The Expository Files

Do Not Sell Your Birthright!

Genesis 25:29-34


When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. (Genesis 25:27). Genesis 25 records the birth of two boys to Isaac and Rebekka. From the very beginning, God said that their  descendants would become two nations. From the start, it seemed as they were struggling against one another in fierce competition.

Esau's descendants did develop into the nation of Edom, while Jacob's, who's name was later changed to Israel, became the nation of Israel. The conflict between the brothers continued into adulthood, and ultimately, the nations that came from them were often at war with one another through the centuries (Numbers 20:14-21; 2 Samuel 8:13-14; 2 Kings 8:20-22).

Many centuries later, Edom was eventually destroyed by decree of God (Isaiah 34:5,6; 63:1; Obadiah 1-21; Malachi 1:3). It became a symbol of the earthly, non spiritual people of the world. People who care little for God and His will, but instead are carnal, greedy, and even treacherous are as the Edomites were, and as their ancestor, Esau, was. Even in the New Testament, Esau is looked upon as a profane person who foolishly squandered his life and the blessings of God, unable or unwilling to appreciate them or truly be thankful for them.

Esau's Birthright
In ancient times, the birthright was a very important and sacred thing. It belonged to the firstborn. The family name and titles were to pass along to the eldest son. He would also receive a chief portion of the inheritance. But it was more than just a title to the physical assets of a family. It was also a spiritual position, and in the case of the people of God, God would lead the family through patriarchs, or fathers (Hebrews 1:1-2). Additionally, in the special case of Esau and Jacob, that meant the one to whom belonged the birthright was the one through who the covenant promise made to their grandfather, Abraham, would be realized. Ultimately, the Messiah would come through the holder of the birthright and bless the nations of the earth. Esau was the firstborn, and the birthright was his. But like many, he failed to appreciate its value and sacredness.

"...When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, 'Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.' Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, 'First sell me your birthright.' Esau said, 'Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?' And Jacob said, 'First swear to me"; 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 on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." (Genesis 25:29-34).

There you have it. For a pot of stew, poor, hungry Esau sold his birthright. Such crass behavior would be a little like selling your wedding ring for a hamburger cause you had not eaten all day, only worse. It tells of Esau's attitude toward the things of God; His purpose and His will. It shows a lack of reverence and respect. It shows the same thing we see in too many people today when it comes to how little they regard the Lord.

Profanity
We do not usually us the word today for what it originally meant. Today, we immediately think of coarse, suggestive, lewd, vulgar language. Well, those things are profanities, but the definition of profane as used in Scripture is much wider than that. It means a lack of holiness. If you take something holy and good, and treat it with contempt, then you have profaned it. To treat the things of God as ordinary is to profane or despise them. It shows a lack of godliness.

And that is what the New Testament says about Esau. He was immoral, and lacked concern for pleasing God. His spiritual  blessings and responsibilities meant nothing to him. The Lord tells us to be sure we are not like Esau in this, that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. (Hebrews 12:16).

But that was another time, another culture and another circumstance. We do not have the same traditions of birthright and our inheritance laws are quite different. No longer does the firstborn become spiritual head of the family. Is there still lessons and applications to be made from this? Definitely, there is!

The Value of Our Inheritance
The fact is, we do wait for a spiritual inheritance. And many think about it at about the same level as Esau thought about his. The lesson could not be more applicable if it came up and bit us on the nose. If we treat God's provisions, His commandments, His will, His purpose and His promises with less than the fervor and appreciation for them that we ought to have, He will hold us accountable for having profaned them.

If we just neglect the things having to do with our inheritance because the common things of this world are so important to us, as important as it was to Esau to have that bowl of stew, then we will be equally guilty before God. Well might we consider the rhetorical question of the Hebrew writer when he asked, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (Hebrews 12:2). Just what do we think one deserves if he or she turns their back on God? How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews
10:29-31).

Perhaps if we are under stress and pressure or duress, God will overlook our profaning our birthright. Don't count on it. There is nothing here worth belittling the value of our eternal blessings in Christ. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18).

The world rushes on today, giving little thought to God and His daily purpose for each of our lives. But we are children of God. Let us never forget, not for an hour, that God and His promises are holy. He expects our lives to reflect that awareness.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 10.7; July 2003

 

 

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