Why Then Have You Deceived Me?

When a man loves a woman can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else. He’d trade the world for a good thing he’s found. If she is bad, he can’t see it. She can do no wrong. Turn his back on his best friend if he puts her down. When a man loves a woman spend his very last dime trying to hold on to what he needs. He’d give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain if she said that’s the way it ought to be.

When a man loves a woman….

Then Jacob Went on His Journey

Genesis 29:1-30 is all about a man. And the question to ask is, who is this man? It all begins with the first verse. “Then Jacob went on his journey.” The first words of these thirty verses are simply meant to put our attention on a man named Jacob. Watch him; watch him carefully and ask, what is he doing? The answer begins here. He is on a journey.

Jacob is on a journey, a rather long five-hundred-mile journey. And he is on this journey for two reasons. The first reason is his mom. His mom has sent him on this journey for his own good. It is for his safety. His older brother Esau has planned to kill him and sleeps well every night under the comfort of this plan. But the second reason that Jacob is on this journey is his dad. His dad has sent him on this journey for his own good. It is to find a wife.

What does Jacob think of this journey? In other words, and this is important to the whole text, what is Jacob’s view of this journey? Many English translations begin verse one with the word “so” or “then” meaning that the previous verses matter to this journey. So, what is Jacob’s view of this journey? Listen to Genesis 28:20-21. “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go (that is the journey), and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.” Jacob’s view of this journey is home. He is looking forward to going back home. But what is holding Jacob’s view? Again, this is important to whole the text. It is there in Genesis 28:20-21. If God will be with me and if God will keep me in this way that I go (that is the journey). Holding Jacob’s view in this journey is the presence of God and the care of God. Holding Jacob’s view in this journey is the Word of God (cf. 28:15). This is how Jacob knew that God promised to be with him and promised to guard and keep and care for him. So, what does Jacob then do?

The sense of this first verse is that Jacob continued on his journey. Remember, in the previous verses Jacob stopped in his journey to sleep for the night. But there is more here than just continuing on this journey. A literal translation of the Hebrew text reads, “Then Jacob picked up his feet.” This is what follows the previous verses! Jacob is refreshed for this journey. Jacob is renewed for this journey and all because of what is holding his view. Then Jacob picks up his feet.

Behold, Three Flocks of Sheep

And when Jacob picks up his feet, get ready for it, he gets to where he was going. He comes to the land of the people of the east. It is Haran. And when Jacob gets to where he was going…behold! Genesis 29:2 has in it that word of surprise, that word that is meant to grab our attention so that we may pay attention – behold. Jacob saw a well. And when he saw a well, he saw three flocks of sheep lying beside the well. And when he saw the well, the three flocks of sheep lying beside the well, he also saw shepherds…all lying around! Why? What is important about this well and the three flocks of sheep and the shepherds?

Out of this well the flocks were watered and there was a large stone covering the mouth of it (29:2). So, why is everyone lying around? Listen closely to verse three. “And when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.” These shepherds are waiting for all the flocks to gather at the well. There are three flocks gathered so far which means these men are waiting for at least a fourth flock. And these shepherds, maybe three, are waiting not just for all the flocks, but for the fourth shepherd. It takes four shepherds to move that large stone.

Behold, a Fourth Flock of Sheep

Jacob then asks these men three questions. Where do you come from? Do you know Laban? And is he well? Their answer: Haran. Yes. Yes. That was it! I want us though to pay close attention to verse six. The shepherds then say, “and see, Rachel.” The word see is the same Hebrew word for behold. And what is the point of the word behold? It is meant to grab our attention so that we may pay attention. Here it is meant to grab Jacob’s attention so that he pays attention…to Rachel. She is keeping the fourth flock of sheep. But Jacob keeps talking. He tells them to behold! “You behold! Do not tell me to behold! It is still high day, get up, water these sheep and get going! Quit lying around!” Why does Rachel, at first, not grab Jacob’s attention? Listen to verse eight. “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” Who moves the stone? The shepherds, all the shepherds. And who are these three shepherds, these three men waiting for in order to move the stone? The fourth shepherd with the fourth flock. And why does Jacob not pay attention to Rachel at first? In verse nine Rachel is called a shepherdess. She is the fourth shepherd! These three men are waiting for her so to move that large stone. What does that say about Rachel? What does this say about Jacob? He was not expecting the fourth shepherd to be a woman!

Behold, Now Jacob Sees Rachel

And behold, now Jacob sees Rachel. And when he sees Rachel, he also sees the sheep. And he finally puts it all together. Rachel is the fourth shepherd. Rachel is here to move that stone. These three men were waiting for her so that the stone could be moved. What then does Jacob do? He moves the stone…all by himself (29:10)! He then waters the sheep, just Rachel’s sheep. And when he is done, he gives Rachel the kiss of a lifetime. This is the only place in biblical narrative where we read of a man kissing a woman who is not his wife or mother. By the way, Jacob’s dad met Jacob’s mom at a watering hole too. What must Jacob be thinking? Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a terrible feeling, everything’s going my way.

Behold, Jacob Sees Laban

Genesis 29:1-30 is all about a man. And the question to ask is, who is this man? Look carefully at Genesis 29:10, when Jacob finally sees Rachel. “Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”

Genesis 29:1-30 is all about Laban. He is mentioned by name sixteen times, more than any other person. Important though are his daughters. There is Rachel, she is his youngest daughter, beautiful both in form and in appearance and apparently really strong. And there is Leah, the oldest daughter. Her eyes are weak (soft). It may be that this just means that she is the least attractive of the two sisters (29:16-17). And the text does have a lot do with Jacob. It is about his journey. But there is Laban his mother’s brother. And the big question is, what does Laban have to do with Jacob and his journey?

After Jacob kissed Rachel, he wept really loud. After Jacob wept really loud, he then told her who he was. Rachel then ran. She ran to tell her dad. And what did Laban do? He ran. He ran to meet Jacob and embrace Jacob and to bring him to his house. Now this is rather interesting; Jacob then told “Laban all these things” (29:13). What things? Perhaps all about his journey. But what I really want us to notice is verse fourteen. “And he stayed with him for a month.”

Jacob is here to find a wife. The last man that came to Laban looking for a wife came with stuff. He came with gold rings and gold bracelets and camels! It all caught Laban’s eye (24:29-32). This man, too, Laban brought to his house. Jacob comes empty handed. No gold rings, no gold bracelets, no camels and not even a pillow! After a month, we find out that Jacob has been working for Laban. Laban then asks, “Should you serve me for nothing? What should your wages be?” (29:15). Notice verse eighteen. “Jacob loved Rachel.” And when a man loves a woman he says, “I will serve you for seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban agrees and agrees to give “her to you.” And notice, Laban does not specify when he would give “her to you.” But the big point is that a month of service has turned into seven years of service, feeling like just a few days to Jacob (29:20).

Behold, Jacob Sees Leah

At the end of seven years, Jacob demands without any more waiting, “Give me my wife!” So, Laban plans a wedding and invites guests to a week-long celebration. The wedding day arrives and there is Laban walking his daughter down the aisle. She is veiled from head to toe. The voice may not sound like Rachel, but Jacob is so excited. The two exchange vows and then go home as husband and wife. The next morning comes and “behold, it was Leah!” (29:25). Laban had given Jacob his daughter, but it was Leah.

Why Then Have You Deceived Me?

Jacob then asks his father-in-law, “Why then have you deceived me?” It is an interesting question from a man who deceived his brother and his father. It is an interesting question from a man who in deceiving his father pretended to be the older son, veiled in his clothing and hairy like him too. Here Jacob has been deceived with the older daughter. Laban’s response is simple. “In our culture we do not give the younger daughter to be married before the older daughter” (29:26). Now listen to his proposal, “Complete the week. Finish the wedding celebration. Then you may take Rachel as your wife, but at a price. Serve me for her another seven years” (29:27). The big point is that a month turned into seven years and an additional week and then another seven years. This is now Jacob’s journey.

