The story of Esau and Jacob is found in Genesis 25 – 36. These twines wrestled with each other before they were even born. They were the sons of Isaac and Rebekah, the only children they had. God chose Jacob, the younger, to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Esau would become the father of the nations that would surround and oppose Israel, and still do today. He became the leader of those who follow their appetites instead of God’s word.
Esau is a picture of what deceives and drives so many today; physical appetites. Like fear, physical appetites lead by driving and pushing. Once the decision is made to follow physical appetite, the future becomes blurred and the god of instant gratification takes control to focus only on the here and now with immediate satisfaction. Learn from Esau of the danger of following your appetites rather than the word of God.
In Genesis 25:29 – 34 you find one of the clearest examples of the near-sightedness of following appetites in the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Esau loved the land like his father Isaac and had been out in the field all day and came in exhausted.
The word “exhausted” is the Hebrew word aw-yaph, which means weariness from great hunger and/or thirst. It is used throughout the Old Testament to describe weariness from hunger but is also used to describe spiritual hunger and thirst such as in Jeremiah 31:25 where God says, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” In that verse, aw-yaph is translated “weary soul.”
Jacob was what you might call a “mama’s boy” because he loved to stay close to home and learned to cook. If given the choice of staying home with Rebekah or going out into the field with Isaac, he would stay at home with Rebekah. On this particular day (Genesis 25:29 – 34), the skill cooking he learned from his mother served him well.
Jacob had prepared a pot of stew and fresh bread. When Esau came in from the field, exhausted and starving, he demanded some of the stew. Jacob told him he would exchange the food for his birthright. Since Esau was the first-born, the blessing of the Isaac’s full inheritance belonged to him; the birthright. It was his future as well as the future of all of the promises of God spoken to Abraham and his son Isaac and their descendants. Esau’s stomach took the lead in his moment of hunger and became greater than the promises of God and future blessings, something we can all identify with. Since Jacob had prepared the food, it would not have been too long before everyone would eat, but Esau could not wait. His appetites demanded immediate satisfaction, which is what they all say and demand. Afterward, he despised the birthright.
The problem of giving in to and following physical appetites rather than subduing them with good leadership according to God’s word is that it causes near-sightedness; the preferred future of God’s promise becomes blurred, lost, and even despised. This begs the question: How can I give myself good leadership rather than being pushed around by my belly and its temper-tantrums of crying out for more and immediate satisfaction?
Begin with the willful choice of learning what God’s word says about diet, the purpose of food, and the spiritual benefits of a healthy body. God’s word has much to say about diet. The kosher diet of the Old Testament is a healthy diet. It has been fulfilled in Christ in terms of eating God’s word and staying clear of temptation, but practically it is still a good guide to healthy eating habits. Along with God’s original diet for man, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Genesis 1:29, the kosher portions of lean meats, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and breads are a good choice. Most of the diet books written today can be boiled down into one sentence; when you eat, eat mostly plants and fruits, and not too much.
Food is for regaining strength from daily work, not for relieving stress. It is for replenishing nutrients, not for satisfying a “sweet-tooth.” Food is for good physical health so that the body can serve and love the Lord with all your strength for as many years as possible, not for instant gratification and immediate fullness. Give your growling stomach good leadership by telling it to be quiet and wait. While you wait, chew on God’s word. Meditate on what Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread along, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”