God uses imperfect people because they are the only people that exist. In our lesson today we are going to see God standing firmly by a family that doesn't fit the kind of family we would expect God to use to bring His blessing to the whole earth. This family does not always get along. They are divided and much too competitive. They lie to each other about things. They have strong-willed children. Even the most intelligent and outstanding parents fail to handle every situation correctly, personalities can get in the way of justice. I am glad God does not hide the flaws of His people but redeems us from them with the perfection of His Son. God does not forget His promise to Abraham, despite the failures of his descendants. God uses imperfect people, who confess their dependence on His word, to accomplish His will.
And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:
And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
Isaac was born by miraculous means. Hebrews chapter 11:12 reads,
“Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.”
Abraham, physically speaking, was as good as dead, Sarah well past the age that women are able to conceive children. God made sure that the “child of promise,” Isaac, was clearly born by a miracle that only He could perform. Likewise, Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, were also prayed for because their mother Rebekah was also unable to bear children. God intervened, and God gets the glory for their births. The story of Abraham and his descendants is a story of God’s redemption and unmerited favor being poured out, it is the beginning of the restoration of the relationship between God and man that was corrupted by our sin. Therefore, it is important to note that all that was accomplished was accomplished by the hand of God and not through the works of man.
And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
The babies are active and are actually fighting from the womb. The word of God is spoken about them before they are even born. God’s Word, unchanging, is given to their parents about the roles that the two boys would fill in adulthood. He meant what He said. The oldest would be the servant of the younger. Not only that, the boys will be the origin of two very different types of people. God knows us before we are ever conceived. David and Jeremiah refer to the fact that as they were being formed inside their mothers, God knew them. God also knows the end of our story as well as the beginning. He is all-knowing. He is Sovereign. While we are given, by our creator, the blessing and the dignity of choice, God already knows what we will choose and what our ends will be. While we are all born under the curse of sin, we are also all desired by God. He says, “whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely.” No one is prevented from becoming a child of God. However, God has known those who will accept his offer of salvation since before the world began. It is a difficult concept to wrap our minds around that we do have the gift of free will, and that God is not surprised by anything we choose but has known all along what we would do. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways are not our ways.
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
Esau’s name means red, as in the red of the earth. His appearance, his name, and later to be revealed, his desires are all earthly. He represents our natural, physical selves. Jacob means supplanter or trickster, and notice he is clinging to the heel of his brother. In other words, their physical struggle is a picture of our spiritual one. In a sense, all of us are twins of a sort. We are born with that cursed nature that desires nothing but to have our physical needs met, but we are also born wrestling with a soul that has desires we don’t even fully understand. Jacob doesn’t represent a redeemed man, at least not in the beginning. But he does represent the part of us that is searching for meaning and blessing beyond this physical realm. We’ll see in this chapter that Jacob goes about things in the wrong way. He is selfish, manipulative, and even dishonest. However, what separates him from his brother most distinctly, is what he values. He has a desire for the promises of God given to Abraham, then passed to his Father Isaac. He first values the birthright, the physical inheritance of the promised land and the responsibilities that come with it, and then secondly the blessing, which is the spiritual promises of God more than anything.
27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
If we, not knowing the end of the story, were given the opportunity to predict life’s winner, we would all choose Esau. He’s a cunning hunter, meaning both smart and skillful. He is a man of the field, meaning hard working and strong. Jacob, on the other hand, is a bit of a lightweight. He prefers the indoors, we read nothing of desired attributes. He was plain, rather uninspiring in his features. We look on the outside, and God looks at the heart. There is certainly much value in the strength of Esau, but God chose Jacob, because flaws and all, God would show that He would keep his promises to those who call upon His name.
28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
The clear favorite to his earthly father, Esau, in addition to his other desirable qualities, was a great cook. Rebekah, on the other hand, saw something in Jacob that his father didn’t see. This division of affection would result in deception and confusion later on. I wonder if Rebekah kept in her mind the word that God had spoken to her, that the younger would rule. She obviously believed what God had said. Isaac is hoping, maybe, that God would change his mind. At least it appears that way because the birthright and the blessing both are being held for Esau, despite what God had spoken. Whether or not we agree with the word of God, the word of God will be accomplished.
29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
Esau has been hunting and working hard until he is at the point of fainting. He has exhausted himself, and Jacob has made soup. Maybe, Jacob should have been generous with his brother, but the fact of the matter is that Jacob knows that Esau values immediate physical things more than the long-term spiritual things of God, and he takes advantage of that. What is a meal worth to you, Esau? Will you trade your inheritance for it? Isaac had inherited his birthright from God, Ishmael was the older brother, and Abraham asked God to choose him. God chose Isaac, he inherited the promise. Esau didn’t grasp the importance of that, he was hungry for the things of this world.
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
There’s a lot in that question that we may miss if we fail to examine it closely. If I die of hunger, Esau reasons, what good will the birthright be? It is the same as saying, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” In other words, there is nothing beyond the here and now. Why should I think about eternity when my life is a mess now? It is similar to the man in the new testament whose barns were filled and overflowing. He thought the best thing to do is build more barns and live off the good things of this life forever. Jesus said he was a fool because that night “his soul was required of him.” He lived only for here, only for himself, never looking to God or wondering where he would spend eternity.
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Esau despised his birthright. Despised: to feel contempt or deep repugnance for something. After selling out his future, for his immediate present, the birthright went from insignificant in Esau’s mind to a thing that made him sick. He hated the thing which he should have valued above all. It is very difficult to stay indifferent to God. For a while, people will attempt to avoid the issue, but once a person has made the choice to choose their own way and reject the mercies of God, they won’t stay neutral on the issue. They will become more and more an enemy of God, that is reality. They will grow in their hatred of the word of God in order to feel no guilt about the things they are doing and the path they are taking. Jacob is certainly not guiltless in this story, certainly not generous, but Esau had a choice to make, and the consequences of the choice he made were extremely serious.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!