Last week we discussed some of the failures of Isaac as a husband and leader of the family. We unfolded how life started out for him. How God made provision for him. How his father, Abraham loved and adored him and even sent a servant 500 miles to get just the right wife, Rebekah, for him. All of us have a beginning. We might not have gotten out of the gate as well as others, we may have made our own share of mistakes, but the beauty is that God is not done with us yet.
As we continue to learn more this week about the broken pieces of the family, let us grasp the concept that even when this family was dysfunctional, God was functional. God worked through this family to bring Jesus Christ to all humanity, regardless of their shortcomings. Let us remember that even our painful, horrible days are just character in our life that emanates His beauty. Let’s learn some more about the pieces the Master has put together for His glory.
Philosopher George Santayana called the human family “one of nature’s masterpieces.” If that’s true, then many of these masterpieces have become nothing but pieces because they forgot the Master. Genesis 27 describes such a family.
If we were alive during chapter 27 of Genesis, we would have probably figured that Isaac and Rebekah had it made. They had so much going for them. Isaac was a dedicated man who had put himself on the altar in obedience to the Lord. He trusted God to choose his wife for him, and the wife God sent, Jacob loved. Both Isaac and Rebekah knew how to pray and seek the mind of the Lord for their home. What more could a married couple want?
But in spite of these advantages, the family self- destructed rather quickly when Isaac became old. Why? Because the members of the family substituted scheming for believing so they could each have their own way. As we look at the scenes in this tragedy, let’s study each of the family members and see what they contributed to the problem or to the answer.
We know that we have been redeemed and given another chance. A lot of our motivation is to do the next right thing. We know that we will mess up, we are not perfect, but we sure want to finish well. We don’t want to be that guy that just misses the whole finish line.
A good beginning doesn’t guarantee a good ending. That’s one of the repeated lessons taught in Scripture, and it’s tragically confirmed in the lives of people like Nabal, Samson, King Saul, Manesseh, and a host of others. Last week, we even added Isaac to that list. If ever a man was blessed with a great beginning, it was Isaac. Yet he ended his life under a cloud. Consider some of his sins.
He put himself ahead of the Lord. Isaac was sure he was going to die and yet his greatest desire was to enjoy a good meal at the hand of his favorite son and cook, Esau. When Isaac’s father Abraham prepared for death, his concern was to get a bride for his son and maintain the covenant promise. When King David came to the end of his life, he made arrangements for the building of the temple, and Paul’s burden before his martyrdom was that Timothy be faithful to preach the Word and guard the faith.
What are some of the dreams or aspirations that you have between now and seeing Jesus face to face?
Someone has well said, “The end of life reveals the ends of life.” When all the chips are down, we end up showing what really matters. Isaac, the man who meditated and prayed in the fields at evening ( Genesis 24:63 ), and who petitioned God on behalf of his wife ( Genesis 25:21 ), wanted only one thing: a savory meal of venison. Instead of seeking to heal the family feud that he and his wife had caused by their selfish favoritism, Isaac fueled the feud and destroyed his own family.
He disobeyed God’s command. Scripture does not say if Rebekah shared with Isaac the message from the Lord ( Genesis 25:23 ) about how their first son, Esau, would bow down and serve the younger, Isaac, but surely Isaac knew that Esau had despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob. Isaac still planned to give the blessing to Esau. and that Esau had disqualified himself by marrying heathen women. Had Isaac forgotten that his father had sent a servant five hundred miles to Haran to get him a suitable wife? Did Isaac really think he could fool God and give the blessing to worldly, unbelieving Esau?
He lived by his feelings. Isaac was blind and apparently bedridden ( Genesis 27:19, 31), a condition you would think would make him trust God and seek His help. Instead, Isaac rejected the way of faith and depended on his own senses: taste, touch, hearing, and smell. He took the “scientific approach,” and it failed him.
We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 MSG
A character in Ernest Hemingway’s novel Death in the Afternoon is probably expressing Hemingway’s own convictions when he says, “I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” Most people today would endorse that philosophy and make their decisions solely on the basis of how they feel, not what God says in His Word. “If it feels good, it is good!”
