Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
This is a particularly interesting little paragraph; look at it carefully, and let’s see what riches are in store for us…
First, the author exhorts us to live in peace with everyone, and to strive to be holy, set apart, for without that, no one will see God. Living at peace with everyone seems to be referring to a lifestyle that is not engaging in controversy and discord; things that the New Testament teaches in many places, as we have seen. Living holy lives is also a common theme in the New Testament, and keeping in mind that holy means “set apart” it isn’t too difficult to follow what that means. We are to be set apart from the world we live in, set apart for God and not partakers in every crazy thing that comes along. We are to be willing to undergo God’s discipline and to stand for the Truth of His Word; these things would be very consistent with the 11 chapters of Hebrews that we have been through so far, and would make sense considering the historical context that we have seen so many times.
We’ve been told before in this letter to help and encourage one another to hold on to our faith, and so to be told here not to let anyone “fall short of the grace of God” and to allow no “bitter root” in our midst to defile others would also seem to make sense. That sexual immorality is mentioned right after this is interesting… but the most interesting little piece of the entire paragraph comes right after that. “Godless like Esau” is a very interesting thing; the author goes on to remind his readers that Esau sold his birthright for a dinner, and could not get it back.
His birthright, or inheritance is a covenant reference, for he was to inherit his right as a patriarch of old, as a direct descendant of Abraham. Remember that Esau didn’t really take that inheritance as seriously as he should have, and traded it to his younger brother Jacob for a bowl of stew, and thus Jacob inherited upon Isaac’s death. So, what will we take away from this?
What has Hebrews been all about so far? It was written to the Jewish Christians in Rome in a time of severe persecution, to urge them not to give up their faith under severe trial. The message has been that in the New Covenant relationship with Christ, we have a superior high priest who brought a superior sacrifice to establish a superior covenant based upon superior promises. We have just been warned not to be like Esau who lost his place in Abraham’s covenant when he valued a bowl of stew more that his birthright. Once again, in a slightly different way than before, the author is telling his readers, including you and me, to place our highest priority on our New Covenant birthright as co-heirs with Christ to everything, lest we should lose everything.
Interesting, isn’t it? So, I must ask…
Is God speaking to us in this passage? I sure “hear” Him. What’s He saying to you?