Summary: Don't sell your birthright, like Esau did. Don’t sell your priesthood. Don’t sell the promises of God. And don’t sell your power over sin. Instead, enjoy your inheritance rights as a child of God, and live like the king that you are!
Some time ago (September 16, 2009), an article in The Washington Post began with these words: “The king folds her own laundry, chauffeurs herself around Washington in a 1992 Honda, and answers her own phone. Her boss's phone, too.” The article was about Peggielene Bartels, a secretary in the Ghanian embassy in Washington for 30 years. She grew up in Otuam, Ghana, a small city of about 7,000 before she came to the United States.
Then 30 years later, when the 90-year-old king of Otuam, Ghana, died, the elders performed an ancient ritual to determine the next king. They prayed and poured schnapps on the ground while they read the names of the king’s 25 relatives. When steam rose from the schnapps on the ground, the name that they were reading at that moment would be the new king – and that's exactly what happened when they read Peggielene's name.
So now Peggielene is a king! In Ghana, she has a driver and a chef and an eight-bedroom palace (though it needs repairs). She has power to resolve disputes, appoint elders, and manages more than 1,000 acres of family-owned land. I'm a big-time king, you know,” she told the reporter. When she returned for her coronation, they carried her through the streets on a litter, and she even wore a heavy gold crown.
Paul Schwartzman, the reporter, wrote, “In the humdrum of ordinary life, people periodically yearn for something unexpected, some kind of gilded escape, delivered, perhaps, by an unanticipated inheritance or a winning lottery ticket.” Well, Peggielene got the unexpected. (Paul Schwartzman, “Secretary by Day, Royalty by Night,” The Washington Post, 9-16-09; www.PreachingToday.com)
In so many words, that describes the condition of every believer in Jesus Christ. In the humdrum of ordinary life, we got the unexpected; we became kings in God’s Kingdom when we trusted Christ to save us from our sins. And by right of our new birth in Christ, we gained power and privileges that no one else has. Yet many believers don’t actually enjoy or utilize those privileges.
You say, “Phil, I want to utilize my privileges as a king in God’s Kingdom. How can I do that?” Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 25, Genesis 25, where we have the story of Esau, who had power and privilege in his family, but traded it all away for a bowl of stew.
Genesis 25:27-34 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (ESV)
He considered it worthless.
ESAU SOLD HIS BIRTHRIGHT.
He traded something of great value for a bowl of stew! You see, as the first-born son in his family, Esau was entitled to special privileges; but when he sold his birthright, he gave up those privileges.
First, he gave up the privilege of being a priest. The first-born son was especially consecrated (or given-over) to God. In families that didn't know the Lord, they carried this to the extreme and often sacrificed their first-born sons to their pagan gods. But in Esau's family, a good Jewish family, the first-born would be given to God to serve Him. He would have the privilege of representing his family before God as the priest of the family. Later on, that privilege would be transferred to the tribe of Levi in Israel (Numbers 3). But in Esau's day, the priesthood still belonged to the first-born. So when Esau sold his birthright, he gave up the priesthood.
More than that, he gave up a double portion of his father's estate. When the father's estate was divided among the sons, the first-born usually got twice as much as the rest of his brothers. For example, if there were 2 sons, the estate would be divided in thirds. The youngest would get one-third, and the eldest would get two-thirds. If there were 3 sons, the estate would be divided into fourths. The younger two would get one-fourth each, and the eldest would get two-fourths. And so on... The first-born's birthright included a double portion of the estate.