Easy Path

Don’t throw in the towel when times get tough. Something greater could be waiting.

“I would never do that!” How many of us have thought these words, or even said them out loud, after reading or hearing a Bible story about someone who made an unwise choice? Kill a sibling out of jealousy? Betray Jesus? Sleep with another man’s wife and then make sure he dies? Fall asleep when Jesus asks for prayer backup? No way—not me.

One of the most mind-boggling accounts in the Old Testament is that of Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of soup and some bread. In those days, the birthright was an enormous privilege granted only to firstborn sons. It’s easy to think that under no circumstance would we make such a foolish decision. Yet something drove Esau to this breaking point, and he gave up the most valuable thing in his possession.

Was he crazy, or are we all capable of such foolishness? You can probably remember times in your life when the going got so tough that it felt hopeless to keep trying. Perhaps a relationship became so splintered that you stopped trying to fix it, or a college course proved so difficult that quitting seemed to be the only solution. Maybe you threw in the towel after multiple failed attempts at dieting.

What about your relationship with God? Obeying Him and trying to live a holy life can feel like a steep uphill climb that’s draining and full of obstacles. Worst of all, you can’t see your final destination or even, at times, what’s just around the corner. It can be discouraging to keep plodding along with no immediate gratification or results.

READ Genesis 25:19-34; Hebrews 12:14-17

It’s hard to imagine what Esau was thinking when he returned home one day, probably from an exhausting hunting expedition, and saw his twin brother cooking stew. His hunger, heightened by the aroma of whatever was in the pot, clouded his judgment, and the rumbling in his stomach drowned out the voice of reason. Esau responded to Jacob’s bribe before thinking through the long-term implications of what he was doing. “Look, I am about to die,” he said. “What good is the birthright to me?” (Gen. 25:32 NIV).

Esau likely knew that he was Isaac’s favorite son. He might have made the deal with Jacob lightly, assuming his father would not enforce it. He certainly could not have anticipated being double-crossed later (see Gen. 27:1-40) and losing his father’s final blessing as well. Instead of holding out for a permanent, priceless inheritance, Esau placed higher value on temporary, physical satisfaction. In so doing, he swapped his birthright for what turned out to be the most expensive bowl of stew in the history of mankind.

The impulse to seek instant gratification is certainly nothing new, though it does seem to have become an epidemic in our modern society. Since the beginning of time, humans have been quick to give up eternal rewards for the sake of relief from momentary pain, need, or trouble. Perseverance doesn’t come naturally or easily, but blessing awaits those who persist (James 1:12, James 5:11).

REFLECT + EXPLORE

Like Esau, you may be tempted to take the easy road instead of persevering on the narrow one, to reach for instant gratification or relief instead of enduring your trials, to give up your soul in an attempt to gain the world. Reflect on these insights from supporting scriptures. If you have time, explore the passages and journal your responses.

• You may feel like giving up when your circumstances are tough, because there seems to be no hope of victory.
Read James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-4. Why does Scripture say to rejoice during difficult times? What is the end result of perseverance?

• Missionary Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Read Matthew 16:26 and 1 Peter 2:11. What are the “bowls of soup” in your life that distract you from the eternal blessings promised by God?

• Esau told Jacob he was hungry to the point of death and then carelessly gave away his birthright. We don’t know just how famished Esau was, but his statement seems exaggerated.
Why is it dangerous to see your problems as more harmful than the “bowl of soup” you are tempted to buy into as a solution?

• It’s possible you desire to persevere, but guilt about the past or fear about the future weighs you down and leaves you feeling unable to move forward.
Read Hebrews 12:1-3. How can focusing on Jesus help you endure?

• In Hebrews 11, we read about men and women who persevered through trials much greater than an empty stomach.
Read Hebrews 11:1-40. Put yourself in the shoes of each person named in this chapter. How would you react in each situation? What enabled these godly people to remain faithful under such difficult circumstances?

RESPOND

Answer the following questions, journaling your thoughts if possible.

• What insights did you gain about your life while reflecting on Esau’s story?

• What circumstances are weighing you down and tempting you to give up or give in? How are they affecting your relationship with God?

• What practical changes can you make in your life today to develop discipline and perseverance? Ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and give you the courage to obey Him even when it seems impossible or frightening.

Related Topics:  Self-control

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What happens to my notes

19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham became the father of Isaac;

20 and 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.

21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.

22 But 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.

23 The 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."

24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.

25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.

26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.

28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished;

30 and 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.

31 But Jacob said, First sell me your birthright."

32 Esau said, Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?"

33 And Jacob said, First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

32 Esau said, Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?"

1 Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, My son." And he said to him, Here I am."

2 Isaac said, Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death.

3 Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me;

4 and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die."

5 Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home,

6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying,

7 Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.'

8 Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you.

9 Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves.

10 Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death."

11 Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man.

12 Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing."

13 But his mother said to him, Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me."

14 So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved.

15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.

16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.

17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.

18 Then he came to his father and said, My father." And he said, Here I am. Who are you, my son?"

19 Jacob said to his father, I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me."

20 Isaac said to his son, How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?" And he said, Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me."

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not."

22 So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau."

23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him.

24 And he said, Are you really my son Esau?" And he said, I am."

25 So he said, Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son's game, that I may bless you." And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank.

26 Then his father Isaac said to him, Please come close and kiss me, my son."

27 So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed;

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."

30 Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.

31 Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that you may bless me."

32 Isaac his father said to him, Who are you?" And he said, I am your son, your firstborn, Esau."

33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed."

34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father!"

35 And he said, Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing."

36 Then he said, Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing." And he said, Have you not reserved a blessing for me?"

37 But Isaac replied to Esau, Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?"

38 Esau said to his father, Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father." So Esau lifted his voice and wept.

39 Then 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."

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;

4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

2 For by it the men of old gained approval.

3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise;

10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

12 Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.

15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.

16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;

18 it was he to whom it was said, IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED."

19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.

21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,

25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them.

29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.

31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.

32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,

33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;

36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.

37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated

38 ( men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,

40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

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