The Exceeding Bitter Cry
June 8th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
THE EXCEEDING BITTER CRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-8-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning’s early hour’s message entitled The Exceeding Bitter Cry. We turn to the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis; Genesis, chapter 25. And you can easily follow the message in the Holy Scriptures; the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis. We are following these chapters in the first book in the Bible, and I at least, am learning spiritual revelations that I have never seen before, and that helps me so very, very much as I work with the people; and it helps me to understand what I see. For so much in the kingdom of God is inexplicable; and so much of what I see in the lives of the people in this world is un-understandable and unexplainable, but as I read the Scriptures and seek their meaning, I can see it in us. Whether it was two thousand years on the other side of the Lord or whether we are approaching two thousand years this side of our Lord, human nature is just the same. And when I can see in God’s Word how God works, what God does, and how human nature responds to it, when I can see it there in the Holy Scriptures, guided by an infallible hand, writ here large on the page of the Book with divine wisdom, then I have a sure and a certain answer for what I see in the life of people today.
Now last Sunday I said and tried to present the elective purposes of God in human life that I had never seen before. God chose Jacob; God did not choose Esau [Genesis 25:23]. And last Sunday morning, we entered into a mystery of the sovereign purpose and election of God such as I, at least, had never thought, or dreamed of, or seen before. Now today we’re going to look into another one of those mysteries that you will find constantly in human life, and we shall see an explanation for it as we follow through these holy pages.
Now, keep your finger there at the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis; I’m going to read two verses out of Hebrews. In Hebrews 12:16-17, the author writes: "Lest there be a profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." And that is a reference back to this verse in Genesis 27:34, "And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father." And that’s where I got the title, The Exceeding Bitter Cry.
Now these two boys were brothers, Esau and Jacob. Yea, they were twin brothers. But brothers never differed more than these two boys. The difference was foretold before they were born. The difference was apparent at their birth. And the difference widened with each succeeding day as they grew in youth, in manhood, and down to old age. They greatly differed in appearance. They differed in pursuits. And they differed mostly in character. In the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis, the twenty-fourth verse:
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, there were twins in her womb. And the first was born red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Hairy, Esau. And after that was born his brother, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Heel, Jacob. And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
How different they were! I said they differed in appearance; Esau was a big, burly, broad-shouldered he-man of a fellow. His complexion and his hair was reddish. And he was strong. He looked like a man of hazardous pursuits. He looked like an outdoor sportsman. He just looked the part of a rough and ruddy outdoors he-man. Jacob was altogether different. His skin was smooth and hairless. He must have been rather slight of stature and of build because he greatly feared his brother Esau and Esau’s wrath. Had Jacob been bigger than Esau, when Esau threatened him Jacob could have replied, "You just make a gesture toward me, and they’ll be picking you up with a blotter." But when Esau threatened Jacob, Jacob fled for his life [Genesis 27:41-28:5]. I take it from that that Jacob was not only a smooth man, but that he was rather slight of build, and in no sense did he give the impression of being a strong, ruddy, outdoor sportsman.
Not only did they differ in their appearance – the way they looked – but they differed in their pursuits, what they liked and what they did. Esau loved the outdoors. He was an expert rifleman, marksman; he used the bow and the arrow. He was a fine rider, if they were riding horses. He was a wonderful player, if they were playing a game. He was a fine, fine hunter, cunning in the chase. I don’t know how many of you ever heard of B. B. Crimm. B. B. Crimm was a preacher-cowboy in Texas when I was a youth; and a very able and effective evangelist. He was a big, rough, rawboned fellow himself. I remember in a revival meeting a sermon that he preached on Esau. My, my, when he got through preaching about Esau, you couldn’t help but like the fellow. He took him on the chase, he took him out on the hunt, oh, he really, he really presented Esau. Well, that’s right. Esau was a man of the field, he was a man of the game, he was a man of the chase, he was a man of the hunt, he was an outdoor sportsman, and he liked it [Genesis 25:27].
Jacob was the opposite in his life. Jacob loved the uneventful pastoral life: to live in a tent and to care for the flocks and the herds [Genesis 25:27]. Had you taken Esau and imprisoned him in that tent, it would have been like an eagle who was longing for the crags and the storm-beaten rocks, for the summits and the heights. Restless in his spirit, out with his bow and his arrow, stalking the prey, while Jacob, the plain man, living in a tent, was caring for the flocks and the herds. They greatly differed in their pursuits.
