Early Success May Be Temporal
These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:
The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:
Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz,
16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.
It was Esau’s brother, Jacob who had wrestled with God and who was renamed Israel. He was the one through whom the holy lineage was to come and yet when we read through these portions of scripture we find that Esau’s sons are called Chiefs while Jacob’s sons are simple shepherds. Some of the older biblical translations referred to Esau’s sons as Dukes! Somehow they had ascribed to them entire groups of people and they were considered the leaders. Whether it meant they were the head of clan, they were a Chief or a Duke, there was a distinct terminology used here for Esau’s sons that was not used when it came to Jacob’s sons.
A kingdom was being established through Esau, one which would become known as the Edomites. It would take generations before the Israelites would become a nation such as Edom. Esau embraced the things that the world had to offer and for a period of time he was successful. Jacob and his shepherd boys embraced their relationship with God. Often this made them outcasts of the world, but eventually they gave rise to the son of God and to God’s kingdom which is eternal.
The story of the "Tortoise and the Hare" certainly comes to mind when you think about the lives of Jacob and Esau and their descendants. Esau and his descendants saw incredible success early on, but it was a success borne out of a relationship with the world.
Is there a temptation to find our success in the world? I certainly believe that to be true! Often what the world has to offer us is right there before our eyes and we are tempted by that early success. It all seems so quick and easy. Why would we want to go through the struggles that serving God may bring to us. Think about Jacob’s family! They suffered during the famines and eventually moved to Egypt. They had a little success there early on but eventually there were not rulers, but they were slaves! Finally when God led them out of Egypt they again encountered the Edomites and by now they were enemies. They struggled for hundreds of years while Esau’s descendants were strong. It wasn’t until the time of King Saul and King David that we begin to see the defeat of the Edomites.
My great-grandparents moved from the “old country” to America. He came from Sweden and she came from Denmark. They met in America and homesteaded in Nebraska. Life was hard and yet they embraced it, trying to become successful on this new land which they now owned! Working day in and day out they simply stopped making the faith that they had brought with them from their homelands a priority. Instead, even Sunday was a day in which they would labor — working for that early success. That was, until the day of the terrible mid-western storm when lightening struck the house. There they stood watching the house and everything they owned inside go up in smoke. What had they been working for? For rapid success in the new world!
Grandma looked up at her husband Emile and said to him, “Papa — on Sunday we’re hitching the horses to the wagon and we’re going to church!” And standing there watching their human dreams go up in smoke the young Johnson family made a commitment to return to God and to making him first place in their lives. The result? All of their children gave their lives to Jesus Christ. A daughter became a missionary to Africa. Several became preachers and today they have grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren who are serving in God’s kingdom. They gave up on the early success and chose to invest in God’s kingdom for the long term! Great is their reward.
We will be faced with choices today. Will it be quick success — or kingdom investment?
Lord, thank you for the commitment of great-grandparents that has spoken into my life. Amen.