I love cooking! Only last week I asked my mom to send me her recipes for Romanian eggplant salad and soured red peppers. She got the recipes from her mom. But it’s not only from my mom’s side that I got my love of cooking.
When I was a teenager, every Shabbat after congregation, my dad would go over to his best friend’s place, who was a cook in a nearby Hilton hotel, and he would teach my dad how to cook extraordinary things. My dad then would come back home and would carefully follow the recipe. I would be there to watch and learn – I learned to love cooking.
I remember how some days, my dad would feel an urge not to follow the recipe, but try to invent his own one. How? By replacing a few items or instructions in the recipe with his own ideas. You would be surprised how different a meal can be, when not following the recipe. Sometimes his “inventions” would come out so terrible, even our dog would refuse to eat it!
In many ways, our Christian life is like cooking. We know God gave us the perfect recipe book, the Bible, but we sometimes still chose to come up with our own cooked up ideas, instead of following the recipes given to us by God.
A good cookbook tells us step-by-step how to prepare a great meal. Our good Bible teaches us, step-by-step, how to live a life that is glorying to God. It teaches us how to act and how to make the best decisions. If we follow the book, then step-by-step, we learn how to live a life that creates an aroma for God.
The promises and commands of the Bible are the recipes of God for life. Yet, so often, we do not follow the cookbook of life. We cook up our own solutions.
For example, many young Christian people make up their own recipe in their relationship with the opposite sex. Some would say “What is the problem in dating an unbeliever?”. Others believe that they should try out each other sexually before marriage.
Another example will be the way some handle conflict resolution. Do we take revenge and try to destroy our competitors? Or do we forgive those who sin against us and show love and grace to our competitors in accordance to God’s recipe?
What happens when someone really upsets you time and again, do you still follow God’s recipe of forgiveness, or you say, “Enough is enough! No more!” Do you cook up your own recipe for managing conflicts, or, do you trust God’s recipes in the “cookbook of life?”
What do you prefer? Cooking up your own solution, or following God’s recipe?
There is nothing new under the sun. We all face the same issues all believers of all ages have faced prior to us. Let’s look at a great example from Genesis 25:29-34.
In Genesis 25 we find a short famous story you have all probably heard before. In verses 29-34, Esau is selling his birthright to Jacob for just a bowl of stew, let’s read:
“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” Therefore his name was called Edom. Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Esau and Jacob lived in an oral culture. People back then did not read books nor watch documentaries on television. Communication took place orally – through stories. Four thousand years ago, the patriarchs passed on stories about God and who He is from generation to generation, and that’s how they would learn about God. Abraham heard about the great account of Adam and Eve.
Then one day God Himself spoke to him.
Abraham told his own stories and experiences with God to his own family. Isaac grew up hearing about his dad’s encounters with God. Then, Isaac told and retold his sons the stories about God and about the great promises he gave their grandfather. God did not speak often, but when he did, he revealed very important things.
One of the most significant promises God revealed to Abraham was what we call today – “the Abrahamic Covenant.” It was an eternal and unconditional covenant that included three parts:
- First, the land of Canaan will be eternally theirs.
- Second, Abraham’s descendants will be a mighty nation, and that one of His descendants will be the Messiah.
- Third, He will be blessed, and he will bring a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.
Wow! Imagine Isaac sharing these great stories with his sons around the campfire…
“Daddy, tell us that story of how grandpa wanted to sacrifice you, but in the very last minute God provided a ram in substitute!”
The boys knew the stories, the boys knew the promises…
In addition, the boys knew their mother’s story. They knew that God also spoke to their mom. Perhaps she was cooking a meal in the tent while she told them the story for the first time. Perhaps they were fighting, and mom set them apart:
“Boys, boys, you are fighting again? Do you not remember how much pain your fighting caused me when I was pregnant with you? You were kicking and fighting so bad that the pain was unbearable. It hurt me so much that in my pain I cried to the Lord. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I asked Him.”
Boys, do you remember what He answered?
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
The boys probably heard that story many times, knowing it by heart. Always remembering it in the back of their minds, knowing that the blessing will belong to Jacob.
So, everyone knew about God’s “recipes” for their lives. Isaac, Rebecca, Esau and Jacob all knew well God’s “recipes”, but they chose to come up with their own recipes instead. Isaac preferred Esau. Jacob chose cheating. Esau despised his birthright.
Know God’s recipes, and follow them
Again, it’s not enough to know about God’s word, we need to follow them and honor them in specific life situations too. Do not create your own solutions instead of the existing ones God have made for you.
If we use earlier examples, such as premarital dating, choose God’s recipe – choose purity until marriage. Choose dating and marrying a committed Christian. Decide now, in advance, and act accordingly when the time comes.
Or, using the other example, dealing with the inevitable conflicts in life. Based on God’s perfect recipe, decide now that you will love the people you will come into conflict with in your work place, among your family and in your school. It is not enough to know about God’s recipe of forgiveness – You also need to make a decision to actually follow it in real life scenarios.
