We are back in Genesis chapter 26 as we look at the life of Isaac, a man who was blessed of the Lord. Last time we saw Isaac falter like his father Abraham because of his fear of the people. When he went to Gerar he was afraid that they would kill him which led him to lie about Rebekah. When he got caught, then he owned up to his sin and admitted that he lied to save his own skin. So Abimelech warned everyone in his kingdom to not lay a hand on Isaac or Rebekah. But this did not stop them from growing envious of Isaac as God blessed him with good crops, and growing flocks and herds and numerous servants. The envy became so great that Abimelech was forced to tell Isaac that he had to move. So Isaac left the city of Gerar and moved down into the valley. That brings us to where we will pick up the story in verse 18. If you have been keeping an eye on our culture you probably have seen a growing animosity toward God’s people. The culture that many of you grew up in has changed. I’m only 43, and the world that I grew up in has changed. Our culture was friendly to God’s people. It, in many ways, respected and acknowledged that Christians were blessed of God, but now, not so much. But is this surprising to us? Is this something new? No, as Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. What we are experiencing today is what God’s people have always known. If we have been caught off guard it is only because we have been foolish to believe that the world was for us or at least okay with us. If we as the Church don’t understand what is happening in our country it is because we failed to learn the lessons of Scripture. We are afraid, of people, but not of God. We don’t know our Bible’s or worse, the church is full of worldlings, not Christians. So let’s take a look at this story of Isaac. First, we are reminded from his story that God’s people will struggle in this world as we see Isaac digging wells and having problems with the Philistines. Then we see that God is faithful to his promise as God appears to Isaac and reminds him of his promise. Then we’ll Isaac tries to live peaceably with his neighbors and finally will talk about God’s blessings and some of the family trials that come from following God.
Even though we were first introduced to Isaac back in chapter 21, much of what we learned about him was incidental to the story of Abraham. Even when Isaac was the one God asked Abraham to sacrifice, little was said about Isaac himself. That story focused on the faith and actions of Abraham. Isaac’s role in history, up unto chapter 24, was to be a tool in the hand of God to strengthen and grow the faith of Abraham. Then in chapter 24, we noticed the shift. Abraham was still alive and had years ahead of him but the narrative has shifted. We read the story of Abraham’s servant and his quest to find a wife for Isaac. We marveled at the providence of God and the appointment of Rebekah to be the next woman to play a part in the promise to Eve. That brought us to chapter 25 and the mention of Keturah. Those final years of Abraham were only given two paragraphs mention by Moses. Truly, the story and as we’ll see today, the covenant promises, had been passed on to Isaac. At the end of chapter 25, Moses gave us a preview of what is to come for the children of Isaac. We have been given a glimpse of the struggles that are within that family. Esau was a wild man not interested in the family or leadership and Jacob seems to be consumed by selfish ambition willing to deceive and prey upon weakness. The story then shifts back, here, in chapter 26 to our friend Isaac.
Now, at our church we believe and teach at the Bible is the authoritative, infallible, perfect word of God in all of its parts and words. There are intent and meaning that are inherent to Scripture. Our job is to mine the truth from Scripture and not to read our thoughts back into Scripture. This being true, the order of the narrative is not accidental. There is a reason why Moses shifted to Jacob and Esau for a moment. There is a reason why we had to learn about the two nations that come from Isaac. We needed to learn about how Esau would be so quick to sell his birthright and Jacob would be so conniving. Now we know what the next generation is like that is coming after Isaac. That sets us up for our story today.
We are going to break 1-17 down into three parts. The first part in 1-6 I’ve labeled The Transferable Covenant because mainly we read about God pronouncing the covenant blessings over Isaac. Next, we’ll see Isaac’s Fear in 7-11. The proverb, The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, will be proven here. And finally, will look at Blessing and Envy in verses 12-17. The world doesn’t like when God blesses his children, and we see that in the life of Isaac.
Three weeks ago we started to look at the story of Isaac with the servant searching for Isaac’s wife. The servant found success through the Lord’s leading and Isaac and Rebekah were married. Then came the passing of Abraham, the hero of the faith. The two brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, were brought together again by the death of their father and could have very well been the last time that they met. Isaac, the chosen son, the one that had received the promises of God, and Ishmael, the wild donkey of a man. Two nations separated by the actions of God. That leads us to the text we have before us. The passage falls easily into three parts. In the first, we find the Generations of Ishmael in verses 12-18. This is the account of the family of Ishmael. Moses writes this here as he just mentioned Ishmael being present at Abraham’s burial. It closes the book of Ishmael and opens the book of Isaac in verse 19. The book of Isaac opens with Isaac and Rebekah having the same struggles with infertility that Abraham and Sarah had. Again, we find the intervention of God and then the birth of twins which will become Two Peoples Divided. Finally, in verses 27-34 we get a little sneak peek at what is to come in the stories ahead. We get a short story of Jacob and Esau before the story returns to Isaac. In this story, we find a description of Jacob and Esau and it is not a pretty picture of either of them. We find that the twins though very different are very similar in one way; they’re both sinners.
