Isaac knew he was nearing death and wanted to give his oldest son the blessing of the firstborn. However, Rebekah saw an opportunity for her son to receive the greater blessing. She devised a plan for Jacob to deceive his father and get the blessing. He took game and cooked it like Esau, put on goat’s hair to be hairy like Esau, and put on Esau’s clothes to smell like him. While Isaac seemed to know something was not quite right, he eventually was convinced and blessed Jacob with the blessing of the firstborn.
Esau came in and was distraught at the fact that the blessing was not his. This created the deepest enmity between two brothers. This was the point at which Jacob’s name seemed to carry the most meaning. He was Jacob, which translated as supplanter or deceiver.
Genesis 27:36 (NKJV)
36 And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
The deceit and trickery of Jacob caused him to be separated from his family and to live as a sojourner for several years. Although God did have a plan and a purpose for Jacob, who would later be called Israel, this deception was an example of how humans can trip along the path to God’s perfect will. In our efforts to “help God out” we can create a world of trouble. Hear from God, not your own foolish, selfish ambition.
Talk about a dysfunctional family! Jacob and Esau, the twins from Isaac and Rebekah’s union, came out of the womb at odds, and are still, seemingly, in the midst of sibling rivalry. Esau has been out hunting and comes home hungry, where Jacob has been cooking stew. Esau is so hungry, he agrees to sell his birthright in exchange for food. The birthright was the right of the first-born child, in simplest terms. After he ate stew, he hated his birthright.
Then, Isaac is dwelling in the same area as Abimelech due to a famine. While in Gerar, the men asked Isaac about his wife, for she was beautiful. He told them that she was his sister. Sound familiar? Here we have a “like father, life son” moment. Eventually, Abimelech saw them being affectionate to one another and scolded Isaac, sending him away after a time.
When Isaac went away to the Valley of Gerar, he re-dug the wells of Abraham, and called them by the names of those previous wells. He and the herdmen of Gerar argued over the wells, and Isaac deferred and eventually dug a well and called it Rehobeth (Spaciousness), and declared “the Lord has made room for us.”
What is the message here? When you have problems, God still loves you. When your family is a mess, God loves you and can heal your family. There is no need to give up, quit, or throw in the towel. When men oppose you and cast you out of their fellowship, do not lie or quarrel or be depressed. Instead, re-dig the wells and seek the living water of God. Be refreshed by His presence and see what God will do. He will bring you enemies before you, as He did Abimelech, who apologized and made a treaty with Isaac. He will heal your family, as He did when Esau and Jacob reconciled years later. He will refresh your soul at the well of God. Drink deeply, Friends…
Abraham died after 175 years, and was buried in Machpelah in the same cave as Sarah. Then the story shifts to Isaac. While Isaac’s story seems the most brief in comparison to the other patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob, it does have some interesting twists and turns. Rebekah was barren, and Isaac prayed to God for a child. She conceived, and felt that something was not right. God revealed to her that she was carrying twins, that they were struggling within her, and that they would be two nations.
One of the nations, descended from Esau, the oldest twin, was the Edomites, which meant “Red.” The other nation, descended from Jacob, the younger twin, was the Israelites. Esau was red and hairy, and Jacob reached out of the womb and grabbed his heel. These traits and actions were that basis for their names. The oldest son was a hunter, and his father loved him. Jacob was a gentle man, and his mother loved him.
This craftiness and manliness of two brothers led to contention and hurt over the years. Esau’s nation would always be at odds with Jacob’s, but not to the degree as that of the Ishmaelites and the Midianites. We need to find a way to make family work. There are too many family feuds and divisions, and grudges, and water under the bridge. May God help us to move beyond our differences and frustrations to find true conciliation and love that transcends individual tastes and preferences. God can bridge those gaps!
Here is a small passage about the later life of Abraham. After Sarah died, Abraham took another wife, Keturah. This is an obscure story, but one that merits some attention. Keturah bore several sons, some of whom would become nations that Israel would eventually fight in battle, especially Midian. If you notice the details of this account, you see that Isaac got all the inheritance, but the other sons got gifts and were sent East. Practically all the nations that now even fight against Israel are to the East of Israel.
