Monday, September 19, 2011

Holding on to the Birthright (Genesis 25:29–34; Hebrews 12:7, 16–17)

There was once a boy  named Paolo. Paolo’s parents worked hard to give their children decent lives and education. The father always told his children that their education is the only thing they could leave them, for they owned no property or business. Soon, Paolo had a girlfriend. And because he wanted to prove that he was a real man to his friends, Paolo slept with her. The girlfriend got pregnant. Because he didn’t want to shame his father further, he married his girlfriend to give their child a proper family. But to support his new family, Paolo had to stop schooling to look for a job. Because of his pride and his desire to fit in, he lost the only inheritance his parents could leave to him.
            How many of us are like Paolo? How many of us give up what is good because of the pressures of this life? The pressure to belong? The pressure to conform? The pressure to provide? The pressure to please others? The pressure to survive?

Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:29–34)
Esau was the firstborn of the twin sons of Isaac. As such, he was sole heir of everything his father owned. Moreover, he was second-in-command to Isaac over the whole estate. On top of all that, he is to be heir to the covenant promises that God made to Abraham passed down to Isaac, despite the fact that Abraham had seven other children (Genesis 25:1–2, 5–6).
            But one day, after an unsuccessful hunting trip, Esau came home very hungry. Jacob was cooking some stew. When Esau saw the food, he asked for some. Jacob, cheater that he was, asked for Esau’s birthright in return for the stew. Esau readily gave it to him, swearing that Jacob now has all the rights and privileges of the firstborn.
            But notice here that it was not just a matter of hunger that made Esau give up his birthright. It was his attitude. He really didn’t care much for his family except for what he could get out of them. We can see this later, when he was forty years old, when he married two Hittite women against the wishes of his parents (Genesis 26:34–35). These women made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.

What this means for us today (Hebrews 12:7, 16–17)
Esau sold his inheritance, his rights, his privileges, and the promises of God for a meal. Stupid you say? But this scenario plays itself out day after day, week after week, year after year, millions of times! When? How many times have we cheated other people when it comes to giving change for payments, justifying it by saying life is hard these days? How many times have we doctored up documents so we can get that job, or that position, or because not doing so would mean trouble for us? How many times have we indulged in excess, even sin, justifying it by saying we deserve a break from this hard life?
            Life is hard. And being a Christian does not make it easier. Sometimes it makes it even harder if you truly want to follow Jesus Christ. Such was life that the author of Hebrews points to Esau to show what not to do: give up what has been given to us despite the hardships we encounter. But oftentimes, we are tempted to look at our former lives, seeing those days as easier, lighter, even more pleasant. And this is what the Jewish converts were tempted to do. They were persecuted and were pressured to return to the Jewish faith. Esau’s life serves as a warning to them not to give up their own birthright for a little comfort, a little relief; for Esau sought what he lost later on but was refused. As it was for Esau, so it could be for the Jewish believers, so it could be for us.

Our Birthright
If we put our faith in Christ, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).  As children of God, we would have our sins forgiven through the blood of Christ. We would have a right relationship with God, and no longer fear His judgment. We would have the Holy Spirit with us, to guide us and strengthen us as we go through this hard life. We would have hope for a good future that God has secured for us, possibly for this life, definitely in the next life. All the good that we do is seen by God and we will have our reward. We would have peace in our hearts, regardless of what is happening to our lives at present. We would never be lonely for God is always with us and would always love us. Through trials and troubles, God would mold us into holy images of His Son, disciplining us so we can live a good life not dependent on externals. And when Christ comes, our present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18), a glorious life that our present sufferings are preparing us for (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
            This is our birthright if we put our faith in Christ. Is this not worth giving up a few comforts for? Is this not worth enduring persecutions for? Is this not worth living a clean life for?

Brothers and sisters, Christ came to earth and died to give us the chance to share in His birthright. Let us put away all sin and sinful acts and turn to God who would sustain us in the troubles of this world. Let us not be proud in thinking that we have already accepted Christ so we can take it easy from now on. No. Let us strive to know God more and live for God more, for it is not those who start well who will be saved, but those who are faithful to the end (Matthew 10:22). Let us help one another and support one another so we will all grow in the Lord as we wait excitedly for the glory that will be revealed in us.

Message given on 9 September 2011 at Jesus Christ Our Hope and Redeemer Church, San Mateo, Rizal