In Hebrews the 12th Chapter, the writer is encouraging us to follow the example of the faithful who went before us. He encourages us to be strong in faith and “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1b) He continues in Hebrews 12:15-17 “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”
“Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” Perhaps the picture is of a group of travelers traveling together towards a distant city. As Christians, we are those travelers, traveling through life with our common goal of eternal life as promised by Jesus. But if one gets distracted by the things of this world and turns away from God, he will not reach that heavenly goal. He will fall short of the grace of God.
“Lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” To the Israelites, any plant that was bitter was poisonous. Perhaps this is referring to anything that would poison us and defile us so that we would lose our life – our eternal life. Giving place to un-repented sin could be a bitter, poisonous element in your life.
Then the Hebrew writer gives the example of Esau, the grandson of Abraham. Abraham’s son was Isaac and Isaac married Rebekah. Rebekah gave birth to twins. Genesis 25:24-26 “So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.” As the two brothers grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter in the field, but Jacob stayed in the tents. Genesis 25:29-34 “Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day.’ And Esau said, ‘Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me as of this day.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” The birthright belonged to the oldest son. He was expected to take over the family business when his father died and he was to receive twice the inheritance from the father as opposed to the inheritance that the second born son received. Obviously the birthright was a very important right of the oldest son. However, when Esau came in from the field and was hungry, he chose to value a meal of bread and lentils over the birthright. When Isaac was about to die, he wanted to bless his son Esau. Jacob deceived his father and received Isaac’s blessing instead; Esau did not receive his father’s blessing. You can read about this in Genesis 27.
The writer of Hebrews warns us about Esau’s attitude. “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” The warning is that you can sell your right to the inheritance you receive from God. You can sell it for something small and temporary just like Esau sold his birthright for a meal. Perhaps the writer is suggesting that someone might be tempted to commit fornication or adultery – to enjoy just a few moments of illicit sexual pleasure. Or it could be some other act of wickedness or sin that one might allow himself to enjoy, going against his dedication to God. The point is that you might sell your birthright, just like Esau, for a momentary pleasure or desire. “For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”
Instead of following sin and suffering the consequences, you need to be like Moses. Hebrews 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Moses chose to deny himself the passing pleasures of sin and instead chose to suffer with the people of God because he was looking for the reward.
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’” I encourage you not to fall short of the grace of God. I encourage you not to let any root of bitterness defile you. I encourage you not to sell your birthright like Esau. Instead, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.