Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If You Ask For a Stone, God Just Might Give You One

Yesterday I posted on the times where God does not answer our prayers or answers "no."  Today I want to talk about those times when He says yes, but not to provide us something good but to show us those things we ask for our not in our best interest.  Yesterday I wrote on when we ask for bread and God gives us none, today I want to talk about what happens when we ask for a stone.  We all take comfort in the following verse.
"Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" Matthew 7:9-11 NKJV
I love that we can have faith that when we ask for bread, our Father will not give us a stone.  But I wondered, what would happen if we asked God for a stone?  There are times in our lives where we think we know what is best and despite God telling us otherwise, we keep asking for that stone.  I do believe that there are many times when if we ask for a stone enough times, God will give it to us.  He does so not to give something we think is good, but to show us that what we wanted was bad.  Sometimes, we do not believe something is a stone until God gives it to us.  Sometimes that which we think will be a boon to our lives becomes a heavy stone around our necks. 

I can think of a few examples in Scripture where this has happened.  One example is when the people of Israel asked God for a king.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them." So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day." Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the LORD. So the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed their voice, and make them a king." And Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Every man go to his city."  1 Samuel 8:4-22 NKJV
May we not be so stubborn as the Israelites were that day.  The Israelites wanted a king because they wanted to be like everyone else.  They forgot that they were to be separate unto the Lord.  Samuel knew this was a bad idea and took it before the Lord.  God could have told them "No."  He could have told them that He knew what was best, but He didn't.  He did give them a chance to change their mind. He had Samuel tell them all the horrible things a king would mean for their lives.  He told them of wars, conscription, burdensome taxes, children being drafted into servanthood for the king, and even that they would regret their decision and when they do, the Lord would not hear them.  Despite all of that, they still desired a king.  It was more important to them to be like the world than it was to be a nation holy unto the Lord.  They wanted man to rule over them, not God.  They wanted freedom to live as they desired.  And so, with that rejection of God's warning, they were granted a king.  They lived to regret that decision. 

May we not be so stubborn in our own lives.  May our desire to live under the Lordship of Christ never diminish to the point where our desire to be more like the world wins out.  If we continually ask God, despite his many warnings in Scripture, He may grant us that request.  Just like the Israelites, we will live to regret that decision.  The people of Israel asked for a stone and when God told them what they wanted was a stone, they wanted it still.  They did not believe God.  That "bread" they thought they were getting became a burdensome stone around their necks. 

Another example in Scripture is the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything."  Luke 15:11-16 NKJV
I think this parable begins long before Jesus picks up in the story of the lives of these two boys.  Normally, the older son would receive 2/3 and the younger 1/3 of their father's estate.  Normally this would happen at the father's death or if the father just wanted to retire.  It would not be normal for a son to just come to his father and ask for his money then and now.  I imagine that his father knew his boy had some wild oats to sow and would not listen to reason that he was not mature enough or old enough to have his inheritance yet.  I know this story is meant to be a parable and not an actual historical happening, but the character of the prodigal son is important to establish.  The people hearing this at the time would have understood the younger son to be rebellious from the start.  I am sure, though, his father would have tried to warn him of the dangers of getting his inheritance at that time.  We see the son rejected that advice.  I am sure his father told him it was a stone, but his son insisted it was bread.  In the end, the father relented and the son had the means and the freedom to do what he wanted.  He had his "bread." 

That freedom led the son who lacked maturity to squander his inheritance on sin. He sinned until he was broke, a famine broke out, and he had no money or food.  He had no more inheritance and in desperation he took a job to feed swine.  Keep in mind, swine were considered unclean at the time so he went from a rich and party life to broke, hungry, and doing what would have been to him utterly filthy and demeaning work.  In fact, what he was doing was forbidden for a Jew to do. "Cursed is he who feeds the swine" so to speak.  He ended up cursed, working for a gentile, feeding unclean animals, still hungry and starving.  How that bread became a stone. 

