Some things have remained unchanged since Jesus walked the earth. For instance, the planting and harvesting of grapes, and laborers gathered at local marketplaces very early in the morning, hoping a landowner will hire them to harvest his crops. In ancient Palestine grapes ripened near the end of September and had to be immediately harvested before the autumn rains ruined them. It was a frantic race against time—weather and hiring workers—so Jesus used this annual ritual as a parable (Matt. 20:1-16) in response to Peter’s question: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matt. 19:27).*

It was early morning when a landowner raced to the marketplace where day laborers gathered. Several were waiting to be chosen to harvest his plentiful, ripe crop of grapes. One Roman denarius, worth about $43.50 today, was the nor- mal day’s wage agreed upon. Before they were hired, the laborers were generally among the lowest class of workers, for whom life was always precarious. They were not street corner idlers or thugs, but were serious men who were itinerant travelers, always in imminent danger of starvation or homelessness, or at the mercy of chance employment. Some were so desperate they gathered early in the morning with their tools, willing to wait all day to labor for only a denarius.

The ones hired at 6:00 in the morning put in a full day’s work. Those hired at 5:00 in the afternoon put in only one hour, because the day’s labor ended at 6:00. The owner, however, paid everyone—early birds and latecomers—the same: one denarius. Then he sent his foreman to publicly pay each laborer the same wage despite the different hours they worked. Not surprisingly, those hired at sunrise and who had worked all day complained loudly, saying “You have made them equal to us” (Matt. 20:12) who were hired first, worked longest, through backbreaking, scorching heat by paying us the same as those who worked one hour in the cool evening when almost all the reaping and heavy lifting were completed.

But the landowner “answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you; friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? ...Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?’ ” (verses 13-15).

Note, Jesus didn’t use the word philos for a friend who is closer than a brother, but hetairos, the term He used to address Judas when he betrayed Him in Gethsemane. For in His kingdom, unlike in the world, fame, fortune, seniority, or being first chosen doesn’t guarantee special honor, power, or a place at the head table; neither does being called late result in less pay than “whatever is right”(verse 4)—one denarius, which represents eternal life. Thus, Jesus’ answer turned His disciples’ concept of fairness in the kingdom of heaven upside down, saying, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matt. 19:30; repeated in Matt. 20:16).

So trust Him, the Lord of the plentiful harvest, who decides what is the right, or just, reward for laborers in His vineyard.

* All Bible texts are from the New International Version.

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

Meteorologists use color codes to describe the severity of storms. They range from code red, the worst, to light yellow, the least powerful.

I sometimes wonder how we’ve made it this far through the many storms of life without color-coded warnings. Imagine what life would be like if colors appeared in the sky for some of the personal storms we encounter.

For example, green could indicate incoming trouble, such as getting ready to leave for work and finding you’ve misplaced your car keys or wallet. A yellow-coded storm would be when the car won’t start and you’re already late for an important appointment. An orange-coded storm would be an accident in which you or a family member experience some life-threatening trauma. Red-coded storms, would be those no one wants to experience, for when they hit, life just stops. Nothing else seems to matter.

God sometimes allows fierce, violent storms of life.

Four code-red storms are recorded in Scripture, each representing experiences we’ve either had or will encounter while waiting for the second coming of Christ.

The first is in the Old Testament book of Jonah, in which the Lord Himself hurled a great wind on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. What do we do when it’s God, not Satan or nature, who hurls a huge storm into our lives? Do we drown in despair, or will we sing, “Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silver”?

The other three code-red storms are in the New Testament. One occurred when Jesus walked on water to meet His disciples (Matt. 14:22-33). One involved the apostle Paul on his way to Rome for trial (Acts 27).

The fourth code-red storm is so significant it’s reported in three of the four Gospels (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). Jesus’ disciples felt that they were going to perish in a storm on the lake.

Here are a few lessons we can learn from those storms:

Like Jesus, we have to know when to leave the crowd behind, not just people who disrupt peaceful protests, but also those with personal doubts, fears, anger, and attachments to things or persons without whom they think they can’t be happy.