And Jacob loved Rachel and served 14 years, one month and a week to be her husband. He was Leah’s husband too, but loved Rachel more. Jacob now knows what it feels like to be deceived. The schemer got schemed. But is that the point?

No. We were to keep our eye on Jacob, Jacob who picked up his feet so revived and refreshed. And so bold. He picked up that stone all by himself. At the end he is quiet. What happened? Laban happened. It was said that Jacob needed some trimming, some compassion, to experience some pain, some humility, some growth in faith. Jacob needed to stop trusting himself. It would take 14 years, one month and a week. It would take a Laban. But what was still to hold his view? I am with you. I will keep you. I will never leave you.

There are times when a Laban is needed as an instrument used of God for our good. What do we do when we are given Laban’s? “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). This will hold your view.

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How Amazing is This Place!

Near the end of his life, Charles Templeton would share three of the most unexpected words: I…miss…him.

Billy Graham was Charles Templeton’s friend. These two friends had labored together, traveled the world together, preached to thousands together. So, what would be the best word to describe the moment when Billy Graham listened to his friend share his doubts and questions about the truthfulness of God’s Word? By the way, Charles was considered the better preacher, the more effective preacher of the two friends.

Fifty years after that moment, Charles would pen his memoir Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. Soon thereafter he would give what would be one of his last interviews, if not his last interview, in which he was asked, “And how do you assess this Jesus?” Listen carefully. At this question, he softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus. “He was, the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness? I know it may sound strange, but I have to say…I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes…yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus… In my view, he declared, he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”

And then came the simply unexpected. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, “I…miss…him!” With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.[1]

How Did Jacob Sleep?

Genesis 28:10-22 demands a big question. What happens here is something that Jacob will remember when he is a dad (Genesis 35:1-15). And what happens here is something that Jacob will remember when he is a granddad (Genesis 48:1-7). And the big demanding question is, how did Jacob sleep?

Notice the first two verses, Genesis 28:10-11. “Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.”

Right away we are told where Jacob came from, where he is going and where he stopped – Beersheba, Haran and a certain place. Just notice that Moses calls where Jacob stopped a “certain place.” And notice that in verse eleven alone, Moses draws our attention back to this place two more times. “Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.” But there are questions to ask like, why did Jacob leave Beersheba? Why is Jacob going to Haran? Those two questions will seem to answer each other. And why did Jacob stop in this certain place?

First, why did Jacob leave Beersheba? Beersheba was home. Jacob left home and he left home for two reasons. His mom urged him to leave home, immediately, for his own safety. His brother Esau had planned to kill him and was comforted by the fact with each passing day that he was going to kill him. His mom found out about it and did all she could to get Jacob out of there. But Jacob also left home because his dad urged him to leave home, immediately, because he was single. Jacob was single and should have been ready to mingle. He was at least forty years old. His twin brother Esau was already married, twice and at the same time. Isaac, his dad, did not want Jacob just to marry any woman. He did not want him to marry a Canaanite woman, where they were currently living. So, he sends him away, far away, miles and miles and months away to Haran for a wife. Which also answers why Jacob is heading toward Haran.

And so, why did Jacob stop in this certain place? It is rather simple. Listen to the start of verse eleven. “And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set.” He stopped not because he wanted to, he stopped because he had to. It was nighttime which means bedtime! And this is all meant to help answer, how did Jacob sleep? Now keep in mind that Jacob is at least forty years old and as far as we know this is the farthest he has ever been away from home, maybe about fifty miles at this certain place. And as far as we know, he has never left home and most likely because he liked staying home. But what is on his mind? Look ahead to something Jacob says in Genesis 28:21. “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace.” Jacob is looking forward to going back home.

But there is more. How does Jacob sleep? Listen to the rest of verse eleven. “Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.” This stone becomes rather important but notice its first importance. It is as a pillow! And what does this first tell us? Jacob left home without his pillow! So, how did he sleep? Anxious. Unprepared. Looking forward to going home. And alone. Jacob was all alone. And although he forgot his pillow, he will not forget that stone.

And He Dreamed

Jacob fell asleep and Jacob had a dream. And there are four things to not miss about this dream. This is all in Genesis 28:12-15. First, behold, there was a ladder. And this is just interesting, but the Hebrew word for ladder is only ever used here in the Old Testament. Some translations instead of the word ladder have the word stairway, which may be the better picture. So, behold there was a ladder and the ladder was set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.

I did wonder if there was a contrast to be made here. Do you remember Genesis 11? Genesis 11 is about the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel was man’s attempt to “build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (11:4). The tower was man’s attempt to reach the heavens and to do so there would have been ramps and steps going up this tower to reach the heavens, to reach where God resided. So, there might be a contrast to be had here. But, behold there was a ladder.

And behold, the angels of God.  Now notice the angels of God. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it, on the ladder! Do not miss what the angels were doing. How were the angels getting from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven? The ladder! So, behold the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder.

And behold, the Lord. Now this word, this name, is in all capital letters. It is the name signifying the most precious name for God – YHWH. This is Yahweh. There are two different ways to translate this part, neither affect the meaning of the text. The Lord was either standing above it, the ladder, or standing beside him, Jacob. But, behold the Lord.

Finally, and this is verses thirteen through fifteen, behold, the Lord spoke. “Behold, I am with you…” (28:15). I read an important observation about this dream. “Mute visions are cold. It is the word of the Lord that is the soul that quickens them.” This dream is cold if not for God speaking. But what does the dream mean?

I am the Lord

When God speaks, he introduces himself to Jacob as “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” It is an introduction of a title, a title that from this point on will read, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (cf. Exodus 3:6). It is a title of God throughout the Old Testament, a title that Jesus said meant “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27).

But what does the dream mean? God then establishes the promise he made with Abraham and with Isaac now to Jacob (cf. 13:14-16; 26:24). But the most important part, and this is just in answering the question, comes with verse fifteen. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” What does the dream mean? It has everything to do with God’s promised divine companionship with Jacob. It has everything to do with God’s promised presence.

How Awesome is this Place

But does Jacob get it? Does he understand the dream? Does he understand what God said? If all we had was Genesis 28:20-22, we might say no. There he seems to be bargaining with God. “If God will be with me; if God will keep me in this way that I go; if God will give me bread to eat; if God will clothe me, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then he will be my God and I will give him a tenth of all that he gives me.” This may explain why Jacob will be gone from home for twenty-years. He has much to learn.

But does Jacob get it? Yes. He gets it, just listen to Genesis 28:16-17. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” And so, Jacob calls the place Bethel which means “house of God” and he takes his pillow, pours oil all over it and sets it up as a marker. Why? So that he will not miss this place.

It is the house of God. It is the gate of heaven. And it is called Bethel. And it is awesome. This dream is mentioned one other time in the Bible. It is John 1:51. There Jesus is calling his disciples and one disciple in particular. His name was Nathanael. Jesus knew that he was sitting under a tree. And when he saw Nathanael coming his way he said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” What does Jacob’s name mean? Deceiver. Interesting. Nathanael is amazed at all this and that Jesus knew where he was under the fig tree. Jesus then says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This is the same wording as Genesis 28:10-22, except for the ladder. What is Jesus saying? He is the ladder! He is the stairway! Better yet, he is Bethel! He is the house of God! He is the gate of heaven. He has come and been set up on the earth. And he has been lifted up at the cross that he might draw all men and women unto himself. And it is because he is the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through him. And to know him is to know eternal life. And to know him is to know God. And to know him is to know divine companionship. And to know him is to know the presence of God.

