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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Guard your hungers

(thoughts from my 5/2/13 message given at Cru @ SRU titled Satisfaction)

God desires to be our satisfaction in life. And so God will not let anything short of Himself provide any type of long lasting satisfaction. People have a tendency to focus on sin that is carried out, when Jesus taught that it is often the sinful inclination that condemns us. By the time our hearts have processed and produced the mere thought of sin, we are guilty. It was a conversation on this sinful appetite that led me to the beatitudes and Matthew 5:6.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” 

To be blessed is to be happy. It is to be free – free of worry, anxiety, stress or fear. Jesus kicked off the sermon on the mount with a series of sayings that describe what it means to be blessed in the kingdom of God. Jesus revealed this kingdom mightily in His lifetime. He spoke of the kingdom often (as a King would, could and should!). The kingdom of God, though, defied all expectations. Jesus spoke of a kingdom peopled entirely by the broken and downtrodden. He spoke of a kingdom where the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Is it any wonder folks just didn’t get it?

Blessed are those who hunger. There are two kinds of hunger. First is a hunger of deprivation. That is to say, there is hunger because nothing is available to satisfy the hunger. The second kind of hunger is one of desire. It is a craving from deep within for a particular something that can only be satisfied by that particular something. Often these hungers walk hand in hand. Often a hunger of deprivation can be gratified more easily by gratifying the accompanying hunger of desire. So if I’m starving (American suburbs starving, not third world starving) and I could really go for a peanut butter sandwich, then my hungers would most easily be satisfied by eating a peanut butter sandwich. If I reach for a steak, chances are all overeat on the steak because it’s not quite what I wanted. The deprivation might eventually be satisfied, but the desire will still exist.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. I can most easily describe thirst as the product of a day’s labor in the sun. When the work is complete and you reach for that first sip of ice water, the moment just prior to drinking the water would be my definition of thirst. It is a longing for refreshment.

Now put the first half of the verse together. Blessed are those who hunger  and thirst. Happy are those who are deprived, desirous and in need of refreshment. Think about the last time you were hungry and thirsty. Were you happy? Did you feel blessed? Did you feel free? Jesus’ view of the kingdom turned the world upside down, toppled secular values and reordered all human priority. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.

If this is the case, then it makes all the difference where our hungers and thirsts are directed.

For those who hunger and thirst for wickedness. That is to say, for all who hunger and thirst for that which does not line up with God’s view of righteousness, their satisfaction, at best, will be short lived. In Job 20, Zophar speaks that God will one day purge the bellies of the wicked. Their sinful appetites will only lead to devastation and destruction. (Zophar’s application of this truth toward Job is off the mark and harshly given, but God’s intolerance for sinful appetites stand as true).

Instead we are called to hunger and thirst for righteousness. To be righteous is to be in the right before God, to desire what God desires, to align our will with His. God understands our incapacity to achieve righteousness on our own through adherence to His law. This is what makes God so awesome. He makes righteous those who seek after His righteousness through faith in Jesus. This is why our hunger and thirst matter so deeply. When directed towards the source of true righteousness, our hunger and our thirst truly become blessing.

Then comes the promise. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Satisfied. To be satisfied is to be filled to completion, filled to contentment. Our hunger and thirst for righteousness is met with a promise that God will indeed fill us to completion. In Jesus, we find gratification for our deprived and desirous souls. In Jesus, we find refreshment – an oasis in a spiritually dry land. This satisfaction is both immediate and eternal. We experience satisfaction now, but we will not know the fullness of this filling until He returns in glory. The promise is securely established and guaranteed by the blood of Christ shed for our sin and His victorious resurrection from the dead.

Guard carefully your hunger and thirst. Direct your appetite to that which is lasting. Follow Jesus.

As I said, God makes righteous those who seek after His righteousness through faith in Jesus. As our desires and deprivations are directed toward the King of kings, the source of all righteousness, God grants us a level of refreshment unattainable through earthly means. With this refreshment, though, comes a hunger and a thirst for more. This is why our greatest happiness, our greatest freedom in this life (blessed are those who…) comes with hunger and thirst for Jesus. As the promise of satisfaction is fulfilled through our justification and sanctification, through a salvation that is by grace through faith, we find ourselves experiencing kingdom joy and a great longing for more of the One who is righteousness, the only One who can truly satisfy.