The Fires of Edom

One of the greatest differences between Jacob and Esau was the immediacy of their passions.

One of the greatest differences between Jacob and Esau was the immediacy of their passions.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:22-26 ESV)

Passions are powerful. Love has built kingdoms and lust has torn them down. Ambition has built industrial empires and greed has bankrupted them.

We’ve all known someone who consistently allowed their passions to lead them into bad decisions. I had a friend who went from relationship to relationship–even if relationship wasn’t always the right word–and made major purchases that he couldn’t afford the moment he got his head above the financial water. He wasn’t a bad guy; he was a good friend who was there when I needed him. Unfortunately, his passions made all of his major decisions for him. He rarely considered how his actions today would impact his life ten years in the future. Most of his decisions were only about right now.

Much like Esau.

Esau’s birth name means “hairy”, which conveys a bit of his rough character, but I think his other name, Edom, is even more apropos. It means “red” like the earth or like the fire of his anger, ambition, and lust. He wasn’t a farmer like his father, Isaac, nor a shepherd like his brother, Jacob. He was a hunter. He started quarrels, married impulsively, made bad deals in desperation and then promptly forgot about them.

Esau was a sort of reverse spiritual alchemist, turning the gold inheritance of his fabulously wealthy father into the lead of struggle and broken relationships. The inevitable end of the exceedingly passionate, those people who see what they want and go after what they see, is to be consumed by their urges.

Passion is a good and powerful force when checked by the Spirit, but when it is allowed to run free, it is crippling. The words Esau spoke at his father’s bedside when he finally realized what he had done in selling his birthright to Jacob are heartbreaking, but hardly unexpected:

As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”
(Genesis 27:34)

Solomon described Esau’s state of mind in Proverbs 11:3: “His heart rages against the LORD.” The passionate fool rarely directs his rage where it belongs. He lashes out at anyone nearby–which is why Rebekah was wise to send Jacob away to Laban before Esau could catch him–and against God when no more convenient target is available, but his ruin was his own doing. Whatever conspiring Jacob and Rebekah did, only Esau was in a position to sell his birthright. Nobody tricked him. Nobody forced him. He lusted after what was before him in the moment and didn’t value at all those things that he couldn’t see and taste.

Esau, enslaved to his passions, spent decades learning just a small portion of the peace and prosperity that he could have attained in his youth by submitting desire and passion to a higher calling in his father’s house. Although he learned to master his passions enough to reconcile with Jacob and build a legacy of his own, but his passed his anger and envy on to his descendants whose uneasy relationship with Israel simmered for more than a thousand years. His grandchildren and great grandchildren carried on his pattern of willful and ignorant self-immolation for many generations.

Concerning appropriate behavior of spiritual brothers toward one another, Paul wrote:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:11-12)

In other words, be passionate about things that are not immediate and for which the ultimate rewards are more spiritual than physical, and restrain your passions concerning things that are physical. Be zealous, but not hasty; be passionate, but not vengeful.

Hunger will pass. God’s Word won’t, and neither will hell.

God can help you master your passions through prayer, study, and consistent practice. It’s not easy, but it can be done, and the earlier you start, the better. Your grandchildren will thank you.

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2 Comments

  1. I really don’t know why you call your blog American Torah when you mention nothing about Torah. You have two perfect hooks in this posting to it. The first is with the passage Galatians 5:22-26. You would be hard-pressed NOT to find the TNK passage the Brit writer was referring to. The Torah is what everyone during the first century congregations were familiar with and still part of. For Galatians 5:25, to walk in the spirit, that is refers back to Ezekiel four times:

    Ezekiel 36:26-27 “And I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. And I shall take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I shall give you a heart of flesh, and put My Spirit within you. And I shall cause you to walk in My laws and guard My right-rulings and shall do them.

    Ezekiel 11:19-21 “And I shall give them one heart, and put a new spirit within you. And I shall take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, so that they walk in My laws, and guard My right-rulings, and shall do them. And they shall be My people and I shall be their Elohim. But to those whose hearts walk after the heart of their disgusting matters and their abominations, I shall recompense their deeds on their own heads,” declares the Master יהוה.

    Ezekiel 37:5-6 Thus said the Master יהוה to these bones, “See, I am bringing into you a spirit, and you shall live. And I shall put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin and put a spirit in you, and you shall live. And you shall know that I am יהוה.”

    The fourth passage drives it home:

    Ezekiel 39:29 “And no longer do I hide My face from them, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Yisra’ěl,” declares the Master יהוה.

    Who is to get the spirit? Those in the house of Yisra’ěl.

    What can be surmised from the five passages:
    • Those within the house of Yisra’ěl will get the spirit & new heart
    • Those who get the spirit will walk in laws of יהוה (the Torah which you rarely discuss)
    • Those who get the spirit will guard His right-rulings
    • Those who get the spirit shall do the Torah, shall walk it out. Do what it says and not just hear about it on a weekend and read from a blog once you start to mention it.
    • Those who get the spirit will be considered the people of יהוה
    • Those who get the spirit will call upon יהוה to be their Elohim (need to call out in order to be saved)
    • Those who do not have the spirit will do disgusting things, well, things which are an abomination according to יהוה
    • Those who get the spirit will live – implies eternally
    • Those who get the spirit will know who יהוה is and will recognize what He says, for the sheep know the voice of their shepherd
    • If we live by this spirit, let’s keep in step of it by walking in the Torah guarding it, meaning to honor it, trying not to break them which would show disrespect to our Father
    • If we live by this spirit, we will likely not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

    Maybe you think I am provoking you now by calling you out. I am provoking you, but for you guard your blog’s name’s sake. If you say it’s one which calls out Torah, THEN DO IT!

    The other part which you could/should have mentioned the Torah is with Esau and how his behavior conflicted with walking out the Torah. He did not have the spirit of יהוה so he did not guard what יהוה deems proper. What Esau did was disgusting and an abomination and that is why he lost his birthright.

    Instead, you went through some argument that he was a passionate son of a rich man. WHAT?! I personally would disagree with your explanation but again I am biased because you failed to mention ever the Torah and following it in referencing to one of having the Spirit.

    Hopefully this comment will motivate you to prove me wrong. Show us all how much Torah is in your thoughts and put them in each week’s entry. You do have some insightful views which is why I do read them, but this weeks was the straw that made me comment as it’s like the book of Ester, which has no mention of יהוה. You also rarely ever mention His name as well. Are you ashamed of saying/writing it?

    Trust me, this is posted in love as I definitely had to impose self-control in my text.

    I look forward to next week’s entry.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Kevin, but if you really can’t tell that I’m talking about Torah in almost every article on this site, either you haven’t actually read any of them or you don’t know what Torah is.

    The written Torah is the first five books of the Bible, which includes Genesis and the story of Esau and Jacob. More broadly, the word can also include the oral traditions that grew up around the written Torah, but I don’t usually use it that way. You can read a little more of my thoughts on Torah in my Statement of Faith, which you can find in the site menu.

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