Genesis 27 has the story of Jacob and Esau and the blessing. Isaac calls Esau to his side and asks him to go hunt some game, prepare it for him, and then come to be blessed. Esau takes off to do as asked. Rebekah overhears the request and takes action to get her favorite son blessed instead. She tells Jacob: “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you”. Mother is getting involved to make sure things go her way. Jacob is worried and says “my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man”. This seems like a big problem – surely Isaac will know – even though he is blind. But Rebekah has a scheme in mind. She takes on the responsibility and just asks Jacob to do as she told him. “So he went and took them and brought them to his mother”.
Rebekah prepares a meal and disguises Jacob. “Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me”. This is obviously a lie – a well-executed deceit to take away the blessing that belonged to Esau. Rebekah obviously knew Isaac well as she pulled off the plan. Jacob gets the blessing. “So he blessed him….May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you”! This is a big deal to say the least. Isaac is passing on the legacy to his son – albeit the wrong son from what should have happened. But the blessing is given and Jacob is now the son who has been given status for his generation.
Esau comes back after doing as his father asked and discovered that he had been scooped. Isaac immediately figures it out as Esau attempts to give him the food he had prepared. Isaac says “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing”. It is gone – given away – and Esau has figured out what has happened. “He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing”. A double whammy for Esau – he has lost both of the things that were due him based on his being the oldest son to his younger brother Jacob. The first because of lack of control, the second because of a scheme devised by his mother. But it is too late. Isaac gives him the bad news: “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers”. Esau now must serve Jacob. That is not how he had envisioned life.
This obviously causes distress for Esau. To say he is ticked off would be an understatement. In fact – he wants to kill Jacob and take back what is rightfully his in his own eyes. Scripture says it this way: “Esau hated Jacob”. Now Esau begins to scheme on his own and decides that “the days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother”. Esau decides to wait until the opportunity is right and then remove the problem. But Rebekah finds out the plan and sends Jacob away to live with her brother Laban telling Jacob to stay away until “he forgets what you have done to him”. The chapter ends with the following expectation – that Jacob will not marry a foreign woman while he is away. “If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me”. Parental expectations – we’ll have to see if these come to fruition or not!
Genesis 26 gives us the story of Isaac and his moving around the land. It was a time of famine. Isaac gets a word from God: “Sojourn in this land….I will be with you and will bless you….I will multiply your offspring”. God continues in His plan to bless Abraham’s family. Then comes the reason –the source of the blessing – “because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws”. It really is pretty basic. If we want God’s blessing – we just need to obey. Abraham figured it out – he did what God directed – and the blessing was unbelievable. We serve the same God – we have the same opportunity – it only we would choose to obey. Are you ready to do that?
We see a very familiar plot as Isaac and his tribe move to a new place in the valley of Gerar. He tells folks there that Rebekah is his sister. Sound familiar? It should as it is the exact thing that Abraham did with Sarah. Like father, like son. Fortunately Abimelech again does not make a mistake. “Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’”? This is déjà vu – same story – different characters. Of course the same weak excuse and definitely not what God would have wanted. But it all works out and the truth comes out.
“Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy”. Talk about a big blessing – Isaac has experienced the blessing of God’s hand. He is now rich and very wealthy – as God blesses him according to His promise. This happens in spite of the fact that the Philistines – who were jealous of Abraham and now Isaac – have worked to destroy things that would make this more possible – filling a bunch of wells that Abraham had dug many years ago. But God has blessed Isaac indeed, in spite of what the enemy might have done. God gives this promise: “Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake”.
Things are going pretty well for Isaac and Rebekah. Abimelech comes to Isaac and wants to have a pact between them – a covenant that they would do each other no harm. They agree and exchange oaths – so not only has Isaac achieved great wealth – now he has a pact in place with the king to provide safety. But there is one area that is not going so well for Isaac – his son Esau. “When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah”. Esau blows off his parent’s desire and marries women they did not want him to. It shows the reality that children make their own decision, and often may ignore the influence or direction of parents. We have to keep our role in perspective. Once a child moves out of our house – they become responsible for their actions. We can grieve over bad decisions – but they are on their own. If you haven’t experienced it yet – be prepared – Isaac sure did with Esau!
