1. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT NEEDED
a. What do we need to realize when we have a strong desire for something—even if it’s not something we might think of as wrong? Proverbs 19:21.
“Day and night the subject [of the birthright] occupied [Jacob’s] thoughts, until it became the absorbing interest of his life. But while he thus esteemed eternal above temporal blessings, Jacob had not an experimental knowledge of the God whom he revered. His heart had not been renewed by divine grace. He believed that the promise concerning himself could not be fulfilled so long as Esau retained the rights of the firstborn, and he constantly studied to devise some way whereby he might secure the blessing which his brother held so lightly, but which was so precious to himself.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 178, 179.
b. What should Jacob have done at this stage of his life—and what should we always remember as well? Psalm 37:5–7.
“It sometimes seems hard to wait patiently till God’s time comes to vindicate the right. But I have been shown that if we become impatient we lose a rich reward.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 327.
2. TOTALLY ENTICED
a. How did Jacob take advantage of Esau’s weakness? Genesis 25:29–31.
“When Esau, coming home one day faint and weary from the chase, asked for the food that Jacob was preparing, the latter, with whom one thought was ever uppermost, seized upon his advantage.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 179.
“Jacob improved the opportunity to turn Esau’s necessity to his own advantage, and proposed to feed him with pottage, if he would renounce all claim to his birthright.”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 114.
b. Although Jacob’s idea was clever, why was his sly plot against his tempted brother not an ideal plan in the sight of God? Proverbs 3:29.
“[God’s word] teaches us to put ourselves in the place of those with whom we are dealing, to look not only on our own things, but also on the things of others. He who would take advantage of another’s misfortunes in order to benefit himself, or who seeks to profit himself through another’s weakness or incompetence, is a transgressor both of the principles and of the precepts of the word of God.”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 187.
c. What did Esau decide to do—and why? Genesis 25:32, 33.
“[Esau] had so long gratified self that he did not feel the necessity of turning from the tempting, coveted dish.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 38.
“He thought upon it, making no special effort to restrain his appetite, until the power of appetite bore down every other consideration and controlled him, and he imagined that he would suffer great inconvenience, and even death, if he could not have that particular dish. The more he thought upon it, the more his desire strengthened, until his birthright, which was sacred, lost its value and its sacredness. He thought, if I now sell it, I can easily buy it back. He bartered it away for a favorite dish, flattering himself that he could dispose of it at will and buy it back at pleasure.”—Ibid., pp. 38, 39.
3. A VERY COSTLY MORSEL
a. What warning should we heed from Esau’s hasty decision when Jacob offered him food in exchange for his birthright? Genesis 25:34.
“For a dish of red pottage [Esau] parted with his birthright, and confirmed the transaction by an oath. A short time at most would have secured him food in his father’s tents, but to satisfy the desire of the moment he carelessly bartered the glorious heritage that God Himself had promised to his fathers. His whole interest was in the present. He was ready to sacrifice the heavenly to the earthly, to exchange a future good for a momentary indulgence.
“ ‘Thus Esau despised his birthright’ [Genesis 25:34]. In disposing of it he felt a sense of relief. Now his way was unobstructed; he could do as he liked. For this wild pleasure, miscalled freedom, how many are still selling their birthright to an inheritance pure and undefiled, eternal in the heavens!”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 179.
b. What must we understand about God’s warning regarding the legacy of Esau? Malachi 1:2, 3; Romans 9:13, 14.
“There was no arbitrary choice on the part of God by which Esau was shut out from the blessings of salvation. The gifts of His grace through Christ are free to all. There is no election but one’s own by which any may perish. God has set forth in His word the conditions upon which every soul will be elected to eternal life—obedience to His commandments, through faith in Christ. God has elected a character in harmony with His law, and anyone who shall reach the standard of His requirement will have an entrance into the kingdom of glory. . . .
“Every soul is elected who will work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. He is elected who will put on the armor and fight the good fight of faith. He is elected who will watch unto prayer, who will search the Scriptures, and flee from temptation. He is elected who will have faith continually, and who will be obedient to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. The provisions of redemption are free to all; the results of redemption will be enjoyed by those who have complied with the conditions.”—Ibid., pp. 207, 208.
4. GOVERNING OUR APPETITE
a. God has given us an appetite in order to appreciate nourishment, yet what else do we need to realize about it? 1 Corinthians 6:19.
“Every part of the man is to be guarded; we are to beware lest that which is taken into the stomach shall banish from the mind high and holy thoughts.
“May I not do as I please with myself? ask some, as if we were seeking to deprive them of a great good, when we present before them the necessity of eating intelligently, and conforming all their habits to the laws God has established.
“Our very bodies are not our own, to treat as we please, to cripple by habits that lead to decay, making it impossible to render to God perfect service. Our lives and all our faculties belong to Him.”—Reflecting Christ, p. 138.
b. Explain how the mind of the Christian stays healthy. Romans 8:1–6.
“Anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.
“The misuse of our physical powers shortens the period of time in which our lives can be used for the glory of God. And it unfits us to accomplish the work God has given us to do. By allowing ourselves to form wrong habits, by keeping late hours, by gratifying appetite at the expense of health, we lay the foundation for feebleness. By neglecting physical exercise, by overworking mind or body, we unbalance the nervous system. Those who thus shorten their lives and unfit themselves for service by disregarding nature’s laws are guilty of robbery toward God. And they are robbing their fellow men also. The opportunity of blessing others, the very work for which God sent them into the world, has by their own course of action been cut short. . . . The Lord holds us guilty when by our injurious habits we thus deprive the world of good.
“Transgression of physical law is transgression of the moral law; for God is as truly the author of physical laws as He is the author of the moral law.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 346, 347.
5. VICTORY THROUGH CHRIST
a. Although Jacob had presented to Esau a tempting dish, why was Esau nonetheless responsible for his own choice? James 1:14, 15.
b. What are the keys to victory over the clamors of untamed appetite? Galatians 2:20; 5:16, 24, 25; 1 Corinthians 15:57.
“Feeling the terrible power of temptation, the drawing of desire that leads to indulgence, many a man cries in despair, ‘I cannot resist evil.’ Tell him that he can, that he must resist. He may have been overcome again and again, but it need not be always thus. He is weak in moral power, controlled by the habits of a life of sin. His promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. The knowledge of his broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens his confidence in his own sincerity and causes him to feel that God cannot accept him or work with his efforts. But he need not despair.
“Those who put their trust in Christ are not to be enslaved by any hereditary or cultivated habit or tendency. Instead of being held in bondage to the lower nature, they are to rule every appetite and passion. God has not left us to battle with evil in our own finite strength. Whatever may be our inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong, we can overcome through the power that He is ready to impart.”—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 174–176.
“For every soul struggling to rise from a life of sin to a life of purity, the great element of power abides in the only ‘name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.’ Acts 4:12.”—Ibid., p. 179.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. In what sense did Jacob’s plot to ensnare Esau reveal a lack of faith?
2. Name some ways by which the enemy tempts us the way he did to Esau.
3. How are many today essentially making the same mistake as Esau did?
4. Why must we who are preparing for eternity seriously control our appetite?
5. How can all who struggle over appetite realize there is hope?