Genesis 27 Blessed freely
Introduction – How to read the text
When many of us read a story like today’s Scripture reading, we don’t quite know what to make of it. An old man duped by his son with the help of his mother, and this is the son of the covenant, supposedly a life we are to emulate. Most Christians just avoid the Old Testament in general because they don’t know what to do with it, and the few who are brave and venture into this forgotten treasure do some abominable things with it because the only way they have been taught to read the Scriptures is to look for morality instruction and examples in the Old Testament. There was a whole series of books on Old Testament characters a few years ago which did exactly this with the lives of David, Moses, Job, Daniel, Elijah.
For example, one pastor entitled his sermon on Genesis 27, “Portrait of a Dysfunctional Family” and the concluding point is this bit of moral teaching: “Those who wait on the Lord, though it is difficult, will in the end not be disappointed, [while] those who impatiently try to force God’s hand may get what they want but in the process they will lose everything of value in life.” Another declares the text teaches about, “the sinfulness of doing evil that good may come, [as illustrated by] the conduct of Rebekah. Or to put it in other words, “the end does not justify the means”.
Though these two moral lessons and others like it – the danger of playing favorites with the children, what happens when women fail to submit to the husbands, the sin of lying and cheating – are all lessons worth learning and teaching, but let me ask, “Should we approach the Scriptures for nothing more than some principles of good behavior? Is that the purpose of the Old Testament?” Heaven forbid. If that is the sum total of our desire and expectation from the Word of God, why not go to other great books which also teach about morality?
Aesop’s fables are wonderful stories meant to teach life lessons in easy to remember vignettes. Classic literature introduces us to the faults, foibles and successes of people in order to reflect upon and learn from their triumphs and failures. Even film can present graphically compelling portraits of bravery and honor as well as sin and selfishness. Let me ask again, “Is the purpose of the Holy Writ simply for our moral instruction?”
Jesus himself challenges the very concept that the Scriptures are to be used primarily as a handbook to teach morality when he declares, (John 5:39) “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me…” The Word of God exists to teach us about God’s salvation, redemption and blessing for all those in Christ.
Though true accounts of the lives of individuals and nations, Genesis and the stories of the Old Testament are primarily meant to convey to us the beauty of Jesus Christ and his life and ministry for the world. In fact, if one wants to understand New Testament teaching and Pauline theology, he or she must read Genesis theologically and doctrinally in a way that illuminates Christ, sin, salvation, and redemption.
Isn’t that what Paul and the other NT authors do throughout their letters? In Rom 9:6-8, Israel is the picture of all believers not just the physical descendants of Abraham. Jesus is Word of God in John 1 paralleling the Word of God in Genesis 1, in Hebrews the temple and the priesthood is a picture of Christ. In the gospels, The Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. Adam is the antetype of Christ, the one through whom redemption comes instead of death (Romans 5:12-17) (Rom. 5:17) “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” and so on and so on.
And this is how we have been reading Genesis for over a year now. Over the past few weeks we have seen how the search for a Bride for Isaac is really the search for a Bride for Christ, a bride of noble character. We have seen how election calls sinful people into covenant relationship as it is played out in the birth of Jacob and Esau as Romans 9:11-15 declares, “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’”
So if these are the glasses through which we look at the Scriptures, then what is the primary focus of this chapter? Isn’t this chapter, and this story about receiving the blessing, and more particularly about two types of people representative of Jacob and Esau – those who are blessed with everything the Father has to give (Jacob) and those who receive no blessing at all, but merely a declaration of their stubborn independence?
Let’s start by talking about those people who are represented by Esau. In the story he appears to be the one who is tricked out of what is rightfully his due, doesn’t he? Furthermore, he is pictured as the obedient and faithful son, who serves his father and does what is asked of him. In many respects Esau is alot like the older son in the Prodigal Son story. But the question, each of must ask is this, does obedience to the Father’s wish bring about God’s blessing? We feel like obedience should bring blessing, our sense of entitlement and justice demands that it should, but that isn’t the case in this story, in fact, the opposite appears to be true. The liar, swindler and cheat is blessed by God while the Esau is given nothing.
