How Much is the Soup of the Day?

Esau returned home exhausted from his hunting excursion in the field. Driven by hunger, his first thoughts turned to the all-you-can-eat buffet at “the Tent Dweller’s Restaurant” (Gen. 25:27). The Record says, “And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary’” (v. 30). The Hebrew phrase translated, “feed me”, means let me swallow or let me gulp. Table manners didn’t matter to Esau; he simply wanted his usual /1 hearty meal of red lentil soup. /2

According to the waiter, the “current market price” for the soup of the day was one birthright. “But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day’” (v. 31). The hunter’s need for sustenance was so intense that he agreed to the exorbitant price (v. 32). Jacob offered his elder sibling a bowl of soup on the condition that Esau would make an oath /3 before God as to his intentions. Esau consented and the two brothers exchanged destinies over a single meal. Call it a Patriarchical “power lunch”.

The birthright referred to the right of the first (born) or “primogeniture”. It was typically /4 bestowed upon a man’s eldest son and included at least three factors: 1) a double-portion of the father’s estate (Deut. 21:17), 2) the responsibility of providing for the families’ physical welfare, and 3) spiritual oversight of the entire clan (Gen. 18:19; cf. 22:926:2535:1).

Sadly, the only aspect of the birthright that absorbed Esau’s thinking was the double-portion (cf. Gen. 27:31). He was a man of “the here and now” and attached no value to the eternal aspects of his inheritance. Note: “And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). It is interesting to observe that Scripture judges Esau’s conduct ? not Jacob’s. /5 The word “despise” means to disesteem. It is elsewhere rendered disdain or condemn. Esau underestimated his heritage. It would have not only given him possession of Isaac’s property, but it would have put him in the ancestral line of the Promised Seed (cf. Gen. 12:1-317:1-8Gal. 3:16)! /6 Commenting on this occasion, the Hebrew writer said, “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright” (Heb. 12:16?emphasis mine, mb). To “profane” something is to make that which is sacred common or temporal. This is exactly what Esau did; he bartered away his hallowed birthright for a simple bowl of red soup.

“How foolish,” you might say. How foolish, indeed. Brethren, how many of us are guilty of quite the same thing today…?

  • How many of us trade time with our wives and children for our vocation? We exchange our eternal lineage (cf. Prov. 22:6Eph. 6:12 Tim. 1:5) for temporal wealth and prestige.
  • How many of us trade a thorough study of the sacred Word for hours of watching television?
  • How many of us trade Sunday evening communion with the Sovereign God of the universe for a football game (i.e., the Super Bowl) on Sunday night? (Ironically, some shepherds of the local flock even move or cancel worship services for such an event).
  • How many of us trade Lord’s Day morning worship for late-night activities Saturday evening?
  • How many of us exchange entertainment and recreation for the opportunity and privilege of serving needy saints?
  • How many of us trade involvement in secular service organizations (e.g., Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.) for the honor of teaching a Bible class in our home congregation?
  • How many of us trade the blessing of a generous contribution for excessive credit card debt?

Beloved, we like Esau, have a sacred birthright (Rom. 8:16-17Heb. 12:23). And when we fail to live up to its demands and privileges, we forfeit the inheritance our Father wants to bestow upon us (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9).

Esau paid far too much for the soup of the day. What about YOU, dear child of God? Will you cherish your right of the first, or will you despise it (Matt. 16:26)?

/1 Evidently he had eaten Jacob’s soup before. v. 29
/2 Lentils referred to the edible seeds from a plant pod.
/3 An oath was a promise made with a solemn appeal to God to render judgment in the event the promise was not accomplished.
/4 Exception?1 Chron. 5:1,2
/5 Jacob had the right goal, but not the right method. He tried to “help” God (v. 23) along by his own actions.
/6 Note: “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob…” (not Esau). Matt. 1:2

Why Kill Lazarus?


IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to read the sentence without some incredulity.

John records, “…The chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death…” (John 12:10).  Think about that word–“priests.” It’s plural.  One spiritual leader didn’t scheme to murder Lazarus; many spiritual leaders schemed to murder Lazarus. And these guys were supposed to be the religious right–the moral elite of ancient Jewish society!

The ESV says, “…The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.” “As well…” In truth, they didn’t want to murder just one man, but two. They wanted to kill Jesus (cf. 11:53) and Lazarus.

“Why?” you may ask. Re-read John 12:9-11. A great many Jews believed in Jesus. And why did a great many believe in Jesus? Because Lazarus had been raised from the dead.

Remember that the Sadducees taught that there was no resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:23-28). Unfortunately for them, Lazarus illustrated that their dogma was at obvious variance with the Biblical data. He was a living, breathing entity despite the fact that he had been entombed for four days (11:39).

