October 22, 2022
“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, exhausted. He said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, because I’m exhausted.’”
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“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, exhausted. He said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, because I’m exhausted.’ That is why he was also named Edom. (Hebrew: Reddish) Jacob replied, ‘First, sell me your birthright.’” Genesis 25:29-30
I believe Abraham to be a man of struggles and contradictions. He always seemed to live somewhere between faith and faithlessness. With the birth of his twin grandsons, Jacob and Esau, it is as if Abraham’s personal spiritual conflicts were divided between the two. Esau inherited Abraham’s impulsive short-sightedness, but Jacob got Abraham’s deceit. Later we’ll see Esau displaying forgiveness and Jacob leaning on faith.
At first glance, Jacob’s conduct seems to be way out of line: demanding a birthright from a starving man. But on closer examination, we learn that the privileges of birthright that Jacob sought (at that time) were purely spiritual.
In the days of the patriarchs, the head of the clan acted as the family “priest.” The firstborn’s “right by birth order” was to inherit that priestly role unless the firstborn failed to accept his duty. In that case, the birthright could be passed on to the next qualified family member. Esau’s general demeanor was hardly in accord with someone who served the Lord.
It is possible that Jacob suspected his brother did not value the dignity and privilege of being firstborn. Therefore, when the opportunity came along, Jacob determined to put his brother to the test. He fully knew that withholding some stew would not kill Esau. However, he found out what Esau really thought about his priestly role. Esau was willing to trade his right and responsibility unnecessarily. Esau was impulsive, putting his fleshly desires above the family’s spiritual needs. Put simply, Esau was not fit to minister.
Have you ever heard of the “Priesthood of all believers”?
“You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom” 1 Peter 2:9
It is our spiritual “birthright” to minister. (See also: 1 Corinthians 4:1, Revelation 5:10, the book of Hebrews) Upon receiving salvation, all believers are called to minister to the Lord, each other, and those who are yet to believe. Some “believers” reject that notion. Just like Esau, they choose to satisfy the desires of their flesh rather than accept their “birthright” (or rather, “born again” right) to put others first.
What can we learn from Esau? If we reject the call to minister to others, two things will happen: 1) We will miss the blessing of serving, and 2) Someone else will take it and assume the ministry we rejected. God doesn’t need us for His will to be done. But in rejecting our God-given roles, we forfeit the blessing that accompanies obedience in favor of the temporary pleasure of sin, which always leads to the Lord’s rebuke.