What stones in our lives do we ask for?  Do we pray for a certain car that looks real nice but then we can not afford the insurance or upkeep, we are slaves to payments for the next several years?  Do we pray for a certain man or woman to notice us and when God tells us it is not them or time and in the end we end up with our hearts broken?  Is it riches, only to find out how empty they are and that getting more money only leads to the desire for even more money?  Is it a job that God warns us about but we are lured by the promise of pay and prestige only to find that job utterly miserable?  There are so many times in our lives where we ask for a stone and despite God's warning we desire it anyway.  God gives it to us or allows us to get it, and we live to regret it.  It is at this point now where we are in the parable now.  It is at the point where we come to the realization that the bread we desired is really a cold hard stone.  What we will see now is the heart behind God allowing us to have that stone and we will see how we should rightly react when we come to that realization. 
"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."'  Luke 15:17-19 NKJV
He hit rock bottom and came to the realization that the bread he wanted was stone indeed.  There are many ways this could have gone. I know for many of us, when God gives us that stone we think is bread, we bite into it expecting it to be warm, soft, and fresh, and it ends up breaking our teeth, we often blame God.  When our hearts are broken by that special someone God warned us about we ask why He allowed it to happen and why He is not taking that pain away.  When that car God told us not to get becomes a stone around our necks we ask God why He is not providing for us to take care of what He allowed us to have.  When that job God warned us not to take becomes miserable we ask God why He put us in that position.  When those riches become empty just like God told us they would we ask why our life doesn't "feel" abundant.  The fact is that God tried to warn us, but in our own rebellion we desired those things just like Israel desired a king and in that our pain is on our own heads.  God is not our enemy when we break our teeth on the stone, He is our salvation.  God allowed us to have that stone to turn our hearts back to Him and to learn to trust His judgment instead of our own.  Our response needs to be like the prodigal son.  We need to repent and turn back to God and humbly repent of the stone we asked for. 
"And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.'" Luke 15:20-24 NKJV
The grace of God amazes me more each and every day.  There is even grace in the stone He allowed us to have.  This story began with a prodigal son just looking to get his bread and go out and party.  Now he comes back to his father as a humble servant.  The bread he thought would make his life better was a stone that crushed all that he had.  That stone even crushed his rebellion and he returned to his father in all humility.  By law, his father had every right to kill his son.  The penalty for his disobedience and rebellion was death.  The father not only did not put him to death but ran to him and embraced him.  Not only did he embrace and welcome him, but he accepted him back not as a slave but as his son.  Giving him his best robe, a ring, and sandals were things not given to a slave, but to a son.  His relationship with his father was restored. 

That is just how it is with our heavenly Father.  When we forsake God's warning for our own desires, we are in rebellion to God.  Eventually, that rebellion will hurt us and we will come to realize that God was right all along.  The response can not be to harden our hearts against God, but to humble ourselves and return to God.  If we harden our hearts against God, that stone will become our hearts.  We need to humble ourselves, return to God, and He will restore us.  The whole goal in giving you the stone is to crush the rebellion in your heart with it.  The goal is restoration.  The prodigal son refused to repent before he had that stone, and so it became necessary to allow him to have it to crush that rebellious heart.  God will do the same for us.  For us?  Yes, I did say "for us" because at that point we need to be broken.  In the end, the prodigal son had a better and closer relationship with his father than he had at the beginning of the parable.  In the end, our relationship with God will be better than before we asked for that stone.

In this post I shared a real historical example of people asking for a stone and a parable that illustrates the same.  May we not be so stubborn as the Israelites or as rebellious as the prodigal son.  May we trust God that He always knows what is best for us and may we heed God's warnings when He knows we are asking for a stone.  Sometimes, though, we need to learn lessons the hard way.  Sometimes we need the stone.  Thank God for the stones He gives us. 
But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:8-11 NKJV

Monday, November 29, 2010

God Doesn't Always Answer Our Prayers

There are times in all our lives when it seems as though God is just not hearing our prayers.  Sometimes that is to teach us patience, but many times it is an indication that something is wrong in our walk with God.  God does promise to answer prayer, but God also has conditions on how and when He will answer us.  Today I want to talk about those things in our lives that can prevent us from hearing from God or God from answering our prayers.  I also want to premise this by saying that God sometimes will answer prayers for the unsaved or even the unrepentant, but those are by His grace and not by His promise. God acts according to His will and sometimes that Will is served by answering the prayers at times when by His Word He normally would not. We can not take those times as a vindication of our backslidden lives, but as a testimony to His grace and mercy. 

