God’s Strength and Sovereignty Remain as Our Faith Struggles.

Our study of the Regeneration section of Genesis continues with the second and third of the patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob. Isaac demonstrated his faith throughout his life by being a submissive perpetuator of the faith. He made mistakes, but he won more spiritual battles than he lost. Lest we read this account from the end of his life and assume he was a failure, remember that Isaac is included in the Great Hall of Faith (see Hebrews 11:20).

Today’s chapter shows the low-lights of a faithful father and mother. Though Isaac and Rebekah started strong and continued well through most of their time on earth, they finished poorly. There are lessons for us to learn about both the flourishing and the failures of families.

How Do Christian Families Build a Spiritual Foundation?

Both Isaac and Rebekah started well as singles and started their family well as a couple. They were submissive children even into their forties and committed to each other as a young couple. They were Word-saturated and submissive to the Word of God. They were prayerful parents (Gen. 25:21-22, 26:25). They prayed for one another and for their children. They were primarily governed by God and experienced the continued blessing promised to Abraham as the second generation of this patriarch family.

How Do Christian Families Falter?

Most of this passage is devoted to Isaac and Rebekah’s failure. Isaac was 120-something by this point. In his second century of living, he did not finish well. What happened?

Failure in the Christian home begins by reversing what had made that home spiritually successful. When we step away from a consistent walk in the Word, our prayer life fails, and our ability to surrender ourselves to God and other authority begins to diminish. Every family member failed in some way in this chapter.

Verse 4 shows that Isaac decided to engineer his will above God’s will. In Genesis 25:23, the Lord had told him that his elder son would serve the younger, but Isaac wanted Esau to have the spiritual blessing. Isaac’s failure came when he stepped away from the clear and singular truth God had given. Obeying 99.9% of God’s will is not full obedience.

Consequently, Rebekah became a professional eavesdropper like her mother-in-law had been. When she realized that Isaac intended to give Esau the spiritual blessing God intended for Jacob, she began to scheme instead of trust. Obtaining the right thing in the wrong way is still wrong.

Jacob joined his mother’s scheme and would be known for scheming for a good part of his life.

Esau had willingly given up his birthright and the accompanying blessing to Jacob. He married unsaved pagan wives and showed himself to be a pagan man with no interest in spiritual things. He just wanted to hunt and be independent.

Having jettisoned God’s Word, Isaac became governed by his senses. God’s Word lost priority in his life, and he was left to rely on his own touch, smell, taste, and sound. When we knowingly and intentionally walk away from applying 100% of God’s Word, we resign the ability to be spirit-governed. None of us fully obey God’s Word all the time, sometimes because we just don’t know it all yet. Submission to what we know is a matter of the heart. The more we know of God’s Word, the more we want to obey. Isaac knew God’s will and refused to do a part of it.

Not paying attention to progressive understanding of the whole will of God led to devastating consequences for Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau. In the final analysis, a few words describe the consequences of this family’s jettisoning God’s will.

  1. Attitudes. “Jacob became a stranger to principle, and Esau had no spiritual priority.”
  2. Fear. Isaac trembled (verse 33) as he was mercilessly fooled in his dying hour.
  3. Irrationalism. Esau suddenly wanted his father’s blessing for pragmatic reasons, so he could have material gain (verse 36). When he didn’t get what he wanted, he then wanted to kill Jacob.
  4. Hatred. Verses 41-45 show the sad separation of this family, and it appears to be permanent. As far as we can tell, Jacob and his parents never saw each other again.
  5. Deception.
  6. Denial.
How Do Christian Families Preserve a Forward Walk with God?

There are lessons for us to learn from this family’s failure. Families that finish well are ones that live by all the mandates and principles given to us since the beginning of human history. When we live in the power of our flesh, worship is absent from our lives. But when we live by the Word, worship is sincere and consistent. There is no mention of prayer, God’s Word, or building an altar in this chapter.

Successful families have a spiritual leader at the helm. Helped by disciplers, pastors, and spirit-filled examples, husbands can lead their families to obey God’s will. Rebekah was found leading her family because Isaac wouldn’t trust the Word of God. God’s families succeed when proper roles and responsibilities are lived out in the home. Respectful children know their parents fail, but see them succeed more. Children should always hear their parents say “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” and be willing to grant forgiveness. Families flourish when we can own up to our failures.

Ultimately, behind this family’s scheming and cunning, God is still at work. God still works, whether or not we cooperate – but He wants us to enjoy it with Him. Just like a movie or book that we want to experience again and again, consistent learning and obedience to God’s Word is refreshing even though familiar. There is no greater joy than partnering with God unto His eternal ends. Why would we want to miss that?

Application Points

  • If we know God’s Word, we must guard against consciously deciding not to obey a certain part of it, even though we may follow most. When we step away from a consistent walk in the Word, our prayer life fails, and our ability to surrender ourselves to God and other authority begins to diminish. Isaac’s failure shows the devastating consequences.
  • Saints who lose a full application of God’s Word in their lives fall back to merely trusting their senses. Have you been living by your senses and your own wisdom? Have you jettisoned God’s revealed will in recent choices? God’s grace is always sufficient to restore and enable us to do the right thing. What is your attitude toward worship? This shows how open you are to God’s governance in your life.
  • Esau didn’t value spiritual things, but devoted his life to just hunting. Have you become wrapped up in just working, just sporting, or just hobbying? How dull and meaningless is life when we live without faith! Let’s stay attached to eternal purposes of God as a church and in our personal lives. Pursue a more full knowledge of Scriptures over the whole of our lifetimes. There is always more to learn!
  • No saint of any age can say that they can’t disciple because they don’t know enough of the Word. If you have your senses and wits about you, it is your scriptural obligation to know the word of God! We must always be learning more so that the elder can teach the younger. Instead of giving excuses, seek a deeper knowledge of God’s Word with the opportunities available to you.
  • Parents, do your children see you learning the Word and growing in your application of it? It’s never too late to say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness if you need to. We all want to finish well, so our progeny will remember us for obedience and spiritual transparency.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Hebrews 11:9, 20 – Isaac in the Hall of Faith.
  • Ephesians 6:1-3 – God rewarded Isaac with a long and profitable life.
  • James 4:17, 1:22-25 – As we learn God’s Word, we are responsible to obey it. And as we do it, we will be blessed.
  • Acts 20:17-32 – Paul prioritized teaching the whole Word to protect from wolves within and outside the church.
A Hymn to Encourage: “My Hope Is in the Lord”

My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.

For me He died, For me He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives.

No merit of my own His anger to suppress.
My only hope is found in Jesus' righteousness.

And now for me He stands Before the Father's throne.
He shows His wounded hands and names me as His own.

His grace has planned it all, 'Tis mine but to believe,
And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.

Quotes to Ponder:

Marriage, for Isaac and Rebekah, was based on the clearly defined principles of knowing and obeying God’s revealed will and trusting Him to make it known to them.

This family which started out well is a powerful witness to the possibilities of disintegration and disaster which can readily overtake any community of people which fails to orient its lives on the clear cut outlines of divine principles.

God delights to have His men and women work in glad cooperation with Him, but should they freely choose not to cooperate, they will eventually discover that God works despite their having chosen not to allow Him to work with them.