Today’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post will be a short Bible study. We live in a time where playing the victim seems to be the highest virtue in society. Playing the victim will excuse your actions, statements, lying, perjury, vitriol, and bigotry… as long as you can muster up a claim at playing “the real victim” in all of it. While the foolish, unbelieving world clamors in the dark in all of this… we who are of the Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ have no such excuse.
Suffering Just or Unjust Punishment
Let us begin by making clear that there is a difference between being a victim and playing the victim. Whenever someone is wronged (or sinned against) they are a victim of the wrong. Sometimes, however, the suffering endured by the victim is the due penalty of the victim’s sin. The wages of sin is death. Those who die in unbelief will be punished, and that punishment will not make them the victim of God’s Wrath, but the recipients of the due punishment for their sin of unbelief. There are a couple of places we could go to work this out, but for today’s scenario I want to begin in 1 Peter 2.
1 Peter 2:18-25 (ESV)
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
So, then, is there any real credit for enduring just punishment? No. However, for those times where we endure punishment that is unjust, we are taking part in the suffering of Christ, and there will be great reward laid up for us in Heaven for it. I love the Gospel clearly written in this short passage, too. The Apostle Paul often referred to his sufferings for the sake of the cross as his privilege to join in Christ’s suffering. I think that is a vital way of looking at it in the tribulation that is coming, and in some ways already is here.
Do Not Grow Weary
With this idea in place, let us now look to what the Writer of Hebrews wrote after his review of the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11). As the writer move on to encourage his audience in the Faith, we will see a clear reference to Esau.
Hebrews 12:1-17 (ESV)
Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do Not Grow Weary
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 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; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For 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.
Is it not fascinating to you, that Esau would be the first example of unholiness mentioned after the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11? And of all of the names we might consider as the example of sexual immorality and unholiness, why Esau? The focal point is in the selling of his birthright. The context here is one of believers having been adopted into the Kingdom of God by faith. By faith we are made heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. As sons we are being disciplined by God to take part in holiness. Those who are left without discipline are described as illegitimate children, not sons. Let us review the story of Jacob and Esau and a bowl of stew.
Esau Sells His Birthright
We reviewed the story of Jacob and Esau a while back. We were focused on the fact that God had chosen Jacob over Esau. This time, we are going to look at segments related to what the writer of Hebrews describes as the immoral and unholy character of Esau.
Genesis 25:29-34 (ESV)
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.
For a bit of stew… Esau despised his birthright. Had Esau earned that birthright? No. It was his by the Grace of having been born first. We, the readers, know at this time that God had already made clear that He had already chosen Jacob as Isaac’s heir… but such transfer of blessing had not yet taken place. In the flesh, Esau is the firstborn son of Isaac, and it is his birthright. Not only the wealth and riches accumulated by Isaac (and passed down from Abraham), but also the Promise of the Messiah and the promises of God to Abraham. Esau lacked faith, and despised this birthright for the sake of something as empty and temporal as a bowl of stew.
In our present culture, we’d no-doubt see trending hashtags painting Jacob as the predator, who took advantage of Esau’s hunger to steal his birthright. That Esau was the victim of Jacob’s craftiness. Later, we’ll see Esau blame Jacob, too… and when he does, he won’t accept responsibility for this act of selling his birthright to Jacob. As we continue reading in Genesis, notice that in the very next account, God appears to Isaac reminding him of the Promise of Abraham and confirms His promise to Isaac and his offspring. The reader is being reminded of the significance of the birthright that Esau despised. As read in Chapter 27, we see Isaac desiring to grant a blessing to his son, Esau. We discussed this in our last review of this passage, where Rebekah, knowing the Word of the Lord concerning Jacob and Esau, that God had chosen Jacob over Esau, devised a plan to prevent Isaac from disobeying the Word of the Lord concerning Esau. As the plan unfolds, Isaac gives the following blessing to Jacob, thinking he was Esau:
Genesis 27:26-37 (ESV)
26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,
“See, the smell of my son
is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven
and of the fatness of the earth
and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” 32 His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” 34 As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.”36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?”
Genesis 27:41 (ESV) 41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
So, Esau, turns to murderous intentions, while playing the victim of Jacob. Scripture doesn’t see it this way. In fact, Scripture ascribes unholiness and immorality to Esau, while including Jacob in the hall of faith. Was Jacob a more righteous person? No… we are all sinners. Esau despised his birthright and sold it for a bowl of stew. Esau had taken Hittite wives, thus his sexual immorality, for he had married ungodly women outside of the Promise. Jacob, had faith, Esau did not.
Esau is presented as the warning sign for sexual immorality and unholiness, for despising his birthright. This was being presented within the context of being made sons and daughters of the LORD God by faith in Jesus Christ. Do not for the sake of temporal relief, despise your birthright in Christ Jesus. Confess Jesus before men. Forgive those who sin against you. Hold fast to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,