Remember, even when Jesus was asleep, in His divinity God was still very present. “He who watches over you will not slumber” (Ps. 121:3).

When code-red storms of life come, especially when life seems to be going fine, before accusing Jesus of not caring, we must ask, “Where is our faith?”

God sometimes allows fierce, violent storms of life. If you don’t know that yet, ask the Christians whose loved ones are numbered among the more than 100,000 U.S. victims of COVID-19, or the families of those whose lives were snuffed out because of the color of their skin.

The apostle Paul said, “No temptation [not suffering or untimely death, but temptation] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted [not suffer, “tempted”], he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

COVID-19 has significantly changed life as we knew it and forced us on a journey. Like the children of Israel, we must go forward by faith, not knowing exactly where we’re going. But unlike them, we cannot and should not allow unpleasant experiences to retard our progress toward our Promised Land. Let’s press on by drawing lessons from an event in the journey of ancient Israel tucked away in Exodus 15:22-27.

In this short episode of their very long journey, the whole camp of Israel, led by Moses, walked from the Red Sea into the wilderness of Shur. There they got a glimpse into the future. And what a glimpse it was: for Shur was actually a place full of serpents and scorpions, a place of drought and the shadow of death. Shur, which also means “wall,” was an uninhabited wasteland the Egyptians used as a border fortress. It became a great barrier between the Israelites and their Land of Promise.

Angry and bitter as they left the pleasant shores of the Red Sea, they trekked through the parched heat of the desert for three long days and found no water (verse 22). Their fresh water from the Red Sea springs had evaporated and their vessels were empty. Metaphorically, they themselves were drained and empty, which was demonstrated by their complaining and criticism of Moses.

Note that the text does not say “there was no water,” but rather “they found no water.” Water may have been present, even in the desert, if only they had had the faith, strength, and desire to look for it. And although they couldn’t find water, Moses kept them moving, walking, seeking, hoping to find water. And they did when they came to an oasis called Marah.

Israel’s journey didn’t end at Marah; God had already provided a way of escape to Elim.

Imagine their relief: water in Marah. But their sweet joy quickly turned to bitter sadness when they couldn’t drink the desperately desired liquid. Marah means “bitter,” and so was the water. It increased their thirst rather than quenched it.

How utterly ironic—to finally chance upon a seeming source of survival, only to find the water undrinkable! Even worse, to later learn that God had led them there to test them (verse 25). That which they thought would enable them to survive the desert turned out to be a deterrent. Their disillusionment that they might die in the desert increased, making them even more bitter than the waters of Marah.

Bitterness caused God’s people to blame Moses for their dilemma. But he didn’t defend himself or retaliate against them. Instead, he turned to God and, get this, cried out to the Lord. The Lord showed Moses a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet (verse 26).

Israel’s journey didn’t end at Marah. Unbeknownst to them, God had already provided a way of escape to Elim, just a few miles away, where 12 springs of fresh water and 70 palm trees waited for them (verse 27). They learned, as we must, that what they lacked was faith and strength of conviction because Elim, which echoes the word alim, meaning “strong or powerful,” by God’s marvelous grace, was always nearby and waiting to sustain them, as it also is for us.

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

What happens to a dream deferred?” asked Langston Hughes, African American poet. “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet? Does it just sag like a heavy load? Or does it explode?”

These questions are relevant, as they affect not only our personal experience, but biblical, social, and religious history that are likewise filled with deferred dreams.

Abraham and Sarah, for example. Their dream of bearing the seed of promise was deferred for 25 years before it was fulfilled. Moses’ dream of leading his people out of Egyptian bondage was deferred for 40 years; besides, he never led them into the Promised Land.

Jesus had a dream that His followers would live in unity and love one another the same way He loves them. But that dream has also been deferred. The apostles’ dream that in their lifetime their Lord would return in triumphant glory to receive them to Himself also still waits realization.

February was long ago dedicated to the observance of Black History Month and the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., for an America in which all people would live in harmony and equally enjoy the privileges and resources of the nation. But in 2020 his dream is still trashed by some, and still in deferment.