Lazarus was concrete evidence to the contrary; he was the doctrinal deathblow to their misguided, man-made tradition.

It was impossible for the chief priests to argue with or against him. Any sane, thoughtful, sincere individual wouldn’t even attempt to debate with Lazarus. He was absolute proof that Jesus could perform miracles. He was the undeniable corroboration of the divinity of Christ (cf. John 20:30-31).

And that’s why the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus and Jesus.

A few thoughts rattle around in my neocortex as I ponder this curious incident:

  • If Jesus could resurrect a dead man, why did the chief priests entertain the idea of killing Lazarus in the first place? Couldn’t Jesus resurrect Lazarus again, if he so desired?

    What this teaches me is that you can’t expect coherent thinking and behavior from people who insist on upholding their agenda over truth.

  • If Jesus could, and obviously did, bring a dead man back to life–as Jesus had also done on previous occasions–e.g., the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:40-56)–wouldn’t that serve as affirmation of His divine power? Had the chief priests really thought about the futility of trifling with the miracle Man of God?

The chief priests in John’s story remind me of a critical point: unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence; unbelief is due to a lack of conviction. People don’t reject the truth because there are no facts; they reject the truth despite the facts.

Even when there is incontrovertible testimony, some folks simply choose not to believe. If their hearts are hard and their motives are impure, you can expect them to be antagonist towards truth and to engage in sinful, destructive behavior.

On the other hand, if their hearts are soft and their motives are pure, you can expect them to investigate, believe in, and follow the Lord.

  • Was the world created in six literal days?
  • Is there life beyond this transient walk?
  • Is immersion necessary in order to be saved from sin?
  • Is it possible to live in adultery?
  • Is homosexual behavior sinful?

It depends. It depends on whether or not a person wants the truth and is willing to follow it to its inevitable conclusion.  The chief priests weren’t willing to do that.  Dear reader, are you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10)?

God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

What About Nicodemus?

1 nicodemus

I HAVE A not-so-private confession.

I don’t know that I’ve ever said a good thing about the Pharisees.

Pharisees have always been easy prey. From my rather one-sided perspective, they–in totality–were the religious bottom-feeders of ancient Jewish sects. They were constantly peering over Jesus’ shoulder trying to find fault with His teachings and practices.

They claimed Jesus ate with the wrong people (Matthew 9:11); that His power could be attributed to demonic forces (9:34;12:24); that His disciples, and He by extension, were guilty of breaking sacred tradition (15:2); that He endorsed withholding income taxes from the Roman IRS (Luke 23:2); that He violated the Sabbath (John 9:16); and that, perhaps worst of all, He was not from God.

Jesus, the most loving man who ever walked the earth, called them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” and “serpents” (cf. Matthew 23).

If He could denounce them with such bold and unpalatable metaphors, then surely I could do the same in my sermons and Bible classes. And so I admit it, Pharisees have always been my first choice as go-to verbal punching bags.

The problem is–not all Pharisee’s were the wicked men I’ve always portrayed them to be.

Despite my enthusiastic willingness to stereotype all Pharisees as religious charlatans, not all of them could or should be so characterized.

Take the curious example of Nicodemus:

  • John 3 records a very respectful home Bible study between our Lord and a notable Pharisee (John 3:1ff). There was no acidic rancor, no deceptive or misleading questions, and no obvious condescension–in fact, quite the opposite. Nicodemus began his lesson with the Lord in a very respectful, honorable fashion. He said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Don’t miss that–Nicodemus admitted, at the very least, that Jesus’ power came from above. Granted, he didn’t fully recognize the Lord’s identity, nor did he initially catch on to what was being said about the new birth, but his questions (John 3:4, 9) didn’t bear the obvious marks of Pharisaic hostility.
  • John 7 chronicles how the Pharisees at large sought to arrest Jesus because of His Messianic claims and the fact that many had believed on him (John 7:10ff). On this occasion, Nicodemus not only intervened on the Lord’s behalf, but he pointed out that his peers were about to break the very Law which they claimed to uphold. John writes in John 7:50, “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’” While Nicodemus may have displayed a certain caution on this occasion, the fact remains that he did defend Jesus.
  • John 19 recounts how two men were involved in preparing Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:38ff; cf. Acts 9:37Mark 15:46John 20:7). One of those men, not surprisingly, was Nicodemus. Unlike the twelve who ran for their lives when the events of the crucifixion began to unfold (Matthew 26:56), this once seemingly discreet Pharisee came right out into the open and took part in this benevolent endeavor.

It’s a safe interpretation to say that many, perhaps even the majority of Pharisees, were closed-minded about the Lord. But it is not accurate to say that all Pharisees were so inclined. Nicodemus was a precious exception.