Trinity 5: Beloved birth-right?

Jacob and Esau are twins, but there is nothing identical about them. Esau is the rugged outdoors type and earns the approval of his father who admires his hunting prowess and the game he brings home. Perhaps the failing Abraham sees in his elder son a younger more virile version of himself?

Jacob, however is more of a mummy’s boy. He prefers to stay at home and enjoys cooking and the company of women. He is no ‘sissy’ though, he is the thoughtful one, the plotter, the schemer, the one who will take Abraham’s inheritance on and become a great man of God.

From his birth Jacob had chased the inheritance, the rights and even the responsibilities of the eldest son. Esau, however, had taken them for granted. Now as Esau comes home from a day’s hunting, ravenous, he sells his birthright for a bowl of lentils. Read it here.

Thus Esau despised his birthrights.

Genesis 25: 34

In turning down his birthrights, his inheritance as the eldest son, Esau was also revoking the blessing that Abraham sought to confer upon him.  In rejecting the blessing, he was also rejecting not just the rights and the wealth that would come to him, but also the responsibilities that would come with being the Patriarch, which in this family also meant turning away from the blessings of God. Esau sold his relationship with God for a bowl of broth.

Later Jesus was to talk about this lack of value placed upon religious birthrights in the parable of the sower. Read it here.


There seems to be little in the way of ‘broadcasting’ when it comes to sowing seed in modern farming practices. Everything is very much more precise, and precious seed would not be wasted by being flung into areas in which it could not thrive and grow and be fruitful. Not so in Jesus time, and not so with the gospel message – the story of God’s love as it has unfolded over the centuries and will continue to unfold as Jesus teaches and preaches on his way to the cross. The gospel is for everyone. God’s love is for everyone – but not everyone will receive it. Some will for only a brief time, as they soon get bored, or lose hope when life gets tough. There are some though for whom the gospel has always been their ‘birthright’ but it has come to be despised. It has seemingly lost its value, its relevance, and other things have become more important.

Throughout God’s history peoples have been drawn close to God and then rejected him, either through deliberate rebellion, or simply through apathy. Each time God has called his people back with messages of love, even when they have found themselves in the trickiest of situations. Now Jesus has come in person with stories and parables of those who had turned their backs on God being welcomed back (The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep ). This parable though, is a warning. It is a reminder of the birthright that Esau threw away. It is a wake up call to all who will hear. God’s love, just like the seed is broadcast liberally. God knows that his love will not always be received, but he showers his people with it anyway. He knows that sometimes the evil one will snatch away the understanding of this gift of love, he knows that sometimes the evil one will sow seeds of doubt that will throttle the seeds of love. God also knows that there are times when his love will seem to be received and to grow, only for it to whither when life gets tough. Others though will not only receive God’s love, God’s blessing, the heavenly inheritance but will let it grow within them so that it can be poured out in gifts of love to others too, just as a mature plant will produce even more seeds. But God sows his love anyway.

The question is, what kind of seed will we allow to grow within us? Will we value God’s love or let it wither?

Perhaps this question is all the more pertinent for those of us who have been born into loving, faith-filled relationships. Will we honour the inheritance we have received from our parents?  Will we recognise the spiritual birth-right that is ours for the taking, or will we be distracted by the instant gratification of a ‘bowl of soup’?

Something to watch:

Something to think about:

  • What is the most unusual thing you have inherited?
  • What is the most valuable thing that you have inherited?
  • Do you think Esau was right to gamble his inheritance in that way?
  • Do you think Jacob deserved to receive the blessing?
  • How could things have been different?
  • Do we take our inheritance and blessing for granted?
  • Are there times when we have received God’s love like stony or shallow ground?
  • What can we do to support each other?

Something to pray:

The Sower

Spirit of God you know our hearts; stony, distracted, shallow; and our blindness to our predicament.

Awaken us we pray;

where the heart has become hard, unyielding in the face of need and deaf to others’ pain, give compassion;

where the heart has become distracted, seduced and consumed by an idolatrous world, give sorrow;

where the heart has become shallow; cluttered by trivia adrift the world’s noise, give silence;

where the heart has become small, its imagination lost deadened by cynicism, give hope;

bearing fruit for your glory. Amen

Patrick Woodhouse




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