Unholy tears

As I prepared to teach at last night’s monthly family ministry event, I came to realize that I was teaching a follow up to my message at Cru last week. (see Guard your hungers below). Here are a few thoughts from the lesson.

Jacob purchased Esau’s birthright for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25). Chew on that for a minute. Esau was so driven by earthly hunger that he forsook all the privileges of being the firstborn. He saw no value in future blessing or family inheritance. I often wonder if Esau grew up with Rebekah telling him that the promise of God belonged to Jacob. I often wonder if he knew of the Lord’s words. Regardless, he was shortsighted in seeking first to satisfy his belly, his birthright all but an afterthought. I made stew last night to help with the lesson. It was OK (I was told it needed salt…) but I wouldn’t say it was worth a family inheritance or a father’s blessing. I would have to think very, very little of my birthright to trade for a bowl of that stuff… even if it had enough salt.

Hebrews 12:16-17 sheds a bit more light on the story and the character of Esau. “[see to it that no one isunholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that aferward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” I was captivated by Esau’s unholy tears. Esau sold his birthright in Genesis 25. Jacob (with a keen assist from Rebekah) stole Esau’s blessing in Genesis 27. Upon realizing that his future was indeed taken from under his feet, Esau wept. But Hebrews reminds us that his tears were not godly tears. They were not tears of repentance. There was no turning, no change of heart in these tears. 

This leads me to think that even as Esau wept before his father, it was his belly that was most upset. Esau did not have God’s glory in mind. He was not interested in humbling himself in such a way as to seek after his Creator. Instead, he was upset that his material future was destroyed. No inheritance. No blessing. Even without an inheritance, a blessing might still bring future prosperity  But to lose both is madness! He was set to live as a servant to his younger, scheming brother. And so he wept.

Absent from Esau’s character was a hunger and a thirst for the righteousness of God. Absent from Esau’s future, then, was a satisfaction that only God can provide. He lacked a humble and repentant heart. He was not on his knees crying, ‘ God be merciful to me, a sinner…’ And so the Scriptures remember Esau as an unholy man.

And so the question remains – for what do you hunger and thirst? Is there a longing in your soul to be right before your God? Is your craving for rightness such that you are humbly ready to accept a righteousness that is not your own, a righteousness bestowed only by grace through faith? Does the thought of a future apart from God bring tears because of the absence of material prosperity? Or would your tears be of humble devastation at the thought of being removed from the presence of God? Jesus, the righteous One, the Incarnate Son, is the only satisfaction for your weary soul.

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