First of all, for God's promise to answer prayer, we must be one of His.  We must accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in order for God to hear and answer our prayers. 
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  Ephesians 2:11-18 NKJV
Without Christ, we are enemies of God.  Without Christ, we have no right to approach God.  Without Christ, we have no nearness to God.  When we come to Christ, that all changes.  Suddenly, we are in a place of being God's child with all the closeness and intimacy that comes with such a relationship.  In Christ, we not only have the right to approach God, but we are invited to do so.  In Christ, and only in Christ, do we have access to the Father because the only want to approach God is through the blood of Christ.

I assume that most if not all who are reading this are already in Christ and so when God is not answering your prayers, something else is going on.  Am I saying that even as Christians, there are times when God will not hear our prayers?  Yes, though, it is not me who is saying it but the Word of God.  The first thing we need to check is the faith in which we ask.  
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
What this is saying is that if you want to ask God for something in prayer, you have to believe He will answer.  God is not going to honor a prayer made in the spirit of making God prove Himself to you.  That is the wrong heart.  Our prayers must begin in faith that He is and that He is a rewarded or those who diligently seek Him.  This is not to say that we need perfect faith, as we see in this example where a man brought his son who was possessed by a violent demon and pleaded with Jesus to help.
Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"  Mark 9:23-24 NKJV
The Lord, of course, did heal that boy.  What's amazing here is the grace of God.  This man had wavering faith, but faith in Jesus nonetheless.  He did not come to Jesus asking him to prove Himself and His power, but came in a humble spirit knowing Jesus had power, but knowing his faith needed help.  If you faith is lacking, do not come to the God in the spirit of a lack of faith or in a way for Him to prove Himself, but come to Him honestly and ask Him to help your faith.  If you lack faith when you come to Jesus, then there is no promise of God answering your prayer.  In fact, your lack of faith becomes a hindrance to God's answering of your prayer.
Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. Mark 6:3-4 NKJV
And why did he do no might work there?
Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.  Matthew 13:58 NKJV
Come to the Lord in prayer with the faith that He can and will answer your prayer.  If you do lack faith, come to God about that and ask Him to help your faith.  If you come to Him with no faith and no humility, God has no promise to answer your prayer.

When we come to God, we must ask in the name of Jesus.
"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." John 14:13-14 NKJV
This is not that Jesus is our "Abracadabra," but it is a reminder as to why we have the right to approach God in prayer.  We come to God through Jesus.  It is by His blood that we have that access.  Asking in His name is a reminder of that.  It also a reminder of our heart in prayer.  Asking in the name of Jesus, is asking in the nature and character of Jesus.  Our requests need to be in the nature and character of Jesus.  I can not ask for an adulterous affair in "Jesus name." That would just be ludicrous.  God will not answer our prayers that are not in the nature and character of Jesus. 

Another thing that hinders our prayers to God is if we come to God selfishly. 
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  James 4:3 NKJV
That is not to say we are never to come to God for help for ourselves.  The Bible tells us that that we are to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us.  But we really must check our hearts to see the motivation behind our requests.  The guiding principle needs to be how we will use what we ask for, whether it is a need or a want, whether it is something we desire for God's service or something we covet because another has it.  For example, we may ask God to provide much needed money for us to get by and get frustrated when God does not provide.  Why would He not provide?  Well maybe it is because He did provide, but we squandered that provision on gambling or that we will squander His provision on waste.  Maybe we need a car, but we ask for something well beyond what we need and get angry when God gives us nothing.  We have not, in those cases, because we ask amiss.  We are really asking for our own pleasures and not our needs.  We must come to God with a selfless and humble heart and ask God for what we need and be good stewards of what He provides. 

