Today's lesson will be "In the Beginning: Part II", which is the second part of my story on the Book of Genesis. I ended Part I on a good and bad note. The bad note was the shamefulness of Lot's daughters in getting their father drunk and having sex with him so they could have sons. The good note was God had given Abraham and Sarah a due date for their promised son.
Just as God had promised, one year later, when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety, Sarah gave birth to their son, Isaac. Back in those days a mother would nurse her son until he was three or four years old, then wean him and turn him over to the father for training. Since Isaac was the promised heir of the covenant, Abraham threw a big weaning party to honor him. But during the party, Sarah noticed that Ishmael was making fun of Isaac. If you may recall, Ishmael was Abraham's first-born son by their handmaid Hagar, so he was about seventeen years old at the time. Sarah, like any other mother, became upset at seeing a half-grown man picking at her baby so she ordered Abraham to throw Ishmael and his mother out.
Abraham loved Ishmael so he was saddened by Sarah's request. But actually, Sarah's request was parallel to God's will. God had made it clear that Isaac was the son through whom the covenant would be carried out. So to console Abraham, God renewed His promise that Ishmael would become the father of a great nation. So Abraham, being a true believer in all of God's promises, obediently sent Ishmael and Hagar away. He had learned earlier that in order to know God's power he had to always be obedient and faithful.
And many times God had put Abraham's obedience and faith to the test. It had been a test for Abraham to leave his hometown; it had been a test for him to separate from his nephew Lot; it was a test to give up Ishmael; and it certainly had been a test to believe for twenty-five years that his wife would have a son. But none of those tests would compare to the ultimate test when God told Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. I can't begin to imagine how heartbroken Abraham must have felt at God's request. He loved Isaac with all of his heart, but he must have loved obedience to God a lot more because early the next morning Abraham took Isaac, two servants, and everything needed for the burnt offering and set out to find the mountain which God would show him.
It was a three-days journey to the land of Moriah so Abraham had plenty of time to change his mind. But, he didn't, instead when he came near the mountain, he told his servants to stay there while he and his son go up and worship the Lord. Abraham was going to tie his son up, put a knife through his heart, set him afire, and watch him burn to ashes, yet he called it worshipping the Lord. My! My! But Abraham had remembered God's promise that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars, so he believed, way back then, that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead. No wonder his faith was counted as righteousness!
As Abraham and Isaac continued to walk toward the mountain, Isaac mentioned that they had the fire and the wood, but the sacrificial lamb was missing and Abraham told him God would provide Himself a lamb. But when they reached the mountain, Abraham placed the wood on the altar and I would imagine as he laid Isaac on the wood, he then began to explain to him that he was going to be the sacrifice. I don't know about you, but I don't know of one twenty-five year old man who would let his father tie him up and offer him as a burnt sacrifice on an altar. Even with one hand tied, Isaac could have easily overtaken his one hundred, twenty-five year old father. So evidently, Isaac was willing to worship the Lord also. But just as Abraham was about to thrust the knife in Isaac's chest, God stopped him and Abraham noticed a ram caught in the bushes. God wasn't interested in a human sacrifice, besides, Isaac's death couldn't atone for the sins of the world, Isaac was a sinner himself. But the important thing was Abraham had passed God's test, so God spared an old man the heartache of losing his beloved son, and that was something God wouldn't even do for Himself years later.
In Part I of this story, I mentioned that throughout the Old Testament God used "types of Christ" to foreshadow the coming Messiah. In Abraham's ultimate test, we were given two "types of Christ". The first was Isaac because he was the beloved son willing to lay down his life to do the will of his father. And although the ram caught in the bushes that day wasn't the "Lamb of God", it was the second "type of Christ" because it was an innocent victim substituted to die instead of someone else. God was constantly reminding us that man would be brought back into Holy Communion through the work of Christ.
Although only Abraham is said to have gone through God's tests, I'm sure Sarah was right there by his side proving her faith also. But the Scripture doesn't tell us much more about Sarah. In fact, in one chapter Sarah was laughing over the birth of Isaac, but two chapters later Abraham was burying her in a cave in the land of Canaan. Sarah had died at one hundred, twenty-seven years old, but she had lived to enjoy her promised son for thirty-seven years.
Back in those days, it was customary for parents to arrange marriages for their children, and since Isaac was so grieved over his mother's death, Abraham decided a wife would help fill the vacant spot in Isaac's heart. So Abraham called his trusted servant and made him swear to go outside of Canaan and find Isaac a wife from among his own family. And through prayers and God's intervention, the servant brought back Abraham's grandniece, Isaac's second cousin, Rebekah, the sister of Laban. And at forty years old, Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother's tent and made her his wife, and the Scripture says, "Isaac loved Rebekah, and he was comforted after his mother's death."
