One of the saddest and most solemn stories in all the Bible is that of Esau. He was the son of Isaac, one of the most honored of the patriarchs. He was about fifteen when his grandfather Abraham died, and as a boy should have been greatly influenced by him who is ‘father of the faithful.’ He was the older twin of Jacob, to whom God showed such unspeakable grace, and to Esau belonged the birthright and the blessing. He saw, and knew, the value which his grandfather, father, and brother placed on the promises of God: but to him they appear to have meant nothing at all: and he “for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (Hebrews 12:16.) He seems to have been a man entirely devoid of faith. What he could not see, had no value in his eyes. The Scriptures call him a “profane person,” and of him it is said: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” I know that he illustrates “the purpose of God according to election” (Romans 9:11), yet I doubt not we may trace the reason for this in Esau’s own conduct. He despised the promises of God, and “afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Hebrews 12:17)
You remember Esau planned to murder his brother, and what seems to have been most grievous in the sight of God was the implacable hatred that the seed of Esau bore towards the seed of Jacob, who were the people of God. Yet we may see the yearning of God’s heart over these descendants of Esau, for in Deuteronomy 23:7, He says: “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother.” In spite of all the waywardness and sin of Esau and his seed, yet the Lord would still have Israel remember the brotherly claim that Edom had upon them. But even this grace was despised and rejected, and the Lord must say to Edom: “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.” (Obadiah 10.)
We who are Christian parents do well to remember that self-indulgence in the matter of food seems to have been the beginning of Esau’s downfall, and we have already noted that this is the very sin into which his father fell. How unspeakably sad if in a coming day it is revealed that his father’s example, led Esau to that which proved his ruin! May the Lord keep us, for we cannot keep ourselves!
But we must remember that Isaac’s bad example does not lessen Esau’s responsibility, nor excuse him for not following in the faith of his father, nor does it lessen God’s judgment on him. To understand the severity of this judgment, we must go to the Prophets. We find the whole Book of Obadiah occupied with it, and it is frequently referred to in the other Prophets: see, for example, Jeremiah 49:7-22. Edom is to be “cut off for ever,” and is to be “as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there.” (Jeremiah 49:18). When the rest of the world is rejoicing, Edom shall be utterly desolate.
Esau and his descendants remind us of children of Christian parents, children who have refused the Gospel. They have had a “birthright” of salvation, but have despised it. They have heard and known the blessed promises of God, and have rejected them. They have had grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters, whom they have seen to place great store by what they have refused. In some cases, alas, they have become very bitter towards the people of God: perhaps with some cause: what cause Esau had to be bitter towards his brother! But it did not excuse him.
To write such words is more painful than I can say: but may this sad example bring us who have wayward children, more earnestly on our faces before God on their behalf. And should the eye of such a child fall on this page, remember the mercy of God still pleads with you, and there still is a way “Home”. Is it so very hard to say: “Father, I have sinned”?