But I said, mostly they differed in their character – in their make up, in what they were inside. You could not have helped but like Esau. He was rough, but he was also frank, honest. He was outdoors and gone, but he was one of the best and most affectionate sons you will read of in the Bible. He was impulsive and impetuous; but he was quick to forgive [Genesis 27:41, 33:1-4]; he soon got over it [Genesis 27:44-45]. When you read the life of Esau, you can understand why he became the head of a famous family and founded a great nation who lived in power and in affluence through the generations [Genesis 36:6-43]; Esau. But, there was one thing – and this is the great help to me as I work with people today – there was one thing about him that he didn’t have and that Jacob did. And it is this: Esau had no eye for, no ear for, no heart for, no affinity with things of the spirit and of the soul, religion, God, the church, none at all; whereas Jacob, underneath that duplicity, and that chicanery, and that bargaining, and that grasping, Jacob underneath had an infinite capacity for God – for things spiritual, for things unseen, for the other world, for faith – for the covenant promises of God [Genesis 28:10-22].
Let me illustrate that. You can take a stone, a little rock, and put it in a flower pot; and you can water it, and water it, and cultivate it, and fertilize it, and let God’s sun shine upon it; and you can watch it and wait upon it, and watch it and wait, and after years and years it will still be a stone, an Esau. But you can take a seed that has on the inside of it the affinities for life, put it in that pot, water it, fertilize it, let God’s warm sunshine beam upon it, and it will grow unto the Lord. People are like that. There are people who are Esaus, however they hear the sermon, however they are subjected to spiritual influences, however the great covenant calls of God, they are in this world; their minds, their hearts, their souls, their lives are enmeshed with things here below. And however you may weep, and cry, and plead, and beg, they live and they die Esaus; they never respond. They are as cold and as dead to the spiritual appeals of our Savior as is a cold hard stone. But there are people – and this is the thing that gives you hope, that makes you pray – there are people that on the outside may be as far away and as filled with fault and failure as Jacob was, but underneath and on the inside and way down there deep where you can’t see it, there is an infinite capacity for Almighty God; he’s a Jacob. Wait and pray, and that God-given affinity some of these days will be an amazement to you and to the world. This boy so indifferent, this boy sometimes so prodigal, this lad sometimes so far away will amaze you. Jacob is turned into the prince of God. Jacob is become Israel. Why, he may be a preacher, he may be God’s finest pillar, he may be God’s great layman. Surprise you – you’ll be amazed! Some are Esaus: they never turn, they never see, they never lift up their eyes to the Eternal; they live in this world. But some are Jacobs: they become the princes of God.
All right now, let’s follow this through. We will never get out of this Book of Genesis if we don’t start following it through. Now we’re going to take first the birthright, what is that? The birthright: now you have the story here, and we won’t take time to read it again. Jacob, you know, is cooking pottage – lentils, red lentils, very savory and acceptable – and Esau comes in from the field and from the chase and faint with hunger, he makes a trade with Jacob. If Jacob will give him the pottage, Esau will give to Jacob the birthright [Genesis 25:29-33]. What is that birthright? Well, bless you! I never in my life got into anything as hard as "the birthright" and "the blessing" [Genesis 27:28-29]. Now you just think that’d be so simple, and you just wouldn’t have any trouble at that, but I have. And I have for years; I’ve had trouble with that birthright and blessing. What is the birthright? And what is the blessing?