The point of it all is, “dear friends, don’t ever miss the presence of God.”[2]

[1] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/charles-templeton-missing-jesus/

[2] Taken from R. C. Sproul’s sermon on Genesis 28:10-22.

No Fury Like a Brother’s Scorn

Madison Olsen would finish Friday evening in the snow. It was “surprisingly soft.” This was her chance at an Olympic medal. It was the ski aerials and she was attempting a back-full-double full – that is two back flips with a twist on the first flip and two twists on the second flip. She completed the flips with the twists and landed in the snow…face first. Without any delay, she bounced right up, grabbed her skis, waved and smiled. Madison was receiving a big ovation. Without earning the medal, this was the highest finish for a U. S. woman in twenty years. And she is only twenty-two years old.

Just a couple of years ago she was thinking about retirement; retirement! She had been plagued with injuries and surgeries and more surgeries. And her dad was diagnosed with cancer. Madison then set her mind to enjoy any small moment with her dad – bike riding, sitting on the porch or just doing a puzzle. He died in August of 2016.

Madison Olsen would finish Friday evening in the snow being asked about her dad. She was still smiling, and with the rest of her strength she said, “He would have been proud.”

It is Still All About a Blessing

Genesis 27:1-40 is all about a blessing. It is about a blessing that Isaac, Rebekah’s husband, sought to give to their older son Esau. It is about a blessing that Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, sought to give to their younger son Jacob. It is about a blessing that Jacob sought by looking like Esau, feeling like Esau and even smelling just like Esau. And it is about a blessing that Esau sought from his dad, but it was too late.

Genesis 27:41-28:9 is then all about what happens next. And what happens next has two parts to it. The first part begins with Genesis 27:41. “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” The second part begins with Genesis 28:6. “Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him.” And it is these two verses of these two parts that draw our attention to what Genesis 27:41-28:9 is really all about. But make sure to see what brings these two parts together. Think of this like a bridge; look to see what bridges these two parts together.

Look and listen to Genesis 28:1. “Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him.” Look and listen to Genesis 28:3. “God Almighty bless you.” Look and listen to Genesis 28:4. “May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring.” What is the bridge? It is there three times – the word blessing. And when this bridge is connected to Genesis 27:41 and Genesis 28:6, it is to the word blessing. All together the word blessing occurs seven times. Genesis 27:41-28:9 is all about what happens next. And in one word what happens next is still all about a blessing.

Why Does Esau Hate Jacob?

Pay close attention to how it all begins. “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:41). There is but one big question to ask. Why does Esau hate Jacob?

Notice the word hate. It is a rather interesting word. It is rather interesting because it only occurs six times in the Old Testament. It is a rather interesting word because three of the six times it occurs in the Old Testament are found in Genesis. It is a rather interesting word because of the three times found in Genesis, two are about brothers. It is a rather interesting word because at the close of Genesis, Jacob’s own sons wonder if their brother Joseph hates them (cf. Genesis 50:15).

This word hate means to hold a grudge against or to cherish animosity against. Is that not rather peculiar, that hate would involve cherishing? It also means to lurk for, which just gives the picture of the hater hiding in the dark so as to not be seen by the hated.

But why did Esau hate Jacob? Genesis 27:41 continues to tell us that Esau hated Jacob, “because of the blessing.” Look back at Genesis 27:36. “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Why would Esau hate Jacob because of the blessing? Jacob took it from him! But there is more!

Why did Esau hate Jacob? Genesis 27:41 continues with more. “…because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him.” Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing and not merely because Jacob took it from him, but because this blessing meant something. It was the blessing with which his father had blessed Jacob. It was supposed to be the blessing with which his father was to bless Esau. Listen to the rest of Genesis 27:41. “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Esau has this plan to kill Jacob. This plan alone is what is comforting Esau. But there is more. Who else is mentioned? Esau will not touch his brother until after their dad’s funeral. Esau is still under the impression that his dad is dying (cf. Genesis 27:2). But why does Esau hate Jacob? And why will Esau wait to kill Jacob? It all has something to do with dad. It all has something to do with Esau and his dad.

Esau Spoke to Himself, But Rebekah Listened

Genesis 27:41 says that Esau spoke to himself. He told himself about his plan to kill his brother, but not before his dad’s funeral. Genesis 27:42 says that Rebekah heard about this plan. At some point, Esau shared with someone his plan and this someone then shared it with Rebekah. Who would Esau share his plan with? And for what reason would this someone have to share it with Rebekah? I wondered if it was one of Esau’s wives, wives who Rebekah loathed. What reason would they have to share this plan with their mother-in-law?

Anyway, Rebekah finds out about it. It is just like when she overheard Isaac’s intentions to bless Esau and only Esau. She does not talk to her husband about this plan. She does not attempt to stop Esau from this plan. Instead, she calls for Jacob, tells him the plan and then comes up with her own plan. This all sounds like déjà vu all over again! Her plan is to get Jacob out of town as soon as possible. She seeks to send him to her brother’s house which is miles and miles and months and months away in Paddan-aram. Her thought is that Jacob will just need to be there for a few days or a short while (27:42-45). Rebekah is unaware, but this is her last appearance in Genesis. Rebekah is unaware, but Jacob will not be with his uncle for a few days. Jacob will be away from home for about twenty years. Rebekah is unaware, but she will never see Jacob again. There is no email to be had with Jacob. There is no face time to be had with Jacob. Ironically, we do not hear from Jacob in this passage. Rebekah is unaware, but she will never hear his voice again.

She never tells her husband what their son Esau is planning. But she needs to get Jacob out of town and so as to make it seem that Jacob is not running away, she needs her husband to take charge and send him away. Listen to what she says to Isaac. She tells him the truth. “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (27:46). Jacob is a single man. Esau is a married man to two women…two Hittite women (cf. 26:34-35).

Isaac Calls for His Son for the First Time

Rebekah’s words about Jacob’s availability and the women of the land, the Canaanite women, put new life into Isaac. He calls for his younger son for the first time and notice, “and blessed him” (28:1). And he gives him a charge to go to his uncle’s house. The sense feels like he should do this immediately, like there is no time to pack. And he charges Jacob to go there to get a wife. And then Isaac blesses him again. This blessing is acknowledging that God’s blessing to Abraham, which is also God’s blessing to Isaac, is now God’s blessing to Jacob and his offspring. It just means that all God has set to accomplish since Genesis 3:15 and through Abraham will be accomplished through Jacob. So, he sends him away.

Now Esau Saw His Dad

But what is most important is Genesis 28:6. “Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob.” Pause there. Think back to Genesis 27:41. Why were we told that Esau hated Jacob? It was because of the blessing, referring to the blessing of Genesis 27:1-40, with which his father had blessed Jacob. And what does Esau see now? He sees his dad blessing Jacob again. But most importantly, he sees his dad.

Remember, Esau’s plan was to kill his brother, but not until after his dad’s funeral. Rebekah’s plan was to send Jacob away until his brother’s fury and scorn faded away. Listen to what is discovered beginning with Genesis 28:6. Esau’s anger has faded way. Esau’s fury has faded away. And why? Because he saw his dad.

Esau knew that his dad blessed Jacob and sent him away to find a non-Canaanite, non-Hittite wife. Who has two Canaanite, Hittite wives? Esau! And what else did Esau see? “…and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So, when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father” (28:7-8). Esau saw his brother obey. Esau saw, like it is the first time, that Canaanite women did not please his father and he has two of them as wives. So, what does he do? He goes to his Uncle Ishmael’s house while Jacob goes to his Uncle Laban and he seeks a non-Canaanite wife. When Esau saw his dad, what did he do? He imitated Jacob. Earlier Jacob had imitated Esau by looking like Esau, feeling like Esau, smelling like Esau just to get the blessing. Here Esau imitated Jacob by looking like Jacob, but not feeling like Jacob or smelling like Jacob. How did Esau look like Jacob? Obedience.