Another hindrance to our prayer is unconfessed sin.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. Psalm 66:18 NKJV
If you hold onto your sin, God will withhold His answers to our prayers.  God will forgive your sins, but He is not going to answer your prayer when you should be starting with a confession of the sins you hold on to.  This is meant to make us put our priorities in order.  God knows what we have done wrong, He knows our sin as we can not hide it from Him.  Going to Him in prayer for something else while knowingly harboring unconfessed sin in your heart is trying to hide from God something the both of you know.  It is ignoring what God wants to deal with while trying to get something else from Him.  God will not let you ignore the sin in your heart, He wants to cleanse you of it.  He wants to heal you of it, but He can not when you do not acknowledge it.  Confessing our sins to God comes before asking for things from God.  
Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity.  Isaiah 59:3 NKJV
Even as Christians, our sin separates us from God.  It does not separate us in the eternal sense as before we came to Christ, but it separates us in our relationship to Him.  God can come through in our prayers, but Isaiah shares here that He will not while our sins separate us from Him.  We must confess our sins to God and allow Him to begin that work in us, then He will hear our prayers.  

Related to unconfessed sin, is living disobediently and rebelliously to God.  
One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.  Proverbs 28:9 NKJV
That's a tough verse.  If we are in rebellion to God, our prayers are an abomination to God.  If you are living in disobedience, the only thing God wants to hear from your is your confession and your willingness to allow God to help you give up that sin in your life.  This may seem harsh, but you have to understand the parental relationship God has with us.  If you have a child that is unapologetically misbehaving, you are not going to do things for him or her until they are back under obedience.  Doing anything else justifies that bad behavior and leads to more and more disobedience.  It is the same way with God.  If we are living disobediently, and God is answering our prayers, it will not lead to us turning to God.  It justifies our sin and leads to more sin.  God wants to work with us to sanctify us and spoiling us as we live in disobedience is counter to that goal.  Conversely, if we turn our hearts back to God, He will hear and answer our prayers.
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  1 John 3:22 NKJV
We receive our answers to prayer because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  Just as our Father will punish a disobedient child, He will reward an obedient child.  If you want God to answer your prayer, you have to come to God and confess your sins and allow Him to do that work of sanctification in your life.

We also have to be in God's will to have the promise of God answering our prayers.
"Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." John 9:31 NKJV
Jesus takes it up another notch here.  Not only does God not hear sinners, but even if you are a worshiper of God, we must be doing His will for Him to answer our prayers.  Again, while this may seem harsh, it is consistent with God's desire to continue the work of sanctification in us.  If we are outside His will and He answers our prayers (unless those prayers are seeking a return to His will), those prayers will take us further from His will.  Think about it, if we are outside His will, anything we ask for will also be outside His will.  If I buy a house that was outside the will of God, and I have a hard time paying the mortgage, why would God provide for that?  Any provision He gives will only serve to keep us where He does not want us to be.  Comforting and providing for us while outside where He wants us to be only helps to keep us there.  His desire is for us to be back in His will, back to where He desires us to be in our walks with Him, and so the prayer first needs to be to get us back there. 

And, finally, sometimes God is answering our prayers, but we refuse to listen.  It is not that God does is not answering, it is that our hearts are cluttered with so much junk that we can not hear from Him.
"Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful." Matthew 13:22 NKJV
I realize this verse is in the context of someone hearing the word of God unto salvation, but I think it is equally applicable to our walks with God.  We fill our lives with sports, parties, activities, entertainment, friends, family, cars, work, and more and while none of those things are bad or sinful in and of themselves, they often fill up so much of our hearts and minds that we can not hear from God.  I know people who can recite scores of games that happened months ago but they can not talk about a sermon they heard hours ago.  If you are cluttering your life with so much and pushing God into some corner of your heart and mind, you will not hear from Him.  He may be speaking, but there is too much noise pollution from what you fill your life with to hear from Him. 

