I am an African, of the Igbo tribe. I understand perfectly what it means to have a birthright. We cherish and regard our birthrights very highly, and do not consider any sacrifice or cost too great to pay to secure and retain our birthrights. It is not abnormal to see brothers fight, even to the point of death in order to secure their birthrights and inheritances. Sometimes, I concede, a man could sell his inheritance (land, property, etc) to pursue something he considered more critical (e.g. going abroad, fighting for health, training a child in school, etc.) But I’ve not seen a man sell his birthright, just because of a plate of rice (even with chicken inside).
This is why ESAU was an enigma to me till recently. I kept wondering how a man could sell his birthright simply because he was hungry. How could Esau’s birthright (lands, houses, possessions, farmlands, etc) be so trivial to him that he could sell it for a plate of porridge.
I don’t have to be spiritual not to do that kind of thing. I don’t have to be a man of faith not to sell my birthright. I just have to be a man with sense, a full-blooded African man, and I would never had sold my birthright. The Jews were like that too. So it is with every man on the earth. Naboth refused to sell his land. Why? It was his birthright. So, it is a normal thing with ordinary men, not to sell their birthright.
So, for years, Esau had never ceased to amaze me. It was not a spiritual matter, it was a physical issue. Esau understood what it meant that he was swearing away his birthright. I would have thought that maybe he was charmed, or that Jacob visited a witch-doctor on his matter. But it was not so. He gave up the birthright with open eyes.
I had wondered about it for years, until recently I understood. Esau sold his birthright for one simple reason: THERE WAS NO BIRTH-RIGHT!
Shocking. Isn’t it? Permit me to explain.
The Lord took his grandfather Abraham out of his civilized country to “a land that I will show you.” His grandfather left for Canaan land, and dwelt there “as a stranger.” His only inheritance was a piece of land he bought with his money for burial. Some of us had never understood the peculiarity of the situation that Father Abraham faced. You may think he had money (and he did), but he did not really have a land. No landed properties. He stayed in Canaan land like a stranger (Hebrews 11 vs. 9). Abraham stayed in Tabernacles (or tents), not because he had no money to build a lasting structure, but because the land was not his own. All the inheritance he had to pass on to Isaac, was that little piece of burial ground, and an eternal promise. That was why Isaac was also called a man of Faith. He too, by faith, stayed in the land. He could have moved to other lands. He could have gone for greener pastures. But he was tied down in Canaan, not by a landed property, but by a promise. He too looked for a city with foundations, whose builder and designer was God (Hebrews 11 vs. 10).
This was Esau’s challenge. He did not see the essence of tying his life down over a tiny piece of burial ground, and then an unseen promise of God. He was of a strange breed from his ancestors. Though a descendant of Abraham, he belonged to that generation that did not see the value in the invisible promise. He could not see the necessity of tying his whole life to that which cannot be seen and touched. His grandfather waited for the promise and died. His father waited for the promise and was now getting old at that point.
Silently, in his heart, his fathers were fools. They staked all their whole lives on an unseen God and His unseen promise. But he himself would be wiser. A bird at hand was worth more than twenty birds in the bush. He chose to pursue that which was tangible, and not bother with unseen realities.
That was why he could give up his birthright in order to satisfy a momentary appetite.
So, let me talk to myself. In a few lines. The Holy Book says, “Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.” Hebrews 12 vs. 14-17 MSG
May I never belong to that generation that has no value for the unseen. May I never belong to that group of persons that gauges life based on the physical properties obtained therewith. While it is not bad to have physical treasures, may I value spiritual treasures above it. May my spiritual senses never be so dulled that I would trade God’s lifelong gifts, his treasures, talents and possibilities in my life, simply to satisfy a momentary appetite.
May my eyes be opened to the value of the spiritual, to such extent that I will never trade it because of a hunger in my life. Amen.