************ Sermon on Genesis 25:19-22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 7, 2013
Do you ever look at the adventures of Charley Brown in the Peanuts cartoon strip? Linus and Lucy have a little brother who goes by the name of Rerun. What an odd name! Rerun. What if David & Linda gave that name to little Alexander. Rerun. I suspect the name comes from Lucy. She wanted a baby sister and ended up with another brother, a rerun.
To a certain extent, Ruth and I and Linda's family see Alexander as Rerun. When Ruth and I look at Alexander we see David, and Linda, and their parents. In many ways our children and grandchildren are a rerun; their ways, attributes, skills, strengths, weaknesses, interests, passions, habits, and expressions are often a rerun of our own.
Isaac was, in the fullest sense of the phrase, a chip off the old block, a rerun. In fact, the few events of his life that Scripture records for us are a great deal like his father's life.
First, there was the same problem of a barren wife, threatening the fulfilment of God's promise of numerous seed (Gen 25:21). Then, like his father before him, he was faced with famine. God's promised land seemed unable to support him, and he had to decide whether to stay there or go, like Abraham, in the direction of Egypt and its green pastures. In that situation of weakness, Isaac encountered the same temptation faced by Abraham to pass off his wife as his sister in order to protect his life (Gen 26:1-11). Like Abraham, he was involved in quarreling over a well between his herdsmen and those of Abimelech (Gen 26:12-35). Rerun.
Let's look at Isaac and the events of his life from a more spiritual point-of-view. When we do we see that Isaac and Rebekah are covenantally faithful. And, as baptism reminds us, we see that God's faithfulness extends to the next generation.
I Isaac is Faithful
A Take note of how the account of Isaac starts: "This is the account of Abraham's son Isaac. Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah ..." (Gen 25:19). Isn't this strange? It is the account of Isaac but the actual listing of the generations starts with Abraham, Isaac's father. Where we expect to find the names of Isaac's children, we are instead told about Isaac's father. I repeat, isn't this strange?
We believe every word and phrase of the Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God. So, we believe the wording of this account is no accident. What is the point? Why is Abraham being emphasized in the account of Isaac? Abraham is being emphasized because the Lord God Almighty made a covenant with him and his descendants after him. We are being directed towards the covenant, the covenant promises, the covenant obligations. We are being reminded that Isaac is the covenant heir.
Isaac is the covenant heir. Meaning that God's promise of Christ, of the seed of the woman Who someday will crush Satan's head, is coming through both Abraham and Isaac. Meaning that the covenant blessings of life, land, and descendants promised to Abraham are now extended to Isaac as well (cf Gen 25:11).
B After being reminded of Abraham and the covenant, we are also reminded that Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. However, just like Sarah before her, Rebekah was barren (Gen 11:30; 25:21). Furthermore, like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah were brushing against the problem of old age because after twenty years there still were no children.
Earlier in Genesis 25 we read about the six sons and their heirs that Keturah bore to Abraham (Gen 25:2-4). Then we are told about the twelve sons of Ishmael who are also twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps (Gen 25:13-15). Next to them is Isaac with no children.
Isaac and Rebekah know that God's covenant promises of the seed of the woman, of life, of land, of descendants require a promised heir in order to be fulfilled.
C What does Isaac do during this time that is one of the most difficult trials a married couple will ever face? Isaac does what all believers must do: he prays to his Father in heaven. His prayer is remarkable for both its intensity and its duration. The Hebrew for Isaac's intercession is the same intense word Pharaoh uses when he begs Moses to pray to the Lord to stop sending the plagues to Egypt (Ex 8:8); Isaac also likely offered costly sacrifices to the Lord as he prayed (cf Zeph 3:10). Moreover, Isaac did not stop praying when Rebekah's womb was not immediately opened. He continued on his knees for twenty years before his wife conceived (cf Gen 25:21,26). Isaac threw himself and Rebekah upon the mercy and grace of the one, true God upon Whom the covenant blessings to Abraham rested.
Rebekah's piety and godliness is also evident. The twins growing within her jostled each other. Literally, they "smashed together." This caused her great pain and discomfort. So, she prays to the Lord in order to find out why this is happening to her (Gen 25:22).
D One thing stands out immediately: Isaac and Rebekah are a godly covenant family. We especially see that when we compare Isaac and Rebekah to Abraham and Sarah. How do Abraham and Sarah respond when they are not blessed with children? They take matters into their own hands. They act as if God needed their help to keep His promises. Remember what they did? They tried to make Eliezer of Damascus their heir; that was attempt number one (Gen 15:2). Attempt number two was the whole, sad, miserable story of Hagar and Ishmael (Gen 16). Attempt number three was a request to bless Ishmael (Gen 17:18). Attempt number four was no attempt at all; rather, it was the laughter of unbelief (Gen 17:17; 18:12). It took Abraham and Sarah more than twenty five years before they learned to take God at His Word.
In comparison to Abraham, Isaac prays. For twenty years he prays. What an extraordinary act of faith during a time of great distress. Their distress must have been great. No doctors, no advanced medicine, no in-vitro fertilization, no other alternatives – only waiting. Do they give up because it seems God doesn't hear, doesn't care, or is unable to act?