Esau cries out, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father” (Gen 27:38). But Isaac has declared that nothing else exists, the entire blessing has been given, there isn’t anything else to grant. We think Isaac’s answer is hard, don’t we? Why not bless Esau with joy or intelligence or something else, but again this is our way of trying to find the moral thing to do. It is our way of trying to balance our human sense of duty instead of recognizing the act of Isaac blessing Jacob as a portrait of God’s blessing of Christ and those in Christ. There is only one blessing, and as we will see this blessing is a forerunner of the blessing given to Christ and made available to us. This is instructive; the father gives all or nothing.
Because we read the story and always stop at the headings in our bible we miss some important information that is communicated in verse 41, (Gen. 27:41) “Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Though Esau looks great and even justified in his hatred, the simple truth revealed in these words and illustrated by his desire to kill his brother is that Esau is fundamentally no different than Jacob. They are both broken and sinful; neither son deserves the blessing of the father.
In fact, they both actually deserve the pronouncement that Esau gets, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck” (Gen 27:39-40). They deserve being called rebellious and being left in their rebellion. They are sinful and neither has the right to carry on the blessings promised to Abraham, which brings us back to Jacob. What Jacob receives is purely a pronouncement of grace and God’s sovereignty. He is blessed in spite of his cheating, trickery, and lies. We often read the story and think that Jacob’s actions are what guaranteed the blessing and his wily ways are what ultimately secured his destiny as the 3rd patriarch but that is again to miss reading the story in its full context. If you will remember back two weeks ago and Genesis 25, you will recall that Jacob’s position as the one to inherit the promises of Abraham was determined by God alone, who said to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other and the older will serve the younger” (Gen 25:23).
The truth of Genesis 27 is that in spite of all Jacob’s sin, in spite of all his unworthiness to receive the blessing of God, the Lord had determined that this sinner will be blessed. Contemplate the implications of this. It is staggering. God blesses a sinner! We don’t have to resort to ruses and charades to get the blessing, but God freely grants it to us in spite of who we are, because he has determined beforehand that we will be joined to his Son who is blessed.
As the Lord told Rebekah, the entire life story of Jacob and Esau is a story greater than these two men. It is a story of theological import for the world to grapple with. It is the story of God’s people and Satan’s people. It is a story of the redeemed that God has (Eph 1:3) “blessed…in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” There is nothing lacking in this blessing just as there was nothing lacking in the blessing given to Jacob. And it is the story of those who get nothing.
The one question that may be floating around in your mind right now after two weeks of talking about election and grace freely given is this:
Why strive to be good?
If my actions are irrelevant and God’s blessing is poured out on me irrespective of my actions, as you claim, then why not do whatever I want and reap the “blessings of the earth” as well as the blessings of heaven? Paul addresses this very question in Romans chapter 6. And I refer you there for a much fuller answer than I will present today. We should strive to be good, because as we read on in the Jacob narrative, we find a God who is at work in the one he has blessed. He is at work to refine him, to break him, to cripple him and to ultimately to make him fit for service in the kingdom to which he is an heir.
We strive to be good, not to get the blessing, nor even to keep the blessing but in order to see the blessing communicated to others in the best possible light. This is why we strive for goodness, so we can witness well, so we can love our neighbor and ultimately so we can display our love of God to the world. We are a people freely blessed by the Lord so that we can be a blessing to others.
What does all of this mean? In Christ, we become the smell of a field blessed by the Lord. We are the sweet smelling aromas of the fragrance of life (2Cor 2:16). Our prayers become fruitful and abundant, answered because they are the prayers of God’s spirit uttered through us. And so we pray not only for ourselves, but for our friends and our enemies, for those in government and those in the arts. We cry out for God’s redeeming Spirit to be unleashed upon the world in order that death may be beaten and life may rise up in its place.
