GENESIS 27:1-45

JULY 26, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer

(Play Audio)


            If we were downstairs and had access to the video projector, this would be more engaging, but we dont, and since it will take too long to get everyone to go down there and back up here again, well just make due.  I want to begin my message this morning by showing you pictures of my children and and grandchildren.  Trudy and I have two children, Joshua and Jennifer.  Here are their high school graduation pictures. Our daughter is married to Matt, hes pictured here in this family photo of the family, and they have two boys, Edison and Eliot. Our son is married, to Jill and they have three children, Jack, Berkeley and the newest arrival in our family, Scarlett.  You can see Josh and Jill and Jack in this picture, but that was taken before the arrival of Berkeley and Scarlett, so you will just have to trust me when I say they are cute.

            Why am I sharing this with you today?  Im sharing it because we are going to take a quick look at Abrahams kids and grandkids this morning. This is the fourth message in our Old Testament Essentials sermon series, covering the essential things one must know to have a basic grasp of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Thus far we have looked at the first essential creation and the second essential the fall from grace and the third essential a look at the father of monotheism, the man named Abraham.  Today we turn our attention to the fourth Old Testament essential Abrahams kids and grandkids, and specifically, one of Abrahams sons Isaac, and one of his grandchildren, Jacob.

            When identifying himself, God often links the three generations.  God links Abraham the father, with Isaac the son, with Jacob the grandson.  For example, in identifying himself to Moses in the burning bush encounter God says, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:6). When the Apostle Peter stood on the Temple steps in Jerusalem he proclaimed to the gathered crowd, The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate (Acts 3:13). The formula The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, is used again and again in the Scriptures to identify God. And with good reason. You see the primary theme of the rest of the Book of Genesis is how will the promise be passed down from generation to generation? Who will be the primary carrier of the promise after Abraham?  When it comes to Abrahams sons, will the promise carrier be Ishmael or Isaac?  When it comes to Abrahams grandsons will it be Jacob or Esau?  Thats the question that will weave its way through the rest of the book.  Who will carry the promise forward?

            Lets begin with Abrahams sons this morning. His first son, Ishmael, came about due to the insistence of Abrahams wife, Sarah. God had promised the old man Abraham descendants but Sarah was beyond her child bearing years, and Sarah thought she would help God along, since God was taking so long to give Abraham an heir, so Sarah suggested he sleep with one of their Egyptian slave girls, a woman named Hagar. Wouldnt you have liked to be a fly on the wall for that conversation? Abraham, Im giving you a free pass.  Why dont you sleep with Hagar and see if you can produce an heir?

            I wonder how long it took for Abraham to agree to that? Anyway, he did and she gave birth to a son, a boy named Ishmael. Will he be the child of promise? Will he carry the promise forward?  Well, no. Shortly after the boy was born Sarah had second thoughts. She regretted her suggestion, and eventually she convinced Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away and Ishmael became the father of the Arab nation. So all the present day animosity between the Arabs and the Jews can be traced back to Sarahs trying to help God along and Abraham, however reluctantly or enthusiastically, going along with the idea.

            Well, twenty-five years after the promise of descendants, when Abraham was one-hundred and Sarah ninety years old, the child of the promise arrived, a boy they named Isaac. Hes the one who got nervous around steak knives. Maybe you remember the story.  When Isaac was but a boy God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but at the last minute God told Abraham to put down the knife, it was just a test of his faith, but ever since Isaac got skittish every time Abraham cut into a juicy steak, and in our passage for today we come to the end of Isaacs life.  Hes old, hes blind and he wants to bless his oldest son.

            Let me quickly summarize the relationship between Isaacs two boys. From the moment of inception the fraternal twins, Jacob and Esau, were fighting for position and dominance. In Genesis 25 the biblical narrator says the children tumbled and kicked so much in Rebekahs womb that she went to God and said, "If this is the way my pregnancy is going to be then just take me now."

            Esau was born first, but Jacob came out with his hand on Esau's heel. In fact, he was trying to pull Esau back into the womb so he could come out first. The name Esau means hairy" which he was. And Jacob means "grabby" or supplanter which he most certainly was.

