By the time we get to Genesis 27, God is the obvious focal point of the Genesis story. He is mentioned in all but three of the chapters thus far. In this chapter, Jacob lies about God, and demands a blessing from God, but the scenes depicted are of a life that fairly well exclude God.
What was Isaac thinking?
Did Isaac know Esau had sold his birthright? When God said: “The elder (Esau) will serve the younger (Jacob), how did the parents understand that? Surely Esau understood he had traded his birthright. Why is he upset that Jacob receives the attendant blessing – upset enough to threaten murder? If Rebekah knew about the traded birthright, why is she scheming to get Jacob what is rightfully his? If she knew nothing about it, why is she scheming to take from her oldest son what rightfully belongs to him?
It is a story of ignored promises and ignored agreements, but mostly, it is a story about ignoring God. What a mess! No wonder God is silent.
Esau is pictured as a man who lived for the moment. Never mind the blessing of God (traded for a bowl of soup!). Never mind the will of God. Esau believed you could ignore both and still get his due. He was wrong.
In this third longest chapter in Genesis, Moses makes plain what all Israel needs to know: there is no blessing outside the people of the blessing, and the people of the blessing need to take their birthright seriously.
What a powerful message for Christians!
There are not multiple ways to God’s blessing. There is only one way: to be the people of the blessing. That is only accomplished through Jesus. To leave the people of the blessing is to leave the blessing, and to discount, trade, give or throw away the blessing is to lose it all. There is, really, nothing else.
The phrase that comes to mind reading chapter twenty-seven is “waiting to die.” Isaac became an old man quickly. When he was about a hundred, he was considered so old and feeble that the was expected to die any time. He expected it – that’s why he gave the blessing. Esau expected it (according to verse 41), and so he laid plans to kill Jacob. Rebekah expected it, so she sent Jacob away believing he would return soon (verse 45).
But Isaac didn’t die. He lives to be 180 years old.
No one knows the day of his death. All of us should live in full view of the truth that we will die, but we should continue to live each day until the final one comes. It is a pitiful scene when a person gives up on life, yet cannot die.
When God told Rebekah, “the older will serve the younger,” did she share that with Isaac? Did they share it with the boys? Did they understand that the second son was to have the birthright of the firstborn? Did the boys (men actually) share the details of their business deal?
No matter who knew what, Isaac was willing to take advantage of his older brother to get what he wanted. Esau was willing to kill his brother to get it back. Isaac was willing to ignore the will of God to bless the boy he loved most and Rebekah was willing to deceive her husband to secure the best for the son she loved most.
It’s a sordid story really. So what’s the point?
The great trust in God so evident in Abraham’s life was not automatically transferred to his children. It doesn’t happen with us either. Rather than try to transfer faith, we should try to encourage our children to cultivate their own faith. That way, the story of faith in our family’s life will not so easily die, but continue as each member comes to seek and prize a relationship with God. We seek not “the faith of our fathers,” but a faith “like” our father’s.