THE BIRTHRIGHT CHALLENGE (by permission; chp 6 from Ray Prinzings Book - Whispers of His Call)
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there by any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau; who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." [Hebrews 12:15-17].
Much of the book of Hebrews pivots on this theme, with the
emphasis on how Jesus Christ is the Pattern Son, the Forerunner for us, He being
much better than all the types and shadows; for HE is their first fulfillment,
and then He is bringing many sons into the same glory and perfection. The process
for these "sons" is the same as that which The Son followed, learning
obedience through the things suffered. But we are also aware that "The
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us." [Romans 8:18].
In one way or another, we all relate to the sufferings of Job, because he serves as such a vivid example. Or we follow through the Scriptures, and see in Joseph, and Gideon, and David, and the various prophets, parallels to our own inworkings of God. But the final and greatest example of all, is our Lord Jesus Christ-- "For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps." [1 Peter 2:21]. And following HIM, we shall enter into those joys which He hath prepared for them that love Him. "It is a faithful saying; For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." [2 Timothy 2:11-12].
The Scriptures are also clear that God's purpose FOR, and IN man is now being wrought out through successive ages. "By faith we perceive that the material universe and the God-appointed ages of time were equipped and fitted by God's word for the purpose for which they were intended." [Hebrews 11:3, Wuest Expanded].
The ultimate victory of the purpose is also clear. "For as in Adam all die, even so in the Christ shall all be made alive." [1 Corinthians 15:22].
"In Adam....in the Christ." Briefly note this little word "in" coming from the Greek word "en" which can equally be translated three different ways-- IN, WITH, BY. Thus we could rightly say, BY ADAM death passed upon all men, and BY CHRIST shall all men be made alive. All the negativity that has unfolded because of the transgression of Adam, shall ultimately be dealt with, and swallowed up into life because of the righteousness of the Christ.
Some men seek to qualify this with their various carnal arguments, but as relative to this particular verse, the coverage is such, that at best one could only argue that only those who are outside of the touch of the sin of Adam would also be exempt from the salvation of Christ. For any part of the creation which felt the sting of death via Adam, must now also enjoy the salvation of the life of Jesus Christ our Lord. The "alls" are inclusive of both realms. "But where sin abounded, grace did MUCH MORE abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto age-abiding life by Jesus Christ our Lord." [Romans 5:20-21].
With the ultimate victory secure, then the next thing which needs to be understood is Paul's clarifying statement, "BUT every man in his own order." [1 Corinthians 15:23]. That ALL shall enjoy the life of Christ is wonderful. The Word is true, and fulfillment shall be realized. But how much confusion and frustration is removed when we understand that they come "every man in his own order." GOD IS A GOD OF ORDER, harmony and balance, with a plan and purpose which is unfolding by degrees and executed by His grace to bring every order, rank of men, into salvation according to the cycles of time which He has measured out for this purpose.
The whole world system carries on, nations rising and if falling, sunrise and sunset as day follows day, while all things are under HIS PERFECT CONTROL, and while He focuses attention, upon that particular order, rank, company which He would bring to perfection during a specific time.
In tracing through from the time of Abraham up to now you can readily see how God has CALLED OUT, CALLED OUT, CALLED OUT-- separated families from families; even separated nations from nations, all for the special purpose of obtaining AN ELECTION, a remnant people, that HE might bring them onward into perfection, and then shall He use them as instruments of righteousness in the glorious ministry of reconciliation-- that He might reconcile and gather together in one all things into Himself.
Out of the families of earth God calls one man, Abraham, and step by step leads him forth. Abraham had two sons, one of them a product of the flesh, the other one a son of promise. Isaac, the son of promise, is selected by God, and he in turn begets two sons, Jacob and Esau. Again a selection is made and Jacob is chosen. "And the children were yet unborn and had so far done nothing either good or evil. Even so, in order to further carry out God's purpose of selection, which depends not on works or what men can do, but on Him who calls them. [Romans 9:11, Amplified].
