Nov 2012

The Founding Fathers (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph)

Act 3 | The King Chooses His People

This sermon on “The Founding Fathers (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph)” from The Drama of Redemption was preached by Ryan Burns at the second service of Redemption Hill Church on Sunday, November 4, 2012. His text was Genesis 23:1-50:26.

Sermon audio:

Sermon Transcript:

We are in the midst of a series right now titled “The Drama of Redemption” in which we are taking 52 weeks to walk through the entire Bible. So far we’ve looked at the God who created all things and “God’s original normal” in Genesis 1&2 which was quickly shattered by the entrance of sin in chapter 3 when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s good commands.

From there Brad O’brien took some bigs steps for us walking through the spread of sin in Genesis 4-11, looking at how quickly wickedness grew and spread in the hearts of men, while also showing that God had not forgotten his promise made in Chapter 3 that sin and death would not be the final victors.

Last week, Pastor Robert introduced us to Abram and the amazing grace of God to come and call Abram to himself. In the beginning of Chapter 12 of Genesis we see God telling Abram, not based on his merit or worth or anything he had done, that God was going to make his name great, and into a great nation. Then he clarifies why… Abram was being blessed so that he could be a blessing.

The grace of God was not to terminate on Abram, rather God was being gracious to him so that, Chapter 12 verse 3, “in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Do you hear the call to the nations? To International Mission?)

Today we’re going to finish out our time in Genesis looking at the men known as the “Patriarchs” namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. This week we’re going to focus in on God’s faithfulness to His promise and how, if God is going to use these men to bless the nations, He’s going to have to work on them as he works through them.

Here’s how I’m going to approach this today, and this is very different than what we normally do. I have to cover 38 chapters of Genesis today. And as much as I’ve tried to take the advice, outlines, and styles of Raymond, Robert, Chris, and others, I can really only do this my way. I learned several years ago that God hasn’t called me to tell amazing stories like Robert, or crystal clear points like Raymond, or heart wrenching soul searching sermons like Chris. He’s called me to be faithful. So, today I just want to talk through the text like I normally do, and I simply can’t do it in 1 sermon. So, I’m going to do it in two. What that means, is you all are getting part two of this morning’s sermons. But don’t worry too much, because your sermon and the first service sermon both convey the same message, we’re just covering different ground. So, if you want, you can go online later today and grab the audio from the first sermon and listen to it later, but in that message I essentially covered chapters 12-22, looking at the life of Abraham and now we’ll continue that same trail, looking at Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Here’s the thing, the thesis is the same for both sermons. God is faithful to his promises if God is going to use these men to bless the nations, He’s going to have to work on them as he works through them.

We begin this morning in Chapter 23 of Genesis and the death of Sarah. Abraham and Sarah had a wild and crazy 50+ year journey with God. The result is that, despite their shortcomings, God was faithful to his promise and had given them a son through which he would work to fulfill the promise he made to Abraham to make his name great, make him a great nation, and bless the families of the earth through him. Constantly working ON Abraham and Sarah as he worked THROUGH them.

In chapter 23 we see a husband mourn for his wife, and he find a place for her burial, and he lays her to rest.

In Chapter 24 we see Abraham has learned much in his walking with God. He has learned that God is indeed a great God, and that Abraham doesn’t need to be in control, but trust that God will be faithful to his promise. Abraham knows that his son needs a wife in order to fulfill God’s promise, but he doesn’t force it, rather he trusts God. Notice what he says to his servant

Verse 5 – The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine;…”

He frees his servant from the duty if God doesn’t bless it. God has worked on Abraham and now he knows that God will surly fulfill his promise. So, the servant goes and God does indeed prosper his venture, brining him to Rebekah and she indeed is willing to come with him to marry Isaac. God has provided.

Chapter 25 announces the death of Abraham and we turn our attention now to Isaac & Rebekah and we see that God is faithful to his promise, but that he won’t wait until Isaac & Rebekah are perfect to work through them, rather he will work on them and he works through them.

In verse 20 “and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of BETH-U-EL the AIR-UH-ME-N of PADDEN-AIR-M, the sister of Laban the AIR-UH-ME-N, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”

A quick note about God’s faithfulness:

He had promised Abraham to make him a great nations, with offspring like the sand and star… but his wife was barren, Rebekah is barren, and we’ll see later that Rachel is barren. In all three cases, only Isaac is recorded as praying for his wife. Isn’t that interesting?

It seems that Abraham had been faithful to teach Isaac about the God who had brought him though life and that Isaac recognized the goodness of this God. Not only that, but Rebekah’s response is one of faith too… it says in verse 22 “The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

Despite the tradition of the first born being the blessed child, God has clearly spoken to Rebekah (and she no doubt told Isaac) that God had decreed the order be changed. The older shall serve the younger.

The Question is what will Isaac do? Will he hear the promises of this good God who has given him two sons and bless the younger over the older… or will he forget the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promises and forget the lessons of his father Abraham?

