This is what God tells us in 1 Timothy 1:9. God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. George MyIne reminds us that this truth, “This is to humble you — as well as to exalt you. This is to make you weep — as well as cause you to rejoice. You are vile in yourself — but chosen to indescribable honor! You are poor in yourself — but chosen to unspeakable riches! You are naked in yourself — but chosen to eternal glory!” Remember that Jacob was not blessed because he was a man of God. Jacob became a man of God because he was blessed. That is the same for all of us. We need to remember this truth. Paul reminded Timothy of this fact while Paul was suffering for preaching the gospel. He did not want Timothy to become ashamed of the man who he is following. Paul said he was not ashamed of suffering, because he knew who he believed and he was convinced that Jesus was able to guard what was entrusted to him. May we know those same truths and have that same conviction.
In these verses, we read the blessing of Isaac upon Jacob. Despite all of the scheming and lying and sin, God’s will prevails. Jacob is the chosen one and he will be the one that the nations will bow down to. The covenant promises will be bestowed on Jacob. Notice the pattern here. Isaac was told that he would be the recipient of the covenant blessings because of Abraham’s faith and consequent obedience. Isaac did nothing to deserve the blessing of God. Here we are at Jacob’s first reception of the covenant blessings and look at the situation. Did he deserve this? Absolutely, unequivocally not! He is amid a deception! He is sinning when he first hears the covenant blessing being pronounced over him. We’ll see God confirming this over and over in Jacob’s life but here, at the outset, he is blessed while sinning.
When you live in a house of lies there will be consequences. a. Esau’s and Isaac’s consequences. In these verses, we see that Jacob gets the birthright and the blessing just as God had said. But this was all done through lies and deception and there are consequences to be paid. We already know Esau’s consequences. He is unholy and does not know God. He and his descendants will be enemies of God. But what about Isaac? He was trying to go against God. Look at what happens. He is already blind. When Jacob brings the food to Isaac he questions why he was able to get the food so quickly. Jacob says because Yahweh, Jacob’s God gave him success. Ironic, isn’t it? God is going to allow Jacob to fool his father here. First, Isaac suspends his belief in the passage of time. Second, Isaac’s sense of touch is confused. Did the goatskin really feel like Esau? Third, Isaac doubts his hearing and ability to discern his sons’ voices. Despite all of this doubt, the only question he asks is, “Are you really my son Esau?” Jacob flat out lies and says, “I am.” What does Isaac do? Oh, bring on the food then. Isaac is made into a fool. Look at who silly he looks. There is a consequence for sin. b. Rebekah’s and Jacob’s consequences. So it all works out for Jacob and Rebekah, right? Jacob gets the blessing, which is what God promised, but he then goes on the run. Rebekah loses her favorite son and her other son has wives the causes her bitterness. Jacob has to leave behind everything that he gets from the blessing. For decades he is working for another man. For years the great deceiver is himself deceived over and over again. May we never be tempted to think that our sinful actions are excused because everything will work out in the end.
a. The Scheme. Now Rebekah overhears what Isaac and Esau are planning and she sets in motion a counter-scheme. Instead, of trusting that God will act according to his word, she wants to help God out. If this sounds familiar it is because Sarah, the matriarch before her, had done the same thing. Rebekah knows the promise that God spoke to her concerning Jacob but she allows her love of her favorite son to override her love for God. Rebekah’s goal is the same as God’s but she is willing to use deception and lies to get there. God will accomplish his goals and doesn’t need sin to do it. Rebekah has good intentions but a sinful follow-through. b. The Escape Clause. So we see Rebekah’s role here. She has devised this plan to deceive her husband and then tells her son to obey her. But Jacob doesn’t right away. I think this is very telling. He pushes back. He looks at the scheme and sees the potential points of failure. He is nothing like his brother and his dad is only blind. This deception could easily fail. And so, like a good con man, he looks for a way out. Is there a way that if he gets caught he could escape the consequences? Rebekah after hearing his complaint, tells him that she would take the consequences if the rouse fails. Bingo! Verse 14 starts, “so he went.” Yeah, he did. He doesn’t want to get busted for a weak plan but if he can throw his mother under the bus, great. Notice one more thing. Rebekah had the opportunity to stop this whole thing. When Jacob pushes back she could have said, “You know what, you’re right. What was I thinking? Forget the whole thing.” But she doesn’t. She is set on seeing this through.
