God records the actions and thoughts of various people in the scriptures so that we can learn from these people. We get to see that these are real people dealing with hard problems making real decisions. There are many people who walk by faith and we are going to study some of those people in the upcoming months. There are also those who fail to walk by faith and we are going to look at some of those. More importantly, we see God trying to transform all of these people to become faith-filled followers of him.
The person we are going to study tonight is Esau. One of the things that we read about in Esau’s life is that he had a troubling brother named Jacob. When you read through Genesis you will see that Jacob and his mother Rebekah conspire to take the blessing away from Esau. Isaac has lost his sight and he knows it is time for him to put his affairs in order. So it is time to bless his oldest son, Esau. But Jacob pretends to be Esau and steals the blessing away from his older brother. Now we will talk more about why this happens in future lessons. But I want to keep the focus on Esau for this lesson. We can feel bad for Esau and how he was swindled out of the blessing. But listen to how the writer of Hebrews frames Esau’s life.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15–17 ESV)
Notice the writer of Hebrews does not tell us about poor Esau who was swindled out of the blessing by his brother. Rather, we are told that he desired to inherit the blessing but was rejected. In fact, the writer of Hebrews uses Esau as an example of failing to obtain the grace of God due to his unholiness. So we need to go back and look at what happened in Esau’s life so that we can learn how he failed to obtain the grace of God. Through Esau’s failure we can learn how to inherit the blessing and not be rejected by God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we need to look at what happened before Isaac blessed his sons. So open your copies of God’s word to Genesis 25.
The Exchange (Genesis 25:29-34)
The record of events regarding Jacob and Esau is found in Genesis 25:29-34. We are told that Jacob was cooking stew and his brother Esau came in from the field exhausted and famished. Esau asks to eat some of the red stew because he is famished. Jacob says that he can have the stew if he sells him his birthright. Now we need to have a clear understanding of the birthright to understand this potential exchange. When you hear the birthright, I want you to think of the inheritance. There are two key facets to this inheritance. First, the oldest son would receive a double portion of the inheritance. So in regards to Isaac’s two sons, the inheritance would be divided into thirds and Esau was to receive two portions while Jacob was to receive one portion. Second, the oldest son had firstborn status and would become head of the family when the father died.
With this in mind, think about this transaction offer. I will sell you a meal of red stew if you give me your inheritance rights and rights to carry on the family name as its head. It is a ridiculous consideration. I want you to trade all of your future rights for a single meal today. But look at verse 32. Esau says that he is about to die and the birthright is no good to him right now. How in the world do you make this exchange? How do you sell your whole future hope for a momentary meal? But this is exactly what Esau did. Verse 34 tells us how you make this kind of decision. Verse 34 says that Esau despised his birthright. The only way you can make this trade is if you do not value the promised inheritance. He showed contempt for what was promised to him and would rather have something now in the moment.
Desiring the Blessing (Genesis 27)
I want to return the message the writer of Hebrews makes from this event. You will notice that Hebrews 12:16 points out that Esau sold his rights to the inheritance for a single meal. In verse 17 we are told that Esau wants to inherit the blessing. This is recorded for us in Genesis 27. At the beginning of our lesson today I summed up what happened. But let me sum it up again to remind us of the picture. Isaac sends Esau to hunt so that the two of them can have a meal and Isaac will bless him afterward. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, finds out about this and sends in Jacob to steal the blessing, pretending to be Esau because Isaac could no longer see due to his old age. But I want us to think about what the writer of Hebrews points in verse 17. “For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, even though he sought it with tears, because he didn’t find any opportunity for repentance” (CSB).
Notice that we are not told that Esau wanted to inherit the blessing but couldn’t because Jacob stole it, even though he was seeking it with tears. This is what Isaac and Esau think. Listen to what Esau says:
34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me too, my father!”
