A Foolish Exchange

15 01 2008

It hit me so hard.  What was Esau thinking?!  Here he is, the first born in a family line like no other, and that means nothing to him?!  I mean, think about the man’s lineage.  He is the grandson of Abraham, the Abraham, the one whom God had promised to bless unfathomably and to make a blessing to all the nations.  Take a moment to reflect on all the family lines of human history…. ok, done?  Now realize that there is no family line that compares to this one; no family line compares to Esau’s!  And the overwhelming blessing of this family line, a blessing that God had bestowed on Abraham and had continued on to Isaac would be heading straight for Isaac’s firstborn.  Didn’t Esau realize what he was a part of?!  Didn’t he see he was next in line for a heap of glorious, gracious blessing?  Nope.

Genesis 25:34 says “Esau despised his birthright.”  Esau, as the firstborn, was in the position to receive the birthright, to be the priest of the family, to receive a double portion of the inheritance, to step into the next position in line behind his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac.  Was this a big deal to Esau? Not when put to the test.

You remember the story.  Esau has been out and about, hunting in the fields.  He finally arrives back at the ranch and he’s famished.  He’s so hungry he thinks he could die.  And what does he find? 

He discovers His little brother boiling a nice pot of stew.  The scent fills Esau’s nostrils and inflames the burning hunger of his empty stomach.  And so he does what any hungry man would do. He asks “can I have some of that stuff?” 

However, Esau has a very ‘unbrotherly’ brother, who promptly informs him, “it is gonna cost you.” Esau is confronted with a choice; he finds himself in the middle of exam day in the school of faith.  If he really wants the stew, he is going to have to give up his prime position as next in line, his position as the heir of God’s wondrous blessing.  He’ll have to lay down his birthright before he can pick up the stew spoon.  So, what goes through Esau’s mind at that moment? 

Behold, I am about to die; so of what then is the birthright to me?” (Gen. 25:32)

It makes sense, doesn’t it?  I mean, what use is a double portion of the inheritance to a dead man?  Esau’s decision makes perfect sense if you leave God out of the equation, and that is the problem.  If Esau would have valued his birthright -his position as next in line in the stream of God’s rich blessing- he would have responded to this test with faith, knowing God would not abandon His chosen one to death.  But that thought never seems to have crossed old Esau’s brain. 

So, back to the question: “What was he thinking?”  Obviously not “God is more precious to me than all else.”  Obviously not “I am his and he will always provide.”  No.  He traded the spiritual and eternal for a mess of stew.  His decision sprang from a faithless heart. This is why he is later described as “immoral and godless” (Hebrews 12:16). What a fool.

And so am I.  The story of Esau’s faithlessness becomes a mirror to reveal my own.  I too have a “birthright.”  I am a child of the King.  He is my Fount of Blessing, my Stronghold and Refuge, the One in whom I can absolutely and always trust.  Yet when presented with the bobbles and trinkets of Vanity Fair, how often do I say with Esau “what good is this birthright when I can have the instant satisfaction of heaping bowling of worldly stew?”

As believers we are confronted daily with a decision similar to Esau’s.  Will we realize who we are and cling to what we’ve been given or will we catch a whif of temporal satisfaction and “despise our birthright”?  To have the Everything and yet value the nothings… what a foolish exchange!




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