Why did Esau do it? Why did Esau imitate Jacob here? It could have been to get an additional blessing, but I think there is more. Why did Esau do it? It was to please his father.

The heart of Genesis 27:41-28:9 is about pleasing a parent. It is about Esau pleasing his dad. It may be why he hated Jacob and why that blessing meant so much to him. Esau lived to please his dad. Esau did what he did to please his dad. And it begs the question, is there a danger in living to please a parent? When is it a danger to do what we do solely to please a parent?

2 Timothy 3:5 talks of “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Hebrews 12:16-17 exhorts us to not be like Esau. When is it a danger to do what we do solely to please a parent? It is when we put on the appearance of godliness while having no godliness. This comes in all forms. There are children who live to please their parents talking like a Christian, walking like a Christian, looking like a Christian, and…all the while their heart is so far from God. This is Esau.

What pleases a dad? What really pleases a mom? It is when a child seeks to glorify God by enjoying him forever.

What Then Can I Do For You, My Son?

Thomas Stevenson was an engineer. His grandfather was an engineer. His father was an engineer. His brother was an engineer. His other brother was an engineer. His nephew was an engineer. His other nephew was an engineer. His brother-in-law was an engineer. His son was…a writer. His son was Robert Louis Stevenson, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island.

Thomas raised his son, his only child, to not so much be an engineer or to be a writer, but to believe the Bible. And if Robert was asked, “What is the chief end of man?” he could answer, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And if Robert was asked, “What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” he could answer, “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.”

Robert would attend Edinburgh University. There he would form a club which had as one of its mottos, “Ignore everything that our parents taught us.” His dad would discover this motto among some of his son’s things. It was then that Robert informed him that he no longer believed in the Christian faith. In what has been called an overstatement lacking the precision of truth, but carried the weight of sorrow, Thomas responded, “You have rendered my whole life a failure.” What does a dad then do?

Listen to something Robert wrote to a friend. “It was really pathetic to hear my father praying pointedly for me today at family worship, and to think the poor man’s supplications were addressed to nothing better able to hear and answer than the chandelier.”[1] It hurts to read these words. It hurts to hear these words until you realize what a father did for his son. This father prayed pointedly for his son. And this father continued to worship. And did you notice, the son was there to hear his father.

It is All About a Blessing

Genesis 27:1-40 seems really straightforward. It is all about a blessing. It is all about a blessing before it is too late. Isaac, Rebekah’s husband, seeks to bless their son before it is too late (Genesis 27:1-4). Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, seeks to have their son blessed before it is too late (Genesis 27:5-13). But there is a problem. Both parents are seeking the same, lone blessing for two different sons! Isaac seeks to give this blessing to Esau the hairy older son. Rebekah seeks to get this blessing for Jacob the smooth younger son.

And there is still a problem. How will each seek this blessing? It is the big question. And by each it is meant Isaac and Rebekah, Esau and Jacob. But especially Esau.

How Does Isaac Seek this Blessing?

How does Isaac seek this blessing? Pay careful attention to how it all begins. It is Genesis 27:1. “When Isaac was old…” We are first told that Isaac was old. How old? We do not know, except when Isaac’s mom was 89 years old she said she was old and she gave birth for the first time a year later (Genesis 18:13). And when Isaac’s dad was old, at least 140 years old, he remarried and had lots of kids (Genesis 24:1). In Genesis 27, Isaac was at least 100 years old (Genesis 25:26 plus Genesis 26:34). And we know that when Isaac died he was 180 years old (Genesis 35:28). And keep in mind that there are eight chapters in between Genesis 27 and Genesis 35. What is the point?

Pay careful attention to how Genesis 27:1 continues. “When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see…” So, not only was Isaac old, but he was blind. This is important because throughout Genesis 27, there is an emphasis on Isaac’s senses. “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son” (Genesis 27:21). “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (Genesis 27:22). “And he ate…and he drank” (Genesis 27:25). “And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, ‘See, the smell of my son’” (Genesis 27:27).

There is an emphasis not just on Isaac’s senses, but all five senses – sight, touch, sound, taste, smell. And the emphasis is not so much about relying on these senses but thinking with these senses; one more than the others.

And when Isaac was old and blind he called for his son. Which son? Esau and only Esau. He called for Esau and said – pay close attention to what he says and how he says it – “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death.” Isaac was old, but was Isaac dying? Was Isaac close to death? No! He was closer to old than he was to death! But Isaac just states what was true. He was old and did not know when he will die. Why is he talking like this? It was because he was hungry! “Go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4).

And how does Isaac seek this blessing? It sounds so similar to the day that Esau sold his birthright. On that day he came in from the field famished, so famished that he was about to die! Who does that sound like, or better yet, where did Esau learn to talk like that? And on that day, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some stew because he was hungry. So, how does Isaac on this day seek this blessing? Before it is too late – I am about to die (not really). But more importantly, he seeks this blessing with the sense of taste and with hunger and he seeks to give this blessing after he tastes some delicious food and his hunger is satisfied. He will give the blessing for some delicious food.

How Does Rebekah Seek this Blessing?

How does Rebekah seek this blessing? Listen to Genesis 27:5. “Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau.” Rebekah was eavesdropping! So, she called for her son. Which son? Jacob and only Jacob. She shares with Jacob that Isaac is going to bless Esau before he dies, but not before he eats. Listen then to her plan. “Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies” (Genesis 27:9-10). But there is a problem and Jacob knows it. “Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me” (27:11-12). Jacob voices no objection! He is just thinking the whole thing through down to the last hairy detail.

But, how does Rebekah seek this blessing? Before it is too late! This all has to be done – the preparing the delicious food and preparing Jacob to give the delicious food – before Esau gets back. Remember, Esau was out in the field hunting game.

How Does Jacob Seek this Blessing?

How does Jacob seek this blessing? He gets the two good young goats so that his mom can prepare delicious food. But Jacob too needs to be prepared. Listen to Genesis 27:15-16. “Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.” Jacob looks like Esau and he also smells like Esau. But there is a problem and Jacob will know it.

He takes the delicious food to his father looking like Esau and smelling like Esau. He is eager to give the delicious food to his father and for one reason: to get the blessing. There is so much suspense here! Isaac will not give the blessing until his hunger is satisfied. And he stalls. Who are you? How did you find the game and prepare it so fast? Come close that I may feel if you are really Esau my son (Genesis 27:18-21). But there is a problem. “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (27:22). Isaac’s ears are telling him that something is not right. Jacob spoke, but those hands are fooling his mind. Is this really Esau? And if Isaac was not so hungry…

We wait with Jacob as he waits. His father eats. His father drinks. His father desires his son’s affection. Jacob is waiting for that blessing. How then does Jacob seek this blessing? Before it is too late! Remember, Esau was out in the field hunting game and most likely now preparing delicious food. Jacob needs to get this blessing before it is too late, before Esau comes walking into the room. And when Isaac smells his son, it is the smell of Esau. So, Isaac gives the blessing because “See, the smell of my son!”

And the blessing is that which echoes God’s revealed will of Genesis 25:23. And we discover something. Isaac knew God’s revealed will of Genesis 25:23 for his sons. He knew the older (Esau) was to serve the younger (Jacob). But what was Isaac seeking to do? He sought to redirect God’s revealed will to his son Esau. Rebekah knew God’s revealed will too for her sons. She thought God needed a little help moving his will along. Instead of taking a moment to display a holy hope in God, she acted without seeking God.