Jude tells us what the Christian's response ought to be. He writes,
(Jude 1:20-21) But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (21) Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.That's exactly what Isaac and Rebekah did. They built themselves up in the faith, they prayed in the Holy Spirit, and they kept themselves in the love of God. In doing so, Isaac and Rebekah were covenant keepers. They kept and honored the covenant that God had made with Abraham and then with them.
E We learn two things from Isaac and Rebekah. First, we learn from their example of covenant faithfulness.
Our children and grandchildren learn so much from our example. Maybe too much. Hopefully, as baptism reminds us, they can look to us and see examples of covenant faithfulness. Hopefully they can look to us and see examples they can follow. Hopefully they can look to us and see people who love and serve the Lord Jesus. Because that's what Isaac and Rebekah were doing.
Second, Isaac and Rebekah show us that we must persevere in earnest prayer and not lose heart. It can be easy for us to get discouraged when we have prayed for years and it seems that God has not intervened in our situation. We can be tempted to give up.
One of the most important things that parents and grandparents can do for their children is to pray for them. This is one of the implications of the promises we make at baptism. So, David & Linda, never stop praying for Alexander. Never stop praying for the salvation of his soul and body. Never stop praying for his eternal well-being. Never stop praying that the Lord Jesus will bless him.
Stay on your knees, congregation, for the salvation of souls and other needs, for the Lord works in prayer even when we cannot see it. Follow the route of Isaac and Rebekah rather than the route of Abraham and Sarah. I challenge you to be faithful in prayer.
II God is Faithful
A God promised Isaac the seed of the woman, life, land, and descendants. But Rebekah was infertile.
Do you think Isaac wondered to himself: Will God be true to His Word and His promises? Can God fulfill His promises or does He need our help – like Abraham tried to do so often? Can we trust God completely in the issues of life? Can we believe in His promises? Does He hear and answer prayer?
Perhaps you find yourself walking in the sandals of Abraham and Isaac. You have trusted God completely for your salvation in Christ, but you are not so sure about trusting Him with the day-to-day concerns of life. How are you to find a wife or a husband? How do you go about getting a job? How are you to behave in a difficult situation that faces you at work or in a relationship? How are you to raise and educate your children? Our faith is daily put to a multitude of tests.
Of course, when there is a gap between promise and reality, Satan immediately whispers deceptive shortcuts. He enticed Lot to live in the Jordan River Valley even though wicked Sodom was there. The result was disaster as Lot lost his wife, his wealth, and the purity of his daughters. For Abraham and Sarah, as the years of waiting dragged on, Satan presented the shortcut of Hagar as a way to have the promised child. This result, too, was disaster for all the parties involved.
B We don't know whether or not Isaac questioned God and His ways. But we do know the end result: "The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant" (Gen 25:21).
All of our questions about God are answered. Is the Lord faithful to His promises? YES! Does the Lord hear prayer? YES! Does God need our help? NO! Can we trust God completely? YES! Should we follow Satan's shortcuts? NO!
C "The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant" (Gen 25:21). Conception follows prayer. Telling us what? That children are not first of all a human creation and possession but a gift and blessing from the Lord. As the psalmist puts it,
(Ps 127:3) Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.Rebekah's pregnancy was God's gift as a faithful and loving Father.
(Cf Ps 128:1, 3-6)
D In so many situations the choice that faces us is essentially the same as that which faced the patriarchs: believe God OR follow Satan's deceptive shortcuts.
The text makes it sound so easy, doesn't it? Isaac prayed and the Lord gave him a child. But, remember, his prayer was intense and it was repetitious. Year after year went by, and nothing seemed to be happening. But they kept on praying. They had learned from Abraham and Sarah that God can be trusted. There was no Hagar for them. Satan's shortcuts were of no interest to Isaac and Rebekah. They believed God and were willing to leave the outcome to Him.
Surely this was an important lesson for the original audience of Genesis, the wilderness generation, who stood with Moses on the brink of the Promised Land. Would the God Who had done great things for their fathers also do great things for them? Would the God Who led their fathers out of Egypt and through the Red Sea lead them to victory in Canaan? The answer was that they could count on God just as Isaac could count on God. The God Who was with Abraham and Isaac and their fathers would also be with them.
Believe God, congregation, even when it doesn't seem to work because the Lord always hears and answers prayer. Be faithful to the God of the covenant because in Christ He always shows Himself faithful to us.
God made promises to Abraham. God made promises to Isaac. And, as baptism shows us, God in Christ makes promises to us and our children. Abraham and Sarah waited twenty five years. Isaac and Rebekah waited for twenty years. After forty five years all that Abraham can see is one son of promise and one grandson to be his heir since he did not actually die until after Jacob and Esau were born (Gen 21:5; 25:7,26).
Here is a reminder that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (Mk 4:30-32). It does not come in all its fullness all at once. Instead, it starts small, like a seed, and slowly grows to shelter all who seek refuge in Christ.
The slow advance of the promised line of the woman will produce the great kingdom promised to Abraham. That is God's promise. In the meantime, we need to wait. And, like Isaac and Rebekah, we need to be people of faith and prayer. Because God is always faithful.
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