Introduction: As we see Jacob blessed by his aging father Isaac and then sent on his way to Paddan Aram far to the North where his mother’s family lives, we can be sure that Jacob had many hours to reflect on his family-life growing up. Such distance from loved ones sometimes brings into focus the blessings as well as the short-comings of our upbringing. What should we remember of Isaac’s household as we with Jacob say goodbye to his father and mother? Such reflections on Isaac’s family and especially the inheritance which he passed on to Jacob will be our subject this week.
Monday: read Genesis 27:46-28:9. We begin our reflections on Isaac’s family with his oldest son, Esau, contrasted with Jacob. At the end of Gen. 28, Jacob longs to return to his father’s house and makes a vow to the Lord in anticipation of the time when he will see again those tents which he loved (Gen. 28:20-21). It must have been especially painful for Jacob to lose his home-life, since Gen. 25:27 tells us he loved the family intimacy and community of living at home.
Esau is far different. Our last glimpse of Esau for many years to come is that of a man who undervalues his spiritual upbringing to the point of filling his home with women of any religious conviction except his mother’s true faith: first two Hittite women who make Rebekah despair of life itself (Gen. 27:46); then a woman descended from Ishmael in Gen. 28:9. Sadly, the character of that race is just as independent and rebellious as Esau himself. Do you remember what God said about Ishmael, summing up the tendencies of that whole tribe in Gen. 16:12? “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” This is what a pattern of unbelief like Esau’s breeds within his family: “even to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” (Exodus 20:5).
Meditate and Pray: Our inheritance of sin and rebellion is unavoidable apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason why the destiny of whole races of men in the Old Testament can be summed up in the sinful life of a single ancestor like Esau is that the Bible wants us to understand the terrible hold which sinful rebellion has on future generations. Truly, because of the sin of ‘ONE MAN’ sin and death entered the world (Romans 5:12 & 17). Our only hope is for ANOTHER SINLESS MAN to come to our aid, take our place on the cross and give us a new family tree and inheritance. This is what Jesus did in His incarnation, death and resurrection. As James Philip puts it, “The old humanity, in spite of its glory and promise, has come to grief, and now the new humanity of Jesus, signifying a complete break with the old, and a new beginning, is ushered in.” Thank Jesus right now that He was willing to deliver you from the sinful tendencies of your ancestors, to give you a new name and standing in His family.
Tuesday: read Genesis 28:10-15. Jacob was compelled to travel light as he fled for his life from his brother Esau – “I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan…,” (Gen. 32:10). But we may be sure that his parents gave him ample spiritual supplies for the journey. After all, was he not the son of Isaac, the ‘miracle-child,’ whose birth and survival as a teenager were solely attributable to God’s resurrection power? The story of Isaac’s miracle-birth in Genesis 21:1 along with the miraculous sparing of his life on the altar in Genesis 22 must have been passed on to Jacob by his believing parents. At the end of his life, Jacob will invoke that same power of God as he blesses the next generation of his family in Genesis 48:15-16: “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac have walked, the God who has been my Shepherd all my life to this day…”
Meditate and Pray: As we see God’s shepherding care for all of Jacob’s life, give thanks that though God made Jacob walk away empty-handed from home and brought him back home finally weakened and limping (Gen. 32:31), God had a plan to teach Jacob that He alone was the one staple needed for survival. Let us confess such dependence ourselves with some words from Charles Wesley’s hymn about Jacob’s wanderings:
“I know Thee Savior who Thou art, Jesus the feeble sinner’s’ friend. Nor wilt Thou with the night depart. But stay and love me to the end. Thy mercies never shall remove, Thy nature and Thy Name is love… my help is all laid up above; Thy nature and Thy Name is Love. Contented now upon my thigh I halt…till life’s short journey end. All helplessness and weakness, I, on Thee alone for strength depend.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 28:10-15. How generous God is in answer to Jacob’s need for strengthened faith! Not only is God to be with Jacob to ‘watch over him’ (Gen. 28:15), He also says that a multitude of offspring will proceed from him – ‘like the dust of the earth’ – and promises to bless ‘all peoples on earth’ through him (Gen. 28:14)! These promises are grasped only by ‘faith’ which believes in what it cannot see and waits for it patiently. Did Jacob ever see a ‘multitude like the dust’ proceed from him? Stephen tells us in Acts 7:14 that Jacob had only 74 souls with him when he went down to Egypt – hardly a multitude! Did Jacob see ‘all nations on earth blessed by him?’ Well, though Jacob does bless Pharaoh in Gen. 47:10, Pharaoh puts all Jacob’s offspring in bondage eventually – hardly a joyful recognition of Jacob as the father of blessing!
Meditate and Pray: It is not always easy for us to remain thankful and hopeful when God’s promises take so long to come to fruition. Jacob struggled for years waiting for God’s plans to become clear in his life. As he confesses to Pharaoh: ‘My years have been few and difficult…’ (Gen. 47:9). But in the end, he was able to confess that the Angel of the Lord did in fact ‘deliver him from all evil,’ (Gen. 48:16). Let us also thank this same ‘Angel,’ who all through Scripture is identified with The Son of God, that He will, in the end, redeem us from all our doubts, fears and difficulties: “When my spirit, clothed, immortal, wings its flight to realms of day, this my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way,” (Hymn # 605).
Thursday: read Genesis 27:45-46 and 28:5. We don’t hear much of Rebekah after Jacob leaves home. But we thank God for her sacrificial faith in being willing to endure the loss of Jacob to her brother’s house instead of his being lost to the murderous vengefulness of Esau in Gen. 27:45. We also thank God that she is used to rescue her son Jacob from the wicked influence of the ungodly Canaanite women around him. It is she who insists that Isaac send Jacob away so that the godly seed of promise will not be corrupted by unbelieving intermarriage in Gen. 27:46.
Meditate and Pray: Thank the Lord for the courage of faith which the Lord can give us, like Rebekah, to take our stand against the unbelief of our day. Ask the Lord to give you the same courage to pray for and act on behalf of godly homes and marriages within your church family.
Friday: read Genesis 28:13-22. What a catalogue of blessing flows to Jacob as he receives the spiritual inheritance of his father. His offspring one day would be like the ‘dust of the earth’ in number; through him ‘all nations’ on earth would be blessed; God would shepherd Jacob ‘all of his life’ and in the end ‘deliver him from all harm’ (Gen. 48:15-16). God even promises through Isaac’s words of blessing that one day he would become a ‘community of peoples’ (Gen. 28:3), pointing to the founding of the nation of God’s Old Testament people Israel! It is hard to believe that Isaac became such a tool of spiritual blessing in Jacob’s life when he had been so blind, conflicted and partial to Esau’s worldly prowess and pride. But that is the kind of God we have. He indeed can ‘draw straight lines with crooked sticks!’
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the words of J. Owen on God’s gracious use of us for His holy purposes in spite of our undeserving sinfulness: “Even while his people are sinning, God can find something in their hearts, words, or ways, that pleaseth Him; much more in their duties. He is a skilful refiner, that can find much gold in that ore where we see nothing but lead and clay. He remembers the duties we forget, and forgets the sins we remember. He justifies our persons, though ungodly; and will also our duties, though not perfectly godly,” (Vol. 6, pg. 603).