Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them.
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?”
Zechariah’s Visions: Part 2. Zechariah has more to say about the coming kingdom than any other minor prophecy. The last three chapters of Zechariah describe in vivid detail the final days of the great tribulation and the first days of the millennial reign of Christ. Zechariah’s vision is of a future kingdom where everything, from the temple altar to the cooking pots to the bells on horses’ bridles, is holy.
A year ago, we started working our way through the book of Genesis. The first book is full of themes and doctrines that each subsequent book expands and develops. If you are wanting to learn about any area of theology, the study of God, you must consult Genesis to get a complete understanding. Most recently we have looked at the life of Abraham. Much of what we know about the salvation that God has given to us is rooted in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Today, on Resurrection Sunday, we are going to break from Genesis and take a detour into a book about a man who was probably a contemporary of Abraham, Job. Like Abraham, Job had an understanding of the ways of God that probably exceeds what we give him credit for. Job chapter 19 begins with Job defending himself against his so-called friends. Job has experienced the loss of children, the loss of prosperity, and the loss of his health. He is experiencing the greatest pain and suffering of his life. You would expect his friends to come and encourage him, however, they level accusations against him claiming that it is because of his sin that he is experiencing all his trouble. Of course, we know that this is not true because at the beginning of the book we were allowed to see that this is a test of Job’s faith from God and an occasion of temptation from Satan. While Job is in the test, he feels that God has come against him like an army sieging a city. His family want nothing to do with him. He has sunk to the bottom.
In verse 23-24 Job announces that he wishes his words to be written, engraved in the rock forever. Some commentators suggest that he is about to relay the epitaph that he desires to be inscribed on his tomb. We can’t be sure this is true, but what comes after would be a very fitting inscription. What Job said all those many years ago stands today. In his words we hear the reality of death and its destruction. He speaks of the reality of the Redeemer. And he introduces us to the reality of the Resurrection.
If you were to ask anyone that has even the smallest familiarity with Christianity what are its main teachings, they would probably, eventually, say something about Jesus dying for sin. If you ask a child that is growing up in the church, they will say that Jesus died for my sins. It is a phrase that people can easily say. Ray Comfort has many videos where he asks people whether they think they are a good person or not. Invariably they all say yes, they’re a good person. Then he begins to ask them about the 10 Commandments. “Have you ever lied.” “Yes, more times than I can count.” “Have you ever stolen anything, no matter how small?” “Yes, I have.” And so on. Sometimes he’ll ask them what did Jesus do about sin? And most have the answer; Jesus died for sin.
Jesus died for sin all those many Fridays ago. This is why we have gathered together this night, to remember that Jesus died for sin. 1 Peter 2:24 says that, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” So we must not just recognize the historical event that is Jesus’ death. We must also grapple with the idea of sin. What is sin? If Jesus died for it, we should know what it is. What is the meaning of sin? I will argue that sin has one definition, but it means one thing for an unbeliever and another for a believer. Then we must look at what God did about sin.
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.
Zechariah has more to say about the coming kingdom than any other minor prophet. The last three chapters of Zechariah describe in vivid detail the final days of the great tribulation and the first days of the millennial reign of Christ. Zechariah’s vision is of a future kingdom where everything, from the temple altar to the cooking pots to the bells on horses’ bridles, is holy.
As we begin Hosea chapter 4, you’ll notice that we have moved into a new section of this book. We have left behind the drama that is Hosea’s life and move into the rest of the book which is the word of the Lord given through Hosea. The first three chapters described God’s view of Israel through a picture: the marriage of a man to an evil and unfaithful wife. Even the children that resulted were used by God as a visible demonstration of the peoples’ guilt and shame, but also of God’s amazing love. Starting in chapter four until the end, we have recorded God’s message, mainly to Israel, the northern tribes, but also to a lesser degree to Judah. Judah will be called to look at their own sin and take warning in light of the sin and impending judgment upon Israel. As we work our way through the rest of the book we will be confronted with the sinfulness and depravity of the people but we will hear also of God’s love for his people and his mercy as he calls his people to return to him, to leave their evil ways and to come back to him.
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.
The minor prophets offer numerous small glimpses into the future kingdom. Of these, Zechariah by far has the most to say. All twelve prophets agree that Israel will be blessed with a greatness it has never known before, when her appointed Ruler comes to claim his kingdom.