Genesis 25 begins with the statement that “Abraham took another wife”. And from that wife – Keturah – another 6 sons were born. The information on this revelation seems to lead to the question of whether the timeline is really in the order scriptures lists this wife. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and scripture tells us that it took God’s miracle to make that happen. So speculation in that this series of children were likely born prior to that birth – one of those questions we can ask God when we get to heaven. We do learn that “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac”. The plan of God is in place. Isaac is the central figure in the story. Abraham dies at age 175 and is buried with Sarah. And “God blessed Isaac his son”.
Ishmael has a dozen sons and lived until 137 years of age. But Isaac struggles to have children. He married Rebekah when he was 40 years old. Things were not working so “Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren”. He couldn’t go to the fertility doctors or other specialists in his day – there weren’t any. He had only one option – to seek God’s power so he prayed for God to move. Is that what we do when we are up against a difficult situation – take it to God? Definitely a lesson for us here – carry it to God first. Isaac did, and “the Lord granted his prayer”. God is in the business of answering prayer. He is still in the miracle business. Same God, same power, same love for us.
Rebekah is pregnant and she has a rough pregnancy. The womb is really active – it had to be an uncomfortable situation. She goes to God to find out what is going on inside her body. “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”. Lot’s of families experience struggles between kids in this world – but this struggle started way early – in the womb. And it really plays itself out in the years ahead. Isaac was 60 when these boys were born – so they tried for 20 years to have children before God caused it to happen. That is patience and staying the course. Sometimes we just need to wait on God’s time!
Rebekah gave birth to twins – Esau first – a skillful hunter who was loved by Esau. Right on his heels came Jacob. In fact, scripture tells us he “came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel”. Jacob was a quiet man – dwelling in tents – who was loved by Rebekah. So we have twin brothers with very different skills and who were favorites to different parents. The chapter ends with the story of Esau coming in from his field to find Jacob cooking stew. Esau was starving and wants some of the food – but Jacob takes the opportunity to make a trade. He offers to give Esau stew in exchange for his birthright. That was the standing the oldest had in the family to the future. Esau was definitely driven by the moment: “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me”? Of course he really isn’t about to die – but he allowed his immediate desires to drive him to make a very stupid decision – a choice to sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. That is what many of us do in life – we allow the immediate to drive us to make choices that have much longer impact. What we do and how we choose matters much. We must do it wisely!
Genesis 24 is a love story of sorts. Abraham is getting old, and wants to make sure that his son Isaac has a wife so he can fulfill God’s promise of becoming a mighty nation. So he calls in his main servant and makes him promise to go find that woman for Isaac in the homeland. He didn’t want him marrying one of the locals – the Canaanites where they lived – as they were foreigners in their land. He wanted Isaac’s wife to be from the old country. So he makes his servant promise he will make the trip and find a bride.
Of course the servant is a bit concerned about the outcome and the rules. “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land”. He is looking for a way out of the deal – but Abraham insists and tells the servant that God “will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there”. That helps the odds quite a bit for success. So the servant takes off and heads to the homeland and before any searching begins, he stops to pray. “Please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham”. Are you catching the progression here? Before anything else happens – the servant lays his request before God. We would do well to learn from that.
The servant lays out a list of things he will watch for – and a beautiful young lady comes to the well where the servant decided to do his looking. He wanted to find a bride that was a worker, and also gracious and thoughtful at the same time. So he tested Rebekah as she came to the well. And she passed with fly colors – offering water first to the servant – but then offering to water the camels as well. “The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not”. His prayer to God had been answered so he was ready for phase two – the family.
Rebekah brings them home to her place so they can stay. The servant asks for her hand for Isaac. He tells the entire story of the interaction at the well and expresses how sure he is that she is the one. Then the big question comes. Will you let her return to become Isaac’s wife? No hesitation – they say “The thing has come from the Lord; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken”. It was obvious that God had brought them and this was his plan. They do ask for a 10 day period for her to get ready to travel, but the servant didn’t want to hang around – he was ready to take her home to Isaac. So they asked and she was ready to go. So off they went “and they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring possess the gate of those who hate them”! They load her up on the camels and head home.
“Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming”. Can you imagine what was going through his mind? Prayer must have been a part of his normal routine. But as he was out there in the field close to God praying – he sees the camels in the distance. Here comes his bride. So he heads off walking to meet them. And Isaac gets the full story and then “Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her”. The journey begins for Isaac and Rebekah. They start their trek toward living happily ever after. Abraham’s faith and wisdom are fulfilled as Isaac gets a wife. And God’s plan is continued in motion toward creating a great and mighty nation!
Genesis 23 talks of Sarah’s death. She dies at age 127 and leaves Abraham behind. They are living in the land of the Hittites and have no property, so Abraham goes to the people and asks for a burial plot to place Sarah into. The answer tells us about Abraham’s reputation in this foreign land. “You are a prince of God among us”. So here we have a foreigner living and creating a reputation of being a man of God through how he lived. And that continues through the process of burial for Sarah.
The Hittites tell Abraham that he can have any tomb he wishes. And he does have one in mind – a cave owned by Ephron at the end of his field. But Abraham doesn’t want it as a gift – he insists on paying for it. So we see some negotiations here as the people try to give it to Abraham but he insists on paying for it. The price that is decided upon is 400 shekels of silver. Ephron tells him to forget it, but Abraham insists and weights out the silver. He is not willing to bury her without rightfully owning the land.
The transaction occurs and Abraham does it in the presence of many witnesses. He does not leave things to chance or hearsay. He makes sure everyone knows he has paid the price. And then the buries Sarah in the cave there. They had been transferred to Abraham through the transaction with Ephron. Why the big deal here. Abraham’s wife is dead and they offered him any choice of a tomb but he refused to receive it without paying. Remember hs is a foreigner and didn’t want this to come back on him someday.
So he does the prudent thing and makes sure there is a transaction that gives him rightful ownership before burial. He does what is needed to protect his integrity and character before the people. A great lesson to learn here – be careful to do all that is required to guard your reputation. We only get one shot at that. If we mess it up it takes years to recover and in some cases – it can never be regained. How is your reputation? Do people see you as ‘a prince of God’ by the way you live?
Genesis 22 contains the very familiar story of Abraham and Isaac. The chapter is really all about one thing – “God tested Abraham”. Abraham was a righteous man from previous scripture. But God wants to test him all the way. So he commands Abraham “Take your son, your only son Isaac…..offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains”.Pretty tall order isn’t it – to sacrifice the son he waited 100 years to have. You might think that Abraham would at least question what God was up to. But here is his response: “Abraham rose early in the morning….he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place”. Are you getting the picture here? Complete and total obedience to God’s command even when it doesn’t seem to make any sense on the surface. How would you have responded? Do you follow no matter what the circumstances?
Abraham takes off to the place God told him to go. This was no short trip so he had lots of time to think about what God had asked him to do. And his response: “On the third day….Abraham took the wood….laid it on Isaac his son….he took in his hand the fire and the knife”. To be honest, after three days of thinking about this I likely would have turned around and headed the other way. But not Abraham – he continues to follow God’s direction. The point where I know I would have struggled would have been when Isaac figures out something is missing from this picture – there is no lamb to sacrifice: “where is the lamb for a burnt offering”? Now Abraham has to deal with his son beginning to get a picture of what is happening and making the situation very real.
But Abraham presses on. He tells Isaac “God will provide” even though he doesn’t really know how or what that means. There certainly was nothing apparent at that time that showed anything other than Isaac to be the sacrifice. So Abraham carries on. He “bound Isaac ….laid him on the altar…. took the knife”. This is going to happen. Abraham truly is going to sacrifice his son as God had asked. That is, until the angel of the Lord stops him. Can you picture it. Isaac bound and lying their, Abraham with knife in hand, ready to strike, and a voice comes to him saying ‘stop’. This could have quickly become a big disaster had God not moved when He did. But as is always the case – it happens in Gods’ time and God’s way.
