Several chapters back in Genesis we read the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau. We heard God saying to Rebekah that Esau would serve Jacob, that Jacob would be the stronger and Esau would be the weaker. The reversal of the birth order would happen. This was a blessing upon Jacob that he would receive while still in the womb of his mother. What precipitated this blessing? Nothing but divine prerogative.
Then Jacob and Esau grew up and Jacob preyed on the weakness of his brother to get the birthright. Years later, Jacob lied to his father, pretended to be Esau, and managed to secure Isaac’s blessing and the conferral of the promises of Abraham to himself. And we are left thinking. Is God going to give him all these things and let him get away with all his deception and lies?
Then we see Jacob having to leave everything to leave home. A small setback because on the way God appears to him in a vision and encourages him and confirms the fact that he is the chosen one. Then he arrives and Rachel almost literally falls into his lap and he falls in love. Did God care about Jacob’s sin? Is he being rewarded for evil? Are there consequences for his sin? That’s what we find in the story today.
We look at our Western culture and we see the approval of sin that once was frowned upon. The sin was happening but it was more or less hidden. The culture decades ago, in general, said that what is happening today was immoral. And now they feel that they are throwing off the shackles of a backward and oppressive morality and are stepping into a more enlightened era. But is this true? Has culture evolved to a higher standard? No, that is foolishness.
The world has and always will be evil. The standards they live by, unless they coincide with God’s, are evil. And even living by God’s standards apart from faith in God is meaningless for it is only by faith that you can please God. Whether sin is practiced openly or in the closet, whether sin is given a month of national recognition or is still taboo to the culture matters little to the judge who sits on his throne and whose eye sees all.
Thankfully, for the child of God, he does not tread out his wrath on us, but he does discipline us as the unruly children that we are. Today we are going to see the Answer to Sin in verse 21-30 and the Blessing Amidst the Discipline in verses 31-35.
What is love? How do you define love? If you were to ask most people it would have to do with feelings. The phrase “love is love” has been offered by our culture suggesting that feelings of affection toward anyone or anything is love. All of these feelings of affection are equally valid and good. One expression of affection is indistinguishable from another. Of course, this is complete nonsense because no one actually thinks or acts according to this idea. The world’s definition of love is completely meaningless and worthless.
Love is found in the God who is love. All other loves are subservient to his love and always reference back to His love. I would argue that everyone knows this and does this even though they cover the truth with a lie. God’s love is original and exhaustive and so if any other love exists it must reflect God’s love. It is unavoidable.
In our text today, we have the beginning of a love story between Jacob and Rachel. If it is truly love then we should see much of God’s love mingled in the affections and actions of these sinful people.
As we consider the story, we will reflect on the love of God and the love of people. In verses 1-8 we will look at the providence of God in the journey of Jacob to Haran. In 9-12, we have love at first sight as Jacob meets the lovely Rachel. Finally, in 13-20, we will see Jacob’s discipline for love and how Jacob is disciplined for love.
We have been navigating our way through the life of Jacob over the past few weeks. Before his birth, his mother was informed by God who Jacob would be. “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” Jacob would receive from the hand of God blessing. This was a promise made by God. Like his father before him, Jacob would receive the promises and the blessings not because of who he was or because of his own works. These divine privileges would come to him because of God’s own will and plan. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Jacob’s father was told flat out that he received because of the faith of Abraham. Jacob would be the recipient of God’s invading grace. Before Jacob was born we are told that he would receive more than what he deserved. As the second-born, he would not be entitled to the birthright or the blessings. As the second, his rightful place was to be subservient to his older brother. That is the natural order. That is the cultural expectation. The double portion should go to Esau. But God often does not conform to our expectations and will often challenge those expectations head-on. Jacob has lived up to his name. He took advantage of his brother’s weakness and convinced him to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew. He was willing to let his mother take a curse for him. He masqueraded as Esau to try and trick his father. He told bald-faced lies to his father. When asked directly if he was Esau he said, “I am.” His treachery would drive his brother to thoughts of murder. And now he is fleeing his home and leaving behind all that he had gained from his lies. What thoughts go through the mind of Jacob as he travels across the land of Canaan? Is he afraid? Is he angry? Does he doubt the promises of God are true? Is he thinking of God at all? The story before us is the beginning of Jacob’s journey in faith and it is quite the beginning. In the 10-12, we find the setting. Where is Jacob and what does he see? In the next section of the story, we hear God speak a message to Jacob that he needs to hear. And finally, we will see Jacob’s response to this momentous occasion.
