Reviewing the life of Isaac as it is made known to us on the pages of Holy Writ we do not get the impression that Isaac was a spiritually strong man. Indeed, he lived in the shadow of his father, Abraham, of whom much is said in Hebrews 11, that chapter wherein the giants (not heroes) of faith are listed for us, the men who in the Old, Testament towered above the rest of God’s people. In contrast to Abraham, Isaac in this chapter is presented-only as by faith blessing his two sons concerning things to come.
True it is that he lived in a time and under circumstances that did not call for the display of faith which we see in Abraham. He had no call to leave his land and trust God to bless him elsewhere. He had not become as good as dead before children were given to him so that he had to walk by faith in the face of such an otherwise hopeless situation. He was not called to offer up his only begotten son whom he loved. And not being led by God into such circumstances he was not given the opportunity to reveal the strength of faith his father manifested.
Yet, one ought to be disturbed to read in Genesis 25:28that, even though God had clearly spelled it out that He favoured Jacob and would make Esau his servant, Isaac loved Esau “because he did eat of his venison.” Or, if you prefer, “because venison was in his mouth.”
May God grant that in our families the child with natural talents of music or art, of learning easily and quickly, or of athletic skills and strengths is not loved by parents and grandparents more than those who lack these but who have by God been given faith, obedience, piety, a love for His cause and willingness to serve Him. Sad to say, this is so often the case even in covenant homes, as it was here in this covenant home. Fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers can be heard boasting, and find themselves gloating, over the earthly achievements of their children and grandchildren, over what high positions they reached in the world, what degrees they have behind’ their names, what sums of money they cornered during the year, what “celebrities” associate with them, and what they are worth as far as this world’s goods are concerned. Not a word or a whisper is spoken about their spiritual abilities and growth. They are proud because of the “venison” they have tasted. And the less talented children—as far as worldly standards are concerned, but not as far as God’s judgment is concerned—who have faith, hope, and the love of God, whose treasures are spiritual, who find interest in the things of God’s kingdom, who are the meek of the earth, the poor in spirit and who delight in the things of the Church and the Truth are not mentioned. Sadder are those cases where the parents of the latter are ashamed of their children’s failures to be big in the world and consider them failures while these children do serve loyally and in a big way in the Church of God.
The less attractive daughter and granddaughter with a meek, quiet spirit, a godly nature and a love for the things spiritual is pushed back. The flashy or more attractive daughter and granddaughter is loved, showered with gifts, given extra privileges; and her beauty is the reason why the parents are proud. Of these, parents want to talk. The subject had better be changed when the other children’s names are mentioned. Venison in the mouth has a way not only of leaving its taste there, but of affecting the words that come out of that mouth.
“Vanity of vanities,” Solomon would say, “all is vanity.” And he would say again to these parents, “The fear of the. Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The wise father and mother, grandfather and grandmother will be attracted to the child that fears God and for the fear of God to be seen in him, for these are the things that child will take with him into the glories of God’s kingdom. All the rest, all the things of this world, all the natural beauty, physical and mental prowess will fade and soon disappear and cannot be taken along. What vanity to attach one’s heart to that which is vain! What vanity, what emptiness of spiritual worth it is to let the eye of the flesh—or in this instance the taste of the tongue—determine whereupon the soul will fix itself, whereunto it will be attracted and wherein it will find delight!
We ought to remember that we, as well as Isaac, foster in our children the same vanity that they see in us. We can teach them to have an entirely wrong sense of spiritual values in this life. And when we show far more concern for our children’s financial and social progress, more interest in their athletic achievements and activities than their education, so that we are at every baseball and basketball game in which they play—or only sit on the bench—but are never at the PTA meetings, we have taught our children something that they have noticed and do not forget. Let us beware lest we teach them the “delicious” taste of the venison of the world and to esteem the things of the world above the .things of God’s kingdom. Let us be sure that our children learn that we love them as God’s children and not because of their “venison.”
Now Isaac had without doubt shown greater love for Esau than for Jacob—and from a purely earthly point of view he was a promising young man, one of which any earthly father could be proud—but also his great interest in venison as fixed by his son. He let Esau know that his material achievements had caught his eye and that he was loved for these. Isaac tasted Esau’s venison, and Esau tasted Isaac’s delight in the carnal. This only spurred Esau on to greater feats of physical prowess. And we are not to be surprised that Esau, with enthusiasm and fatherly approval, sought the world and its vanities.
