The Lord Blesses His Elect
Scripture: Genesis 27:1-29
Text: Genesis 27:27a
Sermon by Rev. Al Korvemaker
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Surrey, British Columbia, 1998
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 17, No. 2
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When we recount the narrative of Jacob’s stealing Esau’s blessing, we tend to look at the characters involved. There is on the one hand the patriarch Isaac. He is the son promised by God Himself to Abraham and Sarah. Though now an old man, some 137 years old at this time, he is the same son Abraham through whom Abraham would become a blessing to all nations in as much as through him the line of promise would be maintained and the Messiah would be born.
There are also his sons, twins Esau who was born first and then Jacob. The name Esau means “hairy.” He was named Esau because even at birth he was hairy. He was a rough fellow who obviously did not walk with the Lord. Everything we read of him, including his godless marriage to two Hittite women, smacks of a hard, fearless character, hardened against the Lord.
The name “Jacob” on the other hand is related to the Hebrew word for “heel.” He was named Jacob because he was holding on to Esau’s heel at birth. But the name Jacob and the Hebrew word for “heel” is also closely related to the Hebrew verb “to deceive” or “supplant.” And when we look at Jacob’s activities throughout his life, we do not respect him for his integrity for he was indeed a deceiver.
The fourth character who plays a role in this narrative is Rebecca. She is the lovely woman who was brought from Haran by Abraham’s faithful servant to be a wife for Isaac. Isaac loved her. But when their twin sons came along and began to grow up, Isaac favored Esau while Rebecca favored Jacob. Thus, as the boys were divided against each other, so were Isaac and Rebecca.
We would, however, fail to do this passage and the events recorded in it any justice if we focused merely in what might be psychologically called a somewhat dysfunctional family. For this is not just any family. We are looking at the line of the covenant, the line of promise, and God’s separating a people unto Himself for salvation. We must see Isaac as an otherwise godly father who, by planning to bless Esau, was willfully sinning against the Lord. For the Lord had made clear already before the two boys were born, that He had chosen to bless the younger instead of the older. Not withstanding the fact that God had said the older shall serve the younger (25:23) Isaac wanted to bless Esau as the one who would “be master over [his] brethren” (27:29). Isaac wanted to bless his covenant-breaking son with a covenantal blessing.
Esau, though eager to receive the blessing of His father, had already shown by his marriage to two heathens, that He had no intention of walking in covenant with the Lord or having his children walk with the Lord. Yet he wanted the blessing of the Lord to come to him by the words of his father. He wanted the benefits of the covenant -
the blessing of God -
while also breaking covenant with God. But he could not have it. He is like a lot of people today who desire eternal life without believing in He who is the way, the truth and the life. They desire the benefits of Christ without taking up their cross and following Christ.
The sin of Rebecca and Jacob is deceit. As a wife she did not honor her husband as she tried to gain for her favorite son by deceit what God had promised him. Nor did she honor God by taking His concerns into her own hands and doing sinfully what God would have done righteously. And Jacob, by deceiving his father broke the fifth commandment to honor his father. By lying he broke the ninth commandments. And acting according to his mother’s plan, he threw off trust in God’s providence and power. Instead he trusted mom and himself as Eve trusted the serpent and herself instead of the truthful God.
Yet we see in all this, or perhaps we should say, despite all this, that (theme:) “The LORD blesses His elect.” We see three things at the beginning of verse 27 as we see it in light of its context. We observe the one who blesses, His blessing, and the one who is blessed.
Isaac is the one who called his favorite son, Esau, the son whom God hated, and told him of his intention to give him the birthright blessing. Isaac is the one who wanted to make sure he passed on this cherished blessing before his death, old as he was to his firstborn, his pride and joy. He no doubt knew that God had said, “the older shall serve the younger.” Yet he wanted to bless Esau so that the younger would serve the older. It is Isaac then, who intended to sin against the Lord and play God, giving God’s blessing to whom he himself desired rather than to whom God desired.
