"Esau despised his birthright." Genesis 25:34
Read the annals of the world. They exhibit sinful parents
and their sinful sons. Read the annals of God's chosen seed. It is not an
unblemished page. The graceless sit in families of grace. Faith flows not in
the stream of human blood. The saints are "born not of blood, nor of the
will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:13.
Behold the family of Isaac. The members are few. Twin
sons share their parent's love. We cannot doubt, that childhood's culture
was the same to both. Each would be similarly taught the fear and love of
God. But one was a child of darkness--one of light. The Spirit sounds a
clear note, "Was not Esau Jacob's brother? says the Lord--yet I loved Jacob,
and I hated Esau." Mal. 1:2, 3.
Early they show most diverse tastes. Esau's delight was
in the fields. Robust exercise was his delight. It was his joy to climb the
mountain and to scour the plain. His venison fed Isaac with dainty fare. The
quiet Jacob cared not to leave the tents. Near to his home he watched the
flocks. He lived beneath the mother's eye, and thus secured the mother's
heart. She, also, would often ponder the divine announcement, "The elder
shall serve the younger." Genesis 25:23. She would anticipate her beloved's
sure pre-eminence. Such the domestic picture of the patriarch's home.
A memorable day arrives. Jacob had gathered some red
beans, and had boiled them into porridge. Esau suddenly appears, faint from
the chase, and ravenous for food. The lentils are prepared. His appetite is
keen. Desire is strong. His strength is exhausted.
Rapidly--impatiently--voraciously he cries, "I'm starved! Give me some of
that red stew you've made." verse 30. Jacob's besetting sin quickly appears.
He presents no generous gift. He shows no readiness to renovate his worn-out
brother. His thought is wholly selfish. He keenly marks his opportunity. He
coldly trades with his advantage. He makes unnatural merchandise of his red
stew. He knows the birthright is with the elder. But now he can tempt the
elder to surrender it. His lips frame the base proposal, "Sell me this day
your birthright." verse 31.
The weary Esau took counsel only of weak flesh. He felt
his strength was quivering in life's socket. "Behold I am at the point to
die." Without this food I must expire. The birthright cannot extend my days.
I speedily go hence, "and what profit shall this birthright do to me?" verse
32. The calculating Jacob urges his famished brother. The barter must have
the ratification of oath. "Swear to me this day." Hesitation ceases.
Appetite prevails. "He swore unto him--and he sold his birthright unto
Jacob." verse 33.
The base bargain is complete. Jacob gives payment of his
bread and stew. The profane Esau greedily devours. He gives no sign of
penitence or shame. He shows no grief for his degraded state. He mourns not
his primogeniture thus lost. He is as lighthearted as before. "He did eat
and drink, and rose up, and went his way." verse 34. He bears, indeed,
another name to mark the transaction. "Therefore was his name called Edom."
verse 30. "Thus Esau despised his birthright." verse 34.
What is God's verdict of this deed? The Holy
Spirit is not silent. He brands it as "godless." It bears forever the stigma
of impious disdain of sacred privilege. It is black with the guilt of
trampling holy things beneath the foot of scorn. "Make sure that no one is
immoral or godless like Esau. He traded his birthright as the oldest
son for a single meal." Hebrews 12:16
What were these rights of the first-born? Scripture gives
clear intimations. There was temporal pre-eminence. He was endowed with a
double portion of territorial possession. There were, moreover, spiritual
privileges. In patriarchal family the firstborn had distinguished dignity.
He was reverenced as ruler in the house. To him belonged the teacher's
chair. And until Divine appointment limited the priestly office to the line
of Aaron, he discharged the holy functions of religion. These rights were
heaven's own grant, and therefore to be highly prized. Rashly to relinquish
them was to disdain the ordinance of God. It was profane to think lightly of
But in the family of Abraham the birthright granted much
more. The wondrous promise of Canaan was linked to it. The firstborn was the
heir of this domain. The spiritual import of this land was seen by faith.
"All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them,
but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God. They
agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth. And
obviously people who talk like that are looking forward to a country they
can call their own. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly
homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has
prepared a heavenly city for them." Hebrews 11:13-14, 16. Thus to despise
the birthright involved contempt of the celestial kingdom.
There was more than this. "In your seed shall all the
nations of the earth be blessed." Genesis 22:18. The great Redeemer shall be
Abraham's lineal offspring. When the grand Deliverer shall arise to roll
back the curse--to cancel sin--to give adoption to God's family--to perfect
salvation, He shall be Abraham's heir. Oh! wondrous privilege! Oh!
transcendent pre-eminence! To be progenitor of a long line of mighty
monarchs is an empty bubble compared to such glory. To sell the birthright
is to barter more than angelic honor!
Thus Esau was godless. We read--we marvel--we pity--we
condemn. We reason, surely never was folly like this folly! This sin
surpasses sin! But, Reader! perhaps you are this man. The race of Esau yet
lives, and will live, until the Lord returns. Do not multitudes profanely
scorn the glorious privileges and prospects of Christ's Gospel? He calls by
the ministry. He invites in the Word. They care not to hear. He sends
repeated messages to tell of the rich inheritance. "They despise the
pleasant land. They believe not his word." Ps. 106:24. Ambassadors cry
aloud. "We beseech you in Christ's stead." They respond, No, no, we rather
choose earth's emptiest pottage. Ah! fools! Ah! worse than fools!