Many dreamers and visionaries throughout history have been victims of deferment. God’s people always seem to be “in waiting.” It’s one of life’s inexplicable tensions with which Christians must cope until Jesus comes; that while God calls us to dream dreams and see visions, we must expect along the way we will encounter the disappointing, frustrating reality of deferred dreams.

We should no longer be willing to settle for the status quo.

But before we give up our dreams, let’s remember: the word “deferred” means delayed, not denied. Deferred dreams are not defunct desires; they are not impossible or improbable because their fulfillment may be difficult to imagine. If we wait on the Lord, He will renew our strength to keep dreaming, and deliver our dreams bigger and better than we can imagine or hope. The fulfillment of a common but eagerly awaited dream is the miraculous effusion of the Holy Spirit promised in Joel 2:28 and repeated in Acts 2:17, 18.

The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit marks a major change in God’s dealing with His people. The promise includes extensive showering of grace on every believer, instead of trickles previously sprinkled on Old Testament priests or prophets or kings. In these last days the Spirit will be in God’s people, filled up, running over, regardless of race or gender or rank.

Yet it seems too often today that Christianity features divisions, defeats, and splits in God’s kingdom. Rather than specialize in separation and segregation of God’s people into factions and fragments, we should be summoning disgruntled sinners and disinherited saints to return to our God who is One (Deut. 6:4), and revel together in the heritage of the truth that all humanity is created equal and destined to be one in Him.

Let’s begin again, as if for the first time, to love as Christ loves us.

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.

A little learning is a dangerous thing,” wrote Alexander Pope. “Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”

This bit of verse by a eighteenth-century British poet can apply to Christianity today because there’s so much talking and so little learning in Christianity, especially when it comes to Scripture. That’s a dangerous thing, because teachers and preachers assume that their congregations are familiar with everything read, preached, or taught from Scripture.

For example, preachers often say “You’re familiar with the story . . .” or “You remember the verse . . .” as if everyone knows what’s being spoken about. Worse, listeners aren’t given the opportunity to ask questions, in order not to feel or look foolish. Some don’t ask, and we don’t tell. Thus we’ve inadvertently created a culture in which a little learning is a dangerous thing.

We, like the ancient Israelites, are on the brink of our Promised Land.

Let’s begin with a few facts about the Bible. Are you aware that the names of the first five books of the Bible we know as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are not their original names? When these five books, originally recorded in Hebrew, were translated into Greek, their names were summarized into one word to capture the essence of what that book was about. But in Hebrew these books were named for the first words in the book.

The first book, called Genesis by Greek translators, focuses on the origin of all things. In Hebrew the name of the first book is bereshit, meaning “in the beginning,” the first words in the first chapter.

Greek translators, concluding that the second book of the Bible was about the Israelite’s escape from Egypt, called it Exodus. But in Jewish Scripture it’s called Shemot, “names,” a reference to the first verse: “These are the names of the sons of Israel,” referring to the sons of Jacob who went with him into Egypt.

Skipping down to Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, Greek translators called it “copy,” or “repetition,” because it represents the second giving of the law by Moses. But its Hebrew name is devarim, “words,” an appropriate title because it begins with “These are the words” that Moses spoke to all Israel.

Deuteronomy’s power is that it is essentially Moses’ last will and testament. He recounts God’s leading and His instruction as the children of Israel prepare to enter and occupy the Promised Land. Moses’ imperative is stark: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. . . . Love the Lord your God, . . . walk in obedience to him, and . . . keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deut. 30:15, 16).

We, like the ancient Israelites, are on the brink of our Promised Land, and the words of the Bible—Old and New Testaments—challenge us to be all in for Jesus. While it’s interesting to know how our Scriptures came to be, we can succeed only as we believe and practice “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

We serve a mysterious God.

