Esau, son of Isaac and Rebekah and brother of Jacob was labeled a profane person, a fornicator who, for a morsel of meat, sold what should have been his coveted birthright in the succession of Old Testament patriarchs. (Hebrews 12:16,17)
Being called a profane person by the Holy Spirit is as bad as it could get. He is used as an example of a person eaten up with bitterness by which he was ultimately defiled. That he “found no place of repentance” (v.17) means that nothing he could do or say, even accompanied by tears, could change the mind of his father Jacob who because of Esau’s irreverence rejected his son as being heir of the birthright blessings. It is a most serious sin.
It is a grievous transgression that did not cease with the passing of Esau; in fact, the father of lies, the wicked one, has only fine-tuned his skills through the ages so that profanity is more prevalent in our age, it may be argued, than in any one preceding. Here are some tell-tale signs that a person is heading to or already in a state of profaneness:
- Bitterness, as was the case with Esau, possesses such a person: it first as a root begins to spring up and in time exercises a (spiritual) choke hold (v.15);
- A profane person does not value spiritual things. Esau, hungry after hunting, valued a morsel of meat that would eventually end up in the draught more than an invaluable birthright with all of its attendant spiritual blessings;
- Profane people do not reverence authority, (cf. Gen.26:34,35) In his rebellious state, Esau, at the age of 40, married two Hittite women and caused “grief of mind” to Isaac and Rebekah. Rebekah would say “I am weary of life because of the daughters of Heth….” (Gen.27:46) The 5th commandment had not yet been written into stone, but 500 years before it was, profane Esau had dishonored his father and mother;
- Profane people value rewards over relationships. Esau “cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry” begging Isaac for a blessing (reward) and then went out and dishonored his father’s name;
- A profane person deals with conflict by anger and in retaliation. Esau “hated Jacob…and Esau said in his heart…I will slay my brother Jacob.” (Gen. 27:41) There is a trail of such men of women of like deadly mind-set: Cain slew Abel, Jezebel hated Elijah; Herodias would settle for nothing less than John the Baptist’s head on a platter; Haman hated Mordecai and on and on and on;
- A profane person is willing to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate, blanking out of his thoughts what might follow “afterward.” (Hebs.12:17) The “afterward” is repentance, not godly repentance wrought by sorrow to salvation (2 Cor.7:10), but sorrow not after a godly manner, that is, the “sorrow of the world that worketh death.” (2 Cor.7:10)
How does this age-old profanity “flush” out in the 21st century? Much every way. A person rejects Godly heritage of parents, grandparents and spiritually nurturing friends, pastors, teachers to embrace a self-centered life; a person chooses temporal, material values over spiritual, eternal; a person evidences no appetite for the things of God; a person chooses people, places, personal pursuits of godlessness over the people of God; a person demonstrates a lack of spiritual discernment regarding right/wrong, good/evil; a person lives for the moment, for gratification; a person lives as though there will be no future, no judgment, no accountability; a person who cares nothing for the Word of God and the will of God.
When most hear the word “profane” we think of what is commonly called profanity. Profane does mean irreverent, unholy, disrespectful so there is a correlation between what is profane and profanity. The two often are intertwined. A profane person may or may not profusely use profanity, but a person who uses profanity is without exception profane.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, not always “spic and span” in his word choice, was not a profane person. He spoke on one occasion of the subject of profanity: “Any man has talents enough to curse God and imprecate perdition on himself and his fellow men. Profane swearing never did any man any good. No man is richer or wiser or happier for it. It helps no one’s education or manners. It commends no one to any society. It is disgusting to the refined, abominable to the good, insulting to those with whom we associate, degrading to the mind, unprofitable, needless and injurious to society; and wantonly to profane His name, to call His vengeance down, to curse Him, and to invoke His vengeance is perhaps of all offenses the most awful in the sight of God.”
So, let us shun the state of being profane and repent of any whiff of it in our mind, heart or soul, with a godly repentance. And, in holiness, let us likewise abhor profanity, the verbal evidence if you will of a soul that is profane: irreverent, disrespectful, ungodly, bitter and liable to embrace fornication as did Esau. Take no pride or pleasure in profanity; excuse it not as “shop talk” or “barnyard” or “locker room” chatter. Call it what it is: profanity and label it for what it is- that which is irreverent, unholy, disrespectful.
“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 be 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.” (Hebs. 12:15-17)