Isaac was a declining believer, living by the natural instead of the supernatural, and trusting his own senses instead of believing and obeying the Word of God. He was blind and bedridden and claimed to be dying, but he still had a good appetite. With a father like that leading the home, is it any wonder that the family fell apart?
Rebekah’s deception (27:5-17)
In the poem “Marmion”: “O what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive” we are reminded, faith is living without scheming, and faith means obeying God no matter how we feel, what we think, or what might happen. The obedience of faith was the secret of Abraham’s life.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. – Hebrews 11:8 NIV
But the absence of obedient faith brought trouble to the home of Isaac and Rebekah.
Can you share about a time when the Lord asked you to do something that did not make sense? What was the outcome? Did you follow through? Or what would have happened if you did?
Eavesdropping When Isaac sent for Esau to come to his tent, Rebekah noticed it and stayed close by to learn what was happening. Later, when Esau revealed that he planned to kill his brother, Rebekah also heard that, so she must have been adept at eavesdropping and keeping abreast of family affairs.
However, it’s tragic when a husband and wife, once so dedicated to the Lord and each other, have excommunicated each other and no longer discuss God’s Word or pray together.
Scheming Knowing that Jacob was chosen to receive the covenant blessing, Rebekah immediately took matters into her own hands to make sure her favorite son got what the Lord had promised him. Had she and Jacob talked with Isaac while Esau was out hunting, perhaps he would have seen the light and agreed with them. Instead, however, Rebekah chose to control Jacob and deceive her husband.
In the New Testament we get a commentary from Jesus’ brother James:
13 If you are wise, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about them, then you will be truly wise! 14 And by all means don’t brag about being wise and good if you are bitter and jealous and selfish; that is the worst sort of lie. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, inspired by the devil. 16 For wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy and good deeds. It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness. – James 3:13-18 TLB
Isaac was depending on his own physical senses, but Rebekah was depending on the wisdom of the world. However, the world’s wisdom always leads to trouble. “wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil” (James 3:16)
Can you recall a time when you caught yourself either relying on your own ability or depending on the wisdom of world AND got back on track? How were you awakened to the situation. What helped you through those times?
So quickly did Rebekah outline her plan that we suspect she must have thought it through well in advance. She knew that Esau was her husband’s favorite son and that her husband was not the spiritual man that he once was. Rebekah even had a recipe ready, and she must have been an excellent cook to be able to make goats taste like venison!
Vowing Jacob’s concern wasn’t “Is it right?” but “Is it safe?” He was worried about the eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt not get caught.” But Rebekah planned to use the skins of the goats as well as the meat and make smooth-skinned Jacob feel like hairy-skinned Esau. She also dressed Jacob in Esau’s garments so he would smell like his outdoorsman brother. “My son, let the curse fall on me” was her word of encouragement to Jacob in verse13, but little did she know what she was saying. For after Jacob left for Haran, she never saw her favorite son again.
Isaac’s philosophy was “If it feels good, it is good,” but Rebekah’s philosophy was “The end justifies the means.” She couldn’t trust God to fulfill His plan; she had to help God out because it was for a good cause. But there’s no place for deception in the life of the believer, for Satan is the deceiver (2 Cor. 11:3), but Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6).
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. – Psalm 32:2 NIV
Jacob’s defense (27:18-29)
So many times we hear about wolf in sheep’s clothing, but isn’t it pitiful when a sheep tries to betray themselves as a wolf? It is almost humorous when we see the pictures, but it is heartbreaking to see it in real life, where individuals work to portray themselves as someone they are not. Jacob is our simple example.
In cooperating with the scheme, Jacob was only obeying his mother, but he could have refused and suggested that they just face the situation honestly and confront Isaac. But once Jacob donned Esau’s clothes and took the savory meal in his hands, the die was cast and he had to play the part successfully. See how one lie led to another, for deception can be defended only by more deception. Jacob was weaving the tangled web.
