Lord's Day Liturgy

A Profanity Problem

In a paragraph of instruction about how we ought to treat one another, the author of Hebrews named names. In particular, he named the name of one man that we must not be like. There were many men and women of faith to be imitated in chapter 11, but in chapter 12 we must not be like Esau.

Starting in Hebrews 12:12 we’re told to pursue peace and holiness. We are to help everyone obtain grace. We’re to weed out bitterness that causes trouble and that defiles. And then we’re to be careful:

that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

The Old Testament doesn’t ever refer to sexual immorality by Esau, so, while there is a connection between the two sins in verse 16, Esau especially embodies the latter. His sin was that he was “unholy” (ESV), “godless” (NAS), or “profane” (KJV). The Greek word is  βέβηλος, an adjective describing something worldly without transcendent significance. Eating stew could have been good if Esau had received it from God with gratitude. It was no good for him to eat it without thanks, without humility, and to trade something special for it. That’s profane.

Esau didn’t just eat in panic, he ate out of proportion. He desired the bowl in order to fill his belly more than he desired God’s blessing.

That wasn’t the end of the story. The very next verse, Hebrews 12:17:

For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

The “afterward” wasn’t after the meal, it was years after when Jacob stole the blessing. But the process started when Esau bartered away his birthright. His life was represented in the act of grasping the things of earth instead of receiving God’s gift in the things of earth.

There are many in the church today with a profanity problem, not just in the worldly language they use, but in despising the privileges God has given them that go beyond the immediate and the visible.