Déjà vu All Over Again
With the death of Abraham and his burial in the Promised Land (Gen. 25:7-11), his part in the story of redemption comes to an end. Abraham fought the good fight and persevered to the end, and the torch passed on to his descendants. In the last part of Genesis 25, therefore, we move into a new era, marked by the formula ‘These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son’ (Gen. 25:19). Here the story begins of Isaac and Rebekah and of their sons Jacob and Esau. This is the story of the next generation, those who are assigned the task of following in the shadow of greatness. How will they measure up to the spiritual legacy they have inherited from their father?
The Bible is not particularly flattering to those whose lives it records: the account is faithful, warts and all. Earlier, we saw that there were quite a few ups and down in the life of Abraham, the great man of faith. But at least Abraham had some ups. The few events recorded of Isaac’s life are mostly downs, and Jacob is no great hero, especially in his early life. They do not begin to live up to the pattern set for them by their spiritual forefather.
However, ‘There should be great encouragement here for those of us who are all too aware of our shortcoming,’ writes Iain Duguid in his book Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. He continues:
“Has God called you to perform tasks for which you feel totally inadequate? Cheer up! You are almost certainly right in your assessment. In yourself, you do not have the power to do what God is asking you to do. I become daily more aware of my assorted weaknesses, failings, and sins, and I marvel that God could nonetheless use someone like me in ministry. But our God delights in writing straight with a crooked pencil. He specializes in using clay pots in which to store his treasure. The reason for this strategy is simple. His strength is most abundantly seen in our weakness, and his glory becomes most apparent when he uses the most insignificant and flawed people to bring about his wonderful purposes (2 Cor. 4:7).
This principle is crystal clear in the lives of Isaac and Jacob. We will see time and time again how God in his grace and for his glory overrules the weakness and sinfulness of his chosen instruments. Duguid notes that step by step, God was continuing to fulfill his promise to Abraham to turn a small family into a mighty nation (Gen. 15:5). He concludes: “There is substantial progress toward the goal of God’s plan in these chapters. But from the outset of their journey to the Promised Land, it is to be made clear to Israel – as it should also be clear to us – that the gospel triumphs not through might or through human goodness but through God’s relentless grace.”
This compact preview of The Life and Times of Isaac (with its focus on his son Jacob), ‘teaches us about God and man in a frankly earthy, morally unedifying story,’ writes Kent Hughes. Who then notes,
“The moral lessons that are here do not come from observing the moral virtues of Jacob or Esau, but from their faults. Jacob and Esau together dramatize the human predicament. Both the elect and the non-elect are hopelessly self-centered and incapable by themselves of doing consistent good. Jacob is a scheming, Machiavellian figure, and Esau is a free spirit who lives for his appetites.
“Along with this we see that God’s grace is not subject to our expectations, much less cultural conventions. God is sovereign. His grace cannot be tamed. In fact, the uninformed heart may well find the exercise of God’s grace to be scandalous, even infamous. But to those of faith it is a mysterious, blessed infamy.”
I hope you can join us in worship this Lord’s Day as we go back to the book of Genesis to look at the gospel in the lives of Isaac and Jacob. This week our text is Genesis 25:19-34 which portrays how sin distorts the family, yet God’s purposes prevail.
By His Grace,