Nonetheless, despite all Isaac’s plans and intentions to bless Esau, it is Jacob whom he blesses. Isaac ended up blessing Jacob because it was Jacob who listened to his mother’s advice, who brought the meal, who convinced his father he was the one who he had planned to bless. And so, having satisfied himself that Jacob was Esau, Isaac said of him, “may God give you of the dew of the heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you.”
Yet, in blessing Jacob, Isaac was not acting alone. As it was God who would later bring Joseph to Egypt through the actions of his brothers, so it is God who blessed Jacob through the words of Isaac. It is God who, permitted and used the sinful actions of Esau, Isaac, Rebecca and Jacob, to sinlessly see to it that the promise of the covenant was bestowed on the son whom He loved, and not the one whom He hated.
By making sure that it was Jacob who was blessed, God was making sure that His grace would come to this world. God had planned from eternity that it would be through Terah’s son Abraham that he would bring the Christ to save man from his sin. God had from eternity planned that it would be through Abraham’s son Isaac that He would bring the Christ to redeem humanity. And God had decided, from eternity, that it would be through Isaac’s son Jacob that He would bring the Messiah into the world. In the end, it is God who blessed Jacob. In the end it is God who says regarding his chosen, His Church as a whole, “cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you.”
But now what is the blessing given by God through Isaac? The blessing is, as we have said by way of introduction, the birthright blessing.
It was customary in ancient times that before a father dies, he would bless his oldest son. That is, he would say certain words about the future of his son and the generations that would proceed from him. The blessing a father would pronounce on his oldest son, the birthright blessing, was not merely a wish, however. It was not merely that father saying what good things he hoped would happen to his son. The birthright blessing was actually a prophecy concerning the future of his son. It was an announcement of what would actually become of his son and the generations that would grow out from him.
There is evidence from extra-Biblical material that shows that the giving of a birthright blessing was common practice in Abraham and Isaac’s time. It was commonly held that the announcement of any blessing or curse by a father on his sons, was a prophecy of their future. In fact the words of a father in blessing or cursing were viewed as not only prophesying but also determining the future of his children. Whether every blessing or curse spoken by every father, believer or unbeliever, was indeed, accurate and determinative of the future of their children is in question. But is it certainly true that when the saints of old announced blessings and curses, they were acting as the mouthpieces of God Himself. They were uttering divine prophecy concerning their children. This was true in the case of Noah and his three sons. What Noah said regarding each of his three sons can be proved from Scripture and history to have come to pass. The same is true of the blessings announced by Jacob while in Egypt with respect to his sons (cf. Gen.49). And the same is true of Isaac here, as he announces a blessing intended for Esau, on Jacob. What Isaac says here, is not in other words, merely his wish for Jacob. What he says concerning Jacob, though he thinks he is Esau, will actually and has actually come to pass (cf. Aalders on Gen.9:25-27). In Jacob’s own life in Haran while working for Laban, God blessed Jacob with the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth. God blessed him by giving him his uncles’ sheep. God later blessed all Israel, Jacob’s descendants, in the land of Canaan with plenty of grain and wine. Other nations served Israel, Jacob’s descendants, especially during the reigns of David and Solomon, though other kings and judges as well. Even the Edomites, Esau, descendants, were conquered by Israel and served Jacob’s children for many years. And God blessed those who blessed Israel and also cursed those who cursed her as he did for Jacob himself. God stood, as it were, around Jacob and his descendants as a protective hedge, allowing no one to harm them, except to use the nations around Israel, to punish her for her sins and drive her back to Him in repentance and faith.
We see in what we have described of this blessing, that it was not merely a physical blessing, a prophecy of material wealth, fame and fortune. This blessing announced by Isaac on Jacob was a spiritual blessing, a blessing of God’s care, favor, and ultimately, salvation. Esau and Isaac wanted him to have the wealth, fame and fortune. These were the reasons Esau wanted the blessing so badly and why he was ready to kill Jacob when he did not get it. But God desired that Jacob have these material blessings as well as every spiritual blessing alluded to in Isaac’s prophetic words. And God will have His own way.