How Does Esau Seek this Blessing?

How does Esau seek this blessing? “As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting” (27:30). Esau too had prepared some delicious food and brought it to his father. He was seeking the blessing. He knew he would not get the blessing until his father’s hunger was satisfied. He must have been so anxious and filled with some excitement for this was it. He had sold that birthright years ago. He too must have known about God’s revealed will and perhaps it is why he despised his birthright. But what mattered was not the past or God’s Word, no, what mattered was his father’s word, the words of the blessing that were mere moments away. But it was too late. How did Esau seek this blessing? It was too late.

And Isaac realized it too. He had inadvertently blessed the son that was to be blessed, but not the son he sought to bless. Isaac realized “the invincible determination of God to keep his word.” So, he declares, “Yes, and he [Jacob] shall be blessed” (27:33). Again, how did Esau seek this blessing? He sought it with tears and without repentance (Hebrews 12:16-17). He wanted it, he wanted it so badly! If only he never sold his birthright. And the saddest part for Esau is that Esau never used this as a chance to repent. He only grew bitter (Genesis 27:34, 38).

What Then Can I Do for You, My Son?

I feel, though, for…Isaac, the dad. Perhaps, it is because I am a dad and I have two children. When all is said and done, Isaac asks, “What then can I do for you, my son?” (Genesis 27:37). It is the problem of the chapter. I know there is blame to go all around in this family of four. No one is a hero. Everyone loses something in this chapter. But I feel that question in verse thirty-seven. What can you do for a child like Esau? What can you do for a child that has grown bitter; defiant; unrepentant; even despising the things of God? What can you do for a child like Robert Louis Stevenson?

1. Pray pointedly.

2. Worship continually.

[1] John Piper, The Satisfied Soul, page 58

And I Will Be With You

It was every evening. And every evening as he laid in bed as a child, he would hear his mother crying out to God. She was crying out for him, asking God that her little boy would turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. It was every evening. And every evening as he laid in bed as a teenager, he would hear his mother crying out to God. She was crying out for him, asking God that her teenage boy would turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. It was every evening. And every evening as a grown man he knew that his mother was praying that her son would turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. It was a Sunday morning. He could not explain it, but he just felt the need to attend a church worship service. And he did. It was a Sunday morning. He could not explain it, but he just felt the need to attend the church worship service for a second time. And he did. It was the third consecutive Sunday morning, he could not explain it, but he just felt the need to attend the church worship service. He did. And he as sat there, he turned to his wife and said, “I do not know about you, but today I am getting saved.” He was 40 years old.

It was a Saturday morning. And on this morning, at 81 years old, he laid in a hospital bed. He smiled. And he would hear his grandson remind him, “Be strong and courageous, Papa. Do not be afraid, Papa. Do not be dismayed, Papa. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What is it All About?

Really pay attention to Genesis 26:1. “Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.” But also, really pay attention to Genesis 26:34-35. “When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”

Genesis 26 is one chapter. It is one chapter in a section of Genesis called the account of Isaac (Genesis 25:19). The account of Isaac consists of ten chapters beginning with Genesis 25:19 and concluding with Genesis 35:29. Most of those ten chapters, most of the account of Isaac is about his twin sons Esau and Jacob…except for Genesis 26. Genesis 26 is the most extensive chapter about Isaac in the account of Isaac. But really pay attention to how the chapter begins. Notice who is mentioned as the chapter begins – Abraham, Isaac and Abimelech. Abraham was Isaac’s father. Isaac was Abraham’s son. And Abimelech was a king.

But also, really pay attention to how the chapter ends. Notice who is mentioned as the chapter ends – Esau, Judith, Basemath, Isaac and Rebekah. Esau was the son of Isaac. Judith was Esau’s wife. Basemath was Esau’s wife. Isaac was Esau’s father. Rebekah was Esau’s mother. Notice who is not mentioned as the chapter ends. Isaac had two sons. Jacob is not mentioned as the chapter ends. Why? Better yet, what is similar to how the chapter begins and how the chapter ends? Abraham and Isaac. Isaac and Esau. Abraham was Isaac’s father. Isaac was Abraham’s son. Isaac was Esau’s father. Esau was Isaac’s son.

So, we want to ask, what is Genesis 26 really all about?

Like Father, Like Son

Let’s look again at Genesis 26:1. “Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.” What is the point? There is a famine. This is the account of Isaac and there is a famine. But what do we also know? This is the second famine. The first famine was in the days of Abraham. And who was Abraham? He was Isaac’s dad. What is the point? Like his dad, Isaac lived during a famine.

But there is more. Notice the rest of Genesis 26:1. “And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.” What is the point? There is Abimelech, he is a king. There is the time that Abraham went to Gerar to Abimelech. So, what is the point? Like his dad, Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech. What is Genesis 26 really all about? Like father, like son both have in common a famine. And like father, like son both have in common Abimelech. And like father, like son both…

You Are So Beautiful to Me

In Genesis 12 when there was a famine, Abraham went down to Egypt. And when Abraham went down to Egypt, he said to his wife, “You are so beautiful to me…let’s tell everyone that you are not my wife, but my sister.” And why? It was because Abraham was afraid. He was afraid that other men would obviously see how beautiful Sarah was, kill him and take her. In Genesis 20 when Abraham went to Gerar to King Abimelech, he did the very same thing! He told the very same lie. “You are so beautiful to me…let’s tell everyone that you are not my wife, but my sister.” And why? It was because Abraham was afraid. He was afraid that other men would obviously see how beautiful Sarah was, kill him and take her. In Genesis 26 when there was a famine, Isaac went to Gerar to King Abimelech. He looked at his wife and thought “She is so beautiful to me.” And when someone asked about his wife he told them, “She is my sister.” And why? It was because Isaac was afraid. He was afraid that other men would obviously see how beautiful Rebekah was, kill him and take her. Like father, like son both told a lie, the same lie. Both got found out and rebuked too. But there is so much more!

And like his dad, Isaac ends up staying in Gerar for a while (26:8). Like his dad, Isaac gets wealthier in Gerar (26:13). Like his dad, Isaac has disputes with the men of Gerar over wells of water (26:15-22). Like his dad, he digs a well at a place called Beersheba (26:23-25). Like his dad, Abimelech makes an oath with Isaac because it is better to have Isaac as a friend than an enemy (26:26-33). And like his dad, Isaac calls upon the name of the Lord at Beersheba (26:25; cf. Genesis 20:14; 21:22-34).

And the question remains, what is Genesis 26 really all about? Like father, like son. But which father and son? Which father and son is Genesis 26 really all about? It is important to remember how the chapter begins and how the chapter ends. There is Isaac and there is Esau.

Now There was a Famine in the Land

Listen again to Genesis 26:1. “Now there was a famine in the land.” Highlight the word famine. What is always true about a famine? Famines are about lack, here specifically, a lack of food. And when there is a lack of food, people go hungry. And when people go hungry, there is death. Famines are serious.

But what I want us to notice is that the present circumstance is this famine. And we know it is the present circumstance because we are reminded of the former famine in the days of Abraham, a famine in the past. Interestingly, from the viewpoint of Genesis 26 there is this past famine in Genesis 12, but there is also a future famine. It begins in Genesis 41. The past famine was in the days of Abraham. This present famine is in the days of Isaac and the future famine will be in the days of Isaac’s son Jacob.