Thousands of years ago, Jacob’s own solution was to buy the birthright. He knew God’s promises, yet he cooked up a twisted solution for acquiring what God had already promised. Yes, the birthright was a major deal. If a man had two sons, after he died, they divided his inheritance into three parts, and the older son received two parts. The oldest son received the father’s blessing. He became the head of the family. However, God already promised through Rebecca that He would make Jacob the heir of the promise. Jacob, although he was born second, was God’s choice for the blessings. Jacob knew this and he still cooked up his own plan. Did God need Jacob’s help? Was it God’s will that Jacob would cheat Esau? Of course not. Jacob feared that he would lose everything. He did not trust the promises he knew, and he cooked up a solution of his own, one that caused a lot of troubles.
How about Esau? What would have happened, if he had behaved decently? Perhaps he not only remembered, but also believed the promise made to Rebecca. “…the older shall serve the younger…”. If he believed it, his reaction was somewhat understandable. If the older served the younger, then “of what use is a birthright to me?” he asked. It seems legitimate, right? I do not know the answer. I know that his decision was against God’s will. He despised the most precious treasure he could have gotten, his father’s blessing. He listened to his instincts. Hunger drove him when he cooked up his solution. Did God need Esau’s sin to progress? No. God is holy, He does not need anyone to sin in order to further His plan. But Esau valued temporary present fleshly satisfactions over God’s promises for the future.
How about you?
This message is not a history lesson about the cooked-up solutions of some ancient folks. This message is a lesson for your life today and for your future. Do not substitute God’s recipes for your life with your own cooked-up solutions. There is a lot of temptation in the world. The world, the flesh and the devil all wants you to cook up your solutions, instead of honoring and trusting God’s recipes for life. Do not substitute God’s recipes for your life with cooked up ones. The world wants you to be rich, famous, good looking and popular. The world wants you to love yourself before anyone else. That is the world’s recipe for success. But God’s recipe for success is the opposite. To love and serve other people before you.
Do not let your fear, distrust or instincts cause you to cook up solutions to substitute God’s recipes for your life. Esau was driven by his instincts and despised God’s gift. Your flesh and your instincts often suggest a recipe that is different from God’s. For you it might not be food, for some it might be lust. Nudity and immorality is all over in magazines, in movies, in advertisements and on websites. Do not let your fleshly instincts cause you to cook up solutions and sin. Trust God’s recipe for purity.
Your cooked-up solutions might taste good at the beginning but will ultimately taste much worse than God’s recipes for life.
You all know the rest of the story, Esau ended up hating Jacob, who cheated him again and then Esau wanted to kill him. Jacob had to flee for his life to Laban’s house, where Laban cheated him and then Jacob cheated Laban and so on and on, until finally God overcome Jacob and gave him a new name. Was this whole sequence of cheating and sinning God’s will? No, of course it was not. God never wants anyone to sin. He is holy. Yet, somehow, in His ultimate wisdom God turned all this evil to serve His good purposes. Jacob eventually, after much suffering became the heir of the promises. But he paid the price. For decades, Jacob cooked up solution after solution. Yet God, in spite of Jacob’s actions moved on his plan. Just think about how less complicated Jacob’s story would have been, if he believed God’s promises, His recipes for life.
This reminds me of a great illustration. Last year I was in Holland, late night I was picked up from one location to go to another. According to the GPS, it was supposed to be one and a half hours drive. But the driver kept ignoring the GPS, not paying attention and missing different turns. The GPS calculated a new route for the driver every time so we will still reach our destination, but instead of one and a half hours, it ended up taking us two and a half hours!
It is the same with God, we make mistakes, but he still sovereign!
A bitter aftertaste
You can cook up your own solutions, they will not hinder God’s plan, but they will taste bitter in your mouth. You may hurt yourself and others, you may suffer the consequences of your decisions to ignore God’s promises and commands. Return to God’s recipe for life. He can and he will fix your cooked up solutions. Jacob fixed a meal and with that he purchased Esau’s birthright. He suffered the consequences for 20 years.
You may be in the middle of cooking up some bad solutions in your life yourself, knowing God’s promises and commands yet disregarding them. Return to God’s recipe for life. No matter how bad you may think your situation is, you can always get back to God’s recipe.
The good news is that God is not only the best chef, but He also knows how to turn bad recipes into great ones. He does that time and again in all our lives.
Consider the most famous story in human history – If God was able to take humanity’s rejection of the Messiah, and turn it into salvation to the entire world, how much more can he do with your life?
Let us imagine for a second what would have happened, if both Jacob and Esau took God’s promises seriously and follower His recipes.
Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” Therefore his name was called Edom.
Jacob said, “With pleasure! I will give you as much as you wish.”
Esau said, “I am about to die; thank you for being so kind to me!”
Jacob said, “Of course! we are family! I would gladly help you!”
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau started loving his brother. As years passed by, he never ceased to be amazed, how nice his brother was to him. His loving kindness won the older brother’s heart. They both married girls from their mother’s family. Jacob became a mighty prince, Esau a mighty warrior, who supported and defended his chosen younger brother.
Friends, I urge you today to not just know about God’s recipes – but follow them as well, especially in life situations that hard and challenging. When you face trials, don’t substitute God’s recipes with your own cooked up solutions. Trust in Him even if you don’t see an immediate result, and know that He is in control.
When you realize you have messed it up, return to God’s recipe immediately. He can always take whatever you have cooked-up, and turn it into a great meal!
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