God does promise to hear and respond to our prayers, but that promise is not unconditional. If we are not hearing from God and it seems as through God is not answering prayers, even prayers we know to be promises, we need to check our hearts.  First and foremost, we must have Jesus alone as Lord and Savior.  After that, our requests must be in His nature and character as we ask in His name.  We must also not ask with a selfish heart looking to squander His provision on our pleasures that lead us away from Him.  We must ask our requests in faith that he can and will answer. And we must confess our sins to Him, repent of any rebellion in our hearts, and live in and seek His will.  When we fail to do those things, God is not answering our prayers, He is answering our needs.  We need to be saved by the blood of Jesus or we are forsaken to Hell.  We need to have faith in God or we have no reason for hope in this life.  We need to ask in the nature and character of Jesus and in His name because that is how God will answer.  We need ask for things we will use righteously or we will squander God's provision.  We need to confess our sins because God is faithful and just to forgive our sins.  We need to repent of our rebellion because only God's way will give us peace in this life.  We need to seek His will because there is no greater joy than realizing you are doing exactly what you were created for.  When our needs are met and our hearts are turned back towards God, our desires will match His provisions and watch out because amazing things will happen.  In the end, it is not about God giving answers to our requests but about us giving requests for God's answer.  In the end, it is a realization that He is on the throne and the best place for us is submission to His will.  When you see someone who seems to always have their prayers answered, it is not because they figured out some magical way to ask God for things that they want, it is because they figured out that the place to start is to ask God what He wants.  When you want what God wants, your prayers will always be answered. 
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.  1 John 5:14-15 NKJV

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Always Thanksgiving

Good Saturday everyone.  I hope that everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving.  I hope that thanksgiving was the focus of your day.  I know that it is hard as there is a lot of competition.  A day meant to celebrate God's provision in our lives is filled with all-day football games, parades ending with Santa Clause, gorging ourselves until we can not fit anymore, family, friends, dessert, and planning for Black Friday.  It was supposed to be a solemn day but it has become a festive day.  There is nothing wrong with festive, but we tend to celebrate on the festivities and not what we are supposed to be celebrating.  It becomes about the football games, it becomes about parades, it becomes about the meal, it becomes about family, but all of that takes away from what that day really means.  We celebrate the turkey, we commend the one who prepared the turkey, but we forget the One who created them.  It becomes a day where we can spend a couple of hours watching a parade, 9 hours of watching football, 6 hours preparing dinner, countless hours eating and talking to family, and about 5 minutes saying grace before we eat. 

I am not saying the festivities are wrong, I am not even saying they can not be part of celebrating Thanksgiving, I am just saying that we need to do all that day in the context of giving Thanksgiving to God.  In fact, we need to do that each and every day.  Everyday we are faced with things that distract us from our walk with God and just like on Thanksgiving we need to put everything on context of our relationship with God.  Part of putting everything into context is to celebrate Thanksgiving not just on some Thursday in November, but each and every day.  Every day, let is celebrate and be thankful for what God has done for us.  Every day, let us avoid those distractions and have that close communion and fellowship with God that our souls so desire. 
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hall of Faith Series - Isaac

