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Lets Make a Deal

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Let’s Make a Deal

Genesis 25:19-34

In the early 60’s there was a game show entitled let’s make a deal. The contestants were asked for an inexpensive item that they could use to make a deal with the game host. They would give the host the item in exchange for something that was hidden in a box or behind a curtain. After several of these deals, the host would choose the three persons that made the best deals and asked them to change them for what was behind door number one, or two, or three. Needless to say they could end up with a great deal or lose what they already had won by making a terrible deal. There were several attempts to bring back the game without much success. Until finally by making some changes to the format they were able to introduce a popular reincarnation of the game with a new name: deal or no deal. This time the person is given a briefcase containing an unknown amount of money that could be up to a million dollars; the contestants can then sale back the briefcase to the host for an amount of money or keep whatever amount was in the briefcase. 

In a real sense life is a series of deals in which we change something in our lives for something else; we are always making deals everywhere we go. One place that I always leave with the feeling that I did not made the best deal I could is the auto dealership. I know that they are professionals; they make deals every day; while I make a car deal once every ten years. They know better, they know what they are doing, so no matter how much they reduce the price I still feel I could have done better. When I contracted with Verizon for my telephone service I was not aware of the need for an international plan. If you pay four dollars a month to Verizon for an international plan then you pay seventeen cents a minute; otherwise you pay four dollars and 15 cents a minute. I am still trying to figure the mathematics behind this deal.

            Today’s text is about a really incredible deal and what made it possible. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. They were married twenty years before she was able to conceive. It was a very difficult pregnancy; it was so bad that she wanted to die. So she decided to ask God why she was having such a difficult time. God responded to her that she was carrying twins: Esau and Jacob. Isaac was already sixty years old. We do not know much about how they were raised. All we are told is that they grew up to be very different from each other. Esau was a skillful hunter, a man that loves the outdoors. Jacob on the other hand was a quiet man, he love to stay home. Each parent had their favorite son. Isaac related better to Esau, he love Esau’s hunting skills and enjoyed eating from his hunting’s. Rebekah related more to Jacob’s sensitivity, he was always home by her side. We may assume that Jacob learned to cook watching his mother cook every day.

“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, very hungry; and he said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” Jacob saw an opportunity and told Esau, let’s make a deal. I will give you a plate of my famous homemade stew, freshly made, with lots of vegetables and meat and all you have to give me is an IOU for your useless birthright. This is a onetime offer. You need to make your decision in the next couple of minutes because I have many people waiting for a plate. Give me your answer: deal or no deal?

Jacob is not talking about the title first born as we use it today. The birthright of the first born in many homes is to be able to help with the younger siblings. But in their time the birthright implied full authority over the family and everything the family owned once their father died. It also meant the ability to receive 2/3 of the inheritance versus the 1/3 that Jacob was to receive. Jacob was asking for a bright future for a plate of stew to satisfy his present hunger. Now that is a bad deal. It was as bad as the reported sale of the island of Manhattan by the Native Americans for approximately 24 dollars. It was just a terrible deal for Esau but a great one for Jacob. What is surprising is that Esau, whom we are told had streets smarts, who was out there making a living, actually felt for it. Why did he? 

According to the story Esau said: “Look, I am about to die, what good is the birthright to me?” What does that meant? Is he saying that at the rate his father was going, and knowing his grandfather died when he was 175 years old, he was going to be long dead before his father? Or maybe he is saying that he was so hungry that if he did not eat right away he was going to pass out? Or maybe he is just saying that tomorrow is not guarantee that is better to enjoy what today brings than hoping for a better tomorrow. One thing is for sure, Jacob could not believe that his brother was falling for it so he asked Esau: “Swear to me first.” Sign in the dotted line. “Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.”

When two persons are making a deal both believe that they are making a good deal. Jacob though he was making a great deal and Esau also thought he was making a good deal. There was something in Esau’s argument that led him to believe that he was making a good deal. It always boils down to our value system, what we value the most will influence our deals. The Wall Street Journal of July 8th has an article about Gideon Gono, Zimbabwe’s central bank governor. He is the person responsible to deal with the economic conditions in his nation. It takes 16 billion of Zimbabwe’s dollars to buy a single US dollar. When he took over inflation was 600% and fell to under 150%, so he knows how to make things better. In January of this year inflation was 100,580%. Prices last June were 8 million % higher than June of last year. He says  in his defense that he reads the bible and claims to be a very active Christian. According to Mr. Gono he learned in the bible the importance of obeying Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s dictator. According to him “a key element Christ looked for in his disciples was loyalty.” He does not make a difference between loyalty to the Lord and to a dictator. The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians; “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

            According to the writer of the book of Genesis Esau despised his birthright. He sold his future for a temporary satisfaction. It was his spiritual side at war with his carnal side. He was able to convince himself that it was good deal. How did he felt when he realizes that his father was dying and that the day of his inheritance was close and he gave it all up for a plate of food that he had long forgotten? He was angry with his twin brother who took advantage of a moment of weakness; but he was mostly angry at himself. How could I have been so stupid? His life was now full of regrets.

            In all these years since the story of Genesis we have not learned much. We continue to make terrible deals. We take that last drink before driving ourselves home. We think that if we are innocent we can be anywhere, at any time; until we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. We make bad deals with our future for a minute in the present. Praise be to God that in Christ no deal is final.

            The only one who is out to consistently make a bad deal is God. God gives his only son for sinners; Jesus takes your place in the cross, Jesus descended to hell so that you do not have to. God wants to redeem every bad deal you have ever made; God wants to transform your loss into gain. God wants to redeem your errors in judgment, your attempts at self deception, and your acts of self destruction into your biggest victory. We can sing with the psalmist: “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” You do not need to be embarrassed by your bad deals; you do not need to live in regret. God is able to make a way out of no way and to use nothing to make something great. Can you believe?

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