Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sermon: Genesis 27: 1-46 Deceiving Dad for Brother's Blessing

I want to ask you a question as we start. What was intended in the cross of Jesus? What plans and purposes were being achieved as Jesus was crucified? Well, let’s see - Judas betrayed him for some silver coins; the Jewish leaders had long been plotting to kill Jesus, and the Jewish people followed those plans. Pilate was trying to prevent a riot, but also prevent this rival king.

Lots of different reasons and motivations for the cross. Yet at the very same time, God was working his purpose out for the salvation of the world. Peter puts it so right in Acts 2:23 ‘this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.’ You crucified him - but God achieved his purposes.

Or think of Joseph speaking with his brothers after they are reunited in Egypt, now as Prime Minister: ‘you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’ (Gen 50:20)

Our big idea tonight is that God achieves his purposes of blessing despite (or through) our sin. That God is working his purposes out in spite of (or even through) our sinful acts. It’s not that God condones our sin, but that even our rebellion and self-interest can be redeemed and used by God to complete his purposes of blessing his people.

We’re continuing our series in Genesis, looking at the children of the covenant - Isaac and Jacob. God called Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham to go to the place he would give him and his children, where they would enjoy God’s blessing. All nations would be blessed through Abraham’s blessing. Last week we saw how God continued that covenant with Isaac despite his circumstances, his sin and his opposition.

Tonight we discover how that blessing is passed on to the next generation - and how God’s word is fulfilled that the older son would serve the younger. Let’s look briefly at the blessing itself before coming to how it is passed on. Parents, what is it that you wish for your children? Perhaps it is a long life, a big house and plenty of money? A good education and children? The covenant blessing isn’t just wishful thinking for self-achievement and promotion - rather, it is the benefits of living in relationship with God, in dependence on him.

Look at verses 27-29. This is the total covenant blessing - praying that God will give Jacob the dew, the fatness of the earth and plenty - the prosperity of God’s blesssing, as well as the position of honour and authority - ‘let peoples serve you... and be lord over your brothers.’

This is the blessing which is passed from God to Abraham to Isaac and now to Jacob. The prayer and promise of God’s goodness poured out on the covenant community. That blessing was passed down, and finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus - in whom we have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)

God is working out his purposes of blessing - even through the sins and selfishness of his people. We’ll look particularly tonight at God’s blessing despite a dysfunctional family, a deceiving son, and a devastated son.

So first up then, God’s blessing continues despite a dysfunctional family. Back in chapter 25, we were told that Isaac and Rebekah both had their favourite son - Isaac favoured Esau, Rebekah favoured Jacob. In this chapter, we see that favouritism exploding into chaos, as each of the four characters seeks their own interests.

Isaac is old and blind, and knows that some day soon he will die. It’s his job to pass on the blessing, to grant the rights and privileges from Abraham’s God to his chosen successor. Isaac probably knows God’s decree that the older will serve the younger, but he disregards that - he wants his favourite to be the blessed son.

So he sends Esau out to hunt, to cook a nice meal, and then to receive the blessing. Now Esau also knows that he has sold his birthright with an oath - but he goes out, thinking he can keep the blessing himself. Meanwhile Rebekah has been listening in and she wants her favourite son to triumph, so sets up the deception which Jacob goes along with.

Truly a dysfunctional family - things are not talked through, each one out for their own best interests, none pulling together, and God has been forgotten. At this point you almost want to ask God - is this really your chosen family, the people you are using to bring a blessing to the nations?

But remember, it’s not based on their merits, but based on the sovereign plan of God to fulfil his purpose. It’s actually a real encouragement that God can bless despite the dysfunctional family. You see, sometimes family life can be chaotic - yet we can still be used by God to fulfil his purposes.

The church family can sometimes seem to be dysfunctional - people not talking to one another, problems arising - yet God is using us to proclaim his good news nonetheless.

I don’t know what your home life is like, but there’s one sure thing - none of our families are perfect - they won’t be this side of heaven. Perhaps take some time when you get home to consider - how is God using our family for his purposes? Is it because of our family life or despite it?

There’s a particular call here for husbands and fathers to ‘man up’ - to lead your family in a godly way, not in a selfish way. How are you leading?

It’s bad enough that Isaac’s homelife was that of a dysfunctional family, but then it takes a turn for the worse. Yet God’s blessing continues despite a deceiving son. Let’s look at v14-17. Jacob is dressed in his brother’s clothes, with the goatskins on his hands and arms.

He’s pretending to be someone he’s not. Indeed, more than playing the part, he also says twice that ‘I am Esau’, even taking the Lord’s name in vain as he says that God gave him success in his hunting. One writer has said that Isaac was fooled by smooth words and hairy hands.

Isaac was blind, governed by his senses of taste and touch - too hungry for the food to worry about the mixed messages from the son in front of him. So he goes ahead and gives the blessing, thinking that he is indeed blessing Esau, his firstborn son.

Jacob is seeking to please his mother and so deceives his father, while Isaac is seeking to please Esau, and so goes along with the blessing. Isaac really is blind - to the promises and purposes of God, yet God fulfils his purposes of blessing even through the deceptive son.

This isn’t to condone what Jacob is doing - I’m certainly not saying that it is good or right for us to go out and con people and trick them - God commands us to speak the truth (repeatedly!). Yet even when Jacob is acting in sin, God is working out his purposes - can we trust God even when things don’t seem to be working out the way we expect them to, without trying to intervene?

God, as we’ve seen, is working out his plan to bless despite the dysfunctional family and the deceiving son. The last section of the chapter shows us that God can work despite the devastated son - or in other words, that God’s blessing and call are certain and can’t be turned back. Just in time, Jacob has left his father’s presence, and Esau arrives home and cooks up his gourmet dish.

Watch as he goes in proudly to his father, eager to get the blessing, and how quickly his pride turns to confusion, anger, despair as his father asks ‘who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?’ Jacob, whose name means deceiver has deceived, and taken when Esau thought was his right. But look at the last words of verse 33: ‘Yes, and he shall be blessed.’

Esau weeps bitterly, but there is nothing that can be done - Isaac’s blessing has been given to Jacob, there is nothing left to give to Esau. Notice how what is said to Esau is the total opposite - away from the fatness; away from the dew; you shall serve your brother...

God has accomplished his purposes in this generation, and has blessed Jacob, the son elected before his birth. As Paul says in Romans 11:29 ‘for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable’. Or in other words, if God blesses you, you will indeed be blessed. Are we hearing this?

As we come to faith in the Lord Jesus, we already share in every spiritual blessing - God gives us grace upon grace. God has pronounced a blessing on you in Christ, and that can never be taken away from you.

But on the other side of those words - as we’ve said, the blessing is only found in the line of promise - that is, in the Lord Jesus. Just as Esau could receive no blessing but only a curse, so those who are not in union with the Lord Jesus cannot be blessed, but will be eternally cursed. These are harsh words, yet they are what God reveals in his word.

What can we finally take away from this evening? What is Genesis 27 pointing us to? I think we find here a great confidence that God is sovereign and can work out his blessing even despite our sin. It certainly doesn’t mean we can do as we like, but we can rest assured in the blessing that God has provided already, and has promised for us eternally. God is in control.

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 2nd May 2010.

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