But really important is that this famine, this present circumstance is Isaac’s present circumstance. And in this present circumstance it seems that he thinks it best to go to Egypt. Why? Egypt has a year-round water supply called the Nile. No famine is there and if there is water and no famine, there is food. As he goes, God tells him to stop. “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 26:2). Now notice verse three. “Sojourn in this land.” This land is the land of Gerar (cf. Genesis 26:1). Sojourn is a command. God is commanding Isaac to stay in Gerar. And Gerar is in the same land as the famine. Listen to what God is commanding Isaac to do. Stay in your present circumstance. It seems logical and sensible and wise to go to Egypt. His dad did. And when Jacob his son endures a famine, God will command him to go to Egypt (cf. Genesis 46:3-4). Listen to what God tells Jacob at that time. “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt.”

But God commands Isaac to stay; stay in the midst of the famine; stay in the present circumstance. Interestingly, sojourn means a temporary stay. So, what does that tell us about the present circumstance? It too is temporary. Present circumstances are always temporary. But there is also Genesis 26:8. Isaac stays a really long time. Present circumstances, although temporary, can sure feel long.

And I Will Be with You

The end result is that Isaac obeys and in obeying he was reminded that his father’s life was marked by obedience (cf. Genesis 26:6; 5). But what I want us to see is what God says for Isaac in this present, temporary albeit long circumstance. I will be with you. I will bless you. I will give all these lands to you and to your offspring. I will establish the oath made to Abraham. I will multiply your offspring (26:3-4a). Notice that these are promises. It is the first time that God has made promises to Isaac. But also notice that each promise is future. For Isaac’s present, temporary albeit long circumstance he has God’s promises.

When we first really get introduced to Isaac he was married, and his wife was barren. And since she was barren, Isaac prayed and prayed and prayed for her. Isaac prayed for her convinced that God was faithful to God’s promise to Abraham. Here in Genesis 26, Isaac does not have God’s promises to Abraham. Instead, he has God’s promises to Isaac. The question for Isaac is, “will I live in a present, temporary albeit long circumstance convinced that God is faithful to his promises to me?” The question for us is, “will I live in a present, temporary albeit long circumstance convinced that God is faithful to his promises?” Better yet, how do you do that?

Genesis 26 is about like father, like son, but not so much Abraham and Isaac, but Isaac and Esau. And the big question is, is Isaac like Esau? Is Esau like Isaac? In the previous verses, Genesis 25:29-34, Esau was famished. He thought he was in a famine. “I am so hungry I could die! Feed me!” He sold his birthright to his brother for some soup. The birthright was all future, future promises. Esau lived for the present and forsook the future for the present. His dad lived in the present, in a real famine, for the sake of the future. How did Isaac do it?

Notice the very first promise in Genesis 26:3. “And I will be with you.” Notice Genesis 26:24. “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you.” Notice Genesis 26:28. “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you.” Future, present and past – God’s presence. How do you live in the now, endure present, temporary although rather long circumstances? In the future, God is with me. In the present, God is with me. In the past, God was with me. It is the special presence of God. God is spatially present everywhere always. But this, Genesis 26, is not the spatial presence of God. This is the special presence of God. Psalm 105:4 tells us to “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” This is about enjoying God even in the famines – he will be with me; he is with me; he was with me! But how do I do it? See too Isaiah 43:1-3.

Listen closer to Genesis 26:5. “Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Why tell Isaac, why tell us about obedience? This is about enjoying God and seeking his presence. How do I do it? Listen to Jesus. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

And Thus Esau Despised His Birthright

It was recently said by a man of God that the next revival needed is a revival of prayer. Today as never before God’s children are too rushed to take time to pray. A multitude of activities will keep them from this sacred calling, and yet it is manifestly true that every genuine revival was born in a prayer meeting. It is in prayer that Christians fail most. It is in this that the enemy of our souls fights the hardest. It is in this that God promises the most infinite reward. It is the pulse of the church, and to lose it is to lose the church’s very life.[1]

Behold, There Were Twins

Genesis 25:19-34 is sixteen verses. It is about Isaac, he is Abraham’s son. It is about Rebekah, she is Isaac’s wife. It is about Esau, he is the older, red and hairy firstborn of Isaac and Rebekah. It is about Jacob, he is the younger and much less hairy and quiet second born of Isaac and Rebekah. Esau and Jacob are twins. And it is about Esau. Each verse of this passage leads up to verse thirty-four. “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” The word despised, and we see this in the context, means to treat carelessly or to think worthless. Esau did not see it; he did not see the point or think it a big deal to be the big brother, the firstborn. And the big question is, why did he despise his birthright?

Genesis 25:19-34 is sixteen verses. Each verse of this passage leads up to verse thirty-four. And the key verse is Genesis 25:24. It is the key verse for two reasons. First, it answers the big question, why did Esau despise his birthright? But it is also the key verse for a second reason. “When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb.” And the word to pay attention to is behold. It could be translated as look, but with an exclamation point. Look! The word itself is used intentionally. It is an abrupt remark and it adds to how the verse is read. You do not see it coming and it causes you to give much attention to what follows. There were twins in her womb.

The word behold is found often in both the Old and New Testament. And in both testaments, it gets used in almost identical ways. On Christmas evening, some shepherds were out in some field watching some sheep. And an angel appeared to them, stood among them and said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people.” Interestingly, like Genesis 25:24, the word behold here is in the context of a birth. But what is really important is, who is told to behold? Who is it for? In Luke 2:10, some shepherds are told to behold. Some shepherds are told to look! It is for shepherds.

We want to keep this in mind as we look back at Genesis 25:24, and the question there is, who is told to behold? Who is it for? This key verse, the second reason this is the key verse, is for us. We are told to behold. Genesis 25:24 is written for us. Some translations use the word indeed. “When her days to give birth were completed, indeed there were twins in her womb.” Indeed, there were twins. Behold, there were twins. And it is an abrupt remark. Why? Why this abrupt remark now?

This is the Account of Isaac

The passage begins with verse nineteen. “These are the generations of Isaac,” or “This is the account of Isaac.” And what follows are ten chapters which have very little to do with Isaac and more to do with his twin boys. And these sixteen verses treat Isaac in the same way. It is the account of Isaac, but almost has very little to do with Isaac and more to do with his twin boys. However, this is the account of Isaac because it all begins with Isaac.

He was forty years old as the passage begins. It is one of the first facts we are given about Isaac as his account unfolds. The first fact is that he was Abraham’s son, which might be the most important fact. He was Abraham’s son and he was forty years old. And the third fact is that Isaac prayed for his wife. And why did Isaac pray for his wife? It was because she was barren. Keep this before you: Isaac was Abraham’s son; Isaac was forty years old; Isaac prayed for his wife because she was barren. And God granted his prayer, but it is not until Genesis 25:26 that we learn when God granted Isaac’s prayer. It was when Isaac was sixty years old. When Isaac was sixty years old his wife gave birth to twin boys. This means that Isaac prayed and prayed and prayed for his wife for ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years. The point is that Isaac persevered in prayer. The account of Isaac is that he persevered in prayer.

Why Did Isaac Persevere in Prayer?

Keep all of the facts before you: Isaac was Abraham’s son; Isaac was forty years old; Isaac prayed for his wife because she was barren; God granted Isaac’s prayer when Isaac was sixty years old. Isaac persevered in prayer, but why? He was convinced that God was faithful to the promise God made to Abraham. Remember, God’s promise to Abraham is about offspring, offspring through Isaac. But why would Isaac be convinced that God was faithful to his promise he made to Abraham? Certainly, Isaac’s father Abraham shared with him all he knew and had experienced with the one true God. Surely, Isaac knew Genesis 12 through Genesis 21. Isaac himself experienced Genesis 22 – the Lord will provide.

