Esau’s Spiritual Struggles

In Jeremiah 49:8, Jehovah promises to bring the “calamity of Esau” upon Edom, and, a couple weeks ago, we looked at that calamity in Genesis 25 and the implication in Esau’s rejection of his birthright. In Genesis 25:23, the Lord calls these two children separate nations who would strive with each other, and we see that bear out in the lives of the peoples descended from these two. Likewise, in I Corinthians 3:1, Paul categorizes people as either spiritually minded or carnally minded; again, two opposites destined to strive with each other in eternal conflict, and the case can be made that Esau – and the nation that descends from him – typifies worldly thinking in his life.

The Legacy of Esau

First, we return to Genesis 25:29-34 where Esau forsakes his heritage, his inheritance, and his responsibilities as the firstborn for the sake of a meal. He is said to despise that birthright, with all of the rights, responsibilities, and promises attendant to that heritage. He knew the importance of this birthright, but he treats it as worthless because it could not satiate an immediate physical hunger.

Genesis 26:34 reveals this same Esau then marries into a Hittite family when choosing a wife. These were an idolatrous people who did not honor God, and verse 36 says this family makes life bitter for Isaac and Rebekeh. In chapter 28:8, when Esau sees his wife does not please his family, he seeks to rectify things by taking more wives – not because he was concerned for his spiritual health but because he hoped to please his parents.

II Chronicles 25:14-16 then records a king of Judah bowing down before the idols of Edom, those descendants of Esau. The precedent Esau had set down during his life set up a nation that did not know God, did not honor God, and bowed down before idols that were unable to deliver them. These same descendants, generations before in Numbers 20:14-21, despite Moses’ appeal to ancient family ties, refused passage to the children of Israel over the King’s Highway during their pilgrimage to Canaan. They set themselves against their brothers.

Edom’s Fate and Ours

Terrible judgment is proclaimed against Edom in Isaiah 34:6-7, from the greatest to the least, for their mistreatment of God’s people. They were founded in spiritual emptiness, and they persecuted those who sought to live in the spirituality of God. As their father was uninterested in God’s promises, so are his descendants invested too heavily in this world. From birthright to marriage, Esau invested in this world, and he set up a heritage without foundation in God’s promises.

Likewise, we can be spiritually dead. We can marry ourselves to the things of this world. We can reject our Father’s heritage for the temporary blessings here. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We can accept our birthright; we can become heirs of Abraham as in Galatians 3:27-29. We can choose to be spiritually minded. We can invest in things above. We can choose redemption and walk the King’s Highway and create spiritual heritage that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren, passing on a spiritual birthright of our own.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

– Romans 8:12-17

lesson by Tim Smelser


The Calamity of Esau

In Jeremiah 41, we are in the middle of God affirming His sovereignty over all nations, and He is proclaiming judgment upon various Gentile nations. During the prophecy against Edom, God, in verse 8, speaks of the “calamity of Esau.” It is from Esau that the nation of Edom descended, and it is a calamity like his own that befalls the nation. What is this calamity of Esau?

In Genesis 25:23, the Lord tells Rebecca that she had two nations struggling within her, and that the older would serve the younger. This prophecy begins to gain form in verses 27-34 when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob in exchange for physical sustenance. In this, verse 27 says Esau despised his birthright.

Rejecting His Birthright

God sees this event as a calamity in Esau’s life.

  • Esau despised his birthright. Not only was Esau rejecting all of the material blessings of the birthright, but he was also rejecting God’s promises to Abraham and Isaac.
  • Esau had the wrong priorities. Jacob and Esau were old enough to understand what the promises of that birthright meant. He was old enough to understand the import of those words, but he saw those as doing him no good in the face of immediate hunger.
  • Esau repented too late. Hebrews 12:15-17 speaks to this, that Esau could never recapture what he had lost, having recognized the significance too late.

Avoiding Our Own Calamity

There are lessons for us in the life of Esau. We cannot be guilty of the same errors made by this man. Esau had, through his birthright, a spiritual heritage, and we also have a great spiritual heritage in Jesus Christ. We are part of a spiritual family that goes all the way back to the cross and God’s plan for our salvation. In Hebrews 11:39-40, as the author wraps up example after example of great faith, we are told that what we have in Christ completes their heritage.