Today we will once again continue throug the "Hall of Faith" highlighting the lives of those mentioned by God to be examples of faith. Today we will be talkng about Isaac.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.  Hebrews 11:20 NKJV
Today's account is the story of two twin brothers, Jacob and Esau.  Before getting into today's text, we need to establish some background.  First, Jacob and Esau, while far from identical, were twin brothers.  We are at a point where God would begin to fulfill a prophesy made at the time of their birth. 
Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If all is well, why am I like this?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: "Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger." So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau's heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.  Geneis 25:21-26 NKJV
Note the legacy of Abraham's faith in Isaac's response to Rebekah being barren.  He did not laugh at God or impregnate a servant, but knowing what God did regarding his birth, He went to the Lord knowing the Lord can make Rebekah conceive.  She did conceive and felt her children struggling within her.  Being concerned, she turned to the Lord to inquire if that was normal.  God replies with a prophesy regarding her children saying that two nations were striving within her.  He also prophesied strife in that one nation would be stronger than the other and the older would serve the younger.  The children were born with Esau coming first then Jacob.  Being that he was the firstborn son, Esau had the birthright.  God had other plans, though.
So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.  Genesis 25:27-28 NKJV
And here we have the personalities of each of the boys.  Esau was a hunter, a man's man, and daddy's favorite.  Jacob was more of a homebody, a momma's boy if you will and was the favorite of Rebekah.  They say that parents do not have favorites, but, you know. 
Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright as of this day." And Esau said, "Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?" Then Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day." So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.  Genesis 25:29-34 NKJV
And here we see the triumph and tragedy of the proper and improper setting of your priorities.  Jacob was more interested in spiritual things and so while he lost some stew, he gained his brother's birthright.  Esau was more interested in feeding the flesh and so while he gained some delicious stew, he gave up his birthright.  We see here Esau coming in from working outside and he was tired and hungry.  Jacob was in the kitchen preparing a delicious red stew.  Esau was hungry and asked for some, and Jacob said that he could have some if only Esau would, in turn, give up his birthright.  I think this shows that these two twins never really got along.  Esau (probably being melodramatic) said that he was "dying" of hunger so who cares about his birthright, he just wants to eat.  Don't lose the lesson in this.  Esau gave up his birthright that would stretch into eternity to satisfy his flesh for a moment.  He swore to Jacob his birthright, and in the end it is said that he despised it.  He cared nothing for it.  All he cared about was satisfying his flesh for that time and was willing to give up eternity to do so.  May we not have that same heart in our ministry to the Lord.  As Christians, we have a birthright under God to be heirs with Christ.  Do not despise that birthright for the sake of temporal pleasures.  Do not give up eternal rewards for temporal cheap pleasures.  Esau would get hungry again, but Jacob would have that birthright forever. 