The apostle Paul described God’s wisdom as “a mystery that has been hidden” (1 Cor. 2:7). From this and beyond I have drawn three conclusions: (1) God is too wise to be mistaken; (2) His mystery includes His frequent choice of flawed humanity to demonstrate who He really is; and (3) many saints continue to be consistent sinners because preachers have not taught their congregations the mystery and wisdom of God as it is explained in Scripture.

We preach a lot about grace, and so we should. Grace allowed the children of Israel to wear the same clothes and shoes during the 40 years of their wilderness wandering (Deut. 8:4; 29:5).

We preach about God’s unconditional love. That’s particularly relevant and important given these days of violence, homegrown terrorists, dehumanization of immigrants, rising racism, abusive political rhetoric, and public attitudes that degrade men and women made in the image of God. God’s ways are not ours:

We preach about God’s second chance, but often forget that His forgiveness extends to at least 70 times seven (Matt. 18:22).

We preach our 28 Fundamental Beliefs, because “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). These truths are like music to our ears, but they lack the melodies, harmonies, and dynamics that define the reality of our God if they’re not seen in the light of His character.

God promised to lead us into green pastures, but He does not prevent us from walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

We serve a God who is compassionate toward sinners, but who sometimes convicts saints so deeply that it’s like a knife plunged into our conscience.

We serve a God who sometimes answers prayers with a resounding “No!”

We serve a God who will never give us more than we can bear, but gave His only Son more than He could bear; so much so that it broke His heart and killed Him just so we might live. We feel, from personal experience, that God sometimes allows us more than we can bear: as when children are murdered and lawmakers do nothing to curb the plague of guns that kill them.

We serve a God who instructed Moses to write that no illegitimate person can enter the assembly of God, even to the tenth generation (Deut. 23:2-5). Yet God sent His Son, born of a woman, without a known earthly father (as are many who love and serve Him today), whom His own people accused of being illegitimate (John 8:41).

We serve a God who promised to lead us into green pastures, but He does not prevent us from walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

We serve a God who told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah. When Abraham obeyed, at the very last second God sent an angel to stop him. But when God’s sinless Son was on a cross at Calvary as an innocent sacrifice for sin, there was no hand to stay His crucifixion, thereby assuring our salvation.

O what a mighty, mysterious God we serve! Angels bow before Him; heaven and earth adore Him. How can we not love and obey Him?

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

Who are you, really? Before you answer, consider this: are you your thoughts, even those you are thinking right now?

Psychologists, philosophers, and theologians suggest that knowing who we are is one of the most important questions in a person’s life. Most people are unable to answer because they don’t know exactly what or who is this thing called “self.” Some understand a great deal about the world: they can parent children blindfolded; mastermind the best smartphones and innovative social media; look at the sky and give an accurate weather forecast; yet not understand or know who they are.

Whether we describe ourselves as professors, pastors, or peace officers, these are just labels. As important as labels are, they are not who we really are. If we change our religion, country, profession, or political affiliation, that does not change who we are, because we are more than the places where we were born or the things we do.

Those who know who they are have no reserves or plan B.

We are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). But what does this mean? In our English dictionaries the word “image” means a physical likeness, optical counterpart, or appearance produced by reflection from a mirror. It describes a mental representation, or resemblance to another. Thus, because we are created in the image of God, we resemble/reflect Him.

Being created in the image of God means more than physical look-alikeness. For instance, like Him, we are the only creatures who have the ability to think abstractly, to put ideas into words, to know the difference between right and wrong. We are among the few creatures to think in cause-and-effect relationships, to recognize and remember. We have emotions and passions, exercise patience, and have freewill to make decisions and choices based on intellect and spirituality. But because of the presence of sin, we are only God’s shadows in all these.

Speaking of shadow: because of our condition, being born in sin and raised in iniquity, we’ve become mere shadows of the image of God. As humanity came from God’s hand, it “bore no blight of decay or shadow of the curse.”* Christ, our Creator, and Christ alone, can make us truly aware of who we are. He redeems, re-creates, and restores the original image of God in us when we accept Him as our personal Savior.

Life could be a banquet. But people, even Christians, starve to death because they don’t know who they are. And if they don’t know who they are, they can’t figure out whose they are.