a. A Broken Promise. Take notice of what Esau is doing here. Isaac tells Esau to go out and hunt some game because he wants to confirm the blessing upon Isaac. We know from Scripture and from practices in this area at this time that the blessing or the oath is tied to the birthright. The birthright is what gave you the right to the blessing and the blessing is the legal bestowing of all the rights and privileges of the birthright. The blessing is what Esau deserves by him being born first. But didn’t he trade away that birthright? Didn’t he swear to Jacob that he could have the birthright, which would also include this blessing that he is told he will receive? Esau is trying to have his soup and the birthright too. Before he didn’t care about the blessing because he didn’t need it, but now that Isaac is getting older, things are different. But we shouldn’t expect more from Esau because in Hebrews 12 we are told that Esau was an unholy man. b. Blind Eyes. Now let’s look at Isaac. We are told that Isaac is old and his eyes were dim so he could not see. Isaac says that he is old and doesn’t know when he will die. Interestingly, Isaac does not die for another 63 years after this event. Perhaps, his failing eyesight is what made everyone think that his time was growing short, but clearly, they were mistaken for Isaac will be alive to see his twelve grandsons. We were told before that Isaac loved Esau because he gave him some good food. Wild game or any meat was not eaten regularly and so it would have been a thing to be desired. But here Isaac calls Esau to prepare him some delicious food, that he loved so that he could bless him. Like father, like son. It sounds like what Esau did to lose the birthright. For a single meal, they would trade something extremely important. What is even worse than this is that both Esau and Isaac are going against the will of God. God has already decreed that Jacob was the chosen offspring. Jacob, not Esau would be the stronger and the leader. And so these two men have taken it upon themselves to defy God. We see Isaac putting the covenant of Abraham in jeopardy again. But we must remember what is going on here. The London Baptist Confession reminds us that “God, in his ordinary providence maketh use of means.” That means that God uses the choices of people and the normal outworking of creation to fulfill his purposes. But the Confession doesn’t stop there because God is also, “free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure.” Isaac and Esau have a plan but God is working a different plan on a whole different level than them. They don’t have a clue what God is about to do, and what they are doing is sinful, but God is about to see his plan through. This does not excuse Isaac and Esau from their guilt, but it does demonstrate that God cannot be denied. You can’t go against God.
This week we begin a new series on the life of Jacob. Just like with Abraham, Isaac is still alive and plays a role, but the focus begins to shift to the next generation. We saw back in Genesis chapter 25 a preview of what we are about to encounter in the ensuing stories. We saw Esau, the firstborn, a wild man that had no interest in his birthright. As the firstborn, he stood to be the inheritor of all that Abraham and Isaac had accumulated over the years. Esau willingly trades his birthright for a lentil stew. We were also introduced to Jacob, the deceiver. Jacob, the younger brother, had the desire to take Esau’s place. When Esau had a felt need Jacob was quick to take advantage of the situation. This aspect of Jacob’s personality, the desire to get ahead at the expense of others, will show up again in later stories. The story we have before us today is probably one of the more well-known events in the life of Jacob and it is a disappointing one. Everyone in this story is a failure. The sins of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau are all on display here. The great patriarchs of our faith are shown to us, just as they are, just as we are, sinners. We also have before us a demonstration of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. I remember as a young Bible college student trying to grapple with these concepts. How can and how does God use the sinful and rebellious acts of people to accomplish His will and eternal decrees? How can people committing acts against the will of God be at the same time the will of God? Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? In some ways, I still grapple with these ideas because my mind is finite, bound by our reality and time. These things spring out of the infinite and eternal mind of God. And though I still ponder these thoughts, I have learned to be content with the answer that Scripture gives us, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”