And so here we are at today's text.  We are skipping ahead some years now when the consequences of Esau's flippant attitude for spiritual things comes home to roost.
Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, "My son." And he answered him, "Here I am." Then he said, "Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die."  Genesis 27:1-4 NKJV
Isaac was old, blind, and seemingly bedridden.  Interesting that Isaac thought that he was at the end of life, but in reality he still lived for many years to come.  This just goes to show that none of us know the number of our days.  We may think we will live for years but have our lives cut short or we may think that we are on death's doorstep but yet live many years to come.  The answer is not to worry about it but just live each day for the Lord. Isaac calls his favorite son, Esau, and asks him to hunt some game and make him some savory food.  He wanted to have one last good meal and give Esau his birthright blessing before he died.  Poor Isaac was wrong not only on his death, but on who he should be blessing. 
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, "Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, 'Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.' Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. " Genesis 27:5-8 NKJV
Rebekah overhears Isaac speaking to Esau about the food and the blessing and starts plotting and planning in her own mind.  Eavesdropping wives seem to have been a real issue back then!  She calls over her favorite, Jacob, and tells him all that his father said to Esau.  She knows of God's prophesy regarding the older serving the younger and probably knows about Esau's giving of his birthright to Jacob.  Please do not think that the deception that Rebekah was about to put forth was the right thing to do.  God worked His promise in spite of Rebeka's deception, not because of it. Either way, God would have worked His plan for Jacob and Esau. 
"Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death."  Genesis 27:9-10 NKJV
Rebekah was going to pull the old switch-a-roo on Isaac. She was going to prepare a meal like like Esau would have prepared but with animals from the flock because Jacob was not a hunter.  Figuring that Isaac was blind, he would not realize that it was Jacob who brought him the food and give him the birthright blessing that he intended for Esau. 
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, "Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing."  Genesis 27:11-12 NKJV
Jacob apparently was not comfortable with this scheme. He knew that dad could not see, but he could certainly still feel.  Esau was a very hairy man and Jacob was smooth-skinned.  He was concerned that Isaac would feel the difference and curse him instead of bless him.  Jacob once again was concerned with the spiritual aspects of the whole ordeal. 
But his mother said to him, "Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me."  Genesis 27:13 NKJV
Rebekah eases his concerns by offering to take any curse upon herself.  We see now that Jacob relents and obeys his mother.
And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.  Genesis 27:14-17 NKJV
Jacob went to the flock and got his mother the meat.  Mom dressed Jacob in Esau's clothes.  To get around the hair issue, she put the goat skin on Jacob's hands and neck (makes you wonder just how hairy Esau was!).  She prepared a stew just as Esau would have, gave it Jacob, and sent him on his way.  She really did have an elaborate plan! 
So he went to his father and said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am. Who are you, my son?" Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me."  Genesis 27:18-19 NKJV
We see here another example of Jacob trying to "help" God in fulfilling his prophesy by lying to Isaac.  Jacob will ultimately be humbled, but for now he is still a work in progress.  Please do not take the lesson that lying is good under some circumstances.  God was not pleased with Jacob's dishonesty, but worked His promise in spite of Jacob's sin.  Jacob lies in that he is Esau and asks Isaac to eat and in turn bless him.
But Isaac said to his son, "How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?" And he said, "Because the LORD your God brought it to me." Then Isaac said to Jacob, "Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not." So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau." And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him. Then he said, "Are you really my son Esau?" He said, "I am."  Genesis 27:20-24 NKJV
Apparently the one hitch in their plan was the fact that the two boys did not sound exactly the same.  Isaac is immediately suspicious. He questions him as to how he found the game so quickly.  Jacob replied with another lie.  His father was still suspicious and so he asks Jacob to come hear so he can feel him.  Now is where the goat skins come in to play.  Isaac feels Jacob's hands and in feeling the goat hair he recognized the hands of Esau despite the voice of Jacob.  He questions him one last time and again Jacob lies about who he is.  Once you start down the road of lying, it snowballs into more and more lies. 
He said, "Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's game, so that my soul may bless you." So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, "Come near now and kiss me, my son." And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: "Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the LORD has blessed.  Genesis 27:25-27 NKJV
Isaac had one last test, and that is where Esau's clothes came in.  Jacob smelled the clothes and it was the small of Esau.  Isaac was convinced that Jacob was Esau.
Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!" Genesis 27:28-29 NKJV
Now that was a blessing!  Jacob was blessed with the promise if becoming a great nation.  He would become a nation that would rule over nations, including the nations that arose from his siblings (Esau).  He was given the promise of Abraham. 
Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, "Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that your soul may bless me." And his father Isaac said to him, "Who are you?" So he said, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau."  Genesis 27:30-32 NKJV
Of course we knew that Esau would come back.  Esau as of yet had no idea of what Jacob and Rebekah had done and so he prepares his stew and brings it in to his father.  Isaac must have been pretty shocked to hear Esau come in with stew. 
Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, "Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him— and indeed he shall be blessed." When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, "Bless me—me also, O my father!" But he said, "Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing."  Genesus 27:33-35 NKJV
Isaac realized he had been duped and that he gave Esau's blessing to Jacob.  Esau was desperate for his father's blessing, but it had already been given. 
And Esau said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!" And he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, "Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?" And Esau said to his father, "Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!" And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.  Genesis 27:36-38 NKJV
Esau has a problem accepting personal responsibility.  Jacob did not take away his birthright, Esau gave it away. I wonder how good that red stew tastes now?  Sin is like that, it tastes great at the time, but it is never worth it in the end.  Not only did Jacob get his blessing, but that blessing involved Jacob being Esau's master.  Esau is desperate for a blessing, though, and is hoping that there is something left for him.  He was not desperate for the spiritual side of the blessing, though, he was hoping that there was some material blessing left for him.  He wept tears of envy and bitterness that his brother had a good blessing.
Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: "Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, And of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; And it shall come to pass, when you become restless, That you shall break his yoke from your neck."  Genesis 27:39-40 NKJV
And we have Esau's blessing.  We see later in Scripture the Edomites (the descendants of Esau) fulfilling this prophesy.  His blessing was not nearly as good as Jacob's.  Esau felt betrayed.
So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob." And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, "Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother's fury turns away, until your brother's anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?"  Genesis 27:41-45 NKJV
And the real heart of Esau comes out.  Esau, thinking his father was going to die soon, was already plotting the death of Jacob.  He was willing to kill his own brother who only got what he previously gave away.  The first blessing was part of the birthright, it was rightfully Jacob's.  Esau sold it all for some red stew and now it has come back to hurt him.  He was angry and bitter and wanted his brother dead.  Rebekah then makes up another plan for Jacob to flee to Haran, though she was more interested in Jacob finding a wife among her people.  Jacob was going to run away from home in what would become a fateful trip.  What makes the behavior of these two brothers especially interesting is that they were around 70 years old at this point.  They were seventy going on seven.  But this is really a story about Isaac so let's spend some time addressing how he blessed his two sons in faith.

