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Gen 27:1-29:30: Our Weakness Highlights His Mercy Print E-mail
Monday, 23 January 2006

A dark night of dread and fear often highlights the glory of the morning sun.  It is in the darkest of places, under the darkest of skies, where the moon and the stars shine the brightest.  Sometimes we must learn to recognize the darkness in order to appreciate the light.

This is also true with Godís relationship with man.  One of the amazing truths of the Bible is that God would have anything at all to do with us.  We are wicked, rebellious people, full of pride and arrogance, deceit and mockery.  We have gazed upon the unmistakable truth of the existence of God, as seen in ourselves and in all of creation (see Romans 1), and walked away with nothing but doubt and denial.  As the church, those who have been redeemed from such sinful rebellion, we have concluded that we can build the Kingdom more efficiently with our own strategies and programs rather than the faithful proclamation of the gospel and faithful obedience to Godís Word.  We have pushed our own agendas and our own reputations and our own glory, forgetting that before Christ we were nothing more than objects of wrath (see Ephesians 2).  Indeed, how is it that God would have anything at all to do with us?

Yet, all of this, all of the sin, all of the rebellion, all of the wickedness, serves to highlight the unbelievable graciousness of our God.  Over and over again He gives us what we do not deserve, namely forgiveness to cover over our multitude of sins.  Not that we sin on purpose to attract attention to His grace, no Paul forbids that in Romans 6, but as we do sin and fail to be a faithful people, we are reminded again and again of Godís mercy in our lives.

We see Godís mercy being highlighted in this way in our passage this morning.  As we look at this text together, I simply want to point out this overwhelming contrast between manís sin and Godís mercy.  We will begin with manís sin.

The continuing evidence of the depravity of man, even in the lives of Godís people

Just for a moment, consider all the different characters with me from our passage and notice their wickedness.

First, consider Isaac.  Look at 27:1-4 with me again.  Isaac has a plan to bless Esau and not Jacob.  He tells Esau to go and kill some game for him and to make him a delicious meal as he loves.  He tells him that he will bless him after he does this.  Of course the problem with this is two fold: first, Isaac is being led by his stomach and his love of Esau is closely connected with Esauís ability to make him food (look at 25:28), second, Isaac is forgetting what the Lord had told them while the twins were in Rebekahís womb (look at 25:23).  God had told them that the older would serve the younger, but Isaac was smitten with Esau and his delicious game.  Thus, he sets out to do his own thing.  Even today, we often are distracted by our senses and stomachís and in our lust to meet these desires we set ourselves against the purposes of God.  This is rebellion and sin.

Second, consider Rebekah and Jacob.  Even though Isaac plans to bless Esau in secret, Rebekah overhears and decides to deceive Isaac.  She tells Jacob to get meat from the flocks and they plan to thwart Isaacís plans.  Although in some ways it could be argued that they are going after the right thing, namely Isaacís blessing on Jacob.  Yet, do not miss the fact that they are using deception and Isaacís apparent blindness to take advantage of him.  Thus, the ends do not justify the means.  And if you still do not see the wickedness in their actions, look at 27:20 with me.  This is a clear example of taking the Lordís name in vain in order to deceive someone.  It is using Godís name to gain access and trust through a lie.  Obviously, there is so much wrong with these actions.  Godís name is not to be used to gain position or notoriety.  Jacob will later learn the sting of deception with his marriage of Leah and Rachel (see 29:1-30).

Esau, as well, is no innocent victim.  We have already seen from our passage last week that his struggle is similar to his fatherís.  He sold Jacob his birthright for a bowl of soup, and now that decision comes back to haunt him as he looses his fatherís blessing as well.  When he finds out what has happened he responds with weeping and much mourning, but the author of Hebrews tells us that it is too late (as we read to begin our service).  Then in 28:6-9, Esau makes the rash move of marrying an Ishmaelite in order to please his father and make up for his marriage to the Hittite women.  Yet, even this is too little too late.  This serves to remind us that even though there is forgiveness for sins that does not mean that God removes all consequences.  Esau now must face the consequences of his poor decisions.

In chapter 29 we see that justice is served to Jacob for his deception.  Laban, who we have met before when Abrahamís servant went to get Rebekah for Isaac, acts maliciously towards Jacob and his own daughters.  He first asks Jacob to work for him for seven years to gain Rachel and then he gives him Leah.  After that, he makes him work another seven years to have Rachel.  Although we can see this deception as just in the life of Jacob, it is still wickedness on the part of Laban.  Of course the amazing thing is that through this deception Jacob marries Leah.  One of Leahís sons will be Judah.  It is through the line of Judah that Christ will come.

Even though our text for this morning ends at 29:30, throughout the rest of the book of Genesis (and the whole Bible) we will continue to see this pattern of wickedness and rebellion in men, even in the lives of Godís chosen people.  Even next week we will look at the struggle of Rachel and Leah.  Yet, we point this out so that we can be honest with ourselves.  We are not his people because we are good or worthy, anymore than Isaac or Jacob or Leah or Judah.  No we are all wicked people who are simply desperate for God and His mercy which He so graciously provides in our lives.  Thus, letís focus now on Godís mercy in the lives of these people in our text.

