Thy Will Be Done? Challenges in Submitting to God's will.
The audio recording of this message can be found here
As important as it is to be aware of God’s will for our lives it is equally important to know how to apply that knowledge. How should what I know about God and His will shape my life, my decisions, and my actions? In this study of Genesis 27, we will witness Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau wrestle with God’s will, their personal preferences and the consequences of their actions. Genesis 27 is an incredibly messy story, as messy as our lives often are, but I hope that this study will help you avoid some of the mistakes made by these great heroes of faith.
We covered Genesis 26 on my previous post entitled Faithful Still. The shift in the story, however, takes place on the last couple of verses of chapter 26.
When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.
Genesis 26:34-35 NKJV
Esau takes a wife at the same age his father Issac was when he married Rebecca (Genesis 25:20). However, unlike his father, Esau did not consult his parents regarding his choice of companion and chooses from among the women of the land which caused grief of mind to his parents or literally “bitterness of spirit.” This shift takes place with the reappearance of Esau, who we had last seen despising his birthright in Genesis 25:34. Esau is introduced back into the narrative with an account of another poor choice. Esau’s choice of wife shows no concern for the spiritual upbringing of his child. Surely he must have heard the story of how God had brought his parents Isaac and Rebekah together (more on this on my post Good Company) and the importance of having a godly wife. the reader is given a picture of Esau as being consistently uninterested in the moral and spiritual responsibilities that accompany the birthright. Esau’s choice of wife breaks the heart of his parents who understand the implications of Esau’s choice. When Esau chose wives who worship idols he put his descendants in jeopardy, and if the faith of his descendants is threatened, and if he gets the birthright, that would mean God’s plans to bless and make him a blessing would also be threatened.
Isaac is old
Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”
And he answered him, “Here I am.”
Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”
Genesis 27:1-4 NKJV
The story now transitions to a new section, but it continues the same line of thought. Dr. Doukhan points out that there are several thematic similarities between the blessing of Jacob by Isaac and the story of Esau and Jacob around the meal of lentils (Genesis 25:27-34 blog post How Much for That). (Doukhan, Jacques. Genesis. Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016. p325)
The themes include:
Age (Genesis 25:27 cf. 27:1-2)
Esau as a hunter (Genesis 25:27 cf 27:3)
Love, desire to eat a meal, game (Genesis 25:28 cf 27:3-4)
the prospect of death (Genesis 25:32 cf 27:2)
The parallels between these two stories suggest that the deal between Esau and Jacob around the pot of stew and the blessing story are related.
A bit of history
Just as a quick refresher.
Before the twins, Esau and Isaac, were born God told Rebekah
And the Lord said to her:
“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:23 NKJV
From this revelation from God, we see that the plan is for the younger to receive the blessing and the supremacy. (more on that on this blog post Everything will be okay.)
It would be in accordance with the trajectory of the story so far to expect Jacob to receive the blessing. After all, it is God’s plan no?
You could argue that Jacob took advantage of his brother in a moment of weakness and that his behavior is not commendable. Also, the argument can be made that Esau did not seem to care much for his birthright and he cared more about satiating his hunger.
Another complication is that “And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28 NKJV)
Sure, God had spoken to Rebekah and told her that the older would serve the younger, but tradition said that the older should get the birthright and the special blessing. Also, Isaac liked Esau, not because of his character but because of the game Esau brought and prepared. Esau sold his birthright because of food, and Isaac prefers Esau because of food. Love of food and eating is something Isaac and Esau share. Both allow their appetite to distract them from spiritual things.
What do do?
As we read Genesis 27 we might begin to worry. Isaac had just asked Esau to go hunt and make him a nice meal and he will bless him. Isn’t it interesting that Isaac seems to be suggesting that Esau purchase the blessing with a meal? I know its not a real purchase, I’m just saying this situation is familiar at least.
Rebekah was listening. At the end of Genesis 26, Isaac and Rebekah are united they were grieved by Eau’s choice of wife. However, Isaac seems to be disregarding that, as well as the prophecy regarding the older serving the younger. Isaac seems to be following tradition and allowing his personal preferences to take precedence over the will of God. Also, is nobody going to bring up the fact that Esau had sold his birthright?
The birthright didn’t seem that important, at least not until Isaac is about to die, now it is very much important.
Who is wrong?
Was Jacob wrong for buying Esau’s birthright? Was Esau wrong for selling it? Was Esau being deceitful by not mentioning to his father that he had sold the birthright to Jacob? Was Isaac wrong for disregarding what God had said before his sons were born? Was Isaac wrong for wanting to bless his favorite son? Was Isaac wrong for wanting to bless the son who made the food he loved? Was Esau wrong for taking Hittite wives? Was Isaac wrong for disregarding the fact that Esau’s wives put the entire plan of salvation in jeopardy?
