Friday, June 19, 2009

For a Pot of Stew

One of my favorite Bible characters is Jacob. He was the second born son of Isaac, and completes the three part triad of ancient Israel's great patriarchy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have read and studied Jacob a fair amount. I've even written a song about him.

Jacob, Israel, my heart beats close to yours, I know
Jacob, Israel, I'm a striver like you
A striver like you
A striver like you

And I am.

Jacob's older twin brother, born just a few moments before him, was named Esau. Prior to their births, the Lord spoke to their mother, Rebekah, and declared that "the older shall serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23).

In those days, being the first born son meant everything. All that the family name represented came to the first born male. But contrary to cultural traditions, God had his eye on Jacob, not Esau. God had promised to do something unheard of, something unprecedented in those days. God was conferring the power and wealth of the family name upon Isaac and Rebeka's second-born.

But though God had promised it, Jacob tried to make it happen under his own power, with his own efforts. This is why he is considered a "striver."

Jacob knew his call even before his birth. When the twins came out of Rebeka's womb, second born Jacob was clinging to his brother's heel as if to say, "wait a minute, brother, I'm supposed to be first."

Now, Esau, though the first, did not seem to take his "natural born" inheritance all that seriously. But Jacob thought about it all the time.

One day, Esau came home from an exhausting hunting expedition. Famished, he asked his twin brother if there was anything in the frig. Seizing on the opportunity, the crafty Jacob struck a deal.

"I'll give you this pot of stew if you'll give me your birthright."

The hungry Esau agreed.

My focus has always been upon Jacob, the one with the promise, the one with the call, the one with the hope of a future. He stumbled and bumbled and literally limped his way to his inheritance, and I often feel like I do the same.

I have never given a great deal of thought to Esau. But recently he has begun to intrigue me.

I tell this story of Esau's sellout because it speaks to me of our own American countrymen. We, too, have a birthright, an automatic inheritance the moment we are born. Our birthright is liberty. Prosperity comes from liberty. In the chain of things American, liberty comes first. Liberty creates opportunity and if opportunity is capitalized upon effectively, wealth often follows.

Today, we hungry, short-sighted, self-focused Americans are, like Esau, selling our birthright, our liberty, for a lousy pot of stew, the empty promise of security.

We have said, "I'll give you my liberty, if you'll take care of me."

What a rotten deal!



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