A momentous principle uttered by no one but our Lord - "there are last that shall be first, and there are first that shall be last" (Luke 13: 29) - is embodied for ever in Esau and Jacob, the two patriarchs who are set and studied incarnation of interchange of destiny.  For God had foretold the interchange ninety years before their birth (Gen. 25: 23); they were born twins and, in the very act of birth Jacob sought to supplant [displace and take the place of] Esau by a grip on the heel; the interplay of their later life fills a large part of the Old Testament drama; the birthright - a Throne: "let nations bow down to thee" (Gen. 27: 29) - was the shifting prize; and Esau, to whom it belonged, lost it, and Jacob, whose it was not, gains it.  This is the concrete example for all time of a dramatic interchange of position - the first last, and the last first - possible, and perhaps frequent, among the children of God [today]; and what reinforces our Lord's words with tremendous emphasis is that the Holy Spirit applies the type, and on its dark and dangerous side, to Christian believers.  "Look carefully," He says, "lest there be anyone [among you] that falleth short of the grace of God; lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright" (Heb. 11: 15).  All down the ages, and in every camp of the saints, Esau and Jacob reappear, and will to the end of time.


Now we have the Holy Spirit's own analysis of Esau: "a profane person, as Esau."  Bluff, generous, impulsive, daring; an athlete, living in the open; a man of quick emotions and strong passions: Esau had a large and loveable character; and, as the eldest son of the sole God-chosen family on earth, what a primacy was his!  But the Holy Spirit says he was profane - unhallowed, unsanctified, defiled, polluted, common.  In the crisis of his life his inferiority, his un-sanctity, sprang to light.  "For one mess of meat he sold his own birthright."  With tremendous irony and perfect truthfulness all earth's transient passions are catalogued under a mess of meat.  It is the bartering, for present passion, of future glory: it is mortgaging the [millennial] Kingdom for worldly gain: it is counting God's conditional promises cheap - "Esau despised his birthright" (Gen. 25: 34) - and present advantage dear.  Esau disobeyed his wisest descendant's law: "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Prov. 23: 23).


Both Esau and Jacob awake at last; but Esau wakes only after the Prize is irrevocably forfeited.  "Esau cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry, Bless me, even me also, O my father" (Gen. 27: 34).  It was the bitter cry of Mirabeau: - "If I had not degraded my life by sensuality, and my youth by evil passion, I might have saved France."  It was the bitter cry of Lysimachus, when, famished by thirst, he bartered his kingdom to the Goths for a drink of water:  "O wretched man, who, for such a little pleasure, has lost so great a kingdom."  It is exactly the exceeding great and bitter cry our Lord has foretold of that servant who says in his heart, "My Lord tarrieth," Jesus says, "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 24: 51) - the gnashing of teeth which springs, like Esau's, from bitter self-reproach.


Now therefore the Lord's principle, namely, the first slipping back last - comes into operation.  The moment comes when an oath of God makes the forfeiture irrevocable.  Millions of Christians have sung, every Sunday for centuries, the actual warning words which the Spirit applies (Heb. 3: 11) to the Church of Christ:- "Wherefore I swear in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest" (Psalm 95: 11).  How little they have thought what they sang!  Esau had himself confirmed the barter with an oath: that is, he had called God in to see that it was a sale never to be recalled, never to be cancelled, never to be repented: and now the God of the oath has to act His part.  The sacrifice of the Age to Come for the pleasures of this Age is ratified at the Bema. "Even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Heb. 12: 17).


Now we turn to the other twin in the great race.  All down the years Jacob - the word means 'supplanter' - has seen visions, but never lived them: the most defective of all Bible saints, he is the man whose unsanctified subtlety amounts to craft: now, in the last lap, when ninety-seven years of age, we find him the only character in the Bible a suddenly complete victor in his sunset.  For Jacob had originally bought what Esau sold: that is, all his life, faultful and stumbling though it was, he coveted God's highest, he acted on the prophecies, and never lost the heavenly vision: exactly reversing the action of Esau, he barters earthly passion for coming royalty, and sacrifices the body to the spirit, the present to the future, time to eternity.


