Who You Are When You’re Hungry - Genesis 25:29-34

October 2, 2022 Preacher: Rev. Stacey Severance Series: Genesis

Scripture: Genesis 25:29–34

In 2009, the Mars food company needed to do something about the decline in sales of Snickers candy bars. So they tasked a marketing firm with creating a new ad campaign aimed primarily at men ages 18-49. Two weeks before the 2010 Super Bowl, short commercials began teasing a new Snickers commercial to be unveiled during the game.

The commercial turned out to be wildly popular. You may remember it. It begins with a group of young men playing football in a park. No pads, just exercise clothes. It’s a normal scene except for one person in the game: 87-year-old actress Betty White, who many remember from TV shows such as the “Golden Girls.” 

Betty runs out for a pass and is violently tackled by a young man, falling into a mud puddle. She comes back to the huddle, covered in mud, and one of the young men says to her,  “Mike, what is your deal, man?” Betty replies, “Oh c’mon man, you been ridin’ me all day.” Another young man then says to Betty, “Mike, you’re playing like Betty White out there!” 

Just then, a young woman comes over and says to Betty, “Here, eat a Snickers.” Betty takes a bite, and the young girl says, “Better?” Then we see that Betty has transformed into a young man, who says, “Better,” and he’s now ready to compete in the game. Just then a voiceover unveils the new Snickers slogan: “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.”

The ad campaign was a huge success. And we can all relate, can’t we? When we’re very hungry, something comes over us. When our appetite is raging, we can behave differently.

However, I would take one exception to the Snickers slogan. It’s not that when you’re hungry you’re not yourself. Rather, when you’re hungry, you are still you; you’re simply showing another side of you. We have appetites for various things, not just food, and our appetites reveal what we want, what we value, what we love, even what we worship.

We have good appetites - good passions or desires, but we also have ungodly desires. We naturally have sinful appetites as well.

But Jesus came into the world to redeem us from our hunger for sin and to stir within us a growing hunger for God. A true hunger for the living God can only grow as we look to Jesus.

And as we look to Him, we will recognize the characteristics of our sinful appetites. We will be able to distinguish godly desires from worldly desires. Today’s passage in Genesis 25 describes the characteristics of a sinful appetite. Notice the outline on page 6 in the WG. Three things I want to help you see this morning: a sinful appetite makes you impatient, irrational, and irreverent.

Now, verse 29 picks up when Jacob and Esau have come of age. These brothers are the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Esau emerged from the womb first, but God tells Rebecca that Jacob, who was technically “younger,” would receive the greater inheritance. God also told her that the boys would be divided; there would be hostility between them and their descendants. 

And even on a personal level, the two young men are very different. Esau is rough; Jacob is mild-mannered. Esau is given to rashness; Jacob to prudence. Esau is aggressive; Jacob is calculated. In battle, you might want Jacob with you in the war room and Esau with you in the trenches. And these differences in personality pave the way for what proves to be a monumental event.

Verse 29 says that Jacob was cooking stew or soup, and Esau comes in very hungry. Notice verse [30] again, “And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” There is a Hebrew word commonly used by Moses in Genesis which we translate “eat,” but that is not the word used here. Put more clearly, Esau exclaims, “Let me swallow” in a greedy manner. He’s famished; almost faint with hunger. 

And what this indicates is that self-control is gone from Esau. He’s not simply hungry; he’s controlled by hunger. In fact, the Hebrews literally reads something like, “Let me swallow, I pray, the red, the red!” He’s worked up. And here’s the first way to recognize a sinful appetite: it makes you impatient. Esau is blinded by his hunger. He wants what he wants so badly that he will act foolishly.

Now I want to point out that Moses wrote these things down and the original audience was the nation of ancient Israel. On multiple occasions, the Israelites grumbled to God about food. They did not trust that the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt would generously provide for and care for them as they journeyed in the wilderness. 

Look again at the end of verse 29: (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Back in verse 25 we learn that Esau was born with a reddish complexion. And now this red soup will be part of his undoing and it would affect his descendants. Esau was the father of the Edomites. Later on, they fight continually with the Israelites, who were the descendants of Jacob. The Edomites were idolatrous people; they worshiped false gods and indulged in immorality.

Here’s the significance for the Israelites hearing these words through Moses: though the Israelites were the descendants of Jacob, they sure did act a lot like Esau. They were impatient with Moses; they grumbled about God. And with the Israelites, just as with Esau, there’s nothing wrong with being hungry. But impatience reveals that you are living by sight, not by faith.

What do you hunger for that makes you blind with frustration and restlessness? What pushes you from righteous anger into unrighteous anger? What appetites begin to control you, rather than you controlling them?

