Sacrificing the Permanent on the Altar of the Immediate

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

Genesis 25:29-34 and Hebrews 12:16-17


Introduction: What began as a late-night automobile accident has blossomed into a full-blown tragic soap opera. Tiger Woods has fallen from grace. How could anyone with so much, gamble it all away for a few moments of pleasure? This same story has played itself out time and again in the pages of Scripture and the pages of the newspaper.

The story of Jacob and Esau record for us the same tragedy. One who is blessed of God makes a decision and in effect sells his God-given birthright for a mess of pottage. Sin and its temptations make it possible for any of us to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. Notice the following about Esau - a tragic figure indeed!

1. His Appetite was Very Strong (Genesis 25:29-30)

All of our appetites - properly fed - are gifts from God. When our "belly" becomes our "brain" then the result is always negative. God provides everything we need to satisfy our human appetites. Trouble comes when we look beyond our need and begin to make bargains for our greed.


  1. He was Faint (25:27)

    Esau was spiritually bi-polar as he lived constantly between feasting and fainting. Contrast this with Jacob in Genesis 25:27. The term "plain" man means complete while the term "cunning" means one who is famous and noted for something. Esau was a high-profile renowned hunter but now he is hungry.

    A hungry hunter? What's wrong with this picture? Those who receive great acclaim as a result of their God-given abilities ought never be proud. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Esau had become a proud man who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it so he demands "Feed me."

    The man who ought to be feeding others is now reduced to begging for food. If thou faint in the day of adversity then thy strength is small. Neglect of holiness for hunting (or anything else) can reduce a man to a piece of bread, a mess of pottage, or even worse. He had become weak and faint through pride and neglect.


  2. He was Famished (25:29)

    This man had clearly placed the "field" before his "faith." When we place more importance on what we do than who we are then our inner being becomes restless and famished. His hunger was a result of his hunting when his hunting should have led to meeting his hunger.

    How many times have we seen men and women become spiritually famished when they stayed in the field far too long. Mark it down - Esau was not communing with God out in that field. Esau had become more concerned about what people thought about him as a cunning hunter than he was about the One who had given him the ability to hunt.


  3. He was Fooled (25:31)

    A large appetite can reduce the strongest man into a small person. When our appetites overrule our affection for God then we begin to act foolishly. The fool has said in his heart there is no God. When our belly becomes our God then we foolishly think we can sell the blessing of God and meet a pressing need.


2. His Reasoning Was Very Weak (25:32)

  1. He Overestimated His Hunger

    "I'm going to die"


  2. He Underestimated His Blessing

    "What profit shall this birthright be to me?"


  3. His Belly Became His Brain (25:34)

    With his belly full and his soul empty he simply "went his way." He had alienated his father, his brother, and his God but he simply "went his way." There is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death. A bloated stomach and a shriveled soul.


3. His Ruin Was Very Great (25:34)

How tragic when we go our own way - and God lets us have our own way.

  1. His Name was Changed From Rough(Esau) to Red (Edom)

    This man's reputation had been altered forever. He would always be known as "red" for the rest of his life because of what he had done. Therefore his name was called Edom. One brief moment of indulgence can lead to a lifetime of misery and consequences.


  2. His Character was Changed from Prince to Profane (Hebrews 12:16)

    This is a strong and telling sequel to the saga of Esau. The Greek term translated as "profane" is quite descriptive. This man who had everything going for him become irreligious and unrepentant. This man became an open door for almost every kind of evil.


  3. His Action was Changed to an Attitude

    Esau not only walked in the counsel of the ungodly, he stood in the way of sinners, and ultimately sat in the seat of the scornful. His root of bitterness sprung up and many were defiled. Just as spiritual growth requires time and the Word of God so spiritual apostasy requires time and the Word of God. Esau turned away from the faith and went back permanently to the field.


  4. His Place of Repentance Became a Place of Remorse (Hebrews 12:17)

    This verse is crucial. Esau sought a place to reverse the consequences of his former actions and could not find one!!! God ratified Esau's decision to despise his birthright and let him go on his way. Esau had plenty of tears (regret) but had come to the place where he could not turn (repent).


Conclusion: No one likes the consequences of unbiblical choices. God has given us the power to make choices but He does not delegate the matter or manner of consequences to us. If we do not like the consequences then all we can do is change our choices.

Over time, this becomes harder and harder to do . . .and, somewhere, sometime, known only to God, those choices become an entrenched pattern and become a destiny. Harden not your heart.

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