This morning I’ll be preaching the 16th message of “The Chosen Church” series. When the service is finished today, we’ll be exactly halfway through our extensive study of the Jewish patriarchs. I trust that you have been strengthened and edified by these sermons so far, and I look forward to preaching the later half of this series in the weeks to come.
Last week Isaac and his family were pushed out of the valley of Gerar by the Philistines. They moved to Beersheba, situated along the southern boundary of Canaan. Isaac’s servants dug another water well and they continued with their farming. The events that take place in today’s message happened while they were living in Beersheba. We are going to cover 2 chapters this morning, so buckle up...
I. DECEPTION (Gen. 27:1-29)
Isaac believed that his death was imminent, so he decided to go ahead and bless his eldest son Esau. The Bible reveals that Isaac didn’t actually die until after Jacob had returned from the land of Paddan-aram (Genesis 35:28-29) several decades later. Perhaps Isaac had become very sick, his eyesight had diminished greatly as a result, and he (and his family for that matter) truly thought that he was going to die. Thus he went forward with the blessing, only to later recover from his grave illness and live for many more years.
Isaac asked Esau to go hunting, to kill some savory game, and to prepare it for them to eat. Following the meal, Issac intended to give the blessing to his firstborn son Esau. Rebekah overheard their conversation and knew she must intervene. God had told her earlier that Jacob was to rule over Esau, not the other way around, and therefore Jacob needed to receive his father’s blessing (Genesis 25:23). So Rebekah devised a plan, and after Esau had left the house she sprung into action.
She quickly prepared a delicious meal, then disguised Jacob as his brother, and sent him in to his father pretending to be Esau. Rebekah dressed Jacob in Esau’s clothes and covered parts of his body with animal skins, hoping to fool her blinded husband Issac. Though Jacob usually gets the blame for this trickery and was responsible for going along with it, this whole episode was his mother Rebekah’s idea. In fact, Jacob was apprehensive and nervous about it because he didn’t want to get caught.
Having received some final instructions from Rebekah about what to say, Jacob tentatively approached his father Isaac posing as Esau. As they spoke, Isaac suspected that he was hearing Jacob’ voice. However, when he touched his skin and smelled his clothes, it seemed to be Esau. Finally Isaac asked directly, “Are you my son, Esau?” and Jacob outright lied by saying, “I am.” They then ate the food that had been prepared, and afterwards Isaac blessed Jacob, believing him to be Esau.
II. DISAPPOINTMENT (Gen. 27:30-45)
Having received the blessing, Jacob departed just as Esau was returning from his hunt. Esau prepared the game he’d killed and brought it in to his father Isaac. When Esau arrived and began to speak, Isaac realized that he’d been deceived. He explained to Esau that he’d already mistakenly given the blessing to Jacob, and that it couldn’t be revoked. Esau was devastated and begged his father to bless him also. So Issac blessed Esau with a lesser blessing, but it didn’t soothe away Esau’s heartbreak and disappointment.
Esau was furious. He vowed in his heart to kill Jacob for this treachery. That said, he didn’t want to do it while Isaac was still living. Believing that his father was near death, Esau decided to wait. In the meantime, Rebekah found out about Esau’s murderous plan. She urged Jacob to flee to her brother Laban’s house and stay there temporarily, until Esau’s anger subsided. Rebekah shrewdly approached her husband Issac and asked him to send Jacob away to find a bride from among their relatives, an endeavour which would serve 2 purposes - securing Jacob a proper marriage while also keeping him safe.
Although Rebekah and Jacob both acted deceptively, they were not the only ones at fault. Esau had traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:27-34) and was, therefore, not entitled to receive the blessing of the firstborn. The birthright and the blessing went together. Esau knew this to be true, yet conveniently chose not to share it with his father. It was Esau, in fact, who was trying to steal the blessing that he’d foolishly ceded to Jacob. Esau had forfeited his claim to Isaac’s blessing. Yes, Jacob and his mother could have been more transparent and forthcoming with Isaac. Nevertheless, their actions brought about God’s will - Jacob was the son of promise.
III. DEPARTURE (Gen. 28:1-9)
So Isaac sent Jacob away to Paddan-aram, the home of his maternal grandfather. He was instructed to marry one of his uncle Laban’s daughters. Before he left, Isaac again blessed Jacob. He conferred upon him the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, thereby formally designating him as the chosen son. Though Jacob had deceived him earlier, apparently Isaac now realized that this all had taken place in accordance with God’s plan. This time around he knowingly blessed Jacob, the younger son, without any reservation.
Esau saw that his father Isaac had sent Jacob away to a distant place to take a wife from among their own relatives. Esau realized that his marriages to pagan Canaanite women were displeasing to his parents (Genesis 26:34-35). So Esau, perhaps trying to mimic his brother, went to his uncle Ishmael’s house and married his daughter Mahalath. Though he sought to emulate his brother Jacob, it was too late. His status in the family was already lost.
IV. DREAM (Gen. 28:10-22)
So Jacob left Beersheba and started northward toward Haran, the city of his mother Rebekah’s family. He stopped at a certain place along the way to spend the night and placed a stone under his head for a pillow. As he slept, Jacob had a dream about a ladder stretching from the earth all the way into Heaven. He saw angels climbing up and down this ladder. Then the LORD spoke to him and extended the 3 major promises of the Abrahamic covenant - to give Jacob and his descendants the land of Canaan, to multiply them innumerably, and to bless the entire world through them. God also pledged to protect and guide Jacob personally.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he was completely blown away. According to the Biblical record, this was his first encounter with God. He set the stone up (that he’d used for a pillow) as a monument and poured oil on it. He named the place Bethel, which means “house of God”. Jacob vowed to faithfully follow and serve the LORD if He’d protect Him on his journey and bring him home safely. Jacob shouldn’t have placed conditions on his obedience like this, but he was still young and immature in his faith. Though his words were misguided, who among us has never sought to “make a deal” with God? Perhaps we should give him a break...
As we wrap-up today’s sermon, let me focus our attention on Jacob’s dream about the ladder. Some translations call it a stairway. The image of “Jacob’s Ladder” or a “Stairway to Heaven” has been adopted and used in modern times. Most Bible scholars interpret the ladder metaphorically or symbolically. It represents the bridge or connection between God and man which makes a saving relationship possible. Ultimately this ladder is a picture of Jesus Christ, through whom God demonstrates His love for the world and through whom sinners have access to the Father. Hallelujah!