While we know that God has total control over time, and has fitted the ages for the outworking of His purpose, in His greatness time is far different than it is for men. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." [2 Peter 3:8]. But from man's earth-view, it is quite otherwise, as we struggle with moments, hours, days, etc. and always with a wish that fulfillment of total victory could be RIGHT NOW. But the cycles will come in their turn, and we need long patience until HE has brought us to the fullness of HIS time.
Degeneration of the Adamic race was so bad, that by Noah's day God cleansed the earth with a flood, and spared only a remnant. It would be only a matter of conjecture to surmise how bad conditions were again by Abraham's day, but history reports extreme idolatry, and surely the world was in dire need of restoration. So when Abraham is called and duly processed, to receive the promise that "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," I am sure it brought a ray of hope and rejoicing-- perhaps now there would be a turning again towards God. But out of that generation comes only one man who is used to father a new generation out of which only one man again is chosen. Time is going by-- the earth becomes more corrupt, yet we see God continuing His process of selection of just a few, steadily working out His purpose, according to His own time schedule.
Finally the whole family of Jacob is residing down in Egypt, and three hundred and fifty years pass by, while the bondage and servitude become more severe. Then God has one birthed to become their deliverer. All Israel is groaning and sighing because of this intense trial, and what comes on the scene? A baby boy! So we have to wait for him to grow up. By divine arrangement Moses is reared in the king's palace, and finally when he is forty years old, he goes out to see the welfare of his people, finds one in trouble, slays the Egyptian, and must needs go through another forty years of processing on the backside of the desert, while the people wait some more. Israel is suffering all the while. Why doesn't God answer prayer? Where is deliverance? Must we all wait forty years just because Moses isn't ready to be our helper? Who knows how many were buried in Egypt while God carefully prepared HIS man.
And then, "It came to pass at the end of four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." [Exodus 12:41].
It had been a long sojourn in the land of Egypt, but now they were free, and in less than two years they were through the wilderness and at the border of the promised land. The spies went in, searched out the land, and came back with their report. Forty days of investigation yielded a very negative report from ten of the twelve spies, and because of their unbelief, Israel had to turn back and wander again in the wilderness. "Wander in the wilderness forty years...after the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know My breach (interruption) of promise." [Numbers 14:33-34].
Thus it is evident that God is willing to spend a whole generation to gain just two men through whom His next step would be executed for the following generations, as witnessed by Joshua and Caleb, the only two of a full generation, spared because of their faith in God, to become leaders to bring the succeeding generation into the land of promise.
Praise God, while attention is focused upon these chosen few, God has not forgotten all of the rest of His creation. He continues to send the "rain upon the just and the unjust." [Matthew 5:45]. He causes His sun to shine upon them all. With infinite skill He deals with each man, to order their steps, with a view towards the time when His purpose shall be complete.
God is a wise economist, He is not a spendthrift, nor is He a miser. He will lavishly spend all that is needed to gain His purpose, and yet He will utilize every groan and tear, every pain of travail-- so that the same pain which bespeaks of the death throes of an old order, also become the birth pangs of the new order. HE has a purpose for the MULTITUDES even while He is carefully selecting His remnant, the first fruits of His new order, which shall receive the birthright portion. He will spend a whole generation to gain two men to become His leaders for the new. But He will also spend the two and gain a whole new generation brought into His promise. Just as He took the five loaves and two small fishes and fed the vast multitude.
Full well God knows of all those who have died in the wilderness, just as much as He viewed all Israel as a valley of dry bones, and said unto Ezekiel, "Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live." [Ezekiel 37:4-5].
So also, "He has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this: He purposes in His sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Him." [Ephesians 1:9-10, Phillips].
However, for the present, in His wise design, God hath blinded mankind, "According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear; unto this day." [Romans 11:8]. And while creation slumbers on, there is a specific awakening taking place in those whom He sovereignly apprehends and calls in this day. The ultimate goal of everything totally restored, is to be arrived at through a specific process which begins with God's chosen first fruits, His election of grace. And HE, in this little first fruits company, shall become that glorious, positive leaven which shall leaven the whole lump, i.e. all mankind.