What does all of this mean? In Christ, We gain the rich waters of heaven and the wonderful gifts of the earth. Heaven’s dew makes things bountiful; it waters dry ground so that the seed produces its fruit. Surely this is Christ, the water of life that wells up from inside bringing grace and love, mercy and compassion to a world in short supply of these qualities. We become bearers of God’s Holy Spirit and have God’s sustaining power poured out upon us, as Peter declares, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy…” (Acts 2:17-18). There is no limit to this Spirit, no partial bestowal, it is full and complete as Jacob declares to Esau, there is nothing left to give you, he has given everything and so we work to combat the idolatries of the age so that others may experience bounty too.
We gain the earth’s richness, the best the earth has to offer, an abundance of grain and new wine. Christ is the grain and wine on which we feed. In Christ, we will never lack what we need to live, we have the Lord Jesus himself but he also promises we will have our temporal needs as well saying, (Matt. 6:33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing and drink] will be given to you as well. But what else is considered the richness of the earth and the blessing of heaven? The Scripture regularly declares that children (Prov. 17:6) Children’s children are a crown to the aged… and that (Psa. 127:3) Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Not only will the blessed line of Jacob be given spiritual treasure but they will also be bountiful on the earth, either through the fruit of the womb or through the fruit of evangelism and preferably through both.
And this blessing of God poured out upon an undeserving people will culminate in strength and authority, derived not from ourselves but from our very position as people seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. You see after Ephesians 1 declares that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ, Paul goes on to name a number of these blessings:
- We are holy and blameless (1:4)
- We are adopted children (1:5)
- We are forgiven (1:7)
- We know the mystery of God’s will to bring everything together under Christ (1:10)
- We are sealed with the Spirit (1:13)
- We have the resurrection power of God at work in our body (1:19)
**Consider with me for a moment what each of these blessings from Ephesians mean. To be holy and blameless is another way of stating the relationship with God and his people is all right. Nothing stands in their way from entering into his presence. To be adopted children is to say that everything in the father’s house is available to us and at our disposal. To be forgiven means there is no longer any need to be embarrassed, to be afraid to fear retribution, for nothing stands between us and God for which we much give an account. To know God’s will is to be certain of the outcome of the future and the manner in which all things are to be consummated, and that means we can base our present decisions upon a guaranteed outcome in the ages to come. To be sealed with the Spirit is the assurance that we cannot be lost and that we are not alone but strengthened, guided and protected by God himself. And to have the resurrection power at work in our bodies is a statement of great import that we are more than conquerors. For in the great words of Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”** -àCan skip if time is needed!
And after all of that, as if that isn’t enough, Paul goes on to assure us that (Eph. 2:6) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…
If you were looking only for the moral of the story, you would miss the great theological richness of the text. Sure you might learn about the importance of not telling a lie to your father, but you would miss how The entire Jacob and Esau narrative is meant to assure the people of God that we don’t have to resort to ruses and charades in order to get God’s blessing, they have already been freely given to the sinner. Furthermore, there is nothing more to be gotten. Like Jacob, we possess everything when we are in Christ. And that is why Christ had to come in the first place, so that the bride he seeks would also be infinitely blessed, and that is a gospel worthy of Christmas!
- Read Genesis theologically not morally (John 5:39, Rom 5:17, Gal 4:21-31, Rom 9:11-15)
- Chapter’s Theme: Two types of people
- Those blessed with everything the father has to give (Gen 27:27-29, 37)
- Those who receive no blessing but a declaration of their stubbornness and rebellion (Gen 27:37, 39-40)
- Stubborn and Rebellious: We are all these people (Gen 27:38, 41, 25:23)
- Blessed in spite of our actions. (Gen 25:23, Eph 1:3, 2Cor2:16, acts 2:17-18, Matt 6:33, Prov 17:6, Ps 127:3, Eph 1, Rom 8:38-39, Eph 2:6)
- We are a Pleasing aroma
- We are fed by heaven’s dew
- We are provided for our earthly needs
- We lack Nothing – We are seated in the heavenly realms
- Implications of these blessings upon the righteous:
- We don’t have to resort to ruses and charades in order to get God’s blessing, they are freely given to the sinner
- Nothing more to get.
- Why strive to be good? (Rom 6)