God wants His people to gain wisdom for living now, by recalling events that happened in the past. God desires us to learn lessons from history. If we fail to do so, then we are doomed to repeat it as the saying goes. So, our Bibles are filled with case studies that are living and breathing cautionary tales that should prevent us from making the same mistakes that many in previous generations made. In fact, the Bible declares this is one of its purposes. “These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope” (Romans 15:4).
One example from the past that we should pay attention to and learn from is Esau. He allowed his temporary discomfort, inconvenience, and annoyance to cloud his judgment and to make a choice that he would terribly regret. For background and context please read Genesis 25:27-34. When we are going through a time of distress, hardship, or difficulty we can make the same mistake as Esau. We can sacrifice the eternal or long-term blessing and benefit to satisfy or comfort us in the here and now. A life of faith is a life based on deferred gratification. Note how the Bible describes Esau in Hebrews 12:16. He was immoral and godless. This describes a mindset and lifestyle that is centered in or caught up in the physical and the material aspects of life while taking little or no notice of the spiritual. This depicts someone whose mind recognizes nothing higher than earth, who has no regard for things unseen. In its thoughts, aims, and pleasures, it is completely earthbound. It is so easy for us in the midst of a crisis to think only of our physical and material well being without giving any priority to our spirits. So often the spiritual part of our lives is sacrificed at the altar of our personal peace and comfort. Let’s gain instruction, counsel, and admonition from the life of Esau. Everything in the present was real to him, while everything about the future was unreal, vague, and cloudy. All that mattered to Esau was present gratification.
Esau, like Abel, is still speaking to us long after his death. Our character is continually growing, and when a crisis comes into our lives, we act. These choices or actions are not fueled by who we wish to be, or who others think us to be, but are based on who we really are. They are expressions of our actual character. Esau possessed no spiritual foundation or strength. He cared only about this life and his present enjoyment and comfort in this life. The result was that when the test came to him in the form of temporary discomfort, the true person was revealed.
Let’s choose every day to prioritize our spiritual life and to live for what is of greatest value and worth. If we live this way daily, when adversity comes, we will just keep on living the way we have always lived. The choices we will make in distress will be the same choices we are making in times of peace and prosperity. Our circumstances may change but the person that we are in Christ will remain steadfast throughout.