19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered 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 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) 31 Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” 32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33 Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” 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 his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
I have never heard a sermon on gluttony. And I am sure there are many reasons for that, but one of them is most certainly because we live in a very gluttonous world. Calorie intake continues to go up and up and up, and many Americans have a great deal of trouble getting a handle on what they eat. This is not just an American issue it is a global issue. Globally, about 1 in 4 adults are overweight, and again that is globally. A 2010 report from the Global Burden on Disease said the following:
“For the first time on a global scale, being overweight has become more of a health problem than lack of nutrition. In 1990, undernutrition was the leading cause of disease burden, measured as the number of years of healthy life an average person could expect to lose as a result of illness or early death. Back then, a high body-mass index, or BMI, was ranked tenth. Now, undernutrition has dropped to eighth place, while BMI has risen to become the sixth leading cause of disease burden.”Now what is interesting is that we live in a culture that excuses over eating, not only in the culture at large but also and maybe especially in the church. One of our interns told me a story that one time he was preaching at a church and a woman came up to him and said, “Now your sermon was good but I don’t know if I can trust a skinny preacher.”
So why, in our culture and even in the church, is the sin of Gluttony so acceptable? Clearly in the scripture we are told to honor and protect the physical part of our body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Maybe more specifically to gluttony:
“Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
Ultimately as we are going to see in our text today, the problem with gluttony is really the problem with any sin, and it is that the gluttonous man or the gluttonous woman is being ruled by his or her appetites rather than being ruled by God.
Now, in the story of Esau the text doesn’t give us any indication that he had a particular pattern of gluttony but this one instance of gluttony cost him so, so much.
If you are familiar with the story of Israel, you know that God made a covenant with a man named Abraham that he would bless him and his offspring; that they, the offspring of Abraham would be the people of God. So Abraham had a son Isaac who, as we read in this story, had two sons and as we see in this text early on, before the boys are even born they are not united, there is a division between them.
We read in verses 22-23:
22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
Now this was an interesting promise for Rebekah after all in this culture the older never served the younger, in fact in the ancient near east there was a ruling law of Primogeniture, meaning that the older son would have gotten a double share of the family’s estate when the Father or the Patriarch died. So naturally from birth the older would have received two thirds and the younger would have received only one third of the inheritance. This favor or this birthright was both a privilege but it was also an honor. When I die I hope that I will give to my children an inheritance, I hope that I will pass off to them a good name, I hope that they will be proud to have me as their father. So there is certainly an idea of generational inheritance that exists in our culture. I was very happy to learn that Paige is pregnant with a son so that the Dees name will go on. But America is also very individualistic, and we love the story of a man or woman that came from nothing that really made it, it doesn’t matter as much who your father was, it matters more who you are.
This was not the ancient near east. Family, lineage, generational blessing was everything, it was how you lived on, in many ways how people found meaning and to be the first born son, you were the one that would carry on the family name, you were the one that would oversee the family fortune, if something were to happen to your father, you became the Patriarch you were given rule over the family, you were the one that would hold the family’s honor in sacred trust.
Nobody thought that birth order was accidental. It was God’s choice that you would be born first; it was God’s favor. But in this story, it was the Lord’s will that the Older would actually serve the younger.
Now again as I did a few weeks ago in the story of Eli, I feel compelled again to point out this glorious orchestration between the will of God and the free choices of man. Esau very clearly chose to sell his birthright, that was his choice, but ultimately before he was born that decision brought about God’s preordained will. Obviously there is a lot that could be said right now, but you’ll just have to keep coming, what I do want you to see is that this synchronized rhythm between the free choices of man and the divine will of God shows up all throughout the scripture.
So verse 24:
24 “When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau.”
From the very beginning Esau not only has the birthright, but he is very clearly the favored. He is a big hairy baby, a man’s man from birth. I mean what father doesn’t want this. In this time a ruddy or red complexion was a handsome mark on a man, the word here for Hairy cloak is the Hebrew word Sier which means here hairy or shaggy but is also the word for the mountains) so they called his name Esau.
Esau, the hairy one, Esau of the Mountains. I don’t quite know how this works with Scotland and the Ancient Near East but whenever I hear of Esau I always think of Hamish from Braveheart.
So verse 26:
26 “Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.”
The Hebrew word for Jacob is Jaquov – which means to supplant or to trip up by the heels watch out for Jacob he might trip you.
Verse 27-28 reads:
27 “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
So, again I want you to see everything in this story is to say that Esau was the favored, he was the first-born, he was the hunter, he was the man of the field, and his Father loved what he killed. Jacob was just a tent dweller, he was quiet, no one noticed Jacob when he came into the room, he kept to himself and cooked the meals which in the ancient near east certainly was not the work of a man. So, everything in this story is saying Esau is the favored one, Esau is the strong one, but ultimately this man’s whole life would be defined by a weak moment.
29 “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.)”
