Selling Our Birthright

Intro: Sometimes people become best known to others by their connection with their brother or sister. It is easy to compare siblings. In college I was known as Mike Schmidt’s little brother. I didn’t resent that. At least I had an identity.

What is your perception of Esau? He is not a prominent character of the Bible text. We do not know much about his life as a whole. He is mentioned 92 times in scripture. It would appear that our perception of him is derived from just a few events in Genesis. Most of what we know of him comes from his interaction with his brother, Jacob.

He typifies one who has a great advantage, physically and spiritually, but his choices rob him of the blessings God could bestow upon him. In the story of redemption. He does not become what he could have become.

1. Firstborn son of Isaac and Rebekah, twin brother of Jacob. He was especially loved by his father Isaac. He was also a skillful hunter – Gen 25:27-2827 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

2. Esau was a man who had his good side. In the end he showed kindness to his brother who had deceived him.

3. But there are a couple of events that seem to define Esau’s life, physically and spiritually. Esau was one who was taken advantage of. He was manipulated by his brother, Jacob.

a. This is especially seen in the events of Genesis 27. Near the end of Isaac’s life, Jacob masqueraded as Esau, his brother, and literally stole his father’s blessing. After realizing that Jacob had fooled him, Jacob said to Esau, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing. And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” (Gen 27:35-36)

b. But the first occasion of Jacob’s deceit says much about Esau’s culpability in his own problems. Jacob supplanted him, but Esau also made his own choices. 

I. The Value of Esau’s Birthright: Although Esau was one of a set of twins, he was technically older than Jacob. As such he was entitled to the family birthright. There were both physical and spiritual advantages.

A. The physical advantage of the birthright included a double portion of the father’s physical inheritance. The amount would have been very great considering how much he did receive. Gen 36:7 – For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock.

B. The spiritual advantage of this particular birthright included the right of the firstborn to rule as the patriarch and priest of the house at the death of his father. This son has the ability to invoke the blessing of Abraham, regarding the three-fold promise. It was through his family that God would fulfill his promises. Such were the issues at stake when Jacob and Esau bartered over the birthright.

II. Esau’s Bad Bargain: Gen 25:29-34 – 29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary.30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

A. After recognizing the value of what he possessed it may be difficult for us to understand what happens here. Why would he trade it for a pot of stew? There are some important considerations here.

1. The urgency of the moment: The circumstance played a vital part in the choice that he made. He was very hungry. In fact, he tells us his state of mind when he says that if he does not make this trade he will die from hunger.· Gen 25:32 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”

a. I doubt that this was true, but Esau believed it to be so. In his mind, he had no choice. We often are so impacted by what is happening at that moment, that we are deceived into thinking that it we do not do something to change these events nothing else will matter. We are driven by the urgency of the moment.

b. Sometimes we find out later that we were wrong. That event or need was not all that imperative after all. This type of decision-making is fraught with regrets.

2. Esau chose the sensual over the spiritual. He was judging everything by how he felt. Because he was guided only by the physical, the writer of Hebrews typifies Esau as a profane man. Heb 12:16lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.

a. Barnes says… The word “profane” here refers to one who by word or conduct treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for what is sacred. This may be shown by words; by the manner; by a sneer; by neglect of religion; or by openly renouncing the privileges which might be connected with our salvation. The allusion here is to one who should openly cast off all the hopes of religion for indulgence in temporary pleasure, as Esau gave up his birthright for a trifling gratification.

3. Esau chose the present over the future. If his perception was true, then his choice was not so foolhardy. What good is a birthright if a person is dead?

a. But in reality, He tossed away future rewards for present gratification. This so typifies our generation. WE are so focused on present pleasure. Anything that is unpleasant must be remedied NOW. Compare this with the decision of faith of Moses mentioned one chapter earlier on Hebrews. Heb 11:24-2724 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

B. Certainly we would not think of making the same kind of bargain, would we? Perhaps not with an inheritance we might receive from our parents; but what of our spiritual inheritance?

III. Are we selling our birthright for a pot of stew? This becomes the important question of this story.

A. We have a birthright. The NT describes the spiritual blessing we enjoy through Christ as an inheritance from God. We are adopted into the family of God through Christ.

1. We are heirs according to the promise made to Abraham – Gal 3:29 – 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

2. We are joint-heirs with Christ – Rom 8:16-17 – 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

3. We are heirs according to the hope of eternal life –Titus 3:7 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

4. 1 Peter 1:3-43 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, Thus our birthright has enormous value, reaching beyond this life. Mark 10:28-30 – 28 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So Jesus answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time– houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions– and in the age to come, eternal life. 

Will you sell it for anything this life has to offer?

B. How can we sell our birthright?

1. By choosing to pursue the material blessings of this life to the neglect of our spiritual growth. John warns us not to “love the things of the world”.

a. It is always a challenge for us to choose spiritual things because the urgent need of the physical is so intense – “I am about to die”.

b. We neglect to worship God and give Him thanks for what He has done for us. We easily forsake the things that will strengthen us spiritually, but will spend a lot to improve our careers.

c. Over a period of time we may lose our appreciation for the spiritual things that God provides.

Conclusion: If we are not careful, the time will come when it is too late; no matter how many tears we may shed, the consequences of the choices we make may be irreversible. After Esau lost the blessing to Jacob, he sought to get it back, but it was too late. Heb 12:14-17 – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

The writer reminds the Hebrew Christians about the eventual remorse of Esau. He was sorry for what he had allowed to slip away. He looked for away to undo it but there was none. Some attempt to explain the hopelessness of this passage by concluding the Esau did not really repent.

Certainly if we were talking about salvation, Esau could have found a place for forgiveness if he repented. But salvation is not what is under discussion. Esau’s transaction involved his place as the firtstborn and the recipient of the blessing from his father. That could not be undone.

I like one commentator’s remarks here: What is taught by the example of Esau is the fact that, if one becomes a root of bitterness and defiles many others, although he repent, no repentance of his will ever revoke the damage he will have done to others. A terrible thing for anyone who is still Christian as the readers are to contemplate! M (from New Testament Commentaries, by R. C. H. Lenski, Copyright © 1961 by Augsburg Publishing House. All rights reserved.)

The wise man said, “buy the truth and sell it not.” Do you know the value of what you have from God – don’t abandon it. If you are not a Christian, you have no right of inheritance.

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