Introduction: We see this week the tragic relationships in Isaac’s family and at the same time the recovery of faith as ‘blind’ Isaac learns anew to submit to God’s plan and His Word. May the Lord recover us from our backslidings to new visions of faith in what God intends to do in our lives.
Monday: read Genesis 26:34-27:17 and 27:46. We condemn Rebekah’s scheming for the blessing in Gen. 27:6-17. God promised that Jacob would lead the family in Gen. 25:23 and Rebekah should have encouraged Jacob to wait on the Lord Himself to keep His Word instead of encouraging him to impersonate his brother to gain the blessing. Why was Rebekah thus tempted? One answer is her grief at the marriages of Esau in Gen. 26:35 and 27:46. We can imagine her panic at the thought that these pagan women would with Esau their husband one day take over after Isaac had died and left the blessing to Esau. We can sympathize with Rebekah in her fear of these profane women ruining her covenant household.
Meditate and Pray: Let us confess that the wickedness of others often drives us to discouragement so that we are tempted to live by fear and even cunning rather than by faith. It is hard to wait on the Lord in the face of the possibility that the ungodly will take advantage of us. Self-preservation takes over, and we begin to connive instead of trusting in the Lord. Paul condemns such trickery by Christians in 1 Corinthians 6:7: “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead you yourselves cheat and do wrong…” Let our prayer be: “Lord, keep us in simplicity of faith trusting in you to deliver us. Help us not to take up the world’s methods of selfish scheming. Assure us that it is better to lose with you than win by our own cleverness. Protect us from doing damage to our relationships with unbelievers by adopting their ploys and plots.” Amen.
Tuesday: read Genesis 27:18-46. How tragic Jacob’s falsehoods are: “I am Esau,” (Gen. 27:19); “The Lord your God gave me success (hunting),” (27:20); “Are you really my son Esau? I am.” (27:24). With these fateful words, Jacob unknowingly stamped his passport, doomed to wander away from his home for more than 14 years, never to see his mother again. After beholding the ill-conceived fruits of her plan of deception, Rebekah recognizes the implacable hatred which she has stirred up in Esau in Gen. 27:42-43: “Your brother is consoling himself with the thought of killing you,” and urges her son to flee at once. In this sad way Rebekah and Jacob learned that plans of deception and selfish ambition never turn out the way we had planned.
Meditate and Pray: We must mourn over the tragic family webs of hatred and lies which our sins weave; we must also mourn the terrible damage done to relationships such as Esau’s and Jacob’s. Let’s also confess our sinful tendency along with Rebekah to say: “My life will not be worth living,” (Gen. 27:46). Instead, let us thank God that He was willing to send a new family member, His own Son, to be our Elder Brother in order to save us from our tragic family guilt and alienation. Christ is able to untangle the terrible web which Jacob weaved and, as we shall see in future weeks, to bring Jacob back home loaded with blessing. Jesus is not ashamed to own Jacob or us as his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11), and we should celebrate this fact. As Charles Wesley said of Christ’s birth, speaking of the new life which God in Christ can bestow on us no matter what our tragic past:
“Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.”
“Lord, in this new year of 2009, please give us a new lease on life. Even while the world around us is struggling with age-old conflicts like that between Esau and Jacob, lift us onto the path of peace, hope and new family bonds of love in your church through Jesus Christ our Lord and Elder Brother. Amen.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 27:33; 28:1-5 and Hebrews 11:20. Isaac’s whole plan for Esau to inherit the top place in the family fails miserably when he realizes that he has mistakenly blessed the younger Jacob instead of his favorite Esau! No wonder he trembles! Yet look at how we begin to hear the language of faith on Isaac’s lips as he is humbled by the realization of what has happened. Speaking to Esau he adamantly insists that God’s blessing will stay with Jacob in Gen. 27:33: “Indeed, he will be blessed.” Though the light is slow to dawn, Isaac eventually sees that God’s promised blessing has settled where God designed to have it all along. Later on in Gen. 28:3-4, Isaac reaffirms his faith in what God has done by using in blessing Jacob that special Name ‘God Almighty’ which had been given to the patriarchs in their wandering condition: “May God Almighty bless you…” That name is El Shaddai, translated by some as ‘God All-Sufficient,’ the God who is well able to provide all we need even when we are all alone in a hostile world. As we will see in Friday’s notes, this is exactly the kind of blessing banished Jacob will need, and for giving it, Isaac is commended by God in Hebrew 11:20: “By faith Isaac…blessed Jacob.”
Meditate and Pray: When all our plans fall apart and what we feared comes upon us, then the mettle of our faith will prove itself. Isaac lost all his dreams and fantasies about how his life would end with the blessing of Esau. Yet he submitted to God’s reversal of all his hopes, and becomes a great blessing to Jacob in the end – one day to be reunited to him with joy in Genesis 35:27. Thank God for how much good He can bring out of our sinful, twisted plans and desires!
Thursday: read Genesis 28:1-9. In Gen. 28:1-5 we see Isaac warn Jacob not to intermarry with Canaanites (as Esau had done in Gen. 26:34-35 by taking two women from one of the clans of Canaan, the Hittites). Moses wrote of these people: “In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God,” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for parents like Isaac who warn us against compromising with the ways of the world. Marriage to someone outside of the Lord Jesus is forbidden by Paul as well as Moses – see 1 Corinthians 7:39. Do not step into a marriage if you have doubts or are not sure where your potential mate stands with Jesus. Are you hoping for God’s provision to find a godly mate? Wait God’s time, and take a few moments now to pray for that future mate. Wherever he or she is, the Lord knows their steps and can use your prayers for them. If you are already married, or look back at your earlier days when you had a spouse, thank God for those years and pray for the young marriages of your church family.
Friday: read Genesis 28:10-15 and Hebrews 12:22. How lonely Jacob’s life is as he takes a mere stone for his pillow in Gen. 28:11. There he is, without a wife, without human protection or favor, without an inheritance or prospects of receiving one soon. As he confesses later to the Lord about this lonely night of travel: “I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan…,” (Gen. 32:10). However, by means of a ladder which descends from heaven, the Lord appears to him in Gen. 28:12-15 and reaffirms all the covenant promises first given to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob is richer than he thought!
Meditate and Pray: How much better Jacob’s lot: enriched by God’s promises and presence, compared to Esau who has all the world’s prestige and can amass one unbelieving wife after another. How sad it is to see Esau try to please his parents by adding yet another wife to the ones he already had – this time a daughter of Ishmael in Gen. 28:8-9. He misses the point. The inheritance of the Lord cannot be gained by courting parents’ favor or by surrounding oneself with a multitude of wives and children. It is a spiritual inheritance which God offers and which Esau never sees. How much better is Jacob’s ladder, granting him and us a glimpse of heaven, where a real, eternal inheritance awaits: Mt. Zion, our heavenly inheritance as Hebrews 12:22ff. describes it. Ask the Lord to lift your eyes to this inheritance and make you mindful each day of how to live on earth in light of the glory to come:
“My God how wonderful thou art, thy majesty how bright! How beautiful thy mercy seat, in depths of burning light!… How wonderful, how beautiful, the sight of thee will be, thine endless wisdom, boundless pow’r, and awesome purity!” (Frederick Faber, 1848, # 35 Trinity Hymnal)