The Hebrew for Red Stew gets a little lost in translation. And in Hebrew the word for Red Stew, or Red Pottage if you are using the KJV is
Ha’ Adam Ha’ Adam – Which simply just means – The Red, The Red.
So, you can get a picture here of Esau’s exhaustion he just comes in from the field gasping “The Red, The Red.” Can you just imagine this big hairy man coming out of the field he is smelling of dead wild game, he is covered in dirt and he comes in and says, “The Red, The Red – It looks so good and I want it!”?
In verse 31, Jacob says, “Sell me your birthright now.”
So again this birthright, understood as a divine privilege that the oldest son, had the right, and had the honor of carrying on the family’s land and possessions and good name. So Jacob, Jacob whose name means the one who will trip you up by your heels, says sell me your birthright now.
32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” 33Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” 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 his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
We read that story and there is almost this sense of like well it can’t be true I mean how could anyone be so foolish to trade a Birthright for some lentil stew. What? Esau you were the chosen one, you were the one that was chosen to be born first, You were to have blessing, You were the one Esau and yet you traded it for a bowl of soup, You traded God’s great plan for your life for soup? And it wasn’t even good soup, Lentil soup, I don’t know how many of you have ever had Lentil Stew – Its not good.
The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 12
15”See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16that no one is sexually immoral or unholy (the NIV says Godless) like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” Esau the strong, Esau the favored, Esau the blessed. His life totally changed in many ways his life was defined by this singular moment, when he became a slave to his appetites.
See church, I want you to hear this. Every day we all make the same choice that Esau made. Soup or Birthright. We either reach for the bowl, or we reach for God, we follow our Appetite or we follow God’s will.
Because what it came down to with Esau is the very simple question.
“Am I going to follow God’s greater plan for my life (even though it is hard, even though it is not what I want to do right now, even though it has a chance of killing me) or am I going to follow my appetites (it is easier, I want to, and it a lot of times it feels like it is going to save my life)?”
For the rest of our time I want to follow the outline that we have been following through this whole series. So in considering this sin of the appetites, in considering this sin of Gluttony. We first of all want to
Remember sin always separates us from God. There is never a good result of sin. You can be ruled by sin, or by an appetite in a moment, you can be ruled by an appetite in a season, or it can become an addiction in your life. These appetites will say the same thing to you that Esau’s hunger said to him. Here is the message, if you don’t have me, you will die. So, what good is your birthright without me. He even says, what good is a birthright to me now?
It is the same thing that Eve believed in the garden. She had been told that if she ate of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil that she would die, well then she ate, so what can we deduce? Well we know that she must have started to believe the opposite, if I don’t get this fruit I will die. I need this fruit. All of us have these appetites in our lives. These ruling appetites that can become a god to us, that can become an idol to us, saying over and over again, you need me, you are nothing without me, you won’t be happy without me. Many of us struggle against several of these appetites, of these idols. Some of them are material things like food, like alcohol, or even sex, something that is very tangible. Some of them are immaterial, less tangible. For example, So many men are addicted to the appetite of success. I am reminded of the old Rockafeller quote, how much is enough, just a little bit more. We can move from one victory to the next victory to the next victory, feeding this insatiable appetite for success and that begins to rule in your life. Maybe, You have that dream that you have had since you were a child that has been saying to you for years, if you don’t have me you are nothing.
For many women it is security, if you don’t have this security in your life then you are nothing. If you move more than 20 miles from your mother you will never be happy. Some women have an inappropriate appetite for raising children, and all of your worth, and all of your self-value is coming from your children, and not from God. Many women who have become empty nesters have become depressed. You see very quickly, these appetites can overtake you. To the point where you will do anything to appease them.
Even if means selling your birthright. Hating, and defeating your material appetites things like over eating and an addiction to alcohol is so important because if you can’t defeat those, the ones that you can see then you really don’t have a chance of defeating your immaterial appetites like pride, or success, or security, the ones you can’t see.
So hate this, the rule of the appetite it is ultimately the beginning of all sin.
An Appetite can rule you in a moment – which as we saw in the case of Esau can be so costly, it can rule you for a season – where it has the power to destroy a job, or a relationship, and it can give way to an addiction – which can destroy your whole life. So, I pray for us all that we would hate our sin of the appetites, and I pray that we would Love Virtue.
Now traditionally the corresponding virtue to the sin of Gluttony has been Temperance. The idea of Temperance is moderation, to understand what is appropriate. Doing something how it ought to be done, using something how it ought to be used. I remember one time I was single and one of the secretary’s at the church had made everyone fudge for Christmas, and it was one of those days that I had to work late and it was cold outside and I just wanted to get home, and so I got home and started settling in for the night and I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner and I started getting really hungry, but there was no food in the house. If you have never been a single guy you may not understand this, but I remember going over to the refrigerator and opening it and there was nothing there, and like 3 or 4 times every five minutes I went back to the refrigerator as if somehow magically the food fairy was going to put something in there I hadn’t seen. So, I didn’t want to get out and I had this fudge in the house and so I said, I am just going to eat like 5 pieces of fudge thinking this will appease my appetite and Ill go to bed. Well sure enough I ate the fudge, and maybe for like 35 seconds my appetite was appeased and then I got so, so sick. Now there is an appropriate use of fudge, in fact a little fudge after a meal will close down your appetite and will settle well on your stomach. This is temperance, and temperance has everything to do with this great old English idea that has been lost in our culture and it is the idea of Self-Control.
