Were it not for the fact that in Hebrews 11:20 we read that “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come,” one would never gather from the account in Genesis 27 that in this deed Isaac was moved by faith. It looks like a pretty carnal thing. And for this we are somewhat prepared already by what the Holy Spirit tells us in Genesis 25:28. We are told that Isaac’s family was a divided family, for “Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
Esau was the kind of son of whom any earthly father could be proud. Yes, there was that marriage of Esau to an unbelieving Canaanitish woman; and this was a grief of mind to Isaac as well as to Rebekah. They were agreed on that, and here was no division of reaction. But when Holy Writ says that Isaac loved Esau while Rebekah loved Jacob, the idea is that there was a strong attachment that Isaac had for his eldest son that put Jacob in the distant background as far as Isaac’s affections were concerned. It was an open thing, something Isaac in no way tried even to hide, even as Jacob later made no attempt to show his great love for Joseph by giving him a princely coat. And Scripture is not recording these actions of God’s people to give us a pattern to follow. The very opposite is true. We must see these sins also in the Church in order to flee from them ourselves. The consequences of such divided families and affections should warn us not to put one child before the other, not to divide our children and set them against each other by favoring the one and nagging and shunning the other. And here it is much more than being proud of this strong, aggressive, and physically promising son. Scripture uses the word love; and Scripture shows that this love was upon a son who manifested no spirituality in his life. The connection — even though many years may have gone on between -—which the-Holy Spirit makes here must not be overlooked. Even though years may have passed by between what we read in the last part of Genesis 26 and the first part of Genesis 27, the Holy Spirit connects the marriage of Esau to an unbelieving woman of Canaan, and Isaac’s grief of mind about this, with his calling of Esau to come and get the blessing.
Did he not know what God told Rebekah at the birth of these twin sons? Was Isaac unaware of what we read in Romans 9:9-13, namely, that the elder would serve the younger, and that God loved Jacob but hated Esau? Was it ignorance on Isaac’s part? Was it forgetfulness now that he was old? His eyesight failed. Was the process of the hardening of his arteries also at work here to cause him to forget those words of the angel to Sarah and that carnal walk of Esau? Did he forget how his own father saw to it that he would get a believing wife for him, so that now the awfulness of Esau’s marriage to an unbeliever did not look so bad, because he was getting so forgetful?
Never may we take such a stand. Rebekah never hid these things from Isaac. God wanted him to know this as well as Rebekah. Together they were to bring up these sons. It was not a matter of the woman’s duty. The father is the responsible one to see that his wife trains the children in the fear of God’s name. As head and responsible party in the family, Isaac is not kept from this truth. No, but the Scriptures explain this act of Isaac as due to a fleshly love which he had for his eldest son in spite of what God had revealed concerning the two sons.
Isaac meant to give the whole birthright blessing to Esau and to leave Jacob out entirely! You cannot escape that truth. For when Esau later on comes and pleads with tears for a blessing, Isaac says to him, “Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?” Note that he made Jacob lord, and asks, “What shall I do to thee?” The idea is, I gave him everything, and there just is not anything to give you. This is borne out in the Hebrew of verse 39 where Isaac says to Esau, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be awayfrom the fatness of the earth and of the dew of heaven above.” His fleshly attachment to Esau moved him to want him to have it all; and his trembling so exceedingly, of which we read in verse 33, reveals that his conscience smote him. He did remember what God had said.
Nor was Rebekah moved by faith to seek the blessing for the son whom she loved. Her deception that she planned for Jacob, in order to get the blessing, taught him and encouraged him in the much deception that he practiced in later life. As the Saying goes, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” Jacob did not get his “apple” of deceit and trickery from somewhere in the land of Haran. It was not that Rebekah acted in a firm conviction of that word of God about her favored son. With her as well it was a matter of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. Jacob time and again revealed that he had the foolish notion that God needed help in fulfilling His promises. Rebekah showed that same folly here and set a bad example for his son.