The story of Isaac is interrupted here in verse 29 as we see Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob, grown up and Esau (the first born) come in from a hard days work and Jacob, seeing an opportunity to take advantage of his brother, offers to give him some food in exchange for his birthright. With little regard for his natural birthright as the firstborn, Esau agrees and sells his birthright to Jacob for a cup of stew.

It seems that the stories of their grandfather Abraham had not made it down to his grandsons. Jacob, promised by God to receive the birthright of the firstborn, doesn’t trust in God’s good and faithful word, plots and plans his own way to obtain the blessing.

Don’t we do that? God has promised us something great, but we want to find our own way to do it? God has said “come to me and take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and burden is light.” but instead we say, “if I can just make more money, life will be less burdensome.” God says, in 1 John 1:9 that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse of all unrighteousness.” but we say, “If I confess my sins, AND read my bible for a week, AND don’t lose my temper, AND do lots of good things… then God will forgive me.”

We need to hear God’s promises and believe them. He said Jacob was going to be greater than Esau. Jacob needed to trust in God’s faithful word.

Chapter 26 turns our attention back to Isaac. God, in his mercy, shows up and speaks to Isaac.

Verse 2 “And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you (sound familiar?), for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. (God is reminding him his faithfulness to his father Abraham) 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, (Like he Did with Abraham, God is reminding Isaac that he is the great God who will complete the promise that he makes.)

Sadly, despite this verbal reminder that God will multiply his offspring and fulfill his promise that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, Isaac repeats the very same mistake his father Abraham made and he tells a half-truth about his wife that end up having a foreign king take her to be his wife. Isaac fears for his life and seeks to save it, failing to trust in the God who just promised to be with him.

If you’re going to have offspring as the stars of heaven, you’re going to need a wife. But as we said earlier, God is going to have to work ON these men, as he works THROUGH them.

Ultimately, like Abraham, God delivers Jacob and Rebekah.

Chapter 26 ends in with Esau going against God’s original normals, taking two wives and the scriptures noting that, verse 35, “they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” This is setting the tone for the house. The home of Rebekah & Isaac is one of strife.

In chapter Chapter 27 it says “When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3 Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, 4 and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

Jacob is now old and fearing death. Lead by his own passions and not God’s promises, he calls his firstborn son asking for a meal so that he may bless him. Here’s the problem, God’s word had said that Jacob was to be the blessed son. Not only that, but Esau had sold his birthright.

What we see is Jacob seeking to enact his own plans, over and against God’s. The Jacob who trusted God and relied upon him to bless his barren wife a sons has forgot God’s faithfulness and seeks his own way.

But his wife Rebekah is at the door, listening, and immediately devises a plan in which Jacob can trick Isaac and receive the blessing. And Jacob willingly goes along.

Oh, how sad a picture this is. God has made a promise that Jacob would be the one through whom he would continue his plan to bless the world… but Isaac and Esau are plotting to overturn it and Rebekah and Jacob are plotting in return to take it by deceit. No one has stopped to look to the God of Abraham, the great and faithful one, to lead and guide them.

God is indeed faithful, and it appears he has a lot more working “on” them to do as he works “through” them.

Rebekah’s plot prevails and Jacob receives the blessing from his father. When Esau enters in and Isaac realizes what has happens it says in verse 33

“Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”

I believe that it is here that Isaac wakes up and comes face to face with God. When he realizes that the God of Abraham has showed up and foiled his plot, he is literally shaken to his core and confesses, in line with God’s faithful word, that Jacob shall indeed be blessed.

It is truly amazing to see that God is continuing to work through these men and women… and even more amazing to me that he continues to work on them.

Jacob does get the blessing God has promised him in the womb, but now family strife has intensified and in verse 41 it says “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you.”

The spread of sin in Easu has now lead him to the point that his only comfort in life is that he will soon be able to kill his brother. Rebekah and Isaac now send Jacob away for his protection, and to get a wife from their people.

And we enter into Chapter 28 and see a truly beautiful picture of repentance. Isaac finally gets it. God has worked on him and brought him to the place where Isaac finally bows his stubborn, selfish heart before God and gives Jacob the blessing he should have always given. In verse 3 Isaac says “God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” ISAAC GETS IT NOW!

Jacob begins his journey and God, as he has done with Abraham and Isaac, he graciously comes to Jacob and confirms his faithful promises with him. Listen to what God says in verse 13 “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth (the promise continues), and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (again, God is fixed firmly on his mission to bless the world) 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (More clearly than he has with Abraham and Isaac, God clarifies in the most plain terms I WILL DO THIS!)

Jacobs response proves, yet again, that God is going to have to work ON Jacob as he works THROUGH him. Jacob replies with a conditional statement that says, in verse 20, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God,”

He doesn’t fully get it yet. And neither do we… prayer sounds familiar, right?

In Chapter 29 Jacob arrives at his destination and falls in love with the lovely Rachel. And here, the deceiver becomes the deceived. Laban, Rachel’s father tricks Jacob and gives him his daughter Leah in marriage resulting in Jacob having to give 14 years of his life for the hand of Rachel in marriage.