While Israel is called God's firstborn [Exodus 4:22], it is this special SPIRITUAL REMNANT brought out of Israel through whom the promises shall be fulfilled. While the "gifts and callings of God are without repentance," [Romans 11:29], yet these callings cannot be fulfilled until the qualifications have been met. The natural cannot qualify. All self-righteousness gained by the keeping of the first covenant does not qualify. Not until He has brought forth a people who are AN EXPANSION OF HIMSELF, bearing His image, possessing His divine nature, clothed with His righteousness, will He have a people that qualify, through whom He shall fulfill the promises of this calling.
After all, "Not he who recommends himself, that one is accepted after having been put to the test, but he whom the Lord recommends, that one has His stamp of approval placed upon him, that approval being based upon the fact that the approved one has met the test satisfactorily." [2 Corinthians 10: 18, Wuest].
All of the promises of God are "yea, and amen,"-- or as the Williams translation gives, "But with Him it is always 'Yes,' for, as many as the promises of God may be, through Him they are always 'Yes.'" [2 Corinthians 1:20]. Never a no, never a maybe! They are secure, they shall be totally fulfilled, but if, from man's earthly viewpoint there seems to be a delay, it is only because there has been a "breach" made, and man does not yet qualify for the victory, and so must be duly processed some more.
There are two specific points which need to be synchronized to balance our understanding. Obviously God has a definite appointed schedule, "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son." [Galatians 4:4]. Again, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come..." [Acts 2:1]. When His appointed time has arrived, there is a new manifestation of His purpose, and new victories which are realized. No man can delay His time, nor hinder His working. However, it must also be recognized that Israel surely suffered a "breach of promise" because they were not filled with faith and ready to enter the land. Thus we see that time's fulfillment in events also relates to our being qualified and mature enough to enter into the next dimension. God alone can cause His TIME to be in proper sequence to the CONDITIONS, so that they all blend together in harmony for the fulfillment of His will. Consider this "breach of promise" for a moment. The Hebrew word is "tenuah" meaning: removal, alienation. The promise abides, but those who would have entered into its fulfillment were removed because they did not qualify, they failed by reason of unbelief, and could not enter into His rest. The interruption was not in God's promise, but in man's receiving.
It is no attack upon the sovereignty of God, nor His tremendous foreknowledge, to also recognize that we need to "give diligence to make our calling and election sure," [2 Peter 1:10]. The world may sing, "Whatever will be will be..," but the Psalmist declared, "0 God, Thou art my God," early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see Thy power and glory." [Psalm 63:1-2].
We find that the Hebrew word we gave for "breach" is only used twice in the Old Testament, the other time being in Job 33:10, where Elihu quotes Job as having said before, "Behold, He (God) findeth occasions (breaches) against me, He counteth me for His enemy." Because of his trials and sufferings, Job thought that God had REMOVED him from His favour, that he was cut off from the flow of blessing, that a breach had been made. This was not the case at all, for Job was even then being processed for a greater manifestation of the blessing of God. But it does help us to grasp a little clearer the meaning of this word, as we see how it is used.
We are also reminded of the message unto the church of Ephesus, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will REMOVE thy candlestick out of this place, except thou repent." [Revelation 2:4-5].
This was no idle threat, it was a solemn warning that there can be a REMOVAL if the qualifications are not met. Paul clearly recognized this, when he wrote, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into submission: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." [1 Corinthians 9:27].
Returning now to the next scripture for this chapter, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God...." Be it noted, GRACE WILL NOT FAIL MEN, but men often fail grace!
The grace of God would work in us, build us, number us among the first fruits to receive the birthright portion, and we must needs be diligent to walk softly before Him, that we might apprehend that for which we have been apprehended. Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. This does not mean that he became a type of someone eternally lost-- the subject is not of ultimate salvation, but one of "birthright."