What should she have done? What would faith in that word of God, given to her before the children were born, have done? Faith would have caused her to go to Isaac, even while Esau was still there, and before he could leave on his hunt for venison, and would have reminded him of this word of God. Faith not only believes the Word of God, faith also confesses it, reminds of it, and defends it when it is brushed aside. Faith never resorts to the lie. Faith and the truth are wedded in an inseparable bond by the Spirit of God. Faith holds on to that Word, lives by it and lives for it. Faith finds no need for deception and trickery. Faith commits the whole matter to God Whose promises are true and Who is able to keep His Word without one letter of it falling to the ground. It is the flesh that finds what it thinks is the necessity of deceit and trickery. Faith is wholly divorced from the lie and wants nothing to do with it in any form.
Neither can we find any spirituality displayed by the other two members of this quartet. Esau, as we pointed out, showed no concern for God and His covenant. His flesh ruled him to choose the kind of wife that any other unbeliever would seek. Long before this he had sold his birthright for a mess of pottage; and because of this, Scripture calls him a profane man; and he is one whom God hated before he was born or had done any good or evil. We need not spend much time on him in our present consideration of the deceit in this divided family except to point out that he manifested no deception in the whole transaction. The three believers did. Esau, in this account at least, appears to be the kind out of which God could build His church.
By faith Jacob would have refused to submit to the deceit his mother suggested. He did put up a token objection based upon a fear of having his fraud exposed and of making things worse for himself. This after all was his father. Yes, Rebekah was his mother, and he would not have wanted to oppose her either. But in such situations one has no choice. For the love of God, not natural love for our parents, must rule us. And even love for Rebekah in the true sense of the word would mean that Jacob’s faith would move him to remind her of God’s law, and not of getting caught red-handed by his father in an act of deceit. And just as surely it would have moved him to go in to his father and remind him of what God said before the twins were born. We cannot take the position that in a covenant home, and in this time of the history of the church, that Isaac and Rebekah never told their children God’s Word. They, and certainly Rebekah, did not leave Jacob in the dark about what God promised him. And since he had purchased the birthright, would he not have trusted God to give him the birthright blessing? Does faith not take hold of God’s promises and say, “God’s word to me cannot fail”?
And the amazing thing — were it not for our own faith in God’s Word — is that out of this trio, each working his own works of deceit, God builds His Church. What kind of material, we might be inclined to ask, is this from which to build an holy, catholic church? Why not build it from Esau and his descendants? Surely God can work conversion in him as well as he did in Saul of Tarsus who sought to destroy the church, or in an host of others who married heathen wives, and many who were forgiven for their sins of youth and kept faithful in a sanctified life in later years.
Well, the point we want to remember is that God does not build His Church out of that timber in the sense that He uses it, salvages what He can, rearranges, changes it a bit and makes it serve. God’s Church always, and that holds true for Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob as well, begins with a rebirth, begins with the implanting of something NEW in those whom He eternally chose to be His Church. And although this new man in Christ was not in all the transaction — with the one exception of Hebrews 11:20 that Isaac performed the deed he was called upon to do, namely, pronounce the blessing upon his sons and prophesy their future — that new man was there; and he is the member of God’s Church and is built as the Church of Christ.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in us that God can use. What He uses is that which He puts in us by the Spirit of His Son. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, causing the New Testament Scriptures to throw its light upon this Old Testament event, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Or again in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”
Parents do not give spirituality to their children. They do not endow them with faith. And the Church does not continue to grow, and our children do not follow us as pillars of the truth because of anything we handed down to them. God does not build His Church out of our children because we gave them something. Indeed, we taught them the truth and pointed out to them the way. We warned them and encouraged them. We sowed the seed. But God builds His Church. He gave the ears to hear, the mind to comprehend spiritually, the heart to embrace by faith, and behind and before it all the new life of the Church.
Yes, in divided families where there are parents whohave no faith in God and spiritual life to give to their children, it pleases God to build His Church. He does not need a reborn parent to bring forth a reborn child. And if the parents will not sow the seed and train the child, God will see to it that they come in contact with other believing parents who, as missionaries, ministers of the Word or teachers, will cause them to become acquainted with the truth as it is in Christ.
Let there not be that deceit in us that we think that God needs our help. Let us be agreed on this one thing: God builds His Church as both the architect and builder. That is what Scripture says in Hebrews 12:2. He is the author — or beginner — and finisher of our faith, Or, if you will, Hebrews 11:10, where He is called the builder and maker of the city which hath foundation. And again, “For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things: to Whom be glory forever.” Romans 11:36.