Chronological Study · Essay

What Would You Do for a Bowl of Stew?

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This is from one of my favorite projects from my freshman year where I did a ‘photo essay.’ I loved uncovering some of these beautiful things from seemingly dirty or just unexpected places.

So, Genesis 25-26 today! Maybe I’m getting to a point where most people recognize the stories they’ve heard in Children’s church or maybe Bible school. And maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I think it’s funny to read back over these verses from a more adult perspective and think about how I perceived everything that was happening as a child. Not that I’m down on Children’s Church because I loved it while I was at that age, but I think it’s funny to see the things I latched on to—like the mental images I had come up with—in these chapters.

For example: Esau as a red hairy guy. I just have this funny picture of a guy who is literally red (like he’s laid out in the sun and been barbecued with the worst sunburn in history), and he’s also really really hairy. I mean, later we hear about how Jacob used a goat skin to trick his dad into thinking he was Esau so maybe I got part of that mental image right.

Anyhow, the part of this passage of scripture that I wanted to focus in on today was the moment when Esau sells his birthright. Again, after having heard these stories for so long, I judge Esau pretty harshly. I just mark him down as “this was a big red hairy guy who was just not very smart or good.” That sounds silly, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, the older I get the more I am able to see that with Esau, and like when Lot, Abraham, and Sarah acted foolishly in previous chapters, I am just as guilty of similar mistakes. Now, I’m not offering my daughters up to men who are up to no good, and I’m not literally living in Sodom and Gomorrah, and I’m not trying to ‘help’ God provide me with a son; but, often I’m looking at things from a worldly perspective and I’m not valuing the things I’m supposed to value or trusting in the One I should be trusting in. We all do that.

One of the things that I thought about specifically from this passage is that sometimes I let the things of this world overwhelm my faith. Sometimes I get so caught up in my immediate needs, wants, desires, fears, etc. that I rely on my own understanding instead of turning to God. In those moments, I’m not trusting that whatever it is He’s got a reason for me not to have it, for me to be waiting on His time. I’m definitely not thinking that He just wants for me to stop worrying so much and simply listen. I’m placing my earthly understanding above what wisdom God has provided through His word. I’m not valuing what should be valued.

Here, Esau is a prime example of not valuing what should be valued. He gets so focused on the fact that he is ravenously hungry that he gives away his birthright for a bowl of stew. What stew is worth the inheritance and blessing your father has for you? Maybe if his father was very unkind and didn’t care about him or something more negative I could see not placing much value on it. This isn’t the case, though. From what I read here, Isaac loved Esau very much, they even bonded over liking wild game! Not to mention Isaac was a wealthy man, who was likely leaving his children with a pretty sizeable inheritance. Even if Esau didn’t do it out of love, you would think he might show a little more appreciation for the fact that he stood to inherit a lot of that wealth.

Nope. Esau trades it for stew. STEW. There’s probably some really good food out there in the world that is worth a lot of money, but I doubt I’ll ever come across birthright worthy stew! It makes me mad to think that he acted so flippantly towards such an important thing.

But. (It’s a terrible transition word!) What about me? How often do I look at the situation in front of me and feel that it is bigger than something God is capable of handling? How often do I trade my ‘birthright,’ some of the things God tells us will come about if we follow His commands (as if living a life that is pleasing to Him is not enough of a reward), for something that can ‘fix’ whatever is going on in that moment? Sometimes I don’t even have a problem. Sometimes I just really want whatever stew is in front of me, and I look at the world (who in this situation looks like a lunch lady) and I say “yeah, you can have this ‘birthright,’ this nice valuable thing that I know I can have from scripture, and I’ll trade it for that temporary happy stew you got there.”

Great googly moogly, what’s wrong with us?! (Maggie and the Ferocious Beast anybody?)

Why does God stay with these people even when they continue to mess up? Why does He stick with any believer? We’re just going to keep messing up because we’re human. What is the point?

Turns out there’s multiple reasons:

  • The first thing that comes to mind is that God made an everlasting covenant in 17:7. God does not make promises lightly. He promises to be the God of Abraham’s descendants. When He makes promises to us, like that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; John 14:8; Hebrews 13:5-6), He means it.
  • Second: He desires a relationship with us. God created us from the very beginning because He wanted to have fellowship with us. If He just wanted to have angels praising Him for all eternity He could have done that, but He chose to create mankind and to initiate a loving relationship with us. Being omniscient (which obviously I can’t wrap my head around that one) He knew what would happen when He gave us the ability to choose. He knows we’re going to make mistakes, but He wants us anyway.
  • God is love, He is faithful, and He is our Heavenly Father. I don’t know that those things really need a lot of explanation, but God loves us. Loves.
  • Lastly, when we do make mistakes He convicts our heart through the Holy Spirit, but He is faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we confess our sins and repent from them (1 John 1:9).

You are not so bad that God can’t reach you. You haven’t strayed too far that He can’t find you. You are not so lost that He can’t love you. Even when you sometimes sell your birthright for stew, or lie about your wife being your sister, or have your husband impregnate your servant, or when you hesitate to leave Sodom and Gomorrah.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I always picture it being like we fall into a mud puddle. We’re absolutely the dirtiest kid on the block. How did we fall? By being where our Father told us not to be. But, we get to the door of His house, we confess that we’ve messed up and He takes us in even though He could say that He’s “just done with it. you keep falling in all these mud puddles” but He loves us and cleans us off and He tells us He never stopped loving us. That He’s forgiven us through grace and that He’s glad we came to Him—because we can’t just try to use the outside spigot to wash this kind of thing off.

So, remember to keep a heavenly perspective when this world threatens to overwhelm us. And please, please don’t sell your birthright for stew.

–Liz

2 thoughts on “What Would You Do for a Bowl of Stew?

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