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Gen 24-26: Sovereign in the Details Print E-mail
Monday, 16 January 2006

How do we define the sovereignty of God according to the Scriptures?  Most of us would agree that the Bible teaches that God is sovereign.  We have no problem recognizing that as one of His characteristics.  Yet, acknowledging the word and knowing what it means are two different things.  Agreeing on the concept does us no good if we do not agree on how the concept is defined.

As with all the characteristics of God, we must look to the Scriptures in order to understand them and rightly define them.  Even as we saw a couple of weeks ago, Godís justice is not something defined outside of God.  Rather, we believe the text when it says that He is just and we let the text teach us what true justice is by watching God act.  In the same way, we must believe the text when it says that God is sovereign and we must learn from the text what true sovereignty is.

In looking to Scripture to define the characteristics of God, we must not limit ourselves to simply one text.  Rather, we try to identify what the Bible is revealing to us in whole about God.  We take each text and learn what it reveals to us about God and attempt to pull the texts together to better understand Godís revelation of Himself.  Even in the first 23 chapters of the Bible we have already learned much about God, including, but not limited to, the fact that He is the creator and sustainer of the universe, He is relational and loving towards man, He is judge and will justly deal with the sin and rebellion of man, He is merciful, graceful, wrathful, holy, and sovereign over everything.

Our passage this morning deals with the passing of Abraham and the life of Isaac.  It includes the most detailed story in the book of Genesis, namely the securing of Rebekah to be Isaacís wife.  It also includes the birth of Jacob and Esau, whose stories will be the focal point of the next few chapters of the book.  In all of this narrative, Moses shows us Godís providential hand in the life of Isaac.  He helps us answer the question, ĎJust how far does Godís sovereignty extend?í  Thus, I simply want to break up our text into two major sections, chapter 24 and chapters 25-26, to look at Godís display of His sovereignty in the life of Isaac.

God sovereignly provides a wife for Isaac (ch. 24).

The giving of a wife to Isaac is done as a fulfillment of Godís promise to Abraham.  As we read a moment ago, Abraham believes in Godís promise to give the land of Canaan to his descendents.  Look at what He says again in verse 7.  Thus, we see Abrahamís trust in Godís faithfulness to provide a wife for his son.

Yet, Abraham does not dismiss manís responsibility in the matter.  Look at verse 8.  Abraham acknowledges manís responsibility while trusting in Godís sovereignty.  Even if we stopped here, we already learn a great lesson about God and his relation to man.  We are to firmly believe in God and his sovereignty knowing that it does not negate the responsibility of man.  This is a truth that we will see again and again in the text.  Yet, the text does not end here.

Beginning in verse 10, the story then moves to Abrahamís servant going to find a wife for Isaac in the city of Nahor, Abrahamís brother.  The amazing thing in the rest of the story is the attention to detail that is displayed.  We are told of the servants prayer for success on his mission and how he will distinguish among the women (v. 10-14).  Then we are told that Rebekah did exactly what the servant was looking for and so he asked to be taken back to her house (v. 15-28).  Once at her home, we read of the servant telling Rebekahís family who he is, why he has come, and how the Lord has made it clear that Rebekah is the one to whom Isaac is to be married (v. 29-49).  After dealing with Laban and the rest of Rebekahís family, Rebekah agrees to go with the servant and we are told of the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah (v. 50-67).  In all of this attention to detail we are shown Godís sovereign hand over providing a wife for Isaac.

Let me just highlight how the characters in this chapter respond to Godís sovereignty.  We have already mentioned Abrahamís trust in verse 7.  Look at the servantís prayer in verse 12.  Here he asks for Godís providential hand to guide him in choosing a wife for Isaac.  I should note that asking God for signs is not a practice that is picked up in the New Testament.  We still look to His providential hand to guide our steps, as with Proverbs 3:5-6, but we are not encouraged to necessarily look for signs all the time.  Even here this is a unique situation in the history of Redemption.  After the servant meets Rebekah and she fulfills his requirements, look how he responds in verses 26-27.  He acknowledges that God has directed his steps and has providentially made him successful in finding Abrahamís family.  Even when Rebekahís family tries to keep him from leaving with Rebekah, notice how he credits the Lord with prospering his journey in verse 56.  In all this and even the other details that we did not mention, we see Abraham and his servant trusting in the Lordís sovereignty over all their lives.

God sovereignly blesses the life of Isaac (ch. 25-26).