III John 4 records John calling those with whom he has shared the gospel as spiritual children. They are our spiritual forefathers, and we fulfill those promises in which they had faith. When we reject that heritage, we affect not only ourselves but those who will come after us, those who will not know of God’s promises because we rejected them. We cannot and must not view God’s birthright as common or disposable.

We must also avoid Esau’s priorities. Colossians 3:1-2 and Matthew 6:19 call on us to set our minds on the things above because the things of this life do not last. How long did Esau’s bowl of stew last him? How long was it until he was hungry again? I Peter 1:5-9 calls us to work on our spiritual growth and to avoid being nearsighted, forgetting what is truly important. So much in this life can crowd out our spiritual heritage, but how much of it will benefit us eternally as God’s gifts will?

Finally, we cannot wait too long to accept God’s gifts. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus speaks of a rich man who waited too long until nothing more could be done for him. Felix, in Acts 24:25, wanted to wait until a more convenient time, and King Agrippa, a couple of chapters later, says he was “almost” persuaded to respond to the message of Christ. Matthew 25:41, after a parable of unprepared wedding guests, warns of the consequences of waiting until it is too late. We have a strong tendency to put things off, but we cannot procrastinate accepting our spiritual heritage.


In contrast to all of this, Luke 17 tells a parable of another child who wastes his birthright. In contrast to Esau, this prodigal son came to recognize the worth of what he had lost. He realigned his priorities, and he returned to his father for forgiveness and restoration. Who will we be more like? Will we fall into the calamity of Esau, or will we avert disaster by humbly coming to God and accepting the heritage and birthright offered by His grace?

lesson by Tim Smelser


For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1:5).

There is a saying that goes, “you can pick your spouse, you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you cannot pick your relatives.” This statement is designed to be humorous and to reflect a reality that exists for most people in regards to their blood relatives: there was no choice in the matter. Parents cannot choose their biological children; children cannot choose their biological parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives. Most of the time, there is a sense of “blood obligation” that exists among family members. Most cultures have respected this sense of obligation – when family needs assistance, you provide that assistance.

There are many in the world, however, who do not have the luxury of family. Perhaps their relatives have died or become incapacitated because of some tragedy. Other times the parent or parents do not feel able to provide for the child. Some, tragically, do not care for their children at all.

And yet, for such children, there is hope in adoption – a family that, despite the fact that there is no blood connection, chooses to bring the child into their family and to consider him or her as one of their own. It is a very special relationship – parents by choice, not by any feeling of compulsion or obligation. A child who did not know love can now experience love.

In spiritual terms, the image of believers as “biological” children of God is present in passages like the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. We also find, however, the image of believers as adopted children of God in Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:5. We should not believe that these images are opposed to one another; each image, in fact, highlights a different aspect of our relationship with God.

There is great power in the image of believers as adopted children of God. Adoption is always a choice on the part of the parent, and it is a choice entirely motivated by love. Likewise, God chose to provide the means by which we could be adopted as sons and daughters – He was not forced or compelled to do so – and His motivations were entirely based in love (1 John 4:7-11). It cannot be said that an adopted child deserved to be adopted or any such thing; furthermore, we certainly did not deserve to be adopted as the children of God (cf. Romans 5:5-11). Likewise, just as adoption can take place across racial, ethnic, linguistic, and any other boundary, so God has adopted into His family people of every race, ethnicity, language, etc. (Galatians 3:28). Finally, just as the adopted child is considered as legitimate as a biological child, so we also stand able to receive the inheritance of sons and daughters on account of our adoption (cf. Romans 8:15-18).

As believers who have been adopted spiritually as sons and daughters of God, we do well, if we have opportunity, to adopt children in their distress (cf. James 1:27), reflecting in our own families what God has done for us. We should not consider adoption to be something strange or something to malign, some type of a consolation prize for those who cannot have biological children, or believe that adopted children are any less legitimate than biological children. Instead, we should all be thankful that God has decided to adopt us as His children, despite our various differences and past sinfulness!

lesson by Ethan R. Longhenry

written on the occasion of the adoption of his new daughter

Honoring the Name We Wear

We take pride in the names we wear. Our family names serve as a form of heritage and pride. Those names earn a reputation and reflects upon others in our family. The same is true of our name as Christian. Like we can bring honor or shame to our physical family, our conduct reflects upon other Christians and on Christ, the head of our family. Some family names are honored or scorned for their places in history. What reputation are we building for our spiritual name?

In Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16, we find the only places where the term Christian is used in the scriptures, identifying those who are followers of Christ. It’s a name that brings great responsibility. It is part of our identity, and it defines the relationship we should have with Jesus. We should, therefore, be glorifying the name of our Father in our conduct. It’s easy to wear the name of Christian while our actions belie the claim – wearing the name for its secular benefits. We can contradict our own claims, invalidating the message of Christ, while we disregard His examples and teachings in our lives.

Wearing the Name of Chris

We cannot wear our name half-heartedly. We cannot wear this name without submitting to and following Christ’s name. It’s more than being a member of a church. Matthew 7:13-14 calls on us to be careful of our spiritual path, striving for the road chosen by few. The paths we choose can help create a good reputation or a poor one for fellow Christians. There are many names we honor, but the name of Christian is the greatest we could hope to wear. Isaiah 56:5 speaks of a name better than a family name – one that will last forever. Also, in Isaiah 62:2, the prophet says all will wear an name granted by their Lord.

We need to recognize the distinction of our spiritual name. We need to understand the meaning behind that name as those in Acts 5:41 who counted it joy to be persecuted for the sake of Christ’s name. We can never forget who we are when we are at home or when we are around others.

It is a name that is blessed when worn properly. This means we live, follow, and serve Christ in all we do. Matthew 6:33 calls on us to seek Christ first, and Matthew 7:11 reminds us that our Father blesses those who follow Him. In James 1:17, we read that all perfect gifts come from above. We are blessed among our Christian family, but the spiritual blessings, like those found in Ephesians 1:3, are the greatest. Forgiveness, redemption, the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s mediation, eternal rest – these are an inheritance associated with our name that none can steal away. Jesus, in John 14:3, promises He prepares a place for those who wear come to Him.

We are taught we take Christ’s name on when we submit to His will and we continue in His word after our conversion. Taking on His name is a great responsibility; it’s a lifetime work of service. We should be servants, examples, walking the way our Savior has shown us. It takes care and responsibility as a disciple. It takes diligence to develop self control and restraining our selfish desires and impulses. Ecclesiastes 12:13 reminds us that following our God is our all.

Living to a Standard

Romans 15:1, I Corinthians 3:1, Revelation 3:15, Ephesians 4:14-16 – these verses are a sampling of those that describe the maturity toward which we should be working as Christians. There is a difference between calling ourselves Christians and acting like it. Are we living the name we wear, or do we shame the name of Christ when influenced by the world? We need to be self-reflective in our conduct – our treatment of others, our speech, our general conduct. When our real selves come out, we should be revealed to truly be Christ-like in our attitudes and the decisions we make in every setting.

Our actions can either lift up or bring down our family names. We build a reputation around ourselves, and our conduct also reflects back on Jesus. Even when we post things online, we are showing who we are and what’s important to us. We should be wearing Christ’s name with honor at all times. How would He respond to a waiter or waitress in a restaurant? How would He treat someone who cuts us off in traffic? How would He treat someone who disagrees with Him? We need to be aware of our actions in comparison to those of Jesus.

Am I involved in my service to Christ? Am I restraining from engaging negativity in the world? Am I honoring my name at all times? Do others know I am a Christ follower by the good influence I have. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus describes us as good salt, as a city on a hill, as lamp-stands in a dark house, as lights to the world. What do others see in us? What name is reflected in our words and actions? Do we honor the name we wear?

lesson by Mark Ritter

An Active Inheritance

In Galatians 3:26-29, Paul addresses the idea that we are heirs – sons of God’s, baptized into Christ, heirs according to promise. We are recipients on an inheritance from God, and Romans 8:16 begins a passage about our adoption by God, making us joint heirs in Christ. Ephesians 3:4-6 reads that Jews and Gentiles alike are heirs to the gospel. What is it that we have inherited from the Lord? Whether physical or spiritual, we do not want to waste something we have inherited. We must understand this inheritance if we are to know what to do with it.

What Have We Inherited?

