The concept of a birthright is important throughout the scriptures. In the old testament birthright determined everything from the portion of your inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:15-17) to judicial and familial position. (II Chronicles 21:3) In Genesis 25:19-34 we are given the account of Jacob and Esau. The passage that is of particular interest to us is found in verses 27 – 34.
And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:27-34
Up to this point in his life we really know little about Esau. We do know that he was a man of the field. As the story unfolds we quickly find out that he did not have his priorities straight. He did not value his birthright as much as he should have. We only need to take a quick look at his birthright to understand this. As the first born son of Isaac his inheritance was the inheritance that was given to Abraham from the Lord. (Genesis 12:1-4, Genesis 13:14-18, Genesis 17:1-9)
Esau’s inheritance included:
Your descendants will become a great nation.
The Lord would bless those who blessed him, and curse those who cursed him.
The land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.
Kings would come from his offspring.
The Messiah would come from his lineage.
This is not an insignificant inheritance to give up. Rather it is an inheritance to be prized! Yet Esau was willing to part with it for convenience.
What was Esau’s price?
Here Esau is, coming in from the field. He is hungry. It is difficult to say how long he had been without food. That he was in a great deal of discomfort their is no doubt. He certainly was not on the point of death. We know that he was “faint” verse 29, but he was able to make it home on his own power. Further, if he had been willing to wait no doubt someone from his father’s house would have prepared him a meal. Was his birthright really worth the food? Let’s set the scenario in this manner. On one hand we have Esau’s birthright, and all that entailed. On the other we have one meal. Is it really worth it? Ok, he was hungry. Let’s make Jacob the best cook in the world, and he had prepared Esau’s favorite meal. Is the meal worth it now? The resounding answer is still NO! With good reason the scriptures say that he despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:34)
What is your price?
As Christians we have been given an invaluable birthright. A birthright that is of much greater value than Esau’s! Romans 8: 14-17 tell us that we fellow heirs with Christ Jesus! As a result we have an inheritance that is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14). Our inheritance is an eternal (I Peter 1:3-4) kingdom (Matthew 25:34). My favorite passage concerning the wonders of our inheritance is I Corinthians 2:9
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
This verse tells me that: Nothing we have seen will be like it. Nothing that we have heard will be like it. Finally, nothing that we, in our amazing capacity to dream up amazing and wonderful things, can even come close to the reality that is prepared for us!
The Christians Inheritance Includes:
Fellow heirs with Christ Jesus.
An eternal kingdom that is better than we can ever imagine.
What is that worth? Esau traded his inheritance for a little food. Yet when we choose to sin aren’t we doing the same? In fact isn’t our decision really worse than Esau’s?
Jesus says: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul” – Matthew 16:24-26
What will you give in exchange for your soul? This is something to keep in mind when we are tempted. Is this thing that I want to do, no matter how badly, is it really worth my eternal salvation? If we give in we are no better that Esau, trading our eternal inheritance for a bowl of soup. It probably didn’t take Esau an hour to eat his fill of his brother’s stew. His satisfaction was no doubt fleeting, because he had to eat again! In fact he probably had to eat again in a few hours. So, was the food that gave him respite from hunger for a few hours really worth his inheritance? Esau’s example really is apt! In the moment of our temptation we, like Esau, are often willing to give up anything for the object of our desire. We must be very careful not to follow in his example. Nothing in this world is worth our eternal inheritance! We might as well be selling our inheritance for something equally as worthless as a bowl of soup. “For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” (Hebrews 12:17) Let us not be deceived! Every temptation matters for it might be our last! We may have no chance to repent.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.