************ Sermon on Genesis 25:23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 28, 2013
"God Chooses Jacob"
Isaac and Rebekah were a godly couple. They were examples of piety and faith for their two sons, Esau and Jacob. I think often of this. Two sons. The same godly upbringing. The same godly parents. The same godly prayers. Both sons were raised within the covenant. Yet, only one of their sons served and loved the Lord. Doesn't the book of Proverbs say, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Prov 22:6)? In such a situation, with our own families in view, we want to know what happens to the covenant and the covenant promises.
Someone was talking to me about this in my office. I reminded him of two things. First, proverbs are not promises; rather, they are observations of what usually happens. Second, election always trumps covenant. Or, to put it another way, God – not man – is in charge.
A Many of you realize that Genesis is divided into what the NIV translates as "the account of." The original Hebrew word might be familiar to some of you; it is the word "toledoth" which literally means "generations" or "genealogies." So far in our study of Genesis we have seen the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created (Gen 2:4); the account of Adam (Gen 5:1); the account of Noah (Gen 6:9); the account of Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen 10:1); the account of Shem (Gen 11:10); the account of Terah (Gen 11:27); the account of Ishmael (Gen 25:12); and now the account of Isaac (Gen 25:19).
The creation and fall of man comes under the toledoth of the heavens and the earth. Telling us what? Telling us we are descended of the earth, earthy. Reminding us that we are dust and made of dust and returning to dust. In a very real way we come from dirt. What a humbling message for people who attempted to be like God (Gen 3:5).
We tend to turn saints, like Abraham, into heroes. But Abraham, notice, doesn't even get his own toledoth. He comes under the toledoth of Terah. Why? Here is a reminder that the main and most important actor in the Biblical story is not human; rather, He is divine. God is in charge from beginning to end.
B When we map out the toledoth, with generation following generation, we should notice an hourglass figure. It starts with heaven and earth and everything in them. It narrows down to Adam and his family. It narrows further to the line of Seth. It narrows further to Noah and his family. At its narrowest point we find just two couples – Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah. And from there it flares out to Jacob and his twelve sons and their tribes.
What do we see when we look at the hourglass figure? We see there is choosing. We see there is election. We see divine selection and divine rejection. God chooses Seth and not Cain. God chooses Isaac and not Ishmael.
In our passage God makes clear to Rebekah that He chooses Jacob over Esau:
(Gen 25:23) The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger."
C God said this to Rebekah because she was having a difficult pregnancy. She felt the babies inside of her fighting with each other. Imagine that: conflict before birth already. The conflict inside the womb continues at birth. Esau comes out first with Jacob grasping his heel, jockeying for a better position, trying to overtake him, trying to trip him up (Gen 25:26). In many ways, this sets the stage for all that will follow between Jacob and Esau.
The theme of conflict between brothers or within families is not new at this point in Genesis. Such a struggle was evident already between Cain and Abel in Genesis 4; there, too, the younger child bore God's favor. Throughout the rest of Genesis there continues to be conflicts. From the sons of Noah, through Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and on down to Joseph and his brothers, there is a constant pattern of rivalry and conflict.
Rebekah wanted to know why there was the fighting or jostling. God's answer: two nations, two people who will be separate, one people will be stronger ... Do you hear what God is really saying? God is saying the ultimate reason for the family discord and sibling rivalry we see in Genesis is God's choosing. Those whom God has not chosen are at war with those whom God has chosen, even when they grow up in the same home. The children of darkness always hate the children of light.
But there is also a promise of victory. Though the seed of the serpent do their worst, the seed of the woman will prevail because of the power and will of God. The Lord graciously chooses to save His people and give them triumph over those who hate them.
II The Older Will Serve the Younger
A The most famous baby in the world was born this past week to Prince William and Kate Middleton. He is heir to the British throne. His is going to be a life of favoritism and privilege. His will be a yearly salary of over $50 million. This is what happens when you are the first-born in the British Royal Family.
Esau, like Ishmael before him, was the first-born. He should inherit the favored status. He should inherit the covenant blessing. Yet, God makes clear this will not happen. "The older will serve the younger" (Gen 25:23).
We see this pattern throughout Genesis. Abel was accepted while Cain was rejected. The line of Seth was chosen over the line of Cain. Isaac was chosen over Ishmael. Rachel was chosen over her older sister, Leah. Joseph was chosen over all his older brothers. "The older will serve the younger" (Gen 25:23).
B Why does God act this way? Why does God act contrary to established human tradition? Paul lays out the reasons for us in Romans:
(Rom 9:10-12) ... Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. (11) Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: (12) not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger."
God is teaching us something about salvation and the seed of the woman. God is telling us there is no favoritism with Him. There are no privileged positions. Ishmael shows us that being born of Abraham is not enough. Esau reminds us that being born of Isaac and Rebekah is not enough. Being an Israelite is not enough for not all who are descended from Israel are Israel (Rom 9:6). And, being the oldest child is not enough. As God said to Moses,
(Rom 9:15-16) "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (16) It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.Our salvation is all of grace, not of our merit. God is no respecter of persons. He chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong (cf 1 Cor 1:18-31). Contrary to established human tradition, He chooses the younger sons to show that all is of grace from start to finish.
Look at Jacob. A mama's boy who hid behind his mother's skirts. A quiet man who stayed among the tents. A sinner. A plotter. A schemer. A man who took short-cuts to get what he wanted. Jacob is the perfect model of how God's undeserved favor rests upon the most unpromising material. Jacob is the perfect model of how God's favor rests upon the undeserving.