He lied about his name (vv. 18–19). Did Isaac ask for identification because he was hard of hearing? Probably not; it’s likely he was starting to get suspicious because he didn’t expect Esau to return so quickly from the hunt. Furthermore, the voice he heard didn’t sound like the voice of Esau. That’s when Jacob told his first lie: He claimed to be Esau.
He lied about the food and the Lord (vv. 19–20).
He claimed to have obeyed his father’s wishes (lie #2), and he called the goat’s meat “my game” (lie #3). He even gave credit to the Lord for helping him find it so quickly (lie #4). He not only lied about himself, but he also lied about the Lord! To use the Lord to cover up sin is a step toward blasphemy.
He lied again about his identity and about his love (vv. 21–27). Unwilling to trust his ears, Isaac felt Jacob’s hands and mistook goatskin for human hair, and Jacob assured him again that he indeed was Esau (lie #5).
We learn alot about deception in the bible, we even read about in the end times that the Lord will separate the goats from the sheep. Isn’t it so symbolic that what Jacob did was so wrong that he disguised himself with goat fur?
How tragic it is to see a son so dishonor his father! After Isaac had eaten the meal, he asked Jacob to kiss him, and that kiss was the sixth lie, for it was hypocritical. This act is also mirrored in Luke with Judas:
Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” – Luke 22:48 NIV
How could Jacob claim to love his father when he was in the act of deceiving him? Since the smell of the garments finally convinced Isaac that Esau was there, the stage was now set for the giving of the blessing.
Isaac blessed Jacob with natural and material wealth, which is so important to people who belong to the land, but he added political authority with reference to his own people and other nations. Isaac reaffirmed the word God gave about the boys, and in using plural nouns (“brothers” and “sons”), he looked beyond Jacob’s day to the time when Abraham’s seed would multiply.
During the reigns of David and Solomon, other nations were subjected to the rule of Israel. He assured him not only of God’s blessing, but also of God’s protection, and he quoted the Lord’s original promise to Abraham, from Genesis 12:3.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. – Genesis 12:3
The deed was done. Isaac couldn’t revoke the blessing, and nobody in the family could alter the consequences.
Esau’s Despair (27:30-40)
This whole section could have another ending, couldn’t it. You know the dramatic scene where Esau comes in and catches Jacob dressed in Esau’s clothes. It could have been a be knock down, drag out. But we do have to acknowledge that God is in control, this is the family that the messiah will come through. It didn’t take long for Isaac and Esau to discover the conspiracy, but each man responded differently.
Isaac trembled greatly (verses 30–33). One Hebrew scholar translates this verse: “he trembled a trembling, a great, unto excess.” Why was Isaac so agitated? Because he knew that the Lord had overruled his own selfish plan so that his favorite son did not receive the blessing. Isaac had lied to Abimelech in Gerar, and he had tried to lie to God by disobeying the Word, but now his own lies had caught up with him.
Esau wept and begged for a blessing (verses 34–40).
The man who despised his birthright and married two pagan women now wept and cried out for his father to bless him. It wasn’t his fault, of course; it was his crafty brother’s fault. When in doubt, always blame somebody else.
We find in Hebrews chapter 12 is God’s commentary on the event.
16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done. – Hebrews 12:16-17 NIV
Esau tried to repent, but his own heart was too hard, and he couldn’t change his father’s mind. Esau’s tears were not tears of repentance for being an ungodly man; they were tears of regret because he had lost the covenant blessing. Esau wanted the blessing but he didn’t want to be the kind of man whom God could bless! We may forget our decisions, but our decisions don’t forget us.
We know that our families and our situations are not perfect, but there may be somethings in our lives that we may need to address. We may have let some things slide for a while. We turned a “blind eye” to some things. Let us be wise and get back on track before the damage gets any worse. We can learn from these ancient stories in the bible and we can also learn from each other and ourselves. Don’t be prideful, take responsibility and do the next right thing.
Warren Wiersbe Bible Commentary, 2007.