July 12, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
“This is What We Despised”
Two weeks ago, I watched internet news about a young man’s story. He is 51 years old, who was confirmed positive for COVID-19. He was fighting the disease to survive, but he finally ended up dying in the hospital. The news opened his testamentary letter to the public. According to the story based on his last message, he was a sincere person, who followed the rules of daily life and took care of his physical health well. Notably, while experiencing a worldwide pandemic, he consistently washed his hands as often as he could and wore a mask when he went out, but mostly tried to stay at home for safety reasons.
Meanwhile, one day, he was hanging out with very close friends for his best friend’s birthday party. He thought that it would be okay because they are close friends and just ten people gathering. They did not wear masks and drank beer together. However, there was a person with subclinical infection of COVID-19, and then they all were confirmed positive for COVID-19. One out of ten, he had a medical history with his lung, which led him to a fatal wound. He wrote, “I should keep wearing a mask, and social distancing from others. I did not do it only one time because it was a small gathering with close friends. But, it was what I despised. Please keep wearing masks when you are hanging out.” His story gave us a good lesson. A minor thing in daily life could make a big deal. Furthermore, it ultimately could change our destiny.
Today, I would like to talk about “what we despise.” Sometimes we despise a minor thing in daily life, but it must be a big thing. Think about breathing. We breathe unconsciously every moment when we are healthy. It is essential whether we are aware of it or not because without breathing, we cannot sustain our life.
What about drinking water? Drinking water every day could be a minor thing when you are healthy, but it must be a big deal when you are weak. When you are healthy, you may despise drinking water for a minor thing in daily life. However, it may cause a health problem. I was a person who did not like to drink beverages and liquid items, including water and soups. One day, I got severe pain in my gut and went to an emergency room. My doctor told me that I have a severe problem with congestion and blood circulation because I did not drink enough water in daily life. After that was happening, I drink water consciously every morning like liquid medication. I even have an app on my phone as a healthy habit to check if I drink water every morning. This is what I despised in daily life for a minor thing. Even though I hate drinking water, I have to drink it to sustain my health. It is not necessary to argue about it, but just follow it because I trust my doctor. It seems to be a minor thing, but it could make a big deal for my life.
In the Scripture reading today, it talks about Esau and Jacob, who are Isaac’s twin sons. As Abraham did, Isaac also got difficulties in having a child. He prayed to the Lord, and his wife conceived as God’s answer (V. 21). His wife, Rebekah, knew that God gave them grace. So, as soon as she got a problem in her womb, she prayed to God. God said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two people born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” This is our introduction to the twins, Esau and Jacob. Before they were born, the Lord had predicted what would happen in their lives. It should not be interpreted with the kind of fatalism. Instead, we could think of Almighty God; how God plans for each of humans before we are even born! It is like God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). It is like that God can count all numbers of even very hairs of our head (Matthew. 10:30). It is about God’s grace on how to take care of us.
Esau and Jacob are born and grew up in different shapes and personalities. Esau was red, and all his body was like a hairy mantle (V.26). He was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a quiet man, living in a tent (v. 27). Jacob seemed to enjoy cooking instead of hunting (v.29). The Scripture says, “Isaac loved Esau because he was fond of the game, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (v.28). Even though they were together from the womb, they are very different. They perhaps live in their nature characters as an indoor versus outdoor person.
One thing, we should not overlook, is that happening in verses 29 through 34. As usual, Esau enjoyed hunting, and Jacob enjoyed cooking. Esau perhaps appreciated Jacob’s famous stew. After a hunting trip, when he got back home, he must be hungry and exhausted, possibly. So, Esau requested Jacob for his stew. However, Jacob tied to deal with stew and Esau’s birthright. Esau said, “I am about to die. What use is my birthright for me?” Finally, Esau swore to Jacob to give his birthright. This is what Esau despised.
The birthright for a firstborn son had more power and authority in a patriarchal family. Israelites regarded the birthright of the firstborn son as God’s best blessing. Jacob knew about it, but Esau despised it. The Letter of Hebrews says, “Esau was an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (12:16). What Esau despised made his destiny to a significant change. While Jacob became the successor of his father Isaac and the father of twelve tribes of Israelites, Esau became an Edom’s ancestor. Esau’s birthright received by the grace of God, not by his work. However, he despised God’s grace.
Think about Christians? We are saved in Jesus Christ by the grace of God, not by our work. We have rights and authorities as Christians. The right and authorities come together alongside with responsibilities. As Christians, while we received the best blessings of God as the children of God, we have the responsibility to love God and love our neighbors. This is what we despised. While we would receive the rights, we might not practice loving God and others properly. The way loving God and loving others may not be a big challenge in our life, which may easily be despised. We are sometimes thirsty for the truth of God. But, perhaps, the truth of God is not far from our daily life. To keep the agreement, the policy or the rule may be a small thing for us. But it is one of the ways to respect others. To wear a mask probably makes us uncomfortable, especially in the hot summer season. But it is a way to practice loving God and loving others.
You may know about Naaman, who was a commander of the army of the king of Aram (2 Kings 5:1-14). He was a great man in his master sight, but he had leprosy. One day, a young girl told, ‘if he could see the Prophet in Samaria, he would cure his leprosy.’ So, he went to Samaria to see the Prophet. The Prophet Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). However, he was upset about the Prophet because he got an answer unexpectedly. He thought that it seemed like nothing; it seemed useless.
He expected that at first, the Prophet would live in the palace of the king because he is very famous, and so he went to the palace, but the Prophet lived in a rural. The second, he expected the Prophet to come to see him because he is a great man, but the Prophet sent a messenger, instead of coming by himself. Finally, he expected that the Prophet might pray, putting his hand on Naaman’s head like an anointing rite, but just says, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan.’ The truth of God perhaps seems to like a few things. It may be like a practice of everyday life. It may not be required a vast or exceptional performance. It is perhaps simply what we live out a minor thing in our daily life looking after others who are our family members, church members, and the needy in our community. It is, at this particular time, wearing a mask and keeping social distancing. This is what we despised. What we receive naturally by the grace of God is perhaps significant for our future. Do not disregard them, such as fresh air, water, beautiful nature, and people around you.
Only one time, the man did not wear a mask because he met his close friends. But, because of your close friends, and because of your loved ones, you should respect them more. The closer you are with them, you have to take care of them more. The minor thing you have as the responsibility, you should be more sincere about it. God would say, “You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:23). May God bless you to keep sincere, even in a few things!
Thanks be to God. Amen!