Over the past couple of months, we’ve been looking at Genesis – which means the beginning.
Genesis has two primary themes
- Chapters 1 through 11 is about creation.
- Chapter 12 through 50 is about covenant.
Tying these two themes together is a man named Abraham who was 75 years old and should be kicked back in his recliner and enjoying retirement, but God shows up and tells him to uproot his entire life.
And in return, God promised to make Abram a great nation, to give him a great name, and to bring a great blessing upon the earth which is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus – which means, in spite of being beyond child bearing years, they are going to have a child.
So, Abram, along with his barren wife, Sarai, and nephew, Lot, head out on this journey of faith.
A lot of stuff happens on this journey which tests Abram’s faith but what he has learned is that the promises of God are solely dependent of God and that faith is formed and nurtured through humility, trust and obedience.
Well, 25 years later, their son was born, and they named him, Isaac which means “he laughs” because when Sarai overheard three angels of God renew the promise that she and Abram were to conceive a child, she laughed. Although, when God asked her about it later, she denied it.
Abraham loved that kid. He had waited his entire life for this boy. But then it happened. God shows up again and asks Abraham to do the unthinkable; sacrifice his son, Isaac.
Now, Abraham didn’t know it at the time, but this was once again a test and what he learned, once again, is that the promises of God are ultimately dependent on God and that He would provide the sacrifice.
I suggested last week that the purpose of this test was to be an example of the kind of faith God desires from his children. You see, God is the God of Abraham, but He needs to become the God of Abraham and Isaac and Isaac can’t just borrow the faith from his father; he needs to have his own faith. He needs to have his own relationship with God because this blessing will be passed on to him and eventually his children.
Well, time passes, and Isaac is forty years old and it’s time for him to move out of the basement and have a family of his own, so Abraham arranges for him to be married to a woman named Rebecca.
Twenty years later they find out that they are pregnant . . . with twins.
From the very beginning, they were rivals. In fact, you could trace their rivalry all the way back to the womb. Rebecca described her pregnancy as a wrestling match going on inside of her . . . very painful!
The message God gave to her in the midst of her pain was that her trouble was due to the struggle of her sons and that their struggle would in time divide their descendants into two nations. And that the older would serve the younger. In other words, God was pronouncing his blessing upon the youngest child in her womb.
But that’s just not the way it worked in Hebrew culture –it is the firstborn who receives the blessing, not the youngest! But God decreed it and Rebecca heard it.
Although born to the same parents at the same time, the twins developed differently. Not that unusual.
Esau became a free-spirited hunter, who lived off the land. He was a man’s man; drives and F-150 with a gun rack, wears steel toed boots, listens to classic rock, and probably crushes his opponents in fantasy football. He was favored by his father. And because Esau was the older of the sons, the birthright belonged to him, which meant a double portion of the inheritance and the privilege of succeeding the father as head of the clan.
Jacob was the complete opposite of Esau. He was a mama’s boy; drives a convertible, well manicured, wears matching outfits and loves boy bands. He became a herdsman and worked alongside his mom to help her keep the house in order. Needless to say, he was favored by his mother.
But although Jacob seemed to have it all together, he had a tragic flaw; He believed that if he was going to get ahead in life than he was going to have to hustle - even if it meant hustling his own brother.
One day, a convenient situation arose. Esau had been hunting and was very hungry, so hungry that he felt that if he didn’t get some food in his body immediately, he would surely die.
Jacob had a tempting pot of soup simmering. It smelled so good that Esau was willing to do anything just to get a bowl full. And so, Jacob proposed a deal.
He said, “I will give you a bowl of soup, if you give me your birthright”
Esau thought for a moment . . . and decided that this was a good deal. After all, what good would his birthright be if he starved to death? So, he agreed to the trade; his birthright for a simple meal.
Sometime later, their father Isaac was becoming frail enough that he thought that his life was coming to an end. The truth is, he’s not near death but he thinks he is. He’s 100 years old and he’s going to live to 180, but he thinks he’s dying because he is blind and he’s having some health complications. So, he’s leaking a lot of oil, but he’s got a lot of miles left.
So, he decides that it was time for him to give his blessing on Esau and turn over the leadership of the clan to him. Remember, in Hebrew culture, the blessing goes to the firstborn.
This is where we pick up the story . . . READ Genesis 27:1-13
Here’s how the story was supposed to go down . . . Esau was to go out and prepare a savory meal of game he had killed. His father would then take part in a ritual feast in preparation of giving the blessing. And in the end, Esau would receive his rightful inheritance and blessing, and everyone would live happily ever after.
Well, Rebecca overheard the instructions Isaac gave Esau and she realized that now was the time to act if Jacob was to receive the priority place in the family as God had decreed.
So, she comes up with a plan . . . now before we get into this plan, I want you to realize that these aren’t little boys anymore. They are nearly 50 years old and what we see is that she treats this man like an itty-bitty boy who needs his mama’s help . . . and he goes for it.
So, here’s the plan
While Esau was out hunting, she would send Jacob out to get two goats from the flock and she would prepare them to taste like the food that Esau was to prepare. Her plan was for Jacob to disguise himself as Esau, take the food to the nearly blind father, and get the blessing for himself before Esau returned.
In theory, it sounded great, but Jacob knew that there was a problem because there were stark differences between the two brothers. Esau was hairy man’s man who was dearly loved by his father and Jacob was a smooth mama’s boy. How could Isaac be fooled with such a scheme?