The continuing evidence of Godís mercy and blessing highlighted by manís depravity
The blessings that were promised to Abraham will come to Jacob.  Look at 28:10-15 with me.  God comes to Jacob through a dream as he is traveling toward Haran.  Jacob sees a ladder, or a flight of steps, that is a connecting point between heaven and earth, and he sees angels passing back and forth on this ladder.  Then the Lord speaks to Jacob.  He tells him that He will give him numerous offspring and that they will possess the land of Canaan.  He tells him that through him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.  The Lord promises to go with him and bring him back safely to the land of his father.  In this we see the promise that was given to Abraham passing through Isaac and now coming to Jacob.

But do you remember what Jacob has just done to his father?  Do you remember his deception and his taking the name of the Lord in vain?  Could this be that same Lord now blessing Jacob and promising him land and descendents and protection?  How could God do this?  How could a holy, just God treat such a wicked man in this way?

As we have said before and as we say over and over again throughout the Old Testament, it is these questions that push us to Christ.  As Paul will say in Romans 3, it appears that God is merely passing over these sins and not doing anything about them.  As we read our text this morning that makes sense.  Is God just passing over the sins of Jacob and doing nothing about them?  No, Paul makes clear in that same passage that Christ dies on the cross to display Godís justice in the justification and forgiveness of wicked men.  We can say it this way, the reason why God can forgive Jacob and promise him such great blessings is because of the cross.  It is the cross that keeps this text from being a total mockery of Godís justice.  God is not taking sin lightly.  He is not just turning His back and paying no attention.  No, the sins of Adam, the sins of Noah, the sins of Abraham, the sins of Isaac, the sins of Jacob, the sins of David will all be paid for at the cross.

Along the way, we will see these saints Ďget ití at times.  On certain occasions they will recognize the mercy and blessing that God has placed on their lives.  Although Jacob will continue to struggle, as his father and his fatherís father continued to do, look at how he responds with worship in this instance.  Look at 28:16-22.  Jacob gets the fact that he has just encountered the living God and lived.  He calls the place awesome and is afraid, indeed, an appropriate response to the living God.  Just a side note, it would do us good to read of the saints in the Old Testament and pay particular attention to how they approach God in worship.  There is a fear, a reverence, a recognition that they have no right to come before God.  We often come to church thinking that we have done God a favor or thinking that somehow God owes us now because we gotten ourselves out of bed and given Him a couple hours of our week that we could have easily spent on leisure.  Oh church, rather, may we, even as we sang a moment ago, stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.  May we marvel at the fact that God would even let us come before Him in worship and adoration.  May we tremble at the truth that the God we worship is nothing less than a consuming fire.

In the end, it is only the grace that we have received through Jesusí work on the cross that allows us to come before such a God.  We like Jacob, like Isaac, like Abraham are only here by grace.  Take away the cross and we are nothing but a heap wicked sinners who justly deserve to be consumed by the fire of Godís wrath.  But, as Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5, God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation though our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him (v. 9-10).  This is what is so profoundly amazing about the cross: God justly has forgiven sinful and wicked men and has called them to be His people through faith in His Son.  All the mercy of God that we have received, that the Old Testament saints received, and that the Church of Christ has received and will continue to receive, was bought with the blood of Christ.  Jacob is blessed because Christ will be cursed in his place.  Brothers and sisters, we are blessed because Christ has been cursed in our place.

It is amazing to me that Moses is so honest.  Think about it, I mean, it sure seems that Moses could have fudged a little here and there to make the patriarchís look better.  Why not cut out all the deception, all the lust, all the pride, all the taking the Lordís name in vain, and just give us a pretty picture of our forefathers?  Why not?  At least two reasons.  First, because it is simply not real.  These characters in Genesis were sinful, wicked people that God showed great mercy to based on the death of Christ.  Again, church we are the same way.  We must stop pretending that we are not sinners, that we are not wicked, that we are not in need of the cross.  Can we not at least be as honest as Moses with one another.  Surely we are tired of lying to each other.  ĎOh, everything is fine,í we say, Ďjust walking with the Lord and never struggling with sin.í  Church we must be willing to break through the veneer, we must be willing to admit to one another our struggle with sin, we must stop acting as if we have got all we need of forgiveness and the cross.  Not so that we can be alright with our sin, but so we can come together to the cross of Jesus Christ, throwing everything we are at His feet and laboring to battle, by His grace, for holiness in our own lives and in the lives of one another.  We cannot begin this until we admit that there is a need, until we are as honest as Moses.

Second, I think Moses is honest because it paints a clear picture of the grace of our God.  None of these people deserve Godís blessing, that is exactly what makes it grace.  As we look around at one another and as we look deep into our own souls, we must freely admit that but for the grace of God we would be hopeless sinners, justly deserving the wrath of God.  Grace will never be amazing as long as we think we deserve it.  But when we come to the dark moment of clarity, when the horribleness of our sin and rebellion against a holy God comes crashing down on us with all itís weight, and we are pressed to the very limit of humility and the very absence of self worth, it is then and only then, that the piercing ray of Godís grace will burst forth in our lives and our darkness with all of itís glory and greatness.  It is then that we will find ourselves at the foot of the cross, bowing as low as we can, begging Christ to use us and spend us on His glory alone.  Brothers and sisters may we take an honest look at ourselves this morning, as honest as Moses, and may it drive us to the arms of so great a Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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