In Chapter 30 we see, what I once heard someone refer to as, the baby wars and Jacobs family becomes many in number, having 11 children born. The last one in this time of sojourning being Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph. Jacob now tries to leave Laban, but Laban realizes that his prosperity is tied up in Jacob and deceives him again into more years of service.

In Chapter 31 the Lord directs Jacob and says it is time to go home and Jacob plans his escape, recounting all the ways that Laban has deceived him. But notice one small sentence… IN verse 5 Jacob says, “But the God of my father has been with me.”

In all that God has done, in his faithfulness, grace, and mercy, He is still just the “God of my father.” God is certainly working through Jacob. God is certainly being faithful to his promise. Even LABAN noticed this. But God is still working on Jacob. If you read Jacob’s replies later in the chapter, Jacob continues this phrasing.

He takes his family and his possessions, fleeing from Laban. and Laban finds out and pursues, but God intervenes on behalf of Jacob (He’s faithful) and Laban ultimately relents and send them on their way.

In Chapter 32 Jacob is heading to his home land and he is afraid. Remember, he left 20 years earlier because his deceitful actions had driven his brother the the point where his only comfort was knowing that he would soon kill Jacob. But God had made a promise to Jacob, and God is faithful… but Jacob still hadn’t fully grasped the greatness of God and now fears returning. And it says in verse 1 here, “and the angels of God met him.”

COME ON! What more does a man need? The voice of God, His promises, His blessing and prospering in a foreign land, visions, and now Angels show up. Surely Jacob will  finally rest his hope and trust that God is great and will surely do through Jacob what he has said…. right?

But Jacob is still afraid. Is Easu greater and stronger than God and his faithful promise?!?! Do your situations look greater than God’s good and faithful promises?

Jacob is about to get his last lesson from the great God of his fathers.

Jacob prays, verse 9, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

He prays to the God who can save.

That night, Jacob, the man who had wrestled with men, who had stolen from his brother, deceived his father, and been tricked and deceived by Laban… he had wrestled with men… now, he wrestles with God.

As he encounters God in the night, God changes him. He gives him a new name, Israel, and he gives him a hip check, causing him to limp all the rest of his days.

His meeting with God has changed him.  In Chapter 33 he lifted up his eyes… having encountered God, seeing his strength, though great, must bend itself to God’s faithful promises, stands in front of his family and leads them out to meet Esau and his 400 men.

and it says in verse 4: “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”

Do you hear an echo there? Is there another story you remember where one lifts and sees one far off and runs to meet him, embraces him, and weeps at his return? Do you hear the echo of Luke 15 and the prodigal son?

The brothers rejoice and reconcile, God continues his faithfulness to his promise.

Chapter 34 recounts the defiling of Jacob’s daughter Dinah and the horrible response of her brothers who, without command from God go and massacre a city, returning evil for evil. The result, you will see in chapter 49 is the “blessing” they receive from their father Jacob… and it is no blessing at all.

Along with that, as Jacob points out, their family is now a marked family in the land for the works of his sons.

But God appears in Chapter 35 assuring Jacob that he will continue to work through him, as he works on him, and promises protection in the land as he calls him to return to Bethel.

Jacob responds with what we see as acts of repentance, verse 2, “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” (It is my God! God has worked on him, and he gets it.) 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob buried them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.”

And at Bethel God, again, reiterates his faithful promise. After this Rebekah dies in childbirth, brining forth Jacob’s 12th son, Benjamin, but it is always Joseph, his first born from Rebekah, that was his favored son.

And we enter into chapter 37 and begin to follow the life of Joseph, and I simply don’t have the time to walk through his life chapter by chapter. So I will summarize it this way:

Jacob had a beloved son, Joseph. He sent his beloved son as a messenger to his children. The children despised the beloved son of the father, casting him into a pit, selling him for 20 pieces of silver. The Father had lost his beloved son. But God had a plan and purpose for this great loss. For, a great famine came over all the land and because of the righteous life of faith and honor lived before God, God used the beloved son to store up grain, and it records in Genesis 41:57 that “all the earth came” to get this grain. Grain which could be used to make life giving bread. Then in the end, Jacob learns the very good news. He learns that his beloved son, the one through whom God has saved the whole world, is alive.

Do you hear the echo?

There is another beloved son, greater than Joseph. And this son is the one to whom all of this drama of redemption is pointing. His name is Jesus and while Joseph only figuratively died, Jesus really died. And he did this so that, as it says in Colossians 1:21-22 that “you who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before” the father.

God has made a promise to you, that if you respond in faith, believing his faithful promise of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with him through Jesus’ righteous life and death in your place, for your sins, then he will use you to bless all the families of the earth. He’s not waiting for you to get your act together, he’s not waiting for you figure everything out, he’s waiting for you to believe him and his faithful word… and rest assured, as He did with the patriarchs, he will work through you (let me repeat that, because some of you need to hear it again) God will work through you, yes, messed up you… and he will do so as He works on you.