“But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven….now I know that you fear God”. Couldn’t there have been a different way to check this out God? It seem pretty intense. It is – by God’s design. He needed to know that Abraham was all in. Why? Because God was setting up the future here. He was making a covenant for all of history. “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring….because you have obeyed”. The foundation was a man who was obedient to whatever God called him to do. Abraham was being tested – and he passed the test. He was all in to obeying God no matter what the ask. He never blinked or hesitated. He only obeyed. That must describe our obedience as well. If we want God’s blessing – we need to be willing to do God’s business. Are you?
Genesis 21 has the big day – Sarah has a son and they name him Isaac. God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham and the boy is born. Abraham circumcises him on the 8th day as he was commanded. And Isaac grows and give Abraham the legacy that God promised. Meanwhile Hagar, who was mother to the other son of Abraham, was laughing at Sarah in her old age. It really ticks Sarah off and she goes to Abraham and tells him to do something about it. Sarah wants Hagar cast out and sent away – after all – she is not truly the wife and mother of Abraham’s son. Sarah seems to have a short memory that this was her idea in the first place.
Abraham is torn – after all – Ishmael was his son. “The thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son”. Let’s face it – Abraham wasn’t sure what was going to happen and he had fathered this son too. God comes and gives Abraham direction – reminding him that “through Isaac shall your offspring be named” but also that He “will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring”. So both sons will become the fathers of nations. Abraham will leave a double legacy of two nations. God’s message also was to put Hagar and Ishmael out of the camp – per Sarah’s request. So he does. He packs Hagar up with some water and their son and sends them on their way.
Things are not going well – Hagar is out of water and puts Ishmael under a bush to try and keep him from dying. “She lifted up her voice and wept” crying out to God for help. She was sure her son would die so she went a bit away so she didn’t have to watch. But God heard her cries. “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water”. Amazing how that works isn’t it. Hagar is sitting there in the middle of nowhere parched and on the edge of death and now God provides a well and she gathers water and gives her son a drink. Since he was Abraham’s son and God has a plan for his future, “God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow”.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Abraham has a visit from Abimelech who is coming to make sure that his guest doesn’t get any crazy ideas and want to have a squabble. He wants a peace treaty – that their offspring will live peacefully together. So they discuss it and Abraham gave him some sheep to seal the deal – “the two men made a covenant” – and agreed to live peaceably with each other. So now that they have that settled they begin a journey through the land of the Philistines. Life is good – Abraham has two sons who will lead nations – and he is living out his dream in God’s provided land.
Genesis 20 has the story of Abraham and Sarah on the move. He came into the territory of Abimelech and “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” Abraham was afraid that the king would take his bride and kill him – so he tells a lie. Abimelech did take Sarah and bring her to his palace, but God gets involved. He comes to Abimelech in a dream and tells him that he is a dead man for taking another man’s wife. Abimelech cries foul – he had no idea that Sarah was married. After all Abraham and Sarah had lied to him. Fortunately for Abimelech he had not so much as approached her.
“In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” That is Abimelech’s plea to God. He had no idea. He was deceived. He didn’t do anything intentionally. But God already knows it and says “it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her”. What a mess. You have a husband a wife who have lied about their relationship and a king who took her to be part of his harem. And then God gets into the picture. Definitely soap opera material.
God tells Abimelech to return Sarah and he gets with it. He “rose early in the morning” to tell his servants the story and make sure that Sarah gets back to Abraham. He has no interest in messing with God on this one. When he confronts Abraham about the lie – of course Abraham justifies himself. “She is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife”. Technically she is a sister in the Lord is his excuse. Weak, Abraham, at the very least. His decision to be deceitful almost cost Sarah her purity and it also could easily have cost Abimelech and his family their lives.
God makes it clear that had Abimelech violated Sarah – he and his would have been dead. Not fair is it? Sin is sin whether we know it and do it consciously or unconsciously. God’s standards are not based on our knowledge. God did take action against Abimelech already – “the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife”. Even though nothing had happened there was punishment in motion. And part of fixing this was that Abraham had to intercede for the king and his folks. “Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children”. God does work in mysterious ways. A king does what he always did – deceived along the path – and now the deceiver has to pray to restore things to the way they were prior to the deceit. God used it and Abraham and Sarah were given free reign of some land there. The mysteries of God never cease to amaze…..
