I was reading an article from Christian magazine ‘The Briefing’ yesterday, when I was stopped short by a particular sentence (that sent me thinking on a completely different subject, although it’s a helpful article which you can read more of by following the link below!):
Esau was the one who had sold his birthright and his part in God’s promise. He had been part of God’s covenant people, but he valued his own appetites more.
Do you know the story? It’s in Genesis 25.
Esau is one of two brothers, the sons of Isaac – himself the son of Abraham. This is the fortunate family to whom God has given some incredible, world-changing promises – He will bless them, and through their family all the nations of the earth shall be blessed! (Genesis 12:1-3)
This purpose and blessing is passed through the sons of the family, and Esau is the firstborn, the promise is part of his inheritance.
And yet in a single moment, after an exhausting hunting trip, Esau reveals his priorities and disregard for God by exchanging his birthright for a bowl of stew!
Rather than the fleeting mistake that it seems to be, this decision probably represented a subtle shift in Esau’s thinking and direction over time. If he had really valued the covenant promises and the God who upheld them, such an exchange could never have been made, no matter how hungry he was!
“He had been part of God’s covenant people, but he valued his own appetites more.”
Hebrews 12:16-17 comments on the episode like this: See that no one is … godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
A decision of appetite and desire over God that had lasting and tragic ramifications. Yet I do this all the time! I make the same exchange in small ways, in the things I choose:
Effort-less entertainment instead of time in God’s word
Sleep instead of prayer
Unhealthy eating instead of food choices that honour God
Compromises in the things I read and watch instead of purity of mind and heart
Time and time again I give in to my desires in hundreds of small ways that feel pretty harmless at the time.
We are all filled with desires and appetites –good and bad. The problem comes when we allow them to rule us, and to take precedence, affecting the way we love and serve God, and training us over time to prioritize our appetites over our obedience to God. This decision had tragic results for Esau. Perhaps I’m not a key player early in God’s salvation plan like him, but I should let this be a warning to me.
Do I daily practice controlling my various appetites, and identifying desires that conflict with obedience and trust in my God?
Because giving in to my appetite is a pattern that can lead to dangerous places.
If I am well practiced in giving in, one day I might forfeit something important.
Like Esau, I have been fortunate to have parents who have brought me up to know God and his promises. Could I get to a point where my desires (good or bad) sideline God and replace him in my affections and priorities because my appetite here and now must be satisfied at any cost?
What are your appetites? Which ones vie to take control?
If you’re anything like me, just thinking about all this makes you ready to give up! I’m full of raging desires and misplaced priorities!! Please keep reading…
An Answer to Our Appetites
The Bible doesn’t ignore or downplay our appetites. And God knows all the sinful tendencies of his people! So he signposts the way to the real feast! A feast that leads us to Jesus – take your time eating:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live. Isaiah 55:1-3
…Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3b
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35
And a few verses later – lest we think it’s all up to us:
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14
Let’s not be like Esau, but save our appetites for the real feast!