How thankful we may be that through the blessing of Isaac God preserved His plan of salvation. How thankful we may be that having chosen to bring the Messiah to the world through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the maintained His plan, He carried out His plan in history. No matter what Isaac or Esau or anyone else might try to do that threatened God’s plan, God has seen to it that His plans and designs were not thwarted.
God has not only worked out His plan of salvation in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and His people Israel until the Messiah came. God has chosen from eternity, all who will be saved throughout the history of the world and by what means they will be saved. In other words, all God’s people even we ourselves, can be assured that, He who has begun a good work in us shall bring it to completion. Having already given us the greatest blessing, His Son, He will see to it that His Son did not die in vain. He will see to it that everyone who was chosen unto salvation in Jesus Christ will receive the benefits of Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, justification by faith, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Once God has decided to do something, nothing can effectively halt or defeat His work, not even the devil himself. Because God has planned to bless His Church, an innumerable multitude, with eternal spiritual blessings in Christ, we will definitely receive them, just as Jacob received the blessing which God had determined would be his.
We read in verse 27 that Isaac, having smelled Jacob disguised as Esau, “blessed him.” Jacob who was blessed was the weaker son, no doubt both physically and in character or personality. He was the unlikely benefactor. He was the deceiver, the one who went through life acting largely and repeatedly out of self-interest, at the expense of others, the one who lacked integrity, the one who none of us would suggest to our children as a role model. Yet, Isaac unwittingly blessed him with the birthright blessing, with the covenant blessing as well.
God so often chooses to work with the weak and small things of this world. He blessed Jacob though Esau -
because of his outward strength -
would seem to be the more desirable of the two. Likewise God chose Israel to be His own special people even though she was nothing when compared with the great empire of Egypt and other nations that were far superior to herself. Or think of the shy Saul and the humble shepherd David being made kings over God’s people. The same is true of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He was an unlikely Savior in as much as He was not born into royalty, in a palace, the firstborn son of some great king like Herod. Instead, He was born the son of the poor carpenter. The church is likewise. Are we the powerful and the wealthy of the world? Are we the influential, the movers and shakers, so to speak. Not at all. As has been true from the very beginning of the Church, it is through the weak that the Lord brings glory to Himself as the Strong. It is through sinners that the Lord shows Himself to be their Savior. It is through the insignificant that God shows Himself to be so significant. Not withstanding who we are then, God blesses us. He blesses the weak with strengthen. He blesses sinners with a savior. He blesses the rebellious with reconciliation. He blesses the unrighteous with Christ’s righteousness. He blesses the damned with salvation.
In Jacob’s becoming the recipient of Isaac’s covenantal blessing, we are reminded of ourselves becoming the recipients of the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, our saving covenant representative. In Jacob’s being blessed with the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth we see ourselves being blessed by God with the joys of heaven and everlasting life on the new earth where we will be given everything our hearts could desire and more. In Jacob’s being blessed with the service of his brethren and the nations, the Church sees herself being blessed with authority to rule forever with Christ over all creation. In Jacob’s being blessed with God’s curse falling on whoever curses him and God’s blessing falling on whoever blesses him, we see ourselves blessed with the triumphant Christ’s rescue of His Church from all her enemies, and with the destruction of all our enemies, come judgment day. Jacob, not withstanding all his sins and shortcomings was blessed through Isaac by God. And so are we. We are, not withstanding all our sins and shortcomings, blessed through Jesus Christ by God. We are after all, His elect. And God blesses with salvation by grace through faith those whom He chooses to bless while and cursing, because of their covenant breaking, those whom He chooses to curse. May all glory be to our just yet gracious God. Amen.