Genesis 19 is a difficult story. God had warned Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed. Abraham had bargained to leave the cities alone if only 10 righteous were found. As the angels entered the city – Lot met them and insisted they come to his house. They finally do and he feeds them and keeps them. That evening the people of the city came and surrounded the house asking Lot to bring the two newcomers out. This was a very corrupt city – and Lot pushed back and even offered his two daughters up instead. He did not want to be involved at all in this sinful behavior. The crowd was beginning to be threatening – so the angels strike the crowd blind and bring Lot inside.
In the morning the angels warned Lot that destruction was coming and he needed to gather up those he cared about and get out of town. Lot goes to the future son in laws – those two were to be married to his daughters – but they blow him off and think it is a joke. So they refuse to go with him. “As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city”. This is no little issue – the destruction is just around the corner and Lot needs to step up here and save his family. The next few words are disheartening: “But he lingered”. Lot didn’t lead – he lingered. He was not doing his job as father and husband.
Fortunately for Lot, “the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city”. God sometimes will go to extreme measures to help us even when we aren’t helping ourselves. But that is not always the case and we certainly should not depend on it. The angels did give a couple rules for Lot and the family to follow as they made their way to Zoar – the town outside they were to go to. “Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley”. Seems pretty simple doesn’t it. Unfortunately, “Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt”. Obedience is a rather serious matter. God takes it so anyway.
After Lot and his daughters made it to Zoar, “God destroyed the cities of the valley”. He wiped them out. It is no little wipeout. He smoked them and they were totally destroyed. Lot and his daughters moved into the hills into a cave. The daughters get this idea and get Lot drunk so he would sleep with them and have a lineage to follow. They did it two nights in a row – and both became pregnant. Another example of people taking over the plan and doing it their way. Yes it is good to want a line to keep the family name intact. But this was a bit outside the way God would have done it. God looks seriously at how we live. Sin will be punished. Sodom and Gomorrah found out in a very complete way. We need to realize just how importantly God looks at sin and obedience. How we live matters. It determines all!
Genesis 18 has Abraham getting a surprise visit from the Lord. He is sitting at the door of his tent and sees the Lord by the oaks of Mamre. That would be quite an unexpected visit wouldn’t it? Abraham “ran from the tent door to meet them” – there were three men standing there. Abraham says “if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant” and convinces them to let him wash their feet and feed them as they rest. They agree and Abraham throws things into high gear as this was an unexpected visit.
He “went quickly” to the tent and asked Sarah to make some cakes from flour. He “ran” to the herd and kills a calf and has one of his servants prepare it. He got after it – making quick work of preparations to serve his visitors. How would you respond when God showed up in your patch? How do you respond? Maybe God has come like this – in human form standing outside your door. But God is around and present and often we not only don’t rush to prepare to be with Him – we totally ignore Him. We pretend He isn’t even there. We just do what we were planning to do our way and completely blow off the God who created the universe. Pretty poor plan.
Sarah is standing in the tent and hears God’s message to Abraham – that he will be a dad in a year or so. Sarah laughs to herself knowing she is too old and past child bearing age in human terms. What she fails to understand is that God is not limited by human terms. So God asks Abraham “Why did Sarah laugh”? Abraham didn’t even know it – but God holds him accountable for that action. And then God makes this statement which we need to always remember: “Is anything too hard for the Lord”? Here is the reality of the world we live in – there is nothing that is beyond God’s ability or power. He can do whatever He chooses whenever He chooses. He has and knows no limits. We need to remember that. God reinforces His promise that Abraham will be a father to many nations. Why? “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice”. Abraham is to lead his family to follow God. He has a huge responsibility to lead well.
As God prepares to leave He lets Abraham in on His next item on the agenda – the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They are wicked cities and their future is not good. Abraham asks if God will spare them if “there are fifty righteous within the city”. As they talk Abraham moves the number down to just 10. Abraham intercedes for those cities and asks God to spare them if ten can be found. God says “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it”. We get a good picture of the power of intercession here. Abraham stands in the gap and tries to intervene before destruction takes place. We’ll find out what happens in a future chapter – but we can learn from his action. There is power in prayer and seeking God’s face.