  • We have received an unfinished task, one started about 2000 years ago. Matthew 28:18-20 contains what we refer to as the Great Commission, given to us as equally as to the twelve. We must read ourselves into this command lest we neglect the mission given to us. I Peter 3:15 calls on us to always be ready to share the hope within us. Like Jesus, we should be looking for daily opportunities to share this hope. Hebrews 5:12 reminds us to be teachers of the word.
  • We have an unchanging message. Hebrews 4:12 assures us God’s word is living and relevant, as much to us as to the disciples of the first century. II Peter 1:3-4 is a reminder that all we need for our lives can be found in God’s unchanging word, and John 12:48-50 has Jesus teaching that His words come by God’s authority and that they will endure until Judgment.
  • We have received an unlimited power. Romans 1:16-17 speaks of God’s power contained in His word, power to save, to touch hearts, to release guilt, to provide peace. In II Timothy 1:6-7, Paul reminds Timothy and us to stir up our spirits, relying on the power of His word, remaining unashamed of that word. We have to put God’s power into practice.
  • We have received an unfailing promise. Back in Matthew 28, when Jesus passes His work to His disciples, He promises to be with them to the end. Likewise, He is with us as we perform His ministry. Philippians 4:13 records Paul saying he can do all things in Christ, writing this even while in prison. Jesus’ presence and support is an unending promise through which we can accomplish much.

Preparing for a Future Inheritance

In Colossians 3:23-24, Paul calls on us to work for the Lord because we look forward to another inheritance. We use our current inheritance, looking forward to a future reward. We use our unfinished task, our unchanging message, power from God, and His promises so we may see Heaven as our final inheritance. I Peter 1:3-5 promises that Heaven is reserved for us, and that it is an imperishable and unfading inheritance. Where the things of this world pass away, we are heirs to something greater. We use the inheritance we have received to prepare ourselves for that which is to come.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Mentors of a Spiritual Heritage

What do you value? What means the most to you? It may be something that has sentimental or familial value. This object may not be worth much financially, but its value to you is personal. Perhaps it is something that came form your parents or grandparents. It might be something from a child. Its value is its heritage.

In Exodus 10:2, God tells his people to make a heritage of what He has done for them. Exodus 13:8 repeats these instructions. He tell His people to pass the events of the Exodus from generation to generation. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells the Israelites to teach the traditions to God to their children. What His people were to value most was to be His word.

Two women concerned with the spiritual heritage of their children were Lois and Eunice – mother and grandmother to Timothy. We now little of these women. Timothy’s mother was married to an unbeliever, but we know that Timothy’s mother taught him God’s word, and his grandmother worked with him as well. Many churches were affected by Timothy because of the work done by his mother and grandmother. They brought up a child. who would be valued by Paul according to verses like Philippians 2:19.

Timothy’s Spiritual Role Models

The qualities we see in Timothy are not accidental. His life was deeply impacted by the women who purposed to set him in the Lord’s footsteps.

  • They were examples of godliness. II Timothy 1:5 records the example Lois and Eunice set for Timothy. They practiced what they taught. Growing up, Timothy would have seen the type of adult he should become in the example of his mother and grandmother.
  • They taught in the face of difficulties. Their teaching influenced Timothy according to II Timothy 3:15. They showed Timothy how to live, and they reinforced those principles in their teaching. He was taught from God’s word despite the faith (or lack therefor) of his father who would have looked down upon many Jewish traditions as barbaric. They also taught Timothy despite their inability to take him to synagogue because he was uncircumcised.
  • They obeyed the gospel. Lois and Eunice originally taught Timothy from the sacred Jewish texts, but they respond to Paul’s message of Acts 16. They changed when change was called for based on inspired teachings. In this, they set an example to Timothy for him to follow in Christ’s teachings.

Creating Our Own Spiritual Heritage

How do we create a spiritual heritage like the one passed on by Lois and Eunice? There are some families that can trace their faith back for generations, but, even if we do not have such a history, we can start it now. We can pass our faith on to our children and grandchildren. Our spiritual influence is not limited to our children, but, like Lois, we can positively affect our grandchildren’s relationships with God. In fact, some lessons are better received from our grandparents than our parents.

We need to determine the heritage we want to pass on. Even if we have no children or grandchildren, we can become spiritual mentors as Paul was to Timothy. Paul had no children or grandchildren recoded in scripture, but he was a father-figure to Timothy, providing guidance that Timothy’s own father did not. Show someone you care about them, reach out and make another feel their importance. We can help someone grow up to be like Timothy – a Christian valued by others and carrying on a spiritual heritage as valuable as any other heirloom close to his or her heart.

lesson by Tim Smelser