Those who know who they are have no reserves or plan B. They rely totally on faith and prayer, believing that God has their back. They have no regrets because they know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). They have no cowardly retreats. They stand fast and firm in the face of challenges, accepting them as opportunities to be transformed into the likeness of Christ and restored from a shadow to the original image of God.

* Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 9.

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

All of us expect to die sometime, but common to all is the sheer unexpectedness of death.

The apostle Paul, however, knew that the time of his death was near, not only because of his imprisonment, but because Emperor Nero was striking out against Christians. Despite his impending death, Paul was calm and confident because of his hope and living faith in Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:6).

From Paul’s three “I have”s (verse 7) it is apparent that he was not preoccupied with his approaching demise. Nor did he forget the cause for which he was about to surrender his life. He simply declared: “I have fought the good fight.”

Paul’s faith amid the threatening clouds of death made the Savior’s glory shine more brilliantly.

The original word for “fight” means both contest and conflict. The use of a definite article in this brief but powerful statement indicates that there are bad fights. This includes the desperation to acquire wretched, material excesses to satisfy the lust of the flesh. It is perpetuated by a love of the world and its boastful pride of life; and political power that some think will insulate them from the difficulties of life. The bad fight happens also when, instead of solemnly warning the world that the bridge between humanity and divinity is broken, we build walls and isolate ourselves from each other, even God.

The word “fight” also has the positive connotation of a contest. In Paul’s day it involved such ancient games as chariot or foot races, wrestling, and boxing with a potential for victory or defeat, much like the Christian life and journey. Since, like Paul, we intend to fight the good fight despite the hazards, let’s make sure we know what he meant when he penned such a powerful assertion.

The good fight is against four enemies: (1) the world, described as being full of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16); (2) the flesh or carnal nature; our rebellious, unruly, and obstinate inner selves that do not want to have anything to do with God (2 Cor. 5:16, 17); (3) the devil, who is determined to destroy and kill (John 10:10), and (4) fear, the greatest enemy of faith   (1 John 4:18).

Very few things in nature are more beautiful than the glorious golden hues of sunset. Storm clouds make it even more magnificent. Paul’s faith amid the threatening clouds of death made the Savior’s glory shine more brilliantly. It lightened the dark firmament of his fast-approaching martyrdom and inspired him to declare, “I have fought the good fight.”

Paul, in the best sense of the word, was at war within himself. Yet even during conflicts without and fears within he fought the good fight of faith. From the beginning of his journey with Jesus he was opposed by those who tried relentlessly to prevent him from preaching the good news that God’s abundant grace is available to all. He had, as we all have, invisible enemies that are not flesh and blood. He fought the good fight of faith against principalities and powers. By God’s grace he won.

So can we!

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

We live in a media-saturated culture. Not only is our world saturated with breaking news and buzzing social networks—we’re inundated with commercial advertising that claims to know what we need or desire. To catch our attention, advertisers display colorful, often Photoshopped images.

One of the most effective ways used to convince us to purchase products is through personal testimonies. These ads emphasize that characters are not actors but real persons. Still, underneath the picture is this phrase, usually in tiny letters: “Results not typical.” It’s a disclaimer to dispel any dissatisfaction in case the product doesn’t live up to expectations.

We struggle with this same “results not typical” in Christianity. We hold up one or two saints and say, “Look at the difference Jesus can make.” But results are not typical. People are jaded; fed up with empty claims and puny promises from patriot pastors who use the pulpit to promote politicians and fail to preach a faith perspective that is rooted in Jesus Christ. People are tired of Christians who construct exclusive interpretations of Scripture that fuse and confuse beliefs while repudiating all that is advocated in the Gospels.

We must no longer allow the name of Jesus to be tarnished by charlatans masquerading as Christians.

We must no longer allow the name of Jesus to be tarnished by charlatans masquerading as Christians. We can no longer be associated with ideologies responsible for tearing humanity apart. We cannot continue to cling to hate-mongering dogmas. As the church of Jesus Christ, we must not impart a message that’s like the testimonies of purveyors of material prosperity.