Over the last couple of weeks, as we studied Genesis chapter 24, we saw a clear display of the providence of God. We also witnessed the rock-solid faith of Abraham and his servant in the providence and provision of God. God is sovereign and has a plan and so we should not be surprised when everything works out. Someone once told my wife that things always have an uncanny way of working out for our family. For us it is no surprise. I often stand amazed and am humbled by the blessings of God’s providence, but I am no longer surprised. God’s plan will unfold according to his will and nothing can thwart him. He has covenanted with his people and it will come to pass. Case closed. In the text before us, we have the closing of Abraham’s earthly life. And though it is the closing of this chapter, the story continues on. The thread of redemption and salvation will continue to be woven through the fabric of history. Consider what we have seen already. We have seen the beauty of God’s creation and his ultimate creation, humans. The humans rebelled against God, bringing corruption and death into the creation. But God promised to send one that would destroy the works of evil. Then came Abel. Would he be the one to crush the serpent’s head? We see the answer quickly as Cain kills Abel. Then another is born, Seth, who worshipped the Lord. Seth grew up and had children of his own. And then another generation came and another. Finally, sin had fully corrupted the hearts of most people. But God preserved Noah and his sons and so, the line to Salvation was preserved. Yet, sin was still in the hearts of the people and many gathered to defy God once again. But God confused the languages of the people and began scattering them across the earth. Generations pass and the line is preserved by God as it passes to Abraham’s generation. God shows to the world that the path to salvation remains as he chooses Abraham from all other’s of his generation to be the family through which the line would continue. There are some missteps by Abraham and some outside forces threaten the promises, but this is all in the plan. As Abraham’s life closes the torch is passed to Isaac who will have the privilege to pass it on to the next generation. As we say goodbye to Father Abraham, I want to point out three main things from the text. First, in verses 1-4 we see the promise gets closer. Remember, Abraham greets the promise from afar but yet with each step the promise gets closer and more clearly seen. Verses 5-6 should cause us to meditate on the free grace of God. And finally, we will consider Abraham’s race the that was well run.
This week we are going to continue looking at the story of the search for a wife for Isaac. We are in the closing years of Abraham and his death is quickly approaching. We have already seen that this final story in the life of Abraham is centered upon his son. The question that is looming is what will happen to the chosen line? How will the promise continue? In Genesis 24:1-9, we saw Abraham giving the command to his servant to go and find a wife for his son. We already know who this woman is because Moses clued us in back in chapter 22 when he told us that Bethuel fathered Rebekah, but of course, Abraham and his servant, did not know that yet. In verses 10 through 27 we saw the description of the servant’s trip to find that wife. We heard the prayers of the faithful servant and we saw the providence of God. Rebekah “just happened” to be the first young woman to arrive at the well when the servant arrived. If you stop and think about how many events that transpired over the length of the servant’s journey, even just the day of their meeting, that had to align, it staggers the mind. This week we have three more sections to study. In verses 28-53 we find the servant’s interaction with Rebekah’s family as he recounts everything that has just happened. The response from everyone is: This is from the Lord. The second part in 54-58 the servant asks to return home with Rebekah immediately. Her response is: I will go. Finally, in verses 59-67 we find the description of Isaac and Rebekah’s meeting and marriage. The blessing of Rebekah’s family is: May you become thousands of ten thousands. As we continue through this story, there are several things that we need to keep in mind. First, this is not just a story about some Middle Eastern man looking to arrange a marriage for his bachelor son. Ultimately, this is a story of how the promise of God to send an offspring of the woman to crush the serpent’s head would come about. This is about the providence of God and how everything is under the governance of the King of Kings. And it is about saving faith, which is a gift of God, so that no one, including Abraham, could boast in himself. God has used trials, tests, important decisions, and pagan kings as tools to grow the faith of Abraham, and not only Abraham’s faith but his servant’s as well.
Steadfast Love: Genesis 24:1-27
This week we begin a new study. Yes, we are still in Genesis but the main character that the Bible points us to is changing. Abraham is still alive and still has a role to play in the remaining years of his life. Abraham remains a background character for the rest of Scripture. He never completely leaves the story of the Bible. But the focus of God’s word does shift from Abraham to follow his descendants. Abraham is an old man now and his life is drawing to an end. The question remains: What will happen to the promise of God concerning the multitudes of descendants after Abraham is dead and gone? Will the covenant that God made with Abraham stand? We’ve seen threats made against the covenant. How will God see this through? Will God see this through?
Many months ago we saw the beginning of the promise that developed into the covenant that God made with Abraham. In Genesis 3:15 we heard it. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head.” That’s the promise and the forerunner of the covenant of Abraham. We’ve seen the promise work its way through history. We saw how God ordered history and protected his promise. This is what we call divine providence.
I’ve mentioned it before and will continue to do so as we go through Genesis. Divine providence is a key theme throughout this book. What is this great doctrine of Divine Providence? People used to know and believe it. The signers of the Declaration of Independence said they were relying upon the protection of divine Providence as they defied the tyrant king. What is this great doctrine of providence? Charles Spurgeon said, “Blessed is that man who is done with chance, who never speaks of luck—but believes that from the least, even to the greatest, all things are ordained by the Lord. We dare not leave out the least event! The creeping of an aphid upon a rosebud is as surely arranged by the decree of Providence—as the march of a pestilence through a nation! Believe this, for if the least thing is omitted from the supreme government, so may the next be, and the next—until nothing is left in the divine hands. There is no place for chance, since God fills all things.” Matthew Henry said, “God who feeds the sparrows—will not starve His saints! God controls all the concerns of His people, even of those that are most minute, and least regarded. This is an encouragement to live in a continual dependence upon God’s providential care!”
The story we have before us is one of providence, the fulfilling of a promise, and steadfast love. We are going to look at the story over two weeks. This week we find Abraham commissioning his servant and declares his faith in Providence in verses 1-9 and then we’ll see the journey of this servant as he obeys his master and trust in the Lord and his steadfast love and faithfulness toward Abraham in verses 10-27.