Many years ago, I worked with a wise Christian businessman, and he included me in his decision-making process on many occasions, perhaps to glean any insight I might offer but more likely to help me learn. He had a great way of urging caution and patience. He would say, “Stacey, always remember: the Lord leads, the devil pushes.” 

Your impatience may result in anger; it may result in anxiety. Maybe sadness. Perhaps bitterness, perhaps efforts to control situations or people. But a sinful appetite revealed through impatience results in destruction.

Esau demands the soup, and apparently Jacob recognizes an opportunity. Verse [31] Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Archaeologists have discovered evidence that in the Ancient Near East during those times, a man could sell his birthright. This meant surrendering the headship of the family. But it seems that this family role didn’t matter to Esau, and this was something that Jacob already knew.

Jacob is clever. He’s bright. He finds himself in a situation where he has something that Esau wants.

If you are buying a car, what is one of the most important rules when going on a car lot? Don’t let the salesman know how bad you want the car? Why? Because when he or she knows that you can’t live without the car, they’ve got you. Your power to negotiate is all but gone. How bad does Esau want some soup?

Look at verse [32] Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” There is no indication that Esau was about to literally drop dead of starvation. He is a man controlled by his appetites. He doesn’t carefully consider the consequences of his actions; he only considers his hunger.

Again, this resembles the behavior of the Israelites later on. They complained that God brought them out of Egypt to starve them in the desert. They said they were going to die of hunger. But the Lord God always made a way for them. You see, a sinful appetite makes you irrational.

When you are controlled by greed or by fear or by anger, you are prone to illogical choices. Esau behaves in a childish way. Where do you find yourself behaving childishly? This often comes out behind closed doors. Between husband and wife, or when you’re by yourself. Because we know how we’re supposed to act. You may calmly nod your head in front of someone, but curse their name when they walk away. You might never show anger in public, but you blow up in private. 

What makes you blow up? What makes you curse? What makes you do irrational things? This will help you identify your sinful appetites. Maybe your “hunger” (so to speak) is related to your finances, or your career - your success and prosperity in those areas.

Maybe your “hunger” is related to your children or your grandchildren. You want certain things for them or you want certain things from them. You want them to succeed or be happy or be safe or treat you a certain way, and your hunger for these things produces irrational words or behavior, so you think or act in a way which reveals that you don’t fully trust God with these things. 

God doesn’t move quickly enough for you; He may not want the same things you want. So you need to take matters into your own hands!

Is it true that “You aren’t you when you’re hungry?” No. Who you are when you’re hungry is who you really are. That’s just the part of you that needs to be saved by Jesus and transformed by Him. And He can do it.

A sinful appetite makes us impatient, it makes us irrational. Now let’s look at these last verses. Verse [33] Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob is the sharp-witted one. He knows how to close the deal. Jacob tells Esau to swear. He takes an oath. 

What Jacob does is in bounds. Did Jacob know what the LORD told his mother before his birth? Possibly. They were close. It would appear that this is why Rebecca loved Jacob so. He was God’s chosen one.

Now you may wonder, is this event the result of God’s sovereignty or man’s choices? But as is always the case, both are in play. These young men make their decisions freely, and God’s sovereign decree is fulfilled. Notice verse [34] “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way.” The language here reflects that no one twisted Esau’s arm. Esau made his choice, and he was fine with it. He had no regret over what he had done.

But notice the last sentence: “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” In other words, he treated the inheritance of God’s covenant promises as something vile and worthless. And this is the third characteristic of a sinful appetite: A sinful appetite makes you irreverent. You disregard the things of God: His promises, His love, His truth.All of that becomes secondary to you getting what you want, to you getting what you think you need.

In James 1 in the NT, James the brother of Jesus speaks to the churches. And he describes the destructive process produced by sinful appetites. He says, [13] Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. [14] But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

We’ve all been impatient. We’ve all been irrational. We’ve all been irreverent. We all have sinful appetites, and we all fall short of God’s glory. What can we do? 

The apostle Paul asked this question, and he admitted his sinful appetites. He said, “I am wretched! Who will save me from this body of death? (in other words, from these worldly desires). And then answered his own question. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Jesus Christ was patient, rational, and reverent as we obeyed and glorified God the Father. And then He took the punishment of His people for all of our sinful appetites. When we look to Him - seeing Him for who He is and what He’s done - Jesus leads us to admit and turn from our sinful appetites, and He transforms our hunger.

Jesus stirs within us a growing hunger for God and His ways. This is not something we can create on our own. We must come to Jesus. Only He can satisfy our deepest hunger. As we go to His table today, we must know this. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” 

This table is for those who have come to Jesus to be fed. Come to Him today in repentance and faith. Let’s bow together in prayer.