Let us therefore pray: “Dear God, deliver us from liars! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth” (Ps. 120:2, paraphrased).

May we be delivered from liars who tell us that without God human beings are basically nice and good, and that despite the presence of sin everyone is born equal, innocent, and self-sufficient. There are liars who promise the world is a harmless place in which we are born free; if we are in chains it’s someone else’s fault; our defects can be corrected with just a little more intelligence, effort, or time. Some liars promote fake peace and exalt the inordinately greedy, predatory, and extortionate disposition of fallen humanity. Some liars use words and deeds to block our Christian consciousness from the realization that what we had assumed as truth is, in fact, lies.

May we be rescued from advertisers who claim to know what we need by selling us shadows to cover God’s image; entertainers who provide cheap joy; preachers who pretend to instruct us in morality; psychologists who offer to shape our behavior and our morals so that we can live long, happily, and successfully without God; religions that preach political traditions and neglect God’s commandments. They endorse the vices condemned by Jesus, holding sexual predators, adulterers, liars, and racists unaccountable.

These liars talk about the world without telling us that God made it; they tell us about our bodies without mentioning they are temples of the Holy Spirit; they instruct us about love without teaching about the God who radically loves us and gave Himself for us.

“Deliver us from liars, God! They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth.”

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

Everything seems up for grabs. In sports, loyalty to a team, a city, or a player means nothing. If a team doesn’t produce trophies, sell it. If a city can’t afford a billion-dollar stadium, abandon it. Find another! Life is about making deals and winning, and it’s all centered around self as we’ve progressed, or digressed, from what was once the “used car mentality” to a “let’s make a deal” society where some are willing to sacrifice or sell their birthright to satisfy a bellyache, as did Esau (Gen. 25:27-34).

He’s one of Scripture’s saddest figures: firstborn son of Isaac and Rebekah, twin brother of Jacob, beloved of his father and admired by his people as a skillful hunter. Yet he traded the riches of his birthright for a bowl of pottage he felt would bring him immediate satisfaction. Bible writers, preachers, and teachers of the Word almost always mention Esau unflatteringly.

One of the saddest figures in Scripture is that of the firstborn son of Isaac and Rebekah.

But when we study his character it’s distressingly clear how very much like him we are: at times worthy of appreciation for natural qualities such as courage, frankness, good humor; and at other times selfish and lacking self-control when it comes to wants and desires. Esau was a typical horseman of his day: hot-blooded, passionate, bold and free, with no intricacies of character. He was impulsive, even reckless, but also capable of nobility, the very opposite of his prudent, conniving, nimble man-of-affairs-twin, Jacob, who manipulated him, not once, but twice: first out of his birthright and second out of his father’s blessing.

Being a creature of intense yearnings, Esau was in a crisis when he came home from the field that day. It was as if he became a mere plaything of animal passion as he felt the pangs of hunger. He decided to satisfy his desire without thought of the consequences. This deep lack of self-control caused disastrous repercussions in terms of his birthright and earned him the designation as an immoral or godless person (Heb. 12:16).

The birthright (Hebrew: bekorah), belonged to the son born first and included legal claim to a double portion of the inheritance of a father’s legacy. The firstborn male was automatically entitled to his father’s blessing that included rule and authority over other members of his family. The birthright had spiritual rewards such as being anointed as patriarch and priest of the family, and the threefold blessing of Abraham (Gen. 12:2, 3).

The spiritual blessing of the birthright was bestowed upon the Christian Church, also known as spiritual Israel and the church of the firstborn, Jesus Christ our Lord (Col. 1:15, 18; Rom. 8:14-18). Our birthright includes, but is not limited to, salvation by grace through faith; the power and presence of the Holy Spirit; all of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in the kingdom of God; being caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His second coming; an invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb; and a seat at the table with Prince Emmanuel.

Whatever our temptation, hunger, or thirst, Esau’s story is written for us (1 Cor. 10:11). Why sell an eternal inheritance for the sake of a momentary bellyache?

Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.