Vanity in parents breeds vanity in children. Seeking the world as parents encourages children to seek the world and to go all out for the things of the world. Itcertainly is true that in the sins in which the parents walk the children will run. If the parents take one step away from the truth they must not be surprised if their children take two steps from the truth, and their children’s children take three steps. If they condone one sin, they must expect their children to condone two and their grandchildren to condone three. If they are weak about one commandment of the law—let us say the fourth one concerning the Sabbath—they must expect their children to be tempted to have a weak approach to two commandments and their grandchildren to be lax concerning three of them. For vanity not only breeds vanity, it so often leads to profanity.
Esau with fatherly approval concentrated on material things and sought the vanities of this world and the pleasures they afford the flesh. And he soon revealed himself as a profane person. That is what he is called in Hebrews 12:16. And, although we usually think of profanity as nothing more than profane language, cursing, swearing and blasphemy, it has a far wider meaning. What is profane is literally “outside of the temple,” or, if you will, unholy. And a profane person is one who spends his life outside the things that are holy. He is a person who has no respect for the things that are holy and no use for them.
Some years ago—men hardly dare to say that any more today since they think that they have found a little good in totally depraved man, a little “civic righteousness” which even God can appreciate—men spoke of sacred history and profane history. But who today dares to call the history of the world profane and the history. of the Church sacred? What “Christian” school dares to speak the truth today and call all outside the Church, all outside the temple of God, profane? And yet God does that. The Word of God does that. In the Old Testament Scriptures it was either Israel or the heathen nations. Today it is either the Church or the world. And the history of the world is history about profane men in profane countries who seek vanity and display profanity. Take a good hard look once at our own country and nation on a Sabbath day—and indeed also and particularly then our political leaders—and tell me once whether their deeds are sacred or profane. Are they in the temple even that one day in the week? Are they moved in their work with considerations of that which is good for the Church, the temple of God, or the things outside of the temple and that even militate against that temple? Prayers to the God of the temple must not be uttered in their schools. Delegates can be sent to an atheistic UN with the agreement that the prayer of the temple—and in fact all prayers—will not be voiced so that the profane, atheistic nations are not offended. And we put our trust in such profane institutions and expect peace to come from it? The Prince of Peace Who dwells in that temple is locked outside the schools and the UN—and then we expect through profane deeds of profane men that peace will come? This too is vanity of vanities, all this is vanity. So much emptiness. So many pipe dreams.
But to return to profane Esau, it is quite striking that, almost in the same breath, Moses, the author of the account in Genesis 25 that tells us Isaac loved Esau for the venison which he had been in the habit of preparing for him, presents to us the evidence that his vanity produced profanity. The account of Esau’s selling of his birthright follows at once upon this statement of Isaac’s carnal love for Esau because of his venison. .And in Hebrews 12:14-16 the profanity of Esau is depicted as consisting exactly in that deed. We read. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness . . . looking diligently . . . lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Indeed, his profanity was his disregard for the things holy and concern for that pottage and the physical life he thought was in peril. But you cannot separate that—for the Word of God does not—from the wrong value that his father taught .him by his love for the venison in his mouth.
We can by our own vanity and seeking of the vanities of this earth lead our children into these same pursuits and even drive them to these by our own lack of interest in the things of the temple of God, the things of His Church. Let us go back to that statement in Hebrews 12, “Looking diligently . . .” and let us apply that to our children. Looking diligently for every evidence and hint that we may be setting a poor example and that therefore they think more of sports than education, more of pleasures of the world than being pleasing in God’s sight, have delight in the things outside the temple rather than in the temple of God.
What we do with our leisure time, where we go on our vacations, for what we spend our money, whether we are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, whether we seek vanities and attach high values to them, whether earthly, worldly beauty turns our heads, all influences our children and encourages them to do what their flesh—which is profane by nature—desires. Go away from the church for a week for your vacation and expect your children to do that for a month. Go in debt for boats and sports equipment and pore over the catalogs of these with your children, but find no time to read and explain the Scriptures with and to them; have your regular golf days and bowling evenings but no evening for joint study of the Word of God with fellow saints; follow vanity—but do not then be surprised if your children reveal profanity.
Indeed, “Follow . . . holiness . . . looking diligently lest . . .” we find our children becoming profane persons who sell their birthright for a mess of pottage which is not worth all the trouble, and which they will lose sooner or later. Teach them to seek first the kingdom of God. Teach them to have that as the priority of their lives;and then have the joy of seeing them walk in holiness.