If it was up to us, Esau would have been chosen. Esau, after all, was a man's man, a skillful hunter, a man of the open country (Gen 25:27). In today's world he would be captain of the football team or a starter on the basketball team. Today's image driven TV audience would quickly vote him into public office.
But God does not choose the way we choose. We don't know why He chose Jacob over Esau. There was nothing about Jacob that made him worthy of being chosen. There was nothing Jacob did. In fact, there was every reason not to choose Jacob. In Jacob, we see the triumph of grace – undeserved grace, unearned grace, unmerited grace. God's message in choosing Jacob: IT IS ALL OF GRACE.
Likewise, there is no reason why God should choose you or me. There is nothing about us that makes us worthy of being chosen. There is nothing we do. In fact, there is every reason not to choose any one of us. As Jacob shows us, God's chosen ones are chosen purely out of grace.
III Make Your Calling and Election Sure
A We have seen God's choosing. We have seen that God's choosing is all of grace. Now we want to look at how we are to respond to God's choosing. In Peter's second letter there is a delightful phrase:
(2Pt 1:10) Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,Did you hear it? "Make your calling and election sure." That is how God wants Jacob and Esau and Isaac and Rebekah and you and I to respond to His choosing. "Make your calling and election sure."
What exactly does this mean for Isaac and Rebekah as parents? It means that they were to raise Jacob and Esau with God's plan in mind. It means the boys were to be prepared for their destinies. Jacob should have been prepared for his role as the seed of the woman through whom the promised Savior would someday come. And, in humility, Jacob should have accepted his high calling not because of his greatness but because of God's choosing. As for Esau, even though he was the older, he should have been prepared to put himself under the covenant blessing that comes through Jacob. He should have made it his job and calling in life to do what he could to support and encourage his brother – you know, the kind of role that Aaron and Miriam played for Moses.
I repeat, Isaac and Rebekah should have prepared the boys for their destinies. But that did not happen. Instead of being trained for God's calling, the boys were allowed to develop in their own ways.
B So what happened with Jacob? The promised Savior was to come from him. To him and his children was the adoption as sons, the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises (Rom 9:4). This was God's promise to him as the chosen one.
So what did Jacob do? He took a page from Grandpa Abraham's playbook. He thought God needed his help. He thought he had to take for himself what God promised to give him. And, he was not above using deceit, trickery, lies, plots, and schemes. In our Scripture reading we see him taking advantage of his brother to obtain the birthright – even though God has promised to give it to him. There was nothing beautiful about Jacob even though he was chosen by God.
As for Esau, he had no use for the covenant, the covenant obligations, the covenant promises, the covenant God. He went out of his way to show disdain for the faith of his parents. Scripture tells us "Esau despised his birthright" (Gen 25:34).
C Parents know that their children are all different from one another in temperament, character, outlook, talents, likes and dislikes. Some are athletic and outgoing, others are shy bookworms. Some are musical or artistic, while others prefer surfing the internet or tearing apart a car engine.
Look at the differences in the two boys. Esau was the strong, hairy one, the outdoors type, good at hunting, gifted at life in the field. One commentary says this means he is the original redneck. "When you think of Esau, think pickup trucks, ponytails, and tattoos."
As for Jacob, his natural habitat was the tent, not the field. But in what follows, it is because of his constant presence in the tent that he is able to rob his brother of his birthright. He was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of it.
The differences between the boys introduced a poison in the family. Did you hear what Scripture said? "Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob" (Gen 25:28). Each of the parents had their favorite child. I want every parent and grandparent here to listen carefully: to play favorites with your children is poison. It poisons relationships between parents and children, it poisons relationships between children, it even poisons relationships to the next generation.
It gets even worse. Look at why the parents played favorites. The children were valued because of what they could do for the parents. Some things are loved because they are valued. Other things are valued because they are loved. Children should always be valued because they are loved. But Rebekah and Isaac loved their children because of what they could get out of them – Esau and Jacob were loved because they were valued. Isaac loved Esau because Esau the hunter could give him wild game. Rebekah, presumably, loved Jacob because he hung around her tent. How easy this is but how terrible in its consequences! The ground was being prepared by the parents for a lifetime of strife between their children. In time, the sin of Isaac and Rebekah would hit home in a fitting judgment from God: Isaac would be deceived by his taste for wild game; as for Rebekah, her stay-at-home son would be forced to leave her tent and flee from home.
D "Make your calling and election sure." Isaac and Rebekah started their marriage with lots of faith and promise and prayer. As I said, they were a godly couple. But now we see that they were also dismal parents. They played favorites. They did not prepare their children for their place in the kingdom of God.
Parents, what do you hold before your children? Do you hold before them the ideal of Christian service? Or, do you urge them to go for the quick buck and high-paying jobs? Do you hold before your kids your own personal example of daily Bible reading and prayer? Or, is God an afterthought in your life? I met with someone this past week who was on fire for the Lord and His service. What a wonderful experience. To me it is obvious she is seeking the things above rather than the things on earth. As parents, we should all want our children to be like her.
The most important thing we do in this life and on this earth – as a church, as parents and grandparents – is have a spiritual impact on the lives of our children and youth. What kind of impact are you having? What kind of impression are you leaving behind?
It is important, congregation, it is important to be in the line of those chosen to inherit the promises of salvation. To be part of the chosen seed is the greatest blessing any one can ever hope to receive. Therefore, "make your calling and election sure."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page