************ Sermon on Genesis 27:41-28:9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 15, 2013
"What A Family!"
I A Fallen Family
A You might have heard of "Modern Family," the ABC TV show. I tried to watch it – once – and couldn't stand it. The program depicts a modern family. There is dad. Dad is divorced, remarried, and has a blended family. There is a gay son. This son has an adopted daughter with his partner. There is a daughter. She is in a normal heterosexual relationship and has three of her own children. Like it or not, this is what the family often looks like in today's world.
"Modern Family" certainly isn't like the "Brady Bunch" or "Leave It To Beaver." This past week it occurred to me that our Bible reading isn't like the "Brady Bunch" or "Leave It To Beaver" either. The Bible pulls no punches. It does not sugar-coat what happens in the families of the patriarchs.
People and organizations talk glowingly about family and family relationships. They make it sound like pie in the sky. But family and family relationships takes hard work in a sin-filled world.
Now, what stands out about the family as we have been going through Genesis? What stands out is how fallen it is. What stands out is how sinful and broken and messed up it is. What stands out is how dysfunctional it is. The relationship between the first two brothers ended in murder. Ham laughed at his father's nakedness. Abraham lied about his true relationship with Sarah. Ishmael hated Isaac. Hagar and Sarah couldn't stand the sight of each other.
However, there is one big and importance difference with what we see on TV compared to God's Word. God's Word does not give its stamp of approval to what is going on. ABC and NBC and CNN try to present broken families as normal and acceptable. The Bible presents broken families as something against the norm and therefore unacceptable.
B This brings us to Isaac and Rebekah and their family. As I mentioned last time, these parents each played favorites with their sons, they didn't communicate with each other, they lied to each other, they did things behind each other's back. And, we learned that Jacob was not above taking advantage of his brother or using deceit to get his way.
The whole sad story continues in today's Scripture reading. We are told that "Esau held a grudge against Jacob" (Gen 27:41). It reached the point where he even wanted to kill Jacob (Gen 27:42). His relationship with his parents was no better. It started off with his marriage to two pagan women. What did Esau do when he realized how displeasing his pagan Canaanite wives were to his father Isaac? He went and married another pagan woman (Gen 28:9). Esau dishonored his parents. Esau went out of his way to do something that he knew would make his parents even more upset. Talk about passive/aggressive behavior.
Rebekah is no better. She doesn't like Esau's wives – not because they are pagans and bad for his soul but because they don't make good daughters-in-law (Gen 27:46).
Are you starting to see the dynamics in this sad, broken, dysfunctional family? Are you starting to see how awkward and stressful birthdays and anniversaries and other celebrations must have been?
C I said once before that Genesis is full of lies and liars. Every single narrative in the book contains an incident of lies and deception – with the exception of the creation account and the story of the Flood. Let me remind you of what we have seen so far in our study of Genesis:
-The serpent lies to Adam and Eve.
-Adam and Eve lie to God.
-Cain lies about his brother Abel.
-Abraham and Sarah lie – twice – about their relationship as husband and wife.
-Isaac lies about his relationship with Rebekah.
-Rebekah and Jacob deceive Isaac and Esau.
-Esau is less than truthful when he claims Jacob stole the birthright when, in fact, Esau sold it to him for a bowl of stew.
Once man fell into sin he turned into a liar. All men are liars. That is our natural, fallen, sinful condition.
Rebekah continues the lie in today's Bible reading. She wants to send Jacob away for safety reasons (Gen 27:43) – but she lies to her husband about the real reason (Gen 27:46). She talks about Esau's wives rather than Jacob's safety and Esau's enmity. This was a family in which the plain, unvarnished truth was consistently in short supply.
Do you see what Scripture teaches us? Scripture teaches us that the sins of the parents are visited upon the children. It was Abraham who set the pattern of deceit in this family. His lies were duplicated and imitated by Isaac. Little lies and big lies became commonplace in the family. So much so that Jacob was brought up in a world of scheming and conniving parents. So much so that Jacob grew up understanding how to lie and cheat and deceive.
Let me ask, what sins are we passing on to our children day-by-day? We are typically blind to our shortcomings until we see them duplicated and magnified in the lives of our children. So, what sins and shortcomings are we teaching to the next generation? Will they learn from us how to abound in sin while concealing it from the sight of others? Or, will our children and grandchildren learn from us how to repent of sin and turn from it? Do you set an example for your children of godliness and holiness and of rapid and heartfelt repentance when your sin becomes plain, or do you model for them how to say and live a lie?
Do you remember the two ladies we looked at last week? I am talking about Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy. The earliest lessons in spiritual formation that Timothy received came from these two ladies. Paul states that from infancy Timothy has known the holy Scriptures (2 Tim 3:15). Who taught Timothy the Bible when he was a child? Upon whose lap did he first hear the stories of faith? It was his mother and grandmother who saw to it that he learned the Scriptures as a boy.
Is this the kind of impact you are having on your children and grandchildren or do they learn the lie from you?
We may shudder about ABC's "Modern Family." But Isaac's family really is no better. And, if we are honest, we have to admit that our own families and relationships are equally fallen.
II A Holy Family
A For our next point we need to go back to Abraham for a moment. Remember how Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a heathen Canaanite woman? Abraham, you see, was committed to finding a God-fearing wife for his son. And, all God-fearing parents today should want no less for their children. Parents, from the day your child is born you can start praying that God will give your child a Christian marriage partner. In this spirit Abraham commanded his chief servant to find a wife for Isaac from the country and family Abraham had left behind. In Genesis 24 we can read the beautiful story of how God brought Isaac and Rebekah together into a God-fearing marriage.
