An observation I have made through the years after observing the lives of many Christians, what they believe about God, what they know about the gospel of grace, is a certain level of exhaustion that is unnatural. I have come across too many exhausted and weary Christians. These Christians are committed and passionate about their faith, well versed with the Bible, church traditions, and practices. They are educated, skillful and experienced. They own properties, work in good companies, run small businesses, their CVs are long, and social networks are strong. Outwardly, one can see progress in their lives. Nothing is out of place, at least outwardly.
However, on a close inspection of their lives, one senses this exhaustion – unnatural exhaustion. If one looks straight into their eyes, they see anxiety and apprehension. Even if they speak eloquently, their words sound hollow. Now, these people have the resources to go on holiday anywhere in the world, which they do. However, when they come back, they are never refreshed. They are still exhausted.
Esau was a modern-day equivalent. He was a skillful hunter, a man of the field. (Genesis 25:27 NLT). He was a man of action. His life was full of activity. He had a brother, Jacob, who was a quiet man and lived in tents. Esau’s father, Isaac, loved him because he always brought home organic meat from his hunting escapades. Esau was already into the organic and natural food trends we see today.
On this particular day, he came home exhausted. The Hebrew root word for exhaustion is aeyp, which means to languish, faint, thirsty, and weary. He went to Jacob, who had cooked a meal, and requested some of it. The Bible writer immediately changes his name to Edom – red man or a man of the earth. This is significant.
Jacob, his sly brother, notices a window of opportunity and offers a trade-off. But Jacob said, “First, you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob. Esau gave up his firstborn status for a plate of food.
Esau and Jacob are brothers from the same father. They are symbolic of Christians who share the same heavenly father. Esau represents Christians whose lives are busy, while Jacob represents quiet and rested Christians.
One thing for sure is this, Esau-type Christians are exhausted. Why? They rely on their self-efforts. While they insist on trust in God, you discover they fight, tussle, and hustle when you check their lives closely. When they fight, tussle, and rush, their status changes to Edom – red man of the earth. I said this is significant. When the Bible writer changes Esau’s name to Edom, Esau is identified with the curse of Genesis 3:17-19 NLT
And to the man, he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life, you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow, will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust, you will return.”
This means a Christian could live his life as if they were under the curse – struggle to scratch a living and sweat of one’s brow. The rest and quiet which sets apart a Christian from a non-Christian are missing. What non-Christians see when they see an exhausted Christian is that the Christian faith is just one of those “I have to do something religions,” and with their already packed schedules, they reject the Christian faith with the contempt it deserves.
Most Christians say this, oh yes, I know God is a good God, but I also have to make things happen. I just can’t sit still. Oh yes, I know God will promote me at my workplace, but I also have to apply for positions consistently. Oh yes, I know God will give me kids, but I will also undergo every medical procedure under the sun to get me pregnant. Oh yes, I know God will bless my work, but I also have to have “passive income.” Oh yes, I know God fights for me, but I have to give my enemies a piece of my mind. Oh yes, I know God loves me, but I also have to pray, fast, tithe, go to church, teach Sunday school, sing in the choir, and serve to please him. This exhaustion I’ve observed is a consequence of this belief that, yes, I know who God is, but I also have to do something.
Like Esau, this exhaustion leads them to make costly, life-altering mistakes. Psychologists have long warned us not to make critical decisions when we are exhausted. Take some time off and relax. Go to sleep and make the decision in the morning, they say. When we are tired, we become irrational. We become vulnerable, and anyone can take advantage of us. Jacob took advantage of Esau because he (Esau) was exhausted. Esau lost his place as a firstborn son and lost the biggest portion of the inheritance he might have received from his father, Isaac.
On the flip side, Jacob-type Christians are quiet.
What made Jacob a quiet man? While we immediately don’t see it early on in his life, but this particular thing later appears in his life. This thing is the altar – a pile of stones, wood, fire, and an animal for sacrifice. The altar represents Jesus and his finished work – the gospel of grace. Even though Jacob is sly and connives but we see throughout his life Jacob depending on the altar. Time and time again, he set up an altar and prays. This altar is absent in Esau’s life hence his toil, hustle, and sweat.
This I believe is the secret to a quiet life.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Hebrew word for quiet is tamam, which means to be complete. It seems that Christians who don’t seem to be as busy as Esau-type Christians are complete. This quietness, this completeness to me, is the rest Jesus offers us in Matthew 11:28.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
The Bible’s offer of tamam (completeness and quiet) and rest comes to us at a cosmic cost. If we were to be saved from this toil, hustle, and sweat, then somebody else had to toil, hustle and sweat on our behalf. Someone had to take our place of the curse so we could receive the blessing. I am so glad Jesus did. On the cross, Jesus took the curse, and we received the blessing. (Galatians 3:13 NLT)
I have been meditating on Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.
Hey, why don’t you consider Jesus’ offer of quiet and rest?
That’s what grace looks like