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

1 comment:

  1. I wonder about this story each year that I teach it in class...wonder what God's perfect plan was before humans tried to take it into their own hands.