It seems like everyone is wrong and several different levels. So what do you do when so many things have gone wrong? What do you do when it seems like God’s plan will be ruined by humans making poor decisions?
Rebekah is very concerned. She also has a favorite son, Jacob. She remembers the prophecy, she wants to do what is right. Perhaps it is okay for her to have a favorite because its God’s will for Jacob to receive the blessing, right? Maybe it is up to her to make sure God’s will is accomplished, whatever the cost!
Time for action!
We know that Rebekah was concerned because she was listening to Isaac’s conversation with Esau.
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, “Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, ‘Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’
Genesis 27:5-7 NKJV (bold mine)
Rebekah calls Jacob and tells him what his father intends to do. It is interesting that the storyteller even identifies Jacob as Rebekah’s son and Esau as Isaac’s son, even though both are the sons of Rebekah and Isaac.
Now that we have set up the scene, it is time fo things to become even more complicated. Rebecca tells Jacob:
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”
Genesis 27:8-10 NKJV (bold mine)
Let’s take a closer look at the text above. Perhaps Rebekah decides to act because she notices her husband is going against God’s will. Ironically, her course of action involves deception which is also against God’s will.
Notice also that Rebekah requests two choice kids of the goats. How many families is she feeding? I highly doubt Isaac would be able to eat so much in you sitting. Turns out I am not the only one. Some commentators believe the extra goat might have been for a sin offering. There is still debate over this but I find it interesting that she recognized the problems of her actions, and that she would need forgiveness, but continued with the plan anyway. Do we ever sin already planning to repent afterward?
Well, there are many potential problems. But we will mention the ones Jacob brings up.
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”
Genesis 27:11-12 NKJV
Remember the birth story and the meaning of Esau’s name?
And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.
Genesis 25:25 NKJV
The word “esau” literally means “hairy!” This is a problem, one among many. But Rebekah is not easily deterred
But his mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
Genesis 27:13-17 NKJV
Rebekah wants her son, Jacob, to receive the blessing. She is convinced this is the right thing to do. So she assures him by claiming she would take the curse if there is one. Once again Rebekah tells Jacob to obey her voice! The way Rebekah speaks is similar to the way God speaks or His prophets speak when they speak His behalf telling others to obey or go (Genesis 2:16; Exodus 12:28, 50; Deuteronomy 4:2; 11:13, 22, 27-28).
Now notice carefully who is doing everything. Isaac gets the two choice kids of the goats. Rebekah makes the food, takes the choice clothes of Esau, she dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, she puts the skins of the goats on Jacob’s hands and neck (apparently Esau’s must have been hairy as a kid goat) then she gives the savory food and the bread in the hands of her son Jacob. Rebekah is the one doing all the work. Jacob simply passively goes along with his mother’s plan. He does want the blessing after all, but he doesn’t seem too eager to go about it in this way.
So he went to his father and said, “My father.”
And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?”
Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.”
Genesis 27:18-19 NKJV
Jacob comes into his father’s presence. He tries to keep the conversation to a minimum saying simply “my father.” But Isaac sense’s that something is off, and questions Jacob regarding his identity. Isaac knows it is his son, but he is unsure which sone it is. Jacob then begins to lie claiming to be Esau and claiming to have obeyed his father’s command, and requesting a blessing. I wonder if Jacob or Rebekah noticed the irony of doing something that goes against God’s will (deceiving [Proverbs 28:18-19; 12:22; 6:16-19; Leviticus 19:11] ) to gain God’s blessing? Do we ever do the same? Try to cut corners, cheat and lie to get what we believe God wants us to have? Do we lie/deceive and then expect a blessing?
Isaac is not convinced and continues to question his son.
But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?”
And he said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.”
- Genesis 27:20 NKJV
Now Jacob had to bring God into his lie in an attempt to make his claims believable. One lie draws another. Jacob who was so passive up to this point is now forced to actively participate in deceiving his father in an attempt to gain a blessing from God. But Isaac is not yet convinced.
Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.
- Genesis 27:21-23 NKJV
Isaac now wants to feel his son, in an attempt to know for sure which son he is talking to. Isaac notices that the voice belongs to Jacob, but Esau was so hairy that, apparently, a blind man petting a goat would struggle to know the difference. But it seemed like the goatskin over the hands finally did the trick. It seems like Isaac is finally convinced that he is dealing with Esau.
Then he said, “Are you really my son Esau?”
He said, “I am.”
- Genesis 27:24 NKJV
Except Isaac was still unsure and he repeatedly gives his son an opportunity to come clean and tell the truth. Jacob is given an opportunity to tell the truth and reason with his father, but he has lied up to now and decides to stick to the lie. The truth is that Jacob is not Esau, Jacob is not the firstborn, even if he was born only a few moments after his twin Esau.