Sermon Titled “The Great Exchange” (Genesis 25) – August 18th, 2013
Genesis 25 gives an account of Isaac’s family line, and tells of a particular exchange in which Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, give each other something that the other desperately wants. Read about their exchange below:
- Genesis 25: 29-34: Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.
Esau took from Jacob a bowl of stew, because he was famished, and in return Jacob took Esau’s birthright from him. To fully understand what Esau gave up, bible scholars explain that the birthright consisted of a) possession of the family property, and authority over the younger sons, widow/s, and unmarried daughters, and b) supposedly the “special” favor of God. Esau was, according to the scriptures, “starving!” I know most of us can relate to the feeling of being so hungry that we have felt as if we might die in that moment, but would most of us choose to give up something as valuable as a birthright? Or would we be willing to tolerate the discomfort a little longer?
Sadly, in today’s world, where instant gratification is emphasized and even expected to some degree, I’d say that many would opt for immediate satisfaction over greater, but long-term rewards. There are numerous examples that come to mind – get rich quick schemes, weight loss pills, shakes, body wraps, and 3-day diets for example, sexual gratification, career advancement through deceitful means, and well, you get the picture. All of these things provide immediate pleasure, but at what cost? What are you trading, or giving up, in order to have these things, right here and right now?
Besides the obvious things like forfeiting the opportunity to develop a sound financial plan for example, or starting a weight loss program that results in permanent weight loss (as well as improved health), there’s also the loss of admirable character traits such as integrity, honesty, and self-control.
But let’s be honest, a lot of people in this world care little about preserving their reputation, if it means getting what they want, when they want it. For some though, integrity does matter, but the temptation to take something that can instantly satisfy is not always easy to resist. That’s where the memorization of scripture comes in handy, and I love Chris Eyre’s idea (presented in his sermon last weekend) of having a few favorite “life” verses to refer to when we need to be reminded of the sufficiency of God’s grace. For Chris, the three verses he constantly turns to are:
- Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your ways straight.
- Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
- Ps.90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Scripture memory is undeniably helpful for Christians trying to uphold their faith, but something we would do well to keep at the forefront of our minds, is the much bigger exchange hinted at in Genesis 25. God gave up His one and only son, for us! That we might have eternal life. There is no greater exchange than that, and unlike the trade-offs that I talked about above, God’s exchange was a purely selfless act, done for our benefit. We can respond by forfeiting the carnal pleasures that constantly tempt us, and serve God instead – knowing that our reward will be worth it.
Let me end this post with an analogy I once read in a small pamphlet:
- An atheist went from town to town trying to disprove the existence of God. He reached a certain town and called a meeting at the local community hall. He asked the Christians who were present to raise their hands. Afraid of being humiliated, only one woman raised her hand. The man proceeded to grill her with questions about her “so-called” God. Then he said to her, “If your God really exists, then ask him to appear and show himself.” The woman replied, “I could, but it’s up to Him if He chooses to show Himself or not.” The man laughed and mocked her, and said, “You’re so foolish, you know He won’t appear because He doesn’t exist!” The woman had this response for him: “Sir, I do believe that God does indeed exist, and I choose to live my life in anticipation of His future coming, and ultimately eternal life with Him in heaven. However, if I die, and I find out that there is no God, then that’s okay. I will have lived a happy and fulfilling life. But, if I die and God is waiting to greet me, I know where I am going. Do you know where you will be going?”