But there is Genesis 24. Genesis 24 is about seeking and finding a wife for Isaac. It was the task of Abraham’s oldest and most trusted servant. The servant had understandable reservations and questions about the task. But he heard God’s Word; set out for the task and prayed (Genesis 24:7; 10; 12). Listen to his prayer. “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.” Steadfast love is a good word, a good Old Testament word to have in your vocabulary. It is the Hebrew word hesed (checed). It means loyalty or faithfulness, but in this context, it means covenant loyalty or covenant faithfulness. God had made a covenant to Abraham, a promise, about these offspring through Isaac (see Genesis 17:1-4; 7). And the servant’s prayer is that God show in this task his loyalty to his promise he made to Abraham. And something unexpected happens. God showed his loyalty. God showed his faithfulness. But what was unexpected was who God showed it to. God showed his faithfulness to his promise he made to Abraham and he showed it to this servant (cf. Genesis 24:27). What does this have to do with Isaac and Isaac persevering in prayer? Listen to Genesis 24:67. “And the servant told Isaac all the things he had done.” The servant told Isaac everything.

And God Did More Than Asked or Imagined

God granted Isaac’s prayer; Rebekah conceived, and God did more than Isaac asked or even imagined. Listen to Genesis 25:22. “The children…” This is important. The word children is plural. God granted Isaac’s prayer; Rebekah conceived, and she conceived children. But we know this before Isaac and before Rebekah know this. We know that God has done it and done more than asked or even imagined. And it is not until Genesis 25:23 that Rebekah gets a glimpse that God has done it; he has done more than Isaac asked or even imagined. Rebekah sought out God. And he answered her. She had questions about this pregnancy and she also had God’s promise. And God answered. God told her that there were two nations in her womb, two peoples in her womb. One would be stronger than the other. The older would serve the younger. Question, which is the stronger one? The one who will be served. Their names will be Esau and Jacob. Two nations will come from these two boys. Esau is the older. He and the nation to come from him will serve the younger. Jacob is the younger and the nation to come from him will be the stronger.

After the birth of these two boys and after these two boys had grown up, we are told that Isaac loved or favored Esau. It was because Esau loved the outdoors and he loved to hunt. He was really good at hunting. But Jacob was quiet, he was refined, a man of the house and his mom loved or favored him. Why did she favor Jacob over Esau? I think it is because of what she heard. He was to be the stronger one; he was to be served; and he would be the father of a stronger nation.

But in Genesis 25:19-24, it is really important to see that God did it. God did more than asked or imagined, but God did it. This is the point of verse twenty-four. It is the reason for this abrupt remark – behold! It is why it is for us. We first knew of the children in Rebekah’s womb before Rebekah knew of the children in Rebekah’s womb. And we heard then what Rebekah heard. The children are twins! And in verse twenty-four, Moses writes for us, “behold, indeed, there were twins.” It is meant to cause us to stop. This abrupt remark is meant to grab our attention and just stop.

I have spent more time on these sixteen verses than any other passage in Genesis. Why? I do not know…until Friday. I know that God’s Word is God speaking. He has used this passage, in particular verse twenty-four, to get me to slow down. I had the attitude of wanting to look and not merely move on but keep going and get further into Genesis. But Genesis 25:24 demands a pause. Behold.

It is an invitation. Not an invitation to pray. Not an invitation to seek God. We are commanded to do those things (Psalm 105:1; 4). It is not an invitation to know God’s promises or to know God’s will, which is to say to know, read, study, meditate upon God’s Word. We are commanded to do those things too (Joshua 1:8). This is an invitation to come and behold; to pause in awe and marvel. God did it. It was as God said and it was more than could have been imagined.

Esau Despised His Birthright

All sixteen verses lead up to “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” Why did he despise it? The birthright had privileges – to be the man of the house, to get the larger inheritance. Of course, in this account is how Jacob got the birthright. Esau sold it to Jacob for some soup. And so, we see a bit of Jacob’s character. He came out of the womb holding on to his brother’s heel. Initially, this was a good thing. To be at someone’s heels was to be at their rearguard, to be their protector. But Jacob is not seen as a protector but rather as one grabbing for something that is not his. But the focus is on Esau. Esau did no savoring. Not only did he despise his birthright, he did not even enjoy the soup that he purchased with his birthright. He gulped it (cf. 25:30, 34).

This birthright was wrapped up in the previous verses. It was wrapped up in God’s promises, his will, his word, what he had done, what he will do, but most importantly, when God has done it, we might say, “Look at that! God has most certainly done it!” But Esau knowing the previous verses did not savor it. He never savored all that God had done, especially when it came to his own birth. Instead, he ate and drank and got up and went his way. He never savored.

It is why Genesis 25:24 is so important to Genesis 25:34. It is why Moses with that abrupt remark causes us to stop and look. It is to savor. And it is for us. It is for us do some praying and praying and praying. Just like Isaac. And it concerns us, the life of this church, praying together here in this home and praying in our homes. Forgive me; I have kept the Wednesday prayer guide to Wednesdays, in that prayer room. I have kept it from you. You need it. We need it to grow. We need it to be praying; praying for Jonathans and Jaclyns and Jacobs and watching the prayer guide grow, watching the prayer requests, the heartfelt petitions grow and watching all of this together as we pray. But we must pray for these things according to God’s promises; according to God’s will and this is only found in God’s Word. And as we pray, we also pray anticipating some pauses. We will pause that we might see and say, “He has done it; God has done it!” And we pause like this so that we might do some savoring.

Isaac prayed and prayed and prayed. And God did more than Isaac asked or imagined. But imagine this, what if Isaac never prayed? What if Isaac never asked?

 

[1] The Nyack Correspondence School, A Course in Practical Methods of Christian Work, page 5. Written over 50 years ago.

He Gazed at Her in Silence

I am not one to wear a shirt or parade a bumper sticker which reads, “I love my wife.” But this March will mark twenty years of dating my wife. Our first date was a Saturday. It was sunny and pleasant. I greeted her with flowers; daisies. Reservations for dinner were made at a fine restaurant called Applebee’s. We sat across from one another at a round, high table. Lisa ordered soup and I splurged for the chicken fingers platter. After dinner, we took in a show at the theater, the movie theater. When the movie ended, I drove my date to her home. I walked her to the door. It was there that we shared true love’s first kiss which was followed by true love’s second kiss. I love my wife.

I Will Not Eat

Genesis 24 is long. It is long for only one reason: the servant. The servant is first introduced in verse two. “And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had.” The servant is made to swear an oath to Abraham; an oath concerning Abraham’s son Isaac.

There are four things to know about this oath. First, this oath is because Isaac must have a wife. Second, this oath is because Isaac must have a wife, but not a woman of the Canaanites. The Canaanites are the people who dwell in the land of Canaan, a land where Abraham along with Isaac dwell. Third, this oath is because Isaac must have a wife, not a woman of the Canaanites, and Isaac himself must not leave this land of Canaan to find this wife. This wife is to come from Abraham’s home country, the land of his kindred. And fourth, this servant is to find this wife. And this servant is just not to find this wife, the right woman for Isaac, but personally is to hope that she is willing to return with him to the land of Canaan. And this wife, the right woman, is to be willing not just to return with this servant to the land of Canaan, but marry a man sight unseen. She will have never met Isaac. There is no profile picture to be shown, no about you page to read. The most this woman can do is return with this servant to the land of Canaan and marry a man sight unseen, based upon the witness of this servant alone. This is not a miracle, just remarkable.

And Genesis 24 is long. It is long for only one reason: the servant. The servant will hear and then experience Genesis 24:1-27. And he is so impressed with what he heard and then experienced that he cannot wait to tell it to somebody. Listen to Genesis 24:33. He is in the home of the right woman and with her brother and her father and her mother. He then says, “I will not eat until I have said what I have to say.” In Genesis 24:34-48, the servant then shares with this family all that he heard and then experienced. And when finished, he challenges the hearers, “Now tell me, what do you think about all that?” (cf. Genesis 24:49).