Jacob is the embodiment of all the wrestlers who through the midnight of this dark Age reach the dawn, and supremely of racers who started badly.  Through the midnight at Peniel he wrestles until the dawn, "with tears" (Hos. 12: 4), a soul suddenly and forever awakeThe literal in a type is the spiritual in the antitype: the clenched fist, the taut muscle, the ceaseless vigilance, the unyielding grip - it is not only strength, but concentration; not only concentration, but intensity; not only intensity, but endurance[Eternal] Salvation is received by resting, not wrestling: the Prize is won by wrestling, not resting.  It is holy tenacity (obstinacy, resolution, retentiveness) of purpose, dogged refusal to be beaten, quick recovery when knocked out.  God's tremendous earnestness - the wrestling Angel - must be matched by an earnestness as tremendous by all who would be Godlike and God-crowned.


Parobolically we are next shown what invariably follows the great awakening and the complete consecration.  "And when the angel saw that he prevailed not against him" - that no block, no barrier, not even the guillotine or wild beasts in the Colosseum, could throw the wrestler - "he touched the hollow of his thigh" -he shrivelled the sciatic nerve: and "Jacob halted upon his thigh " - carried for ever the withering touch.  God asks of His victors not medals or ribbons, but scars.  "I bear in my body," says Paul, Christ's stigmata, the weal’s of the floggings.  Exactly as Esau's sin pampers the body, so Jacob's devotion withers it.  As rocks are scarred and grooved with the convulsions of long ago, so the saint carries the wounds of a lifetime of holiness: "it is better," says the Saviour, "to enter into life halt," like Jacob, "rather than having two feet to be cast into Gehenna" (Mark 9: 45).  Both Esau and Jacob had seen the vision: the one, clutching at earthly pride and power, sells his glory; the other, wrestling through the midnight, reaches the Dawn, (Gen. 32: 31).


So now the Jehovah Angel sets His seal on the victorious wrestler.  "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob" - 'supplanter,' layer of snares; for the old insanctity has died in the midnight wrestle - "but Israel" 'a prince with God'; a joint royalty, a God-crowned, God-associated king; and so enthroned when Christ is enthroned.  This peerage of the loftiest creation the Angel attributes, not to a 'gift' of God through 'grace,' but directly to the midnight wrestle: "thy name shall be called Israel, for thou hast striven and hast PREVAILED."  The last runner first breasts the tape; and it is expressly in relation to the [Millennial] Kingdom that our Lord states the principle.  "They shall come from the east and west, and from the north and south, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of God; and BEHOLD, there ARE last which SHALL BE first" (Luke 13: 29).  So throughout Scripture, and supremely to the Churches, a new name, required when there has been a profound revolution in disposition, marks the listing of Kings-designate: God throws Jacob, but He knights Israel.  "To him that overcometh" - the victorious wrestler - "I" - the Jehovah Angel (Christ) who renamed Jacob - "will give A NEW NAME WRITTEN" (Rev. 2: 17).  "There is time to win a victory," cried Napoleon, "before the sun goes down"; and the quintessence of Jacob's life story is his sudden and final victory at the age of ninety-seven.  The very last can be the very first.


All down the ages it is an ever repeated story.  The Cardinal of Lorraine, Charles de Guise, First Peer of France, and Pierre Ramas, a fellow-student whom he loved, so exchanged destinies.  "Among all the favours you have heaped upon me," Ramus writes to the Cardinal, telling his 'fidele et devoue protecteur' that he must cast in his lot with the Huguenots, "there is one I shall ever remember, and that is your saying at Poissy that of the fifteen centuries since Christ the first was truly the age of gold, while the others became poorer and more worthless in proportion as they receded.  When the time came for me to make my choice, I chose the golden age."  The first orator of his age, with princely gifts to use of God or to sacrifice for Christ, the Cardinal goes to Trent to defeat the pure Gospel of God: Pierre Ramus goes down in the midnight massacre of St. Bartholomew.  But Ramus has won the Birthright.