First, Jacob trades for the birthright [Genesis 25:29-33]. And then, if God will give us time this morning, he got also through his mother Rebekah the blessing [Genesis 27:4-29]. Well, what is the birthright? Was it prosperity? Was it temporal affluence? Was it? What was the birthright? Now, Esau got, I mean, Esau lost the birthright; he traded it away, he gave it to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of soup, a mess of pottage, a cooking of lentils. Now Esau lost it; he didn’t have the birthright. Then I know that the birthright has nothing to do with affluence, and prosperity, and wealth, and this world’s goods because Esau became rich beyond compare. He even had a retainer of four hundred armed men just to accompany him around! [Genesis 33:1]. And he was rich, far beyond Jacob ever thought to be. When Jacob gave him such wonderful marvelous gifts, Esau sent them all back [Genesis 33:1-9] – "Here I am with millions, you think I’m persuaded by these dollars? Here I am with thousands and thousands of flocks and herds, you think I am to be persuaded by these a few sheep and cattle?" He was very wealthy, and very famous. He was the chieftain of a great clan; he was the father of twelve dukes; he was the founder of a great house, the Edomites [Genesis 36:1-43]. It has nothing to do, the birthright, therefore, with affluence, prosperity, advancement in this world, because Esau lost it, and yet he was one of the richest, and noblest, and most famous founders of nations; Esau.
All right, now let’s take the other side of it. The birthright: was the birthright freedom from sorrow, and trial, and pain? No, because Jacob got it! Jacob won it, he possessed it [Genesis 25:29-33], but whereas Esau lived an entire life of nobility, and grandeur, and affluence, and prosperity, and came down to old age having lived a full and rich life, Jacob’s life was nothing but one succession of sorrow after another. As a young man, with his staff, he is torn away from his father’s home [Genesis 27:41-28:5]. The years of his manhood are spent in servitude to a kinsman [Genesis 29:15-31:17]. We see him limping on his thigh, bowing before Esau, at the mercy of the strong hand of his brother [Genesis 32:31-33:3]. He’s bereft of his favorite wife, Rachel [Genesis 35:16, 19], he’s bereft of his beloved Joseph [Genesis 37:33-35]; then of Simeon [Genesis 42:24-36], then of Benjamin [Genesis 43:14]. He said when he came to Egypt and Pharaoh asked him, "Few have been the years of my pilgrimage, and full of evil" [Genesis 47:9]; and the life that breathed itself out in a hieroglyph chamber in the land of Pharaohs was one of sadness and sorrow. So the birthright had nothing to do with freedom from sorrow, and trial, and pain.
Isn’t that hard for us to get in our heads? "I am a Christian now; therefore I shall not have to drink the bitter cup. I am a Christian now; I am delivered from all of the tears, and woes, and sorrows of this life." Isn’t that a strange thing how we have been deluded? No, sir! "Lord, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from Me: but not My will be done" [Matthew 26:39]; and He drank the bitter cup to its dregs [John 18:11]. "This is the cup of the Christian covenant, the new covenant in My blood" [Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:25].
You are in a warfare; you are a pilgrim, you are a stranger in this world. Then what is the birthright? Bless you! The birthright is the glory, the birthright is the covenant, the birthright is the promises, the birthright was to be the spiritual leader of the tribe, of the clan. The birthright is the custodian of the divine mysteries, the holy secrets of God. And the blessing was to be the father, the progenitor, of Him who is to come, the Lord Savior, the Shiloh, the Messiah [Genesis :10].
Now I want to show that to you. Turn to the Book of Chronicles, the fifth chapter of the Book of Chronicles. You can mark it in your Bible. First Chronicles, right in the middle of your – no, about a third of the way through the Bible, 1 Chronicles, the fifth chapter. Now let’s look at it: 1 Chronicles 5: "Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel," the first child, "Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel," he should have received the birthright, and he should have received the blessing, Reuben:
For he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s.
[1 Chronicles 5:1-2]
Now, this is what that means: Jacob got both of them, the birthright [Genesis 25:29-33], and the blessing [Genesis 27:28-29], he had both of them; and Israel, Jacob, divided the two; and the birthright he gave to Joseph, the spiritual leader of the people, the head of the clan [1 Chronicles 5:1-2]. When a boy had the birthright, everything that could be divided was divided, but they didn’t divide up an inheritance like we do today; but it was kept intact, all the land was kept intact, and all the flocks and herds were kept intact. And who had the birthright was the head of the tribe of the clan, and was responsible for all the household, the younger children, the sons, and the daughters. Now that was Joseph’s; Joseph received the birthright [1 Chronicles 5:2]. He, under the loving hand of his father, was given the tutelage and the care of the children of Israel. Joseph had the birthright. Judah received the blessing. That is, "a lawgiver shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh come" [Genesis :10]. Judah prevailed above his brethren. Reuben should have received it and was rejected [Genesis :3-4]; Simeon was next, should have received it and was rejected; Levi was next, should have received it and was rejected [Genesis :5-7]; Judah was next, and he received it. Judah is to be the one who shall have a government until Shiloh come, and the Messiah shall be of Judah, and the kingdom shall be of Judah [Genesis :8-10]. Jesse, and David, and Solomon are of Judah; and Jesus Christ is of Judah [Matthew 1:1-16]. So when Jacob received the birthright [Genesis 25:29-33], he received the divine covenants and the divine promises given to Abraham and to Isaac [Genesis 27:28-29]; he is the repository of God’s mysteries and God’s sovereign promises [Romans 9:4]. And when he received the blessing [Genesis 27:28-29], he became the recipient of that life that shall continue forever and ever [Romans 9:5, 11:15], for David shall have upon his throne a Son who shall abide and reign forever" [2 Samuel 7:16], and they were given to Jacob [Genesis 48:3-4].