As we have studied Genesis, we’ve been tracking several different storylines that God has been interweaving into history. Starting in Genesis 3, we’ve followed the promise of the one offspring of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent. We have watched the other promise that the offspring of the serpent would be at war with the offspring of Eve. When we read Abraham’s story we began pulling at a new part of the same thread. The covenant promises of Abraham were attached to the first promises and we have already seen that these promises were passed from Abraham to Isaac. Recently, we read through the story of how the promises were passing from Isaac on to his second-born son Jacob. In Genesis 27, Moses shows us that Isaac and his family were a mess. Isaac was trying to bless Esau against the word of God given before his birth that he would serve his younger brother. Esau was working to try to undo the earlier selling of his birthright and tried to earn his father’s approval but had no regard for God’s approval. Rebekah tried to follow the word of God but used deception and the undermining of her husband to accomplish it. Jacob wanted the blessing of God but was willing to throw everyone under the bus to get it. How easy has it been to identify with this family? They have been chosen by God. God has a plan for this family that he will work out in time. He will use their sinful choices and override them according to his will. God’s grace, mercy, and love for these people will direct their paths. In today’s passage, we start the story of Jacob’s journey from home. This is more than just a change of address for Jacob. He is about to embark on a spiritual bootcamp. God will take the one whose name means “cheat” and grow him into a man of God. Jacob will become Israel, the one who wrestles God. And by the end of this training the great El-Shaddai, the God of Abraham and Isaac, will be Jacob’s God. In Genesis 28:1-9, we will first see that Jacob is given the charge to leave home to go to Rebekah’s family and there find a wife. Then we will hear Isaac pronounce the covenant promises over Jacob as he leaves home. And finally, we’ll see the actions of Esau as he responds to his father.
Last time we looked at the beginning of Genesis chapter 27. We were given a front-row seat to the weaknesses of this family and the sovereignty of God. The weaknesses were obvious. First, you had Isaac the blessed of the Lord. A man who was trying to walk before God. And yet, he was a man with his own agenda. He was told by God before his children were born that the older would serve the younger. The covenant promises would not pass to his favorite son Esau but to Jacob. Isaac planned to bless Esau and to name him the stronger son. Esau, from the very start, has been a man that cared little for the family and taking leadership. He quickly traded away his birthright and knew that the blessing should go to his brother, but he believes that he is entitled to it and participates in Isaac’s foolishness. Rebekah, who also knows the covenant promises, plots with Jacob to usurp her husband’s authority. Instead of directly confronting the man she uses her son to try and get what she wants. And we found Jacob the heel-grabber. Always about the ROI or return on investment, gladly participates in his mother’s scheme once he knows that any loss that he could receive from this deception would fall to his mother. Like any good con man, Jacob layers his lies and preys upon the weakness of his father. Those that think that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament have never read the Old Testament. If you see God as merciful, gracious, and loving in the New Testament, how could you not see that here in these stories? The many sins of this family deserve eternal destruction. When we find Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven it is only because of God choosing to have mercy on them and bestowing the riches of his grace upon them. If we arrive in heaven, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could say the same thing about us. In our passage before us today, we have the end of this scene in Isaac’s life. In an almost seemingly contradictory statement, the book of Hebrews describes this story in this way, “By faith, Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” Keep this in mind as we finish this story out. First, we are going to look at verses 30-36 which describes Esau’s return home from the hunt and the discovery of Jacob’s lies. In verses 37-41 we see the record of Esau’s remorse and grief in losing the blessing. Finally, in verses 42-46, we begin to see the consequences of the sins of the family.
This week we begin a new series on the life of Jacob. Just like with Abraham, Isaac is still alive and plays a role, but the focus begins to shift to the next generation. We saw back in Genesis chapter 25 a preview of what we are about to encounter in the ensuing stories. We saw Esau, the firstborn, a wild man that had no interest in his birthright. As the firstborn, he stood to be the inheritor of all that Abraham and Isaac had accumulated over the years. Esau willingly trades his birthright for a lentil stew. We were also introduced to Jacob, the deceiver. Jacob, the younger brother, had the desire to take Esau’s place. When Esau had a felt need Jacob was quick to take advantage of the situation. This aspect of Jacob’s personality, the desire to get ahead at the expense of others, will show up again in later stories. The story we have before us today is probably one of the more well-known events in the life of Jacob and it is a disappointing one. Everyone in this story is a failure. The sins of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau are all on display here. The great patriarchs of our faith are shown to us, just as they are, just as we are, sinners. We also have before us a demonstration of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. I remember as a young Bible college student trying to grapple with these concepts. How can and how does God use the sinful and rebellious acts of people to accomplish His will and eternal decrees? How can people committing acts against the will of God be at the same time the will of God? Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? In some ways, I still grapple with these ideas because my mind is finite, bound by our reality and time. These things spring out of the infinite and eternal mind of God. And though I still ponder these thoughts, I have learned to be content with the answer that Scripture gives us, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”