Live into Your Birthright
By: Noelle Kirchner
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. - Genesis 25:29-34
Our passage ends with Esau upset, and rightfully so. He has just squandered his birthright. Typically reserved for the firstborn son, a birthright entailed a leadership position in the family and a double measure of inheritance. Further, the inheritance in question was no small amount. Earlier in Genesis 25:5, we read that Abraham had given everything he owned to Isaac, who was Jacob and Esau’s father.
The process of a birthright following the eldest son is known as primogeniture. While it was the norm in the ancient Near East, it does not always happen in scripture. Indeed, the reversal found in our passage was predicted in an oracle from the Lord while Rebekah was pregnant with her twins, Jacob and Esau.
Even though this birthright reversal was predicted, the scene is nonetheless upsetting. One brother is rash and squanders future promise for present, temporary satisfaction. The other tricks him by withholding necessary sustenance for his own advantage. It’s no surprise that conflict transpires between the brothers.
While this concept of birthright isn’t common today, there is still wisdom for us. Have we recently asked ourselves as children of God what our birthright, or inheritance, is? Regardless of our birth order, we were created by God to fulfill our rightful place in the world.
We squander our birthright when we choose to believe what someone else says about us rather than believe the pages of scripture. We are not disposable; we are worthy of God’s unconditional love. A flippant or mean-spirited remark cannot undo the promise God accomplished for us through Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
We squander our birthright when we allow discouragement and pain to rob us of hope. God can rework and redeem the broken pieces of our lives; in fact, that’s his specialty. The seeds of our adversity are often the ingredients of our anointing. God always has goodness in store for those who believe (Jeremiah 29:11).
We squander our birthright when we try to please others before pleasing God. Our Creator made us with intention. Oscar Wilde wrote, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Our life and God’s plan for us are gifts worth protecting and cultivating (Psalm 139:13-14).
We squander our birthright when we live consumed with worry about the future. Sometimes it’s easier to give into that temptation rather than concentrate on faith and gratefulness. But God promises that he is trustworthy, and his plan is at work in our lives (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We squander our birthright when we cower in fear rather than claim the strength that Jesus Christ affords us. Risk is worth it if it’s in obedience to Almighty God. Experiencing the full measure of blessing, or inheritance, God wants us to see in our lives will require courage—and God’s hand will equip us (Philippians 4:13).
Esau’s decision was costly, as compromises often are. But God still weaved blessing through Esau’s story as he advanced his plan through Jacob. Now we have a story to read with a calling as well. Want to focus on living your birthright every day? Visit my website for a free, professionally-designed printable with these promises.
Rev. Noelle Kirchner, MDiv., believes we don’t have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, The Laundry Moms, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, Chaos to Calm, features parenting hot topics and has hosted two New York Times bestselling authors. Watch her episodes or sermons, connect with her on social media, and follow her blog by visiting her website, or receive her free devotional e-book here.
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