It must be remembered that Esau was a descendant from Abraham who first received the promise. Also the birthright belonged to the firstborn son, and Esau had preceded Jacob from the womb. But he despised the birthright, he thought it down, placed little value upon it, for whatever it held in future promise meant less to him than the present satisfaction of the flesh. Had he not despised his birthright, he would have kept it. Certainly, God said that Jacob was the chosen of the two, for He spoke that out of His great foreknowledge, but nevertheless, as far as Esau was concerned, he sold his birthright out of his own choice, even though it was foreknown by God that he would do so.
God could have had Jacob born first and legally merit the birthright, but in His all-wise plan He ordered circumstances otherwise. Two points are immediately seen in this. One, since he did not merit the birthright by reason of birth, it would have to be GIVEN to him, a foreshadowing of the GIFT OF GRACE TO US IN THIS DAY. Second, Esau serves to give us a terrific warning against lightly esteeming the things of God. There came a time when Esau desperately wanted the birthright back again; he wept over it, but to no avail. What was he seeking? Not salvation, he was still a son of his father, and as a son of Isaac he still received a blessing from God through Isaac. "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob AND ESAU concerning things to come." [Hebrews 11:20].
Esau received a blessing, a glorious blessing, but that wasn't the birthright portion. He forfeited something that many tears could not bring back. Jesus also spoke of those who were forfeiting places in the kingdom. "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [Matthew 8:11-12]. When fully purged and purified, processed by the severity of outer darkness, these also shall be made alive in Christ, in their own order, but they miss the glory and position of the firstborn.
Returning back to the types of the Old Testament we gain more understanding of the value of the birthright. In Deuteronomy 21:17, "He shall acknowledge...the firstborn, by giving him A DOUBLE PORTION of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his."
The ministry of the firstborn is clear, they are to be instrumental in saving and blessing the latter-born. To see the fulfillment of the promise, "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Obviously one must be blessed before they can become a blessing to others, for in ourselves we are nothing. It is the receiving of this "double portion" that we shall have both enough for our personal needs, and also wherewith to bless others.
It is self-evident that Jesus Christ fully qualifies, and HE IS THE FIRSTBORN in every sense of the word, begotten from the dead, and in ALL He shall have pre-eminence. We bow before Him! We worship Him! He is our Lord and our King. Yet, wonder of wonders, there is a CALLING OF GOD to be a part of this first fruits which receive a birthright blessing. HE is now bringing many sons unto glory, that He might be "the firstborn among many brethren." [Romans 9:29]. Brethren that shall share this position with Him, partaking of the same glory, that they might bring of HIS life to others.
The ministry of the firstborn was to be four-fold. Four is the number of world-wide coverage, reaching out to the four corners of the earth, to east, to west, to north, to south.
1) to redeem a brother in debt.
"After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one
of his brethren may redeem him." [Leviticus 25:48].
Were there no firstborn son available, for various and sundry reasons, death, etc. then the nearest of kin could fill this role, but as far as POSITION is concerned, it was the RIGHT AND DUTY OF THE FIRSTBORN to fulfill this redemptive ministry. And part of that extra portion he had received was to be used for redemptive purposes, if such be necessary.
Let it be clear, everything is first manifested in our Lord Jesus, and then in its own proper time and operation, through those who become ONE IN HIM. So we read, "Christ hath redeemed us..." [Galatians 3:13], and it is the outpouring of HIS LIFE which makes all of our efforts effectual in helping others. Yet there is a ministry of redeeming a brother in debt, as illustrated in the life of Paul, who wrote, "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account: I Paul have written with mine own hand, I will repay." [Philemon 18-19].
Of the repaying of a debt for another of that which is owed in finances, this we understand, providing one has the means to do so. But before Paul dealt with the more material aspects, he first stated, "if he hath wronged thee..." and this touches a whole different realm, still Paul felt that he was in a position to take care of that also.