Why did Abraham command this? Did Abraham know for certain that each of the local girls would be a poor wife for his son, Isaac? No. But he did know that those who walk with God should only marry partners who also walk with God. Does this mean all marriages between believers and unbelievers are bound to fail? Of course not. Though such marriages are disobedient to God's will, God has the ability to sponge up after a disaster, to produce honey out of a carcass, to bring good out of evil.
B By way of contrast to the Christian marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, consider what Esau did: he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite (Gen 26:34). Scripture tells us these pagan women "were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah" (Gen 26:35). It bothered these godly parents that their son's wives did not worship the Lord; it bothered these godly parents that their grandchildren were not being raised in the ways of the Lord; it bothered these godly parents to see pagan ways and practices in Esau's tent.
Isaac and Rebekah disagreed on many things. Their marriage was a shambles. Yet, they were able to agree on two things: first, they were both disgusted with the pagan women Esau married (Gen 27:46); second, they both agreed that Jacob needed to marry within the covenant. So they sent Jacob to find a God-fearing wife from among his mother's family. They even commanded him, "Do not marry a Canaanite woman" (Gen 28:1).
Esau heard about this. Scripture says that "Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac" (Gen 28:8). Before this time Esau must have known that his parents did not approve of his marriage partners. But now he realized how much they disapproved of them. So do you know what he did? As I already said, he went and married another heathen woman – Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael (Gen 28:9)!
By marrying outside of the covenant circle, Esau showed how irreligious and profane he really was. If the birthright and the covenant blessings and promises that came with it really meant something to Esau, he would not have entered into the marriages that he did.
"Do not marry a Canaanite women." In other words, do not marry an unbeliever. You need to realize what was at stake. The covenant line was at stake. The seed of the woman culminating in the birth of the Messiah was at stake.
C Every Christian teen and young adult needs to hear what Paul says about mixed marriages:
(2Cor 6:14-18) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (15) What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (17) "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (18) "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."Do you hear what Paul is saying? Do NOT marry an unbeliever. Why? Or, why not? Jesus talks in the Sermon on the Mount about salt losing its saltiness and about hiding a lamp under a bowl. That's what happens when we join in marriage with unbelievers. We are no longer separate, different, and distinct from the world.
Let me tell you the pattern I have seen throughout the years. Until marriage, the unbeliever often is willing to attend worship. But then they come less and less frequently. They start to plan weekend getaways or activities so the believing partner needs to choose between church and family. They complain about all the time church takes: worship, Wednesday night activities, pot-lucks, picnics, family visiting. They become upset about donations to the church. They choose to take offense at any church member who calls on them to repent and believe.
"Do not marry a Canaanite women." Do NOT marry an unbeliever. Remain separate, holy, different. Look for a Christian spouse, someone who shares a commitment with you to the Lord of life. Someone who stands with you in raising your children in God's ways. God's will is that we and our families be holy and separate and different from the world.
III A Kingdom Family
A We've been reminded that Israel's patriarchs acted in the same unholy ways as pagans. We have seen that Isaac's family is broken, fallen, and dysfunctional. We are talking about the people of God.
Do you know what this means? This means that those whom the Lord chooses to save are as undeserving as those whom He passes over (cf Rom 9:1-24). This means that God's grace is for sinners. This means that those whom the Lord saves are no better than anyone else.
But surely we know this from personal experience. None of us deserve to be here this morning. None of us deserve salvation. None of us are better than anyone else. Like Abraham & Sarah, like Isaac & Rebekah, like Jacob & Esau, we are fallen and sinful and wicked and evil. Like Abraham & Sarah, like Isaac & Rebekah, like Jacob & Esau, we easily use the lie.
We are sinners who need grace. We are sinners who are given grace. We are sinners who are not treated as our sins deserve or repayed according to our iniquities (Ps 103:10).
B Our Bible reading ends with Isaac's blessing upon Jacob. Earlier, Isaac wanted the blessing for Esau. But now he gives it willingly to Jacob. Isaac calls upon El Shaddai, God Almighty, to bless Jacob (Gen 28:3). He specifically mentions the Abrahamic blessing (Gen 28:4). Meaning what? Meaning that Jacob is next in line to be patriarch. Meaning that the covenant blessings belong to Jacob. Meaning that Jacob is of the seed of the woman. Meaning that from Jacob the Messiah will someday come.
In spite of human sin and human schemes and human tradition, God's plan will not be thwarted. God will have His way even if He chooses to use our weaknesses to achieve His purposes.
Isaac's blessing on Jacob shows that, from the beginning of His church, God's Kingdom has grown despite the sins of His people. No one in Genesis 27 & 28 has acted rightly. Isaac favors Esau and pays no heed to the Word of the Lord. Rebekah favors Jacob to the point where she deceives her husband. Jacob willingly stoops to deception. Esau fails to repent of despising his birthright. Yet in the end, the Lord's election of Jacob is confirmed and His Kingdom is advanced.
So Jacob leaves home. He goes on the same journey as Abraham's servant before him. But Jacob embarked on this long journey with none of the advantages of his predecessor. He traveled alone, on foot, without gifts or resources to promise his future bride. From a human perspective, he seemed unlikely even to reach Laban's house safely. And, it seemed even more unlikely that he would ever return with a bride.
But where man is bound to fail God succeeds for God's power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). We see this with the sinful, broken patriarchs. We see this in your life and my life. Especially, though, we see this at the cross and grave of Christ: God's power is made perfect in weakness!
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