Can you control yourself? Paul says
1 Corinthians 6
12 “All things are lawful for me,” in other words in Christ you have freedom… We have been set free from the law “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.
“All things are lawful for me,” So eating is good, work is good, success is good, being a parent is good, even fudge at times with temperance is good but I will not be dominated by anything. Being in control, and being able to defeat these appetites that want to rule over your life begins when you are aware of these appetites, when you know this sin.
Know Your Sin
You know I am quite sure if you went up to Esau and said to him. Esau should I trade my birthright for a bowl of stew? I am quite sure that Esau would have said, well no that is ridiculous, you should never make that trade. Whenever people come to ask my advice on a matter, one of the questions that I am quick to ask them is, how would you advise someone who came to you with the same question? They typically give advice that they themselves are unwilling to take. This is how you know that you have become a slave; this is how you know that an appetite has dominion over you. This is how you know that whatever that appetite is has become a god to you and it is saying without me you will die. Paul wrote of such people, whose minds were so set on earthly things.
19 “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
When I was in seminary I spent a summer in Oxford England and so I was out all summer and when I got home, Ill never forget the day. I got home and all of my roommates were gone and they had left a note on the door saying, “we just left to go out of town, but we left the dog here, oh yeah we have a pet dog now, we’ll explain later.”
Sure enough living at our house was a black Rottweiler lab mix named Sammy, and from that day on Sammy kind of became my dog, and Sammy was a great dog. I remember Sammy was such an athlete I had a truck then like a big Ford F150, and Sammy could jump from the ground into the bed of the pickup, with the tailgate up.
Well I had a lot of fun with Sammy and I could always make her do whatever I wanted with these. These little things right here had enormous power over Sammy. If I held one of these in front of her face, she would do whatever I said, she would follow me around the house. We had one of those shock collar fences and I once saw Sammy fight through a shock collar fence just to get a Greeny. See Sammy was ruled by her appetites, but Sammy is a Dog. I don’t really know what is going on inside a Dog’s head but never fail whenever I got out a Greeny, she always just perked up and it was like the only thing on her mind was, that Green thing, the Green, the Green I got to have it. You see Sammy is a dog and she is ruled by her appetites and that is ok she is a dog.
We are not dogs. God didn’t call us to be pets, he didn’t call us to be servants, he called us to be sons and daughters.
Know More Deeply the Grace of God in Christ.
That you would know deeply, how much God loves you and what he wants for your life. Look with me at 1 John 5.
1 John 5:
1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, So when you have faith in Christ, when you give you life to Jesus you become the Bible says a child of God. You aren’t just forgiven, you aren’t just brought back to zero, slapped on the hand and told, I know you have messed up and this is your last chance go and be good now. No when you trust in Jesus the Bible says that you are called a son, a daughter of God, you are given an inheritance, you are given a birthright”
1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”
So if you have trusted in Christ you are called a son of the Father, you are called a daughter of the Father, you have been given an inheritance, and if you love your Father, If you love the God who saved you will obey him, that is how you show that you love the Father. It only makes sense right, if you say that your life is in Christ, if you love Christ, you will obey him, I mean Jesus said, if you love me you will keep my commandments. But then this next phrase is tough to swallow.
“And his commandments are not burdensome.” I know there are a lot of people in this room that hear that and say, what! Yes they are. Do you know how hard it is to obey, do you know how hard it is to control my appetite, do you know how hard it is for the single man to stay sexually pure, do you have any idea how hard it is to quit smoking? But listen.. The text keeps going “And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” In other words, you want to be temperate? You want to have self-control or obey? You don’t have a chance; you will fail every time without Jesus. He is the victory; faith in him is the victory. He is your only chance. He isn’t saying that this world isn’t hard and that fighting sin is easy, in fact the same author John quoted Jesus saying this in John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation.” – it is a guarantee, it is going to be hard, you are going to have your heart broken, you are going to be let down, you are going to have to fight and fight and fight sin. But Jesus goes on to say – “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
You see without Jesus, those appetites, those idols will always say to you, you need me, and without me you will die.
In Jesus you have victory, He has overcome everything, In Jesus your sin your guilt has been crushed, Jesus is returning to make all things right, in Jesus you have an inheritance, in Jesus you have a birthright, where God wants to entrust with you his sacred honor and call you his son.
So, ultimately we live our lives between the bowl, the appetite, that thing that says you need me, we live our lives between the bowl and birthright won for us by Christ, promising us an eternal inheritance and victory over those appetites. Which one are you going to reach for?
Dr. Jason Dees is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and guest instructor at the Kanakuk Institute.