So may I go back now? When there was the barter between Esau and Jacob [Genesis 25:29-33], he was trading the temporal for the eternal, the here and now for the promises of God by and by [Hebrews 12:16]. You just can’t help when you read these stories, but want to say to Esau, "Esau, have you considered well? Have you, Esau?" And as I transport my soul back to that day, and then look all around me, I want to make the same appeal again and again: "Oh, young man! Are you considering well?" Forgetting the eternal, forgetting the unsaved, forgetting God, and living for the here and the now? "Have you considered well?" That’s Esau, "I’d rather have it now. I’d rather live it up now. I’d rather found it now. As for God, and Christ, and the church, and the Lord, and the promises, and the covenants, and the hereafter and the eternal, let them perish. As for me, I’m taking it now." Most of the world does, I know. But the people who live forever are not the Esaus, they die with the dying world [Galatians 6:8]. The people who live forever are the Jacobs, who have eyes for the unseen, who have hearts for the things of God, "who confess themselves strangers and pilgrims in the earth," who inherit the birthright and the blessing [Hebrews 11:13-16].
Now I haven’t time. I tell you, I’ll take time next Sunday morning. I want to speak on that exceeding bitter cry. And we will do it next Sunday morning. I have just now got to that. And rather than forgo it, we will speak of it briefly next Sunday morning, and then go on.
Now, Mr. Souther, let’s sing our song. And while we sing it, somebody give his heart to the Lord, somebody put his life in the church; a family you, or one somebody you, anywhere, while we make the appeal, you come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing together.
THE EXCEEDING BITTER CRY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Hebrews 12:16-17, Genesis 27:34
I. Esau and Jacob – twins, but brothers never differed more(Genesis 25:24-28)
A. Differed in appearance
1. Esau – rough, ruddy, hairy, strong
2. Jacob – smooth of skin, slight of build
B. Differed in pursuits
1. Esau a cunning hunter, loved the outdoors
2. Jacob loved the uneventful pastoral life, a shepherd
C. Differed mostly in character
1. Esau – rough, but honest; impulsive and impetuous, but quick to forgive; affectionate son; had no heart for things of the spirit and soul, lived only for the day
2. Jacob – a capacity for God, for the spiritual, eternal; under the craft and duplicity a capacity for faith
II. The birthright(Genesis 25:29-34)
A. Not worldly prosperity
1. Esau lost it, yet had an abundant future(Genesis 33:1-9)
B. Not immunity for sorrow, trial
1. Jacob secured it, yet his life nothing but one sorrow after another(Genesis 47:9)
2. Difficult for us to understand (Matthew 26:39, 1 Corinthians 11:25)
C. A spiritual heritage – the covenants of Abraham and Isaac; the spiritual head of the family, tribe; custodian of divine mysteries
III. The blessing(Genesis 27:1-40)
A. The blessing was to be the father of Him who is to come, the Savior
B. Jacob received both birthright and blessing; divided them(1 Chronicles 5:1-2, 2 Samuel 7:16)
1. Birthright he gave to Joseph
2. Blessing he gave to Judah(Genesis :10)
C. The barter between Esau and Jacob
1. Traded the eternal for the temporal(Genesis 25:29-33)
2. The people who live forever are the Jacobs, who have hearts for the things of God(Hebrews 11:13-16)