Now that Isaac was married, Abraham became lonely so he remarried and his wife Keturah bore him six more sons. And although Abraham was good to all of his sons, Isaac was the son who would inherit everything at his death. So after serving God faithfully with a life of fulfillment and blessings, Abraham died at one hundred, seventy-five years old. And the Scripture tells us that Isaac and Ishmael came together to bury their father. And since that same chapter mentions the sons of Ishmael and Ishmael's death, I want to bring out two points. The first point is God kept his promise to Abraham concerning Ishmael. Ishmael had twelve sons and he did become the father of a great nation. The second point is Isaac and Ishmael burying their father together was a great show of respect because that one act of impatience on Sarah's part many years earlier had caused great animosity between those two brothers. And sad, but true, that animosity still remains between their descendants today. Ishmael's descendants, the Arabs, claim the Promised Land is theirs because Ishmael was Abraham's first-born son; but the Jews claim the land is theirs because of the everlasting covenant given to Abraham and passed on to Isaac and Jacob. That conflict will not be settled until God intervenes to fulfill His promise given to Abraham.
I put that part in the story to let us know how important it is to know the Bible story because nothing about it will ever change. From the third chapter of Genesis, when God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, to the Book of Revelation, God provided the pathway to get us back to where and how He wanted us in the beginning. I know I kind of drifted, but now back to Isaac and his wife.
Isaac and Rebekah were married almost twenty years and Rebekah still had not conceived, yet Isaac continued to pray that she would. Isaac didn't realize that his faith was being tested just like his father's. And just like his father, Isaac passed the test and his faith was rewarded. At sixty years old, Isaac became the father of Esau and Jacob, twins who were destined to be rivals even before they were born. The boys grew up to be as different as night and day. Esau, the older twin, was an outdoorsman and became a skilled hunter, while Jacob became a tent dweller who loved the indoors. Isaac favored Esau but Jacob was his mama's boy.
The Bible doesn't tell us much about Jacob and Esau's younger years, but we are told about certain events in their older lives. One day after a long hunting trip Esau came home starving and started begging Jacob for some of the stew he was cooking. Instead of Jacob giving Esau some stew out of brotherly love, he bargained to give him some in exchange for his birthright, which Esau foolishly agreed to. The birthright was very important in many ways. First, it entitled the firstborn to receive double portions of his father's possessions; second, it entitled him to become the family head after the father's death; and in Esau's case, it would have included being the ancestor of the Messiah, but Esau gave all of that away. Selling his birthright for a bowl of stew proved that he wasn't worthy of being an ancestor of the Messiah. I'm sure God was not pleased with the way Jacob obtained the birthright, but He was pleased that he valued it so much. Esau didn't value it at all. But God already knew that, that's why the covenant was to be passed down from Abraham to Isaac and from Isaac to Jacob. Jacob wasn't getting the covenant because he was so good, he was getting it because he was so graced. He was God's chosen instrument, but God had a lot of work to do in that instrument.
In the previous event we learned how selfish Jacob was, and now we will learn that he was also a deceitful liar. We must keep in mind that Isaac favored Esau. Even though Esau had married two pagan women his parents didn't approve of, Isaac still wanted him to receive the covenant blessings. So as Isaac lay nearly blind and fearing death, he promised to bless Esau if he would kill some venison and make his favorite food. But Rebekah overheard Isaac's plan and she devised a plan of her own because she wanted Jacob to receive the blessing. So Rebekah commanded Jacob to go to the field and get two young goats and she cooked the meal for Isaac, and she took the goat skins and put them on Jacob's arms and neck so he could feel hairy like Esau. Then she dressed Jacob in some of Esau's clothes so he could smell like Esau. Then it was Jacob's turn to play his part, he took the meal to his father and lied and said he was Esau. And Isaac, believing it was Esau, blessed Jacob with prosperity, dominion, and protection.
Just as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, Esau came in and prepared food and took it in to his father and they both discovered that Isaac had been tricked. But Esau pleaded with his father for the blessing, but once it had been given to Jacob, there was nothing he could do, he couldn't take it back. And at that point Isaac didn't want to take it back. His spiritual eyes had been opened and he realized that he had been deceived because Esau was not God's choice. But Esau didn't care which one of them was God's choice, his only thought was to kill his brother for cheating him again. I know you all know that story, but what you may not know is that Esau and Jacob were in their late seventies at the time. So at seventy-seven or so, Jacob became a fugitive and he proved his faith wasn't at the level God wanted it to be. One of the blessings he had cheated Esau out of was protection, but there he was running for his life. And his mother Rebekah had convinced him to run to her brother Laban's house in Haran. And Jacob was supposed to stay there just a few days and return when Esau's anger passed, but the stay lasted twenty years, because in Haran, Jacob would reap what he had sown and poor Rebekah would not live to see her favorite son ever again.
I decided to end today's story at that point. I realized I made a big mistake in thinking I could cover the Book of Genesis in just two twenty-minute lessons. So there has to be a Part III. And in Part III we will learn how Jacob meets his match in his lying, deceitful Uncle Laban, and how he loses, yet ultimately wins in a wrestling match with the angel of God.
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