There are moments in life that define an individual. The story of Esau proves illustrative that one decision can change the trajectory of one’s life. Before we know much about the man, while still in his youth, he is confronted with a decision that will forever characterize himself and his descendants. The lesson of Esau teaches us to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in our lives to make right decisions when those moments of truth arrive.
Genesis 25 is a chapter full of events for the patriarchal family of the promise. We are told concerning Abraham’s death. We see both Isaac and Ishmael bury their father. We read about the sons of Ishmael and their descendants, forming the lineage of the Arab people. Then, we come upon the welcome news of the birth of Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the first-born son, but Jacob literally was always grabbing at his heel! Esau possessed the birthright, but Jacob desired it with intensity. Isaac loved Esau, because the elder son was a skilled hunter. Nonetheless, it was Jacob who would eventually scheme his way into that birthright.
Right after the background description of the twin sons and their relationship to their parents, we are given the account of Esau’s losing the birthright. He had gone out to hunt game, and when he returned, he was extremely hungry. Jacob had prepared a tasty red stew. The aroma of that stew no doubt wafted toward the approaching hunter, and Esau craved nourishment. Esau approached Jacob and said, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Jacob now had an opportunity. Jacob desired Esau’s birthright with the same intensity at this moment as Esau had in his craving for the red stew. One intensely desired to fill his stomach, the other desired to become the first-born in line of succession.
Why is this important? What is the big deal about a birthright? Why does the narrative emphasize the maneuvering of Jacob over the birth order in his family? The reason for focusing upon this narrative is because this lineage is no ordinary family line of succession. The patriarchs of Genesis made up the family tree that would eventually bring the blessing of salvation to the entire world. God’s redemptive plan of salvation was tied into the very fabric of the family of Abraham. God promised to Abram in Genesis 12, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Abraham and his descendants were not just another rich nomadic shepherding family in the land of Canaan. Abraham’s family made up the people of the promise. And eventually the Messiah, the redeemer of the entire world, would come from his genealogical record. The importance of this is found in the New Testament, which literally begins in Matthew 1 with the genealogical record leading to Jesus, and it begins with Abraham. That line to Jesus passes through Jacob and not Esau.
Esau failed to see the importance of his birthright. He was too focused on earthly desires. In the great moment of truth, he was schemed out of his right of succession because he was hungry, and because he liked the look of that red stuff. In fact, from that moment and for the rest of his life and the life of his descendants, he was known by another name. After he asked for the food, the Genesis narrative adds, “Therefore, his name was called Edom.” That was his nickname forevermore. What does Edom mean? It means “red”. Even though Esau was a man of red hair, he was called “red” because of the stew he desired to eat so much that he despised his birthright.
The writer of Hebrews uses Esau as a cautionary example of someone being so close to the promise, yet when the moment of truth came, he rejected it. Hebrews 12:15-16 says, “see to it that no one comes short of the grace of God…that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” Esau’s descendants became a nation. But it was a pagan nation. A nation that stood to the east of Israel, on the other side of the Jordan. Close to the promised people of God, but never a part of God’s family. Eventually, they were conquered by King David, the son of Jesse, a descendant of Jacob.
Is God calling you to accomplish a great purpose in your life?Is he stretching forth His hand to provide you an opportunity to further His kingdom?Has He called you to be His child?Have you put Him off for reasons you think to be reasonable?Don’t miss this moment of truth.God is calling, but that invitation will not last forever.I implore you, as the writer of Hebrews wrote, don’t come up short of the grace of God!Don’t just associate with the promise, don’t just live adjacent to the promise.Claim the promise in your life!Trust in faith in the name of the messiah Jesus.He is the Son of David, a descendant of Jacob.