This is just one more example of how it is possible to get ahead of God. God promised Abraham a son from Sarah that would be the father of a great nation. His foray with Hagar was the first mistake, producing Ishmael. Now, his later marriage to Keturah produced even more enemies to the promised nation. We must be careful not to do less or more than what God has ordained for us. When we hear His voice and obey Him, the blessings come. When we run ahead or lag behind, we run alone!
In this passage, Abraham loses his wife Sarah in chapter 23, then sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac in chapter 24.
Sarah dies after the fulfillment of the promise of a son. Abraham wanted to give her a proper burial, but had no proper place in which to inter his wife. He sought some of the men in the area of Hebron among the sons of Heth. They wanted to just give him a piece of land, but Abraham insisted on buying the cave of Machpelah from Ephron. While on the surface it seemed that Abraham was just being a bit strong-willed, the truth is that Abraham purchased property that helped fulfill the prophetic words that God would give Abraham every place where his foot trod.
This chapter ends and the next begins as a transition in a lot of ways. Two different stories. Two different generations. Two different directions. Abraham moves from burying his wife to finding a wife for his son, his heir of promise, his miracle from God. He sends his servant back to his homeland to find a wife from among his kinsmen. He could not bring Isaac back there, but he wanted him to marry a wife from among his family. It is so important that we assist our children in finding a spouse from among people of like faith. That was the real need for Isaac’s wife, a woman who believed in the same God of Abraham.
Another interesting factor in this story is the fact that the servant sought God, and his choice of Rebekah was a direct result of the guidance of God Himself. When God’s will was fulfilled, Isaac fell in love with Rebekah and was comforted by her relationship and love. When God’s will is done, everyone can be full of joy!
Abraham finally got it! After all the promises and covenant activity of the past few years, Abraham has a son in his old age and seems to finally get it: God is trustworthy! God says to Abraham, after he had enjoyed having a son for several years and being several years older, that he should take Isaac to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him to God. Abraham does not seem to have any hesitation, he just packs up his bags and takes off for the mountain.
After a little while, they see the mountain in the distance and Abraham leaves his servants behind, and goes on toward the assigned action. In the process, Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the sacrifice might be. Abraham makes a powerful statement of faith: “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Abraham takes Isaac up to the place of sacrifice, built the altar, put the wood in place and took the knife to kill him. God stopped him and began to speak to him, confirming the fact that, “…I know that you fear God….”
God provided a ram for the sacrifice, and Abraham named the place Yahweh-Jireh, or Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide.” While this is truly a triumphant account of the miraculous provision of God, I think it is equally important to note that the provision, and the further strengthening of the covenant between Abraham and God would have not been realized if Abraham had not had faith. Miracles do not happen outside of the exercise of faith. Clark Pinnock wrote, “Atheism springs forth amidst inadequate depictions of God.” What this tells me is that Christians have a powerful role in society. When we exercise faith and live faith-filled and faithful lives, it speaks volumes to a world looking for salvation. However, when we live as if God is irrelevant and inadequate to meet our needs, then the world sees no need for such a Savior. Today, take a lesson from Abraham and trust God to provide a lamb. Oh, wait a minute, He already did…
Hagar was the surrogate for Sarah. She had Ishmael, which was not the covenant design. Sarah eventually had the son of promise, Isaac, but she felt that Ishmael mocked him. She demanded that Abraham send her away. In this situation, Abraham was conflicted. He had two sons, but only one of them was the true heir, the true son of promise. God instructed Abraham to do as his wife told him, for the covenant of blessing and promise would be fulfilled through her seed.
Once again, trouble arose from the previous attempts to “help God.” We have discussed the whole Ishmael/Islam issue already. However, another issue comes to mind here. Abraham had a choice to favor his wife or to favor his wife’s maid. When you make a pledge to a wife, God will always expect you to put her above every other woman, no matter the circumstance, Even though Sarah had muddied the waters of future dealings between nations, God landed on the side of marriage and of covenant.
Another thing to address is this: Although Ishmael was conceived and born under the wrong set of circumstances, God still promised to bless him. When couples have children out of wedlock, or through and affair, it is tough on that child, as it was for Ishmael. However, that does not mean that God hated Ishmael. In the same way, God will redeem even that which is conceived in sin. We just need to give it to God fully, and He will heal.
The latter part of this passage points to Abraham’s gaining favor with men. He covenanted with Abimelech regarding a well, and was favored in Abimelech’s eyes. We will find favor with men as we obey God and follow His guidance.