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In Genesis 25 we have recorded the birth of twins named Esau and Jacob. Jacob came out on the heels of Esau and was called the ‘heelgrasper.’ His name was indicative of his character which meant ‘deceiver.’ His deceitful and selfish heart was revealed further in chapter 27 where it records his conniving means of robbing his brother Esau of his birthright. From then on his life was full of disappointment and punishment. The law that teaches that one will not only reap what they sow but more than they sow was validated in his life thereafter. Jacob was quite a shady and deceitful character until his experience with God at Jabbok where he confessed his deceitful nature and was transformed from Jacob to Israel which means ‘power with God.’
However for the purpose of this article I’d like for us to focus on his brother Esau and see what lessons we can learn from one who thought so little of his birthright that he was willing to sell it for some red stew. Esau was known as the outdoorsman, a sportsman, a hunter. He was said to be a hairy man with a ruddy complexion and he was favored by his father Isaac. Genesis 25:28 reads, “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” When his father Isaac was old and his eyes were dim and death was near he requested that Esau go on a hunt for savory meat, perhaps some venison, and he would give him the birthright blessing before he died. But Esau had already sold his birthright to Jacob. The verse that speaks very loudly of Esau’s character is recorded in Genesis 25: 32 when Jacob requested he give him the birthright blessing before he would give Esau his red stew. “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” His uncontrollable appetite was preferred over his birthright.
Here we get a clear picture of one who had no self-control only self-interest. He measured everything by its immediate gratification. Self indulgence took priority and precedence over what seemed to be distant and unreal. He was so obsessed with satisfying the lust of the flesh that he counted his birthright of little value. He lived for the here and now but not for the hereafter. The writer of the Hebrew letter in chapter 12:14-16 calls the believer to pursue holiness which is their spiritual birthright and gives 3 cautionary reasons for failure to pursue holiness. Each reason is preceded by the mono-syllabic word LEST. The final caution uses Esau as an example of one who sold his birthright and he is called a profane person. A ‘profane’ person is a sensual, wicked and secular person. He had a pre-occupation for the horizontal but disdain for the vertical. He rejected the unseen and eternal for the seen and the temporal. His uncontrollable appetite and passion gave him an exaggerated sense of present pleasure because they hold that life has no eternal significance or consequences.
The lessons we can draw from Esau’s example is to live a life of faith. Faith is not blind credulity. “It is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not see.” Faith knows that this short tenure of life we are living here is preparatory for the hereafter. Faith in God brings not only real purpose and meaning to this life but an immediate awareness of our own immortality. If one loses faith in God and his hold on the unseen he loses all that is important in this life as well as the next. He who lives for one world at a time will be a failure in both worlds.
Holiness is the birthright of every born-again child of God. We are admonished not to be obsessed with the passions and cravings of this passing age but rather to pursue diligently a pure heart and a Christ-centered life. In stead of using the rationale of a profane man like Esau who said, “look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” or as the KJV says, “what profit shall this birthright do me?
We ought to ask ourselves, “what profit this mess of pottage (red stew) if I lose my birthright? “What will I profit if I gain the whole world and lose my own soul? What profit momentary gratification of my appetites and passions, if I resign my true self and lose the clear vision of a pure heart? What profit if I make only provisions for the flesh if of the flesh I reap corruption? God help us not to barter away holiness and eternal bliss with our Lord for the cheap pleasures of sin that last only for a season.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully…………lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.”