Not until we are completely filled with the SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST will we have the ability to fully redeem our brothers in debt. Nevertheless, "God is able to make all grace come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need, be self-sufficient-- possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work." [2 Corinthians 9:8, Amplified].
2) to redeem the inheritance.
"If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away of
his possessions, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem
that which his brother sold." [Leviticus 25:25].
Not only was there to be a redemption of the brother himself sold into slavery, but also there was to be a complete redemption of his entire inheritance which also was lost. All the possessions are to be restored. All the gifts and graces which were taken away either through default, or deception, or by the guile of the enemy, etc. everything that rightfully belongs to a child of God must be restored.
God's firstborn company shall share in the ministry of bringing back all the possessions which have been lost through the ages. "They that be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundation of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." [Isaiah 58:12].
3) to avenge the blood of thy brother.
If something happened so that a man was slain without cause,
it was the right of the firstborn son to avenge the blood of his brethren. The
vengeance must be a righteous act, in accordance with the crime, but justice
was to be met.
Concerning our Lord, The Firstborn, it is written, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." [John 5:22]. He is now in the position of avenging all innocent blood. Yes, and the whole Adamic race which has been polluted with blood, bruised by the serpent, and slain by sin, shall He avenge-- bringing forth judgment which shall SET TO RIGHTS the whole again.
Likewise, those who overcome and share His throne shall share in the ministration of this judgment. "To execute vengeance upon the heathen, punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron. To execute upon them the judgments written: this honour have all His saints." [Psalm 149:7-9]. This honour-- this substance for its accomplishment!
4) to raise up seed to the dead.
When a man would die, and leave no seed, no child to bear
his name, it was the duty of the firstborn to raise up seed unto his brother,
that the brother's name be not perished from the earth.
"Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead among his inheritance." [Ruth 4:5].
Boaz was willing to perform all this role required, but there was one who was, in this case, a nearer kinsman than he, and so to this one was the challenge given. But he would not accept, for the nearer kinsman said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance." [Ruth 4:6].
Isn't this so true even in this day? Many will not seek to lift up the name of Christ, because they are too involved in protecting and exalting their own name. Man would build his own kingdom, and spread abroad his own name, and thus they refuse to build the kingdom of God, they will not raise up a seed unto Him who died for us, who gave His life that we might live.
Boaz, however, was delighted to both redeem the inheritance, and to also take Ruth for his wife, and raise up seed in the name of the one who had died. Thus Boaz was brought into the honour of becoming a forefather David, and in being willing to lose his own name for the sake of another, we find that his name is well remembered, while the name of the nearer kinsman is not even known. We may lose our life, poured out in service unto the Lord, but we shall also find ourselves IDENTIFIED IN HIM, to bear His name, to share His glory. What a challenge -- to receive the birthright, its double portion, and all the ministry which accompanies such a high, holy, heavenly calling.
The challenge of the birthright upon thy heart is laid,
A calling so tremendous that few its price have paid.
A vision so o'erwhelming one scarce can take it in,
And yet so captivating we must this honour win.
To be in Christ a first fruits, partaker of its claim,
Inheriting the promise, and bear His holy name.
Possess a double portion, that we might freely give
His life to those in darkness, until they too shall live.
Our own needs met so fully, enough, and then to spare,
That we might share men's burdens, and help their load to bear.
Save and bless the latter-born, the promise thus did read.
As one in Christ we now become of Abraham's true seed.
And so we must consider, we have not yet arrived,
And some have sold their birthright, from blessing been deprived.
They face a breach of promise, they did not qualify,
Because self was not conquered, its lust to crucify.
The promise is abiding, the calling standeth sure,
And someone shall fulfill it, reality procure.
We dare not face removal, we must it's vict'ry gain,
E'en though for present moments we suffer travail's pain.
The morning shall declare it, a first fruit son is born,
Composite host of pilgrims the world did mock and scorn.
In Christ they are emerging, the work of sovereign grace,
A new creation brethren--the birthright to embrace.