            Isaac preferred Esau because he was an outdoors kind of guy, a manly man who liked to hunt and always brought Dad fresh game. Esau was Daddy's boy. Jacob, on the other hand, was quiet and introspective and preferred the indoors to the outdoors. Rebekah loved him best because he was always there to help inside. And so, he became a Mama's boy.

            So, right from the outset, right from the get-go, we have the makings of a world class dysfunctional family. The dysfunction in this family had gotten so out of hand and had progressed so far that it pitted brother against brother and husband against wife and wound up with Jacob stealing both the birthright of the first born son and the blessing that accompanied it and then fleeing in fear for his life. What a story of the kids and grandkids!

            In light of this story, and the remainder of Jacobs life, I want to make a couple of observations. First, note the significance of a parental blessing.  In our passage for today, its the blessing of a father, but in our day it could be either a blessing from a mom or a dad.  A blessing, a word of approval, an Im really proud of you, son, or Im really proud of you, honey, from a parent goes a long way in a persons life. The story of John Claypool comes to mind.

            Claypool died ten years ago.  He was a much loved pastor, theologian and author.  He wrote eleven books. I have a couple of his books in my library and in one of them he tells about a phone call he received very early on a Saturday morning, in August of 1967. Half awake, Claypool answered it. It was his mother saying that his father had died. He told her to make the necessary calls and that he would be right over. He got there after the police and before the coroner. Not knowing what to do at a time like that, and not really wanting to talk to anybody or sit and look at his fathers body, Claypool thought he would go through his fathers papers. He figured that he might find something that the coroner or the funeral director might need.        

            He started with his fathers wallet and struck a strange kind of pay dirt. There, tucked away behind a few dollar bills, he found several worn sheets of copy paper. They were tissue thin and deeply creased by much folding and unfolding. He removed them, opened them, and quickly realized that he didn't need to read them. He had seen them before. They were copies of his grades from all four years at college and all three years at seminary. Claypool knew why he'd kept them. He found myself wondering how many times he'd pulled them out and shown them to somebody, speaking of his son, the student, with pride. He only wished that his dad been able to tell him.           

            In ancient times, the father had one blessing to give to each of his children. The best of the blessings went to the eldest son, since the oldest son was assuming the leadership responsibilities of the family. It entitled that son to a double share of the fathers possessions in order to carry out those family responsibilities. In cahoots with his mother Jacob took advantage of his fathers blindness to gain the blessing that belonged to Esau. When Esau and Isaac discovered theyd been tricked, Esau begs desperately for his fathers blessing. Isaac tells him that he had already given that blessing away.  To which Esau replies, Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father?  Hell take whatever Jacob had left, which wasnt much compared to Jacobs blessing.

            Every one longs for and needs the blessing of their parents. We all need to be genuinely loved, valued, accepted and appreciated by our parents. Our family members need the blessing from us far more than they need all the material and temporal things that we labor so diligently to provide.

            Of course, thats the good news of Jesus Christ: there are enough blessings to go around to all Gods children. As God said to Jesus at his baptism, God says to each of us, You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased.

            The other observation I want to make is more of a question? Why did God choose Jacob over Esau? After all, Jacobs a piece of work. Hes a scoundrel. He deceives and manipulates people. Later in the narrative he plays favorites one wife over another wife and one son over his other sons. He has very little for which to commend himself to God or to us. Yet, he is the one through which the promise passes from generation to generation. Hes the one whom God renames Israel after a midnight wrestling match. Israel. This guy! Israel. Whats up with that?

            The Apostle Paul gives us an answer in the first chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians. Listen to his take on choosing someone like Jacob to carry forth the promise. He writes (I Corinthians 1:27-29),


            But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.


            If Paul is right in what he says, then Gods choosing someone like Jacob reminds us that we all have a part to play in turning the world upside down. If God can use someone as questionable and devious as Jacob, God can certainly use people like you and me.

            In light of that lets get out there and make a difference. As descendants of Abraham ourselves, lets carry forth the promise. Amen.