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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox


These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,

    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;

the one shall be stronger than the other,

    the elder shall serve the younger.”

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. ~ Genesis 25:19-34

Of all the lines that stand out for me in this passage it is the last: Thus Esau despised his birthright.

The closest modern synonym for birthright perhaps is inheritance, but that's not strong enough. In the Hebrew scriptures, with a birthright comes a blessing.  A birthright then is a holy thing.  A sacred thing.  It sets the son apart.

So Esau rejected this holy thing for a bowl of stew.

Do we ever reject something holy, something bigger than ourselves, for a single moment of satisfaction?  For a moment of pleasure?

We know that Isaac favored Esau.  Esau had it all then.  He had it made.  But in one moment, he gave that away.

A lot is made sometimes of Jacob's trickery.  Yet Esau made himself easy game.

Do we have a birthright?  

The Apostle Paul tells us we do.  "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:29).  Through Christ, the firstborn of all creation, we have the promise and the blessing of God as well.

The birthright is ours, not to be taken away.  Given by grace.  Given through faith. 

A holy thing.  Holy isn't perhaps a word we are any more use to using than birthright, so it is easy to take for granted this gift we have in Christ.  

With Jacob and Esau the birthright passed from one to the other because of thoughtlessness.  We can not have our birthright taken from us so easily.  Yet in the moments we forget the holiness of it, we miss out on fullness of the abundant life our birthright offers us.

Gracious God, you have called us your heirs and made us your children. Help us to see the holiness of this relationship by living fully into the promise you have given us in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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