If Jacob got caught, not only would he not receive the blessing he might actually be cursed. Do you see what’s happening here; He’s willing to do the wrong thing but just doesn’t want to suffer the consequences.
But his mother persuaded him to go along with the scheme by declaring that she would be willing to accept any curse that might come. This is where the text left off but let me tell you what follows.
So he went and he does what his mother says . . . Got the goats, gave them to his mother to prepare – apparently she’s a good cook because she can make goat taste like venison – and then she took the best clothes of Esau and put them on her son. Then she covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskin.
Meanwhile, old man Isaac is waiting in his tent for his eldest son, Esau, to return. After awhile, he hears someone enter . . . “Who is there?” Isaac asks.
In the disguise of Esau’s clothes and goat hair covering his face and hands, Jacob says. . .
- “It is I, Esau.” . . . a lie
- “I have done as you told me” . . . another lie
- “Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing” . . . yet another lie
Isaac almost believes it, but he questioned the quickness with which the meal was prepared.
But Jacob lied again and said that God had helped him have quick success. He’s lying and blaming it on God.
Isaac couldn’t question God’s help but the voice he was hearing . . . it sounded much more like Jacob than Esau and so he summoned the boy to come near him. And when he did, Isaac felt the goat hair on his arms and face and was persuaded that it must just be his hearing that was going.
Are you getting the picture here . . . this is a very troubled, dysfunctional family?
Isaac then ate the ritual meal, but he still wasn’t completely convinced that this was his son, Esau and so he called his son to come near enough to him that he might kiss him. Just like Judas, this is the kiss of betrayal from the one who is supposed to be trustworthy because they are so close.
At that close distance Isaac could recognize the smell of the field on Esau’s clothes – that was the smell of a man’s man; hunting, fishing, outdoors . . . not like Jacob. Jacob smells like potpourri.
That was enough to convince him. He gave the blessing to Jacob, thinking that it was Esau. This blessing was legally binding, and it gave to Jacob clan headship and a double share of the family inheritance.
As soon as Jacob left, Esau returns and he too had prepared tasty food for his dad and he said to him, “Sit up, and eat some of my game so that I may receive the blessing”
Isaac said, “Who are you?” . . . “I’m your son; Esau”
Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who is then, that hunted game and bought it to me? I ate it just before you came, and I blessed him – and indeed he will be blessed.”
When Esau heard his father’s words, he bursts out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, bless me too!
But Isaac said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing”
Then Esau asks, “Don’t you have any blessing for me?”
I gave everything to him . . . you’re on your own Kid.
Esau just begins weeping and crying. He’s devastated.
Now, at this point, you want to feel bad for Esau. . . he got ripped off and now he’s crying. But don’t be fooled, just because someone cries doesn’t mean that they are a victim.
Sometimes when we feel that we have been hurt we like to reinterpret the facts around those painful events so that they’re conducive to us being a victim . . . not that we participated in any way. We’re total victims.
That’s the case here . . . Esau is upset because his brother stole his birthright.
No, he didn’t. Remember, the story. He agreed to a trade; his birthright for a simple meal.
And here, Esau is crying because he’s trying to cut a deal with his dad in order to take back the blessing and birthright from his brother. He’s lying, he’s manipulating, he’s trying to win and that’s why he’s crying.
Isaac responds, “Son, there’s nothing I can do . . . you’re just gonna have to suck it up”
Esau held a grudge against Jacob which led to anger and He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
So, here’s Esau crying and trying to get Dad to buy into his “I’m a victim story” . . . but what cheers him up? A murder plot. Like, I’m feeling bad but when I start thinking that I could just whack him. I feel better now.
The story continues . . .
When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she called for Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
She’s so cute . . . this naïve woman thinks it will just blow over. Her family will come back together. It’ll all be good. It’ll just fix itself. Time heals all wounds.
But that’s not what happens, her favorite boy is gone for 20 years and a lot of stuff happens to Jacob while he is gone, her family completely unravels, and she dies without ever seeing Jacob again.
The story ends . . . it’s not very happy. It doesn’t say, “And they lived happily ever after.”
But the strange irony to this whole story is that Jacob didn’t have to hustle. God had already promised him the blessing. If you remember, while he was still in the womb, God proclaimed to Rebecca that the younger would be the blessed one.
The problem is that Jacob didn't believe it - even though he must have heard it over and over again from his mother as he worked alongside her - but he just couldn't believe it.
All he could see was . . .
Esau - the strong one
Esau - the popular one
Esau - the first born
Esau - the skilled hunter
Esau - the preferred one of his father
And he figured that the only way he would ever be blessed would be to steal it from his brother. He wanted to live someone else’s story because it looked so much better than the one God had given to him.
And this morning, I wonder how many of us are like Jacob, always watching somebody else, coveting their gift, their story, in spite of the gift and the story that God has given us.
The apostle Paul understood this when he counseled a young preacher by the name of Timothy. He said these words to him: "Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress" 1 Timothy 4:14-15
But at the end of the story, the lesson again is this . . . the promises of God are solely dependent on God and that faith is formed and nurtured through humility, trust and obedience
You see, despite each of the characters in the story of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca; all trying to take matters into their own hands, in the end it was God who provided.
Through Abraham comes Isaac. Isaac worships God and will raise his son to worship God, who will raise his son to worship God, who will raise his son to worship God and eventually, we’ll get to the seed of Abraham, Jesus, his offspring so that all the nations of the earth would be blessed, just as God had promised.