Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
When Rebekah, wife of Isaac the beloved son of Abraham, was pregnant, the Lord told her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” [Gen 25:23] Out came the twins, first Esau, next Jacob. Isaac favored Esau, the elder; Rebekah favored Jacob, the younger [Gen 25:28]. Sounds like a very regular family. However, this family ended in wrecks – Esau wanted to kill his brother, Jacob had to flee to his uncle Laban, Esau’s wives were not pleasing to his parents, Rebekah never lived to see Jacob again after sending him away. What happened in between? There were a whole chain of events that led to the collapse of the unity of this family – and perhaps it all begins with this incident – Esau’s selling of his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. In this study, we will liken Esau’s birthright to our Christian identity, and reflect on the modern stews that we have bought using the price of our identity as children of God.
By comparing the birthright of Esau to our identity as the children of God, we can ask certain questions of ourselves. First, however, what is a birthright? It was something that only the firstborn (usually) gets.
- wasn’t something that everybody is privileged to have
- wasn’t something that you can just decide to have
- was something that was highly valued by the Jews
- came with the promise of greater blessings, authority, honour and inheritance
Jacob and birthright – Jacob was the second son of Isaac, and hence the birthright went to his elder brother. But note in Genesis 25:23 – Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger – a great oracle, but let’s ignore everything other than the last line – the older will serve the younger. In other words, Esau will serve Jacob. In other words, even if by Man’s custom the birthright went to Esau, by God’s will, the immense blessings that came with the birthright belonged to Jacob. Rebekah knew that – and perhaps Jacob had known about it as well. Not many people would sell their birthrights for sure – and I doubt there were many others who tried to buy birthrights – but Jacob managed to buy it for a bowl of stew, because Esau prioritized it before his identity as the firstborn and the great blessings and fortunes that
What is your bowl of red stew, that you would sell your christian identity for? What were the things that we’ve sold or betrayed our identity as the children of God for? The list could be long, like gluttony, juicy gossip, lust, materialism, pride – basically, fleshly desires that tempt and distract us. It is when we knowingly prioritize other things in front of our identities as children of God, that we sell out our ‘birthrights’ away.
Esau was no only careless – but he did not care. He despised his birthright [Gen 25:34], and Jacob probably knew that and saw his weakened brother as an ideal opportunity to get the birthright that was supposedly his. Likewise, if we are careless or indifferent towards our identity as Christians, we are opening ourselves up to the red stews of our world.
What, then, is your red stew? Let us be aware of what may hinder us in our journey towards God-likeness, and let us stay rooted in our identity as children of God.