And Genesis 24 is long. It is long for only one reason: the servant. The servant eventually returns to the land of Canaan and meets up with Isaac. When he does, the servant cannot wait to share all that heard and then experienced. “And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done” (Genesis 24:66). The servant shared with Isaac all that he heard and then experienced, and not just Genesis 24:1-27, but Genesis 24:1-61.

And Genesis 24 is long. It is long for only one reason.

And It is Not a Love Story

The right woman returns with the servant to the land of Canaan to marry a man sight unseen. Her name is Rebekah. She returned with the servant based upon the witness of the servant alone. And when she returns with the servant is my favorite part of the chapter.

It begins toward evening. Perhaps the sun is setting just right with hints of a peach color brushed against the sky. Isaac is out for a walk. Genesis 24:63 reads that Isaac “went out to meditate in the field.” The word for meditate is only used here in the Old Testament. It simply means to muse or to talk to oneself in a thoughtful manner. Imagine, out in a field alone, taking a walk and talking to himself. What is on his mind?

This is the first mention of Isaac since Genesis 22. There Isaac was a boy, a teenager. Here in Genesis 24, Isaac is a man, forty years of age (cf. Genesis 25:20). His dad is old, well advanced in years. His mom died three years prior. What is on his mind? We could surmise many things, but most important is that Isaac is thinking.

As Isaac walks, he looks up and sees…camels, ten camels coming his way. When Isaac looks up and sees camels, Rebekah looks up too, and sees Isaac. When Rebekah sees Isaac, she dismounts (literally, falls) from the camel, saying, “Who is that man?” Then when Isaac and Rebekah meet, Isaac brings her home, takes Rebekah to be his wife, “and he loved her” (Genesis 24:66). This is the first time in the Bible it is recorded that a man loved his wife. But this is not a love story.

I want us to keep in mind two things: This is the first mention of Isaac since Genesis 22 and Isaac was thinking.

Abraham Was Thinking Too

It is rather intriguing that the particular word for meditate in Genesis 24:63 only occurs here in the Old Testament. And it is intriguing that it occurs at the end of the chapter. And it is intriguing that it is Isaac doing the thinking. By the way, this is the first time since Genesis 22 that both Abraham and Isaac are mentioned in the same chapter – Abraham at the beginning and Isaac at the ending.

At the beginning of Genesis 24, Abraham was thinking too. The word thinking never occurs, nor is there any word for thinking in those opening verses. But Abraham was thinking. As the chapter opens, we hear the last recorded words of Abraham. And we hear in these last recorded words, what is deepest on his mind: Isaac must have a wife; Isaac must not have a wife from Canaan; and Isaac must not leave Canaan to find a wife.

God never explicitly tells Abraham that Isaac must have a wife and that the wife must not be from Canaan and that Isaac must not leave Canaan to find this wife. So, why is Abraham thinking this way? It is all because of verse seven. This is the key verse to the entire chapter.

As Abraham charges his servant that he will be the one to find a wife for Isaac, the servant rightly asks the most important question. What if she will not return with me? Then Abraham does the remarkable. “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’”

Isaac must have a wife and this wife must not be from Canaan and Isaac must not leave Canaan to find this wife because of what God said. Abraham has been thinking, meditating upon God’s Word. God had promised offspring to Abraham, offspring that would become a nation; offspring that would number the stars of heaven; offspring that would be as the sand of the seashore (12:2; 15:5; 22:17); offspring that would occupy this particular land. The right woman would not be from this land because it was land with its inhabitants that God would also judge (15:16). God had promised a lot of offspring. And in Abraham’s old age, Abraham is not looking at a nation or numbering stars or counting sand. He has but one child, now a man, a single man. So, what is Abraham holding onto? God’s Word.

Also, the last chapter in which Abraham and Isaac are both mentioned is Genesis 22. It is there that for the very first time the word love is mentioned. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.” And it is also in this chapter that Abraham learns his very last lesson of faith. “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14). In Genesis 24, Abraham is certain of one thing. As he thinks upon God’s Word, he also knows that God will provide.

So, when the servant asks, what if the woman will not return with me, Abraham can say, “God will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.” Why? God has spoken. “To your offspring I will give this land.” And since God has spoken, God will also provide. And since God has spoken and God will provide, God will also make it happen.

I want us to see that the basis of Genesis 24 is that God has spoken; God’s Word. At the beginning of the chapter, in his old age, his well-advanced years, Abraham is meditating upon what God has said. Could it be possible that as Isaac walked in that field, talking to himself, he too is meditating upon what God has said?

He Gazed at Her in Silence

Genesis 24 is long. It is long for one reason: the servant. He heard Genesis 24:1-8. He heard what God had spoken. And then he experienced God’s provision knowing it was God who made it all happen.

He took ten camels, count them, ten (24:10). And he made his way toward Abraham’s homeland. This was a long journey, several hundred miles, and perhaps many months. As he entered his destination, he stops. He is thirsty. The camels are thirsty. And it is evening (24:11). It is at this time that the women of the city come to the communal well to draw water. Knowing that God has spoken, knowing that since God spoke he will provide, and knowing that since God will provide, God will make it happen, the servant prays. “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today [literally, make it happen]” (24:12). And note the word success (KJV – good speed). “And show steadfast love to my master Abraham.”

He then asks, knowing that God must make it happen, if any of this is to happen, that the young woman who gives him a drink of water and offers water to the camels, be the right woman for Isaac. And before he finishes his prayer, perhaps with one eye open and the other closed, he sees Rebekah, beautiful Rebekah make her way up from the well. He asks her for a drink. What does she do, but also offer to water all ten camels! Camels can each drink about thirty gallons of water. All Rebekah has for this arduous task is one bucket!

As she serves the camels, the servant gazes at her in silence. Is this the one God has provided? Is this God making it happen? Is this God fulfilling his word before my very eyes?! Spoiler alert: it is. God is making it happen right here and now.

The servant gives Rebekah a gold nose ring and some bracelets and asks about her family and home. But the astonishing part is that the servant prays. And the most astonishing part of his prayer is verse twenty-seven. “As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsman.” Rebekah then runs. She runs home to tell her family. Her brother comes and checks things out, primarily because he is more interested in wealth than anything. Then the servant is invited to the home where he shares everything – God has spoken. Since God has spoken, God will provide. And since it is God who provides, God is the one who makes it all happen.

This is what Genesis 24 is all about and why it is so long. This servant is in awe of God. It is why he tells and retells all that has happened. He is impressed by and with God. The servant’s witness, his testimony, is that God makes it happen (see Genesis 24:21; 40; 42; 56). And where does this all begin? God’s Word.

What then is here for us? God’s Word contains God’s will. “Once we know the will of God, we can have tremendous confidence that God will use his supernatural power to overcome obstacles for those who aim to do it.” Therefore, if we are to know God’s will, read God’s Word. And when reading God’s Word, think over it and through it and upon it! Meditate! See Joshua 1:8 and note the word prosperous (same as 24:21, 40, 42, 56). Go walk in a field! “If you are not spending much time in meditative study of God’s Word, then probably doing God’s will is not the passion of your life. And if you ever ask the question, ‘what is God’s will?’ you probably get very confused.”[1] As you read, as you study, as you meditate, pray. Pray to the God who will provide. What will he provide? Fulfilling his will. Pray to the God who will make it happen! Then what? Go. Go expectantly. Go obediently. Go with one eye open and the other eye closed. Go looking to know that God has done it!

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/he-will-send-his-angel-before-you