In chapter 25:1-18, we are told of the end of the life of Abraham.  The author tells us of Abrahamís other sons by Keturah and gives us their descendents and the descendents of Ishmael as well (see 12-18).  Although it is hard to know for certain, it would seem that these sons were born to Abraham before the birth of Isaac.  I say this because if they were born after Isaac, then they would have been more of a miracle than Isaac was.  Thus, it seems that they, along with Ishmael were born before Isaac.  Yet, I want us to notice that the blessing comes to Isaac, the child of promise.  Look at verse 11.  Abraham in his kindness gives gifts to the other sons, but Isaac is given special blessing by God.  In the rest of this chapter and the next we will see this blessing of Isaac played out.  God in His sovereignty does not bring the blessing upon the first born sons but rather upon Isaac.  We see this repeated in the blessing that comes to Jacob over Esau.

After Ishmaelís descendents, we are told of the birth of Esau and Jacob.  According to the text, Rebekah was not able to conceive and have a child.  Yet, Isaac prayed for her for 20 years and the Lord finally gave them twins.  Look at 25:21.  Even this, as we have seen before and as we will see again, teaches us that God is sovereign over life for He is the author of life.

Yet, the story shifts again and we are told of twins who are struggling in their motherís womb.  Not only that, but we are told that the older shall serve the younger.  Look at verse 23.  Paul will pick up on this in Romans 9:10-13 and talk about Godís sovereignty in choosing to bless Jacob rather than Esau.  We are not given all the answers in this passage, but we must conclude with Paul that God is revealing his sovereign purposes in the lives of Jacob and Esau.  We will see this play out next week as we look at chapter 27 and following.  Almost as foreshadowing as to what will happen and how Jacob will be blessed and Esau will not, we are told of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob in 25:29-34.

In chapter 26, we are given some of the details of the life of Isaac.  God promises to Isaac the same blessings that He promised to his father Abraham, namely the land of Canaan and numerous descendents.  We are then told of Isaacís dealings with Abimelech.  Of course it is hard to miss the similarities between Isaacís and Abrahamís dealings with this pagan king.  Both of them lie to him about their wives because they are afraid.  Both of them get called out for their deception.  And both of them receive Godís grace by protecting their wives from being involved with other men.  God used a dream with Abraham to warn Abimelech and simply uses a providential circumstance with Isaac.  Nevertheless, both of these are Godís sovereign hand of protection over the lives of the patriarchs. 

As the chapter continues, we see God over and over again blessing Isaacís life.  He is constantly able to find water no matter where goes.  In fact, the Lord prospers him so much that eventually Abimelech and his men conclude that he is simply the blessed of the Lord.  Look at 26:26-29.  God blessed Isaac so much that even the pagan men around him recognized Godís blessing.  Of course Godís blessing did not mean that it was always easy for Isaac.  We are told of his constant struggles with the men over water and land.  Also, the chapter concludes with the account of Esau taking foreign wives, a situation which caused much stress in Isaac and Rebekahís life (see 26:34-35).  Yet, the sovereign blessing of the Lord in the life of Isaac is unmistakable.

I know our text this morning covers a lot of narrative, but let me conclude with a few lessons for us.  First, we need to trust God in all the details.  It is one thing to say that God is sovereign, it is quite another to trust him to meet our needs on a day to day basis.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6?  25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  Isaacís life is an example of such providential care and Jesus promises us that God will care for us in the same way.  Thus, trust Him with all the details, with the big stuff and the small stuff.

Second, we need to expand our view of Godís control.  I asked at the beginning of the sermon, ĎJust how far does Godís sovereignty extend?í  I think we see so clearly in the life of Isaac and the lives of the other patriarchs that Godís sovereignty extends over everything.  There is not anything that comes to pass that is not guided by our sovereign Lord.  There are times when this truth can be difficult and hard to understand (as with evil and suffering).  Yet, there are times when it is one of the most comforting doctrines that the Bible reveals to us.  I donít know why the Lord allowed me to have diabetes, I donít know why He has prevented us from having children at this point, I donít know why so many that I love and care about do not know Him.  But I do know this: He is in control and He is good.  Therefore, I can trust Him.

Third, we must realize that God is still guiding His plan of redemption, even in our lives.  Sure we may not have signs and glaring miracles and 100 year old fatherís, but we do have a promise.  God is preparing His people, namely all those who have repented of their sins and believed in Jesus Christ, for glorification.  Currently, He is using His Word and His people, by the power of the Spirit to conform us more and more into the image of His Son.  Indeed, we can say with the servant that the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac is the Father of Jesus Christ our Lord and He is guiding our steps and granting success to our journey.  May the passage this morning lead us to even more hope in what God is doing in our lives.  He is in control and He is good.  Therefore, you can trust Him.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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