One may get the impression from reading all of this that Esau should have been the father of Israel and that Jacob stole his blessing. Jacob did not steal anything.  The blessings given by Isaac were prophesies given by God.  Jacob may have fooled Isaac, but God knew exactly who he was and gave him the blessing appointed to him all along. All Jacob's deception did was stir up the bitterness in the heart of Esau.  That bitterness was the root of a feud between two nations that would last through Herod.  It caused much death and destruction over many many years.  Dishonestly has consequences and we see through the history of Israel that those consequences can be severe. 

Isaac did not see who came to him that first time with food.  He had suspicions that it was Jacob but was convinced through an elaborate ruse that it was Esau.  Part of me wonders if Isaac was really ever fully convinced.  He was certain that he heard the voice of Jacob.  Either way, the blessing that Isaac gave was not a blessing from his own heart but given to him by the Lord.  Isaac never would have known the futures of his two sons had God not given it to him.  Whether Jacob received his blessing first or second would not have changed what he would have heard from Isaac.  I do wonder, though, if Isaac would have been hesitant to give the lesser blessing to his favorite son.  I wonder if that is why God ultimately never let him figure out the scheme until it was too late.  Either way, Isaac was blind and in faith he gave the blessing given to him by God.  In that same faith, he gave the second blessing to Esau.  Isaac has no physical eyesight, but God gave him a vision into the future.  Isaac gave his blessing not by sight but by faith.  He did so quite literally.

So what can we learn from this passage?  First we learn again that we should never try to "help" God by lying in order to receive even promises we know God has given us.  God will work out the details no matter how unlikely things may look from our perspective.  Jacob's deceit did not gain him any extra blessing, but it did lose him his brother and caused hundreds of years of strife.  May we have that faith that God will work things out and that we do not have to ever compromise our principles to "help" God in His work.  Always trust that God knows very well the circumstances.  He knew them before He made the promise.  He knows how He will work it out despite what things may look like.

We also have the message to live by faith.  Isaac blessed each with the blessing given to him by God.  He had faith that he was saying the correct blessing to the correct son and despite anyone's efforts to confuse matters, each son got the right blessing from God.  God gave Isaac a vision of the future and despite his poor vision and the tricks of Jacob and Rebekah, each son got the proper blessing.  God's purposes always come to fruition.  What I love about God is how we often think we are cunning and smart enough to work His system to our advantage and God uses those same plans to work the purpose He had from the beginning.  In other words, our efforts to avoid prophesy oftentimes fulfill it. 

Isaac was old and unable to see.  His blindness was known to God and it forced Isaac to walk by faith alone.  In faith, he gave blessings to sons he could not see and in the end each received their blessing from God.  Sometimes our own vision gets in the way of our faith.  Sometimes we are like Esau and see right in front of our eyes a momentary pleasure of the flesh.  Whatever we are going through that stirs up whatever temptation in our hearts, Satan tests us with a delicious helping of the satisfaction of that temptation right in front of our eyes.  It clouds our vision of what God has in store for us if only we are obedient and give up this momentary pleasure for the future promise of eternal rewards.  In the end, that failure will catch up with is us through chastisements on this earth and loss of eternal rewards when we stand before Jesus.  In the end, no matter what, that sin we thought was so delicious will be seen to the bitter poison that it was.  Let us never lose site of eternity.  Let us walk by faith and not by sight and allow Jesus to guide our steps. 
For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  2 Corinthians 5:7-10 NKJV