Introduction: God often repeats patterns in the Bible for our instruction. After all, as someone said, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” If we step back and take a big-picture view of Isaac’s life, we see the same pattern as in Abraham’s life: that of trial, temptation, sin and yet God’s grace and restoration. May God give us some memorable lessons to take into 2009 as we take a birds-eye view of Isaac’s life.
Monday: read Genesis 25:27-34. Isaac’s family life mirrors Abraham’s trials. Just as Abraham had a divided home, with competition between Sarah and Isaac on the one hand, and Hagar and Ishmael on the other, so early on in Isaac’s household the division between Esau and Jacob becomes clear. Sadly, both Isaac and his wife Rebekah compound the problem and increase the tension in their home by showing favoritism towards their offspring (Isaac towards Esau and Rebekah towards Jacob – v. 28). Just think of the envy which this introduced between the pair of them. Instead of showing both their offspring how to bow the knee towards the Lord, they encourage them to be self-reliant and to earn blessing by their own natural gifts and aptitudes. Esau seeks to win blessing by his prowess in the field with wild game; Jacob by his cunning. Either way, neither boy demonstrates faith in God’s will, timing or blessing.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that there is no partiality with Him. None of us can demand God’s blessing because of our strengths and abilities. God does not respect men’s arguments or pleas for His favor. As Jesus said, there will be many on the Last Day who will seek to win favor by their own works, saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles,” (Matthew 7:22)? Jesus’ reply to all such appeals will be: “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23). Learn instead to plead with God not based upon your accomplishments, but based on your undeservedness: “Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul; not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole. Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God; not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.” (Hymn # 461 – Horatius Bonar)
Tuesday: read Genesis 25:34-26:11. Just as Abraham moved because of famine (Gen. 12:10-13) and in fear lied about his wife, claiming she was his sister, so Isaac lies about Rebekah, (“She is my sister” Gen. 26:7), and panics because of the hostility of his neighbors the Philistines. Such distrustful fear is all the more amazing when we consider what lengths God went to in reassuring Isaac that all would be well in Gen. 26:2-5! Like Isaac, we can be slow to believe the sufficiency of God’s promises to guide, bless and protect us!
Meditate and Pray: Do we realize how effective and sufficient the Word and Promise of God are for our needs? Thank God for reminders from men like James Boice that we can trust the Bible utterly: “So take advantage of Bible teaching. Listen to it. Find a faithful pastor who is teaching the Word of God Sunday by Sunday…Open your heart to the words being taught… ‘Faith comes from hearing.’ God has planned it that way. The message is being taught. Open your ears to that truth and trust that, as you do, God will make the message true for you and that you will find yourself calling on the Lord Jesus Christ to be your Savior.” (James Boice, ‘Standing on the Rock,’ pg. 144)
Wednesday: read Genesis 26:2-5 and Genesis 18:17-19. In Gen. 26:5, we are faced with a verse that appears to grant merit to Abraham’s good works as the basis for Divine blessing: “Because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws….” What are we to make of this? Gen. 18:19 gives us the key to avoiding such a wrong ‘works-religion’ conclusion: “For I have chosen Abraham, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” It is God’s sovereign choice and effectual call which produces in Abraham’s life the faith and good works which bring down God’s blessing. The Grace which elects also enables sinners to respond in a life of real, fruitful faith.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that He not only predestinates those who will be saved; He also predestinates and ordains the good works which will make their lives fruitful and full of blessing, as Ephesians 2:10 promises. We can therefore with confidence use these words of the hymn writer, (# 335), about our good works done in Jesus’ Name in 2009: “Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be; and with words that help and heal would thy life in mine reveal; and with actions bold and meek would for Christ my Savior speak.”
Thursday: read Genesis 26:12-35 and Job 1:4-5. It is worth noting today that Isaac has conflict on all fronts, not just with Esau. The Philistines stop up Isaac’s wells (Gen. 26:14-16) and argue with him about water even when, for the sake of peace, he has moved away from them in Gen. 26:17-21. Because of their envy and malice, Isaac doubts their good intentions when they come to make peace in Gen. 26:26-31. To top it all off, another pagan people, the Hittites, ‘invade’ Isaac’s family when Esau unites with them in marriage in Gen. 26:34-35. Where is Isaac to find any rest when his family and his neighbors cause such grief? The answer lies in imitating Job. With all Job’s fear for his children in their round of feasting, and the danger of the poisonous root of blasphemy taking root in their lives (Job 1:5), Job finds courage and faith in calling upon the Lord at the altar of sacrifice. In the same way we see Isaac’s faith rise, despite his heartbreaking troubles with family and neighbors, as he for the first time builds an altar in Gen. 26:25 and ‘calls on the name of the Lord.’
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that for you as a believer, your troubles are ordained by God to drive you to His breast. Even the worst of griefs can be a blessing when it drives us to greater dependence on the Lord! May we with Job and Isaac, call on the Lord, ‘lifting up our hands for our children day and night,’ (Lamentations 2:19).
Friday: read Genesis 26:34-27:4 and 27:27-29. We can well understand Isaac’s wistful desire for the ‘good old days,’ before Esau had complicated everything with ungodly marriage in Gen. 26:34-35. He wanted to remember Esau, before he died, at his best: with the ‘smell of the field that the Lord has blessed,’ (Gen. 26:27). He wanted those old days back when father and son could enjoy the good gifts which God had given them together, in simplicity and mutual respect. The only problem is that this great blessing of ‘dew on the fields’ which Isaac longed to bestow on his eldest son before he died had already been despised and rejected by Esau in Gen. 25:34.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the justice of His ways in handling the lives of Esau and Jacob. Esau’s condemnation by God, resulting in the taking of the birthright and spiritual blessing away from him is seen to be just because what God took from Esau was something which he counted as of no value. Ask God as 2009 begins to enable you to value the precious birthright and promised blessings which God bestows on us through Christ. May the words of hymn #345 be often in our thoughts, controlling our hearts’ desires in this world: “Fading is the worldlings’ pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.” (Isaac Watts)