If any Esau should read this page, may the Beacon touch
his besotted heart! May the good Spirit open his eyes to see the riches of
the glory which is thus scorned! It is a noble prayer, "That the God of our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of
wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him--the eyes of your
understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His
calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
Eph. 1:17, 18. Let us not cease to press the petition until the answer fully
come. The prospect is a boundless ocean of supremest joys. The eye is
dazzled. No tongue of men or angels can tell the half. The believer feels,
but his full heart cannot give utterance.
Among these treasures, the most sparkling gem is total
obliteration of all sin. Who can tell the ecstatic rapture to an
accusing mind to know that the blood of the Cross thoroughly wipes out every
stain! Who can depict the relief to a burdened conscience, when the
assurance comes, that the all-searching eye no more discerns a speck of
guilt! Ten thousand worlds are dust, compared to the faithful saying,
"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow--though they be
red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isa. 1:18; and again, "I will
forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jer. 31:34.
In the catalogue other blessings without number shine.
There is refuge from the law's tremendous curse. This curse is
rightly due to every breach of the pure code of love. But it is all expended
on the surety-head of Jesus. The avenging sword is buried in His breast.
Heaven is now thrown open, and it is a blaze of love. There is the joy of
reconciliation--the serene delight of looking up to God, as a Father
arrayed in loving smiles. There is adoption into His family. There is
no more distance or estrangement, but heirdom of heaven--joint-heirdom with
To believers the pledge is given, "All things are
yours--things present and things to come." Life is yours, that you
may receive grace. Death is yours, that you may be crowned with
glory. Providences are yours, that all things may work together for
your good. Angels are yours, to encamp around your path, and to
render unseen, but not less certain, ministry. A throne of grace is
yours, that you may boldly tell out all your fears, and all your need, and
find supplies of mercy and support. The glorious Word is yours, to
teach--to warn--to comfort. All the precious promises are yours--at
every moment inviting you to the brightest of bright prospects. God's
righteousness is yours, to cover all your defilement. It is so pure,
that Omniscience can discern no flaw. It is so worthy, that God throughout
eternity cannot sufficiently reward. The Holy Spirit is yours, to
open your eyes to your own deformity--to reveal the full glories of the
great Redeemer--to unstop your ears to hear His wooing voice--to expand your
heart to receive Him in all His fullness--to quicken you to serve Him with
all your powers--to strengthen you to resist temptation's wiles--and to love
holiness with all your soul and might. What can a sinner need, which shines
not in the Gospel! What can God bestow, which is not pledged and laid up in
Jesus for all who cleave to Him in faith!
Reader! despise not such inestimable good. Barter it not
for unsubstantial pleasures, which perish while you touch. What can present
a rivalry? Is it the allurement of sense? They who grovel in such
mire, sink to the level of the beasts and brutes. Are you tempted by the
glittering bait of earthly honor--are you seeking to touch the
pinnacle of human fame, and to receive the incense of poor man's applause?
Do riches captivate? Bring forth the righteous scales. In one heap
all these baubles. Pile them up high. Let all the glory of the world be
gathered. In the other place "the unsearchable riches of Christ"--"the
exceeding weight of glory"--"the pleasures at God's right hand for
evermore"--"the righteous crown, which fades not away." Say, which scale
Sell not such wealth for a mere nothing. Suppose you gain
these worldly trifles to the utmost limit of desire. Suppose your cup of
honors, wealth, and sensual joys to overflow. How long will the possession
please? Sickness--disease--appear. Means of enjoyment fail. The airy phantom
vanishes. The bubble bursts. Misery bewails, "I have grasped a shadow."
Let it be granted, that you quaff this goblet with
strength unimpaired through years of marvelous extent. But what is the
longest life?--a span--a hair's-breadth--a vapor. What is your final profit?
Think of the death-bed without hope--the grave without redemption--the
judgment-seat without a plea for pardon--eternity without salvation--the
soul departing without Christ. Think of the never-dying anguish--the
tortures of the upbraiding conscience. Ah! the bitterness of the reflection,
'Once the cross was erected in my view, and Christ was preached, and heaven
depicted. But I despised the Gospel-tidings. I bartered my soul, and scorned
the heavenly portion.'
Remember, also, your choice is free. The tempter may
tempt--but he cannot compel. Seductions may be strong--but motives to resist
are stronger far. You are self-slain when you prefer the pottage to Christ.
Jesus drags to light self-will as the misleading traitor, "You WILL not come
unto me that you might have life." John 5:40. It is your deliberate cry,
"Not this man, but Barabbas." Not Christ--not holiness--not heaven--but this
world, and this world's flimsy tinsel.
Esau speaks once more. It is a voice of keenest anguish.
Rebekah and Jacob conspire to rob him of his father's blessing. When he knew
his loss, "he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his
father, Bless me, even me also, O my father. Have you but one blessing, O my
father? bless me, even me also, O my father; and Esau lifted up his voice,
and wept." Genesis 27:34-38. It is now too late. "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." Heb. 12:17.
The hour will come when the door of mercy will be
shut--when the gates of blessing can no more open--when prayer is no more
heard--when wrestling entreaties avail nothing--when tears no more can move,
"Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me
early, but they shall not find me." Prov. 1:28. But that day is not yet
fully come. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Rev. 3:20. Open
quickly. Tomorrow it may be too late. Another call invites you. Heed it. Oh,
heed it. It may be the last.