35 But he replied, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”
36 So he said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me twice now. He took my birthright, and look, now he has taken my blessing.” (Genesis 27:34–36 CSB)
Esau says that Jacob took his birthright. Wait! Did Jacob take his birthright? No, not exactly. Esau, you traded your birthright. You did not value your inheritance rights and traded it for a meal. Jacob did not steal it from you. You gave it away for nearly nothing. You did not prize your inheritance rights. You did not value it for what it is, but Jacob did. Then Esau says that Jacob has now taken his blessing. But the writer of Hebrews says actually that is not quite accurate either. Jacob did not take the blessing from him. God did. Esau wanted the blessing but he was rejected. Why was Esau rejected? The writer of Hebrews says that is was because he showed contempt for his birthright. It did not matter how badly he wanted to be blessed, it was not going to happen because he had despised his birthright.
Now here is the message and then we will make some applications from Esau’s life. Here is the point: do not look for God to bless you when you hold his inheritance promises in contempt. Esau still wanted the blessing even though he had traded away his birthright. The writer of Hebrews is teaching us that it does not work like that. But think about how often we want it to work this way. We want to throw away our eternal inheritance promised to us, living life how we want to live and doing what we want to do, somehow thinking God should still bless us now. Why is God going to bless our lives when we are not living for eternal inheritance? Jesus himself made this very point in the Sermon on the Mount.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
But we want to seek first our desires and our way of righteousness and think that all of God’s blessings will be still added to us. Jesus said that we must seek him and his kingdom first and above all else and then God’s blessings will be added to us. Esau chose the stew and then was surprised that he was rejected from receiving the blessing. To state this another way, we cannot look for the blessing when we do not care about the inheritance.
So what are some applications for transforming our lives? First, do not live for instant gratification because it will rob you of God’s blessings. If you make decisions for the right now in life, you will end up trading the priceless eternal inheritance of God. There are only two ways to live life. You can either live life making decisions for your future eternal inheritance or live life making decisions for your present physical desires. Those are two different life trajectories that requires making different decisions. This is also the point Jesus was making in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23 ESV)
There are going to be so many people who think that they are saved and belong to the kingdom but have gone their own way like Esau. Please do not confuse your fleshly urges with eternal importance. Living for the present will rob us of God’s blessings.
Second, there are decisions we make that forever change the direction of our lives. This is another component of what the writer of Hebrews is teaching about Esau’s decision. Hebrews 12:15 warns us to make sure that we do not fail to obtain the grace of God, being defiled by unholy living. Now come to Hebrews 12:17. Did Esau want the blessing? Yes. He desired it even with tears, which we read in Genesis 27. But he was rejected finding no opportunity for repentance. Esau made a decision that could not be undone. Esau made a decision that had life long ramifications. When you live life not caring about eternity and the inheritance, you are going to make devastating decisions that carry horrible consequences. Sometimes we simply do not think about how our sinful decisions can absolutely ruin everything in our lives now and ruin our futures. There are so many decisions that forever change the course of our lives that cannot be changed no matter what we do and no matter how badly we seek it with tears. We live in a culture right now that thinks we can do what we want without consequences. But this is not reality. Every decision has present physical consequences and future eternal consequences. The decision Esau made about his birthright did not seem to be a big deal at the time. But it changed everything for his life. Choose righteousness so that you are not shut out of God’s blessings.
Finally, let me end the lesson by asking the title of the lesson to each one of us. What is eternity worth? What is the value of eternity? What is the value of your eternal soul? Is your eternal inheritance worth the single meal that the devil is offering to you? We are exchanging the present blessings of God and the future eternal inheritance for a moment of sin. Why would we do this? We will fail to obtain the grace of God if we live like Esau. Will you live for Jesus so that you can have the blessings and the birthright promised to you? Or will you live for yourself and throw away the blessings and the birthright that you could have enjoyed? How sad it will be when eternity comes and we are told that no one took eternity from us but that we simply threw it away! Do not be like Esau.