Generations of Promise
Last week we left off last week speaking of legacy. We remember the promise made to Abraham way back in Genesis 15, a covenant to make him into a great nation:
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
And that covenant was affirmed in Genesis 17:
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
And Abraham had a child with his wife Sarah, and they named him Isaac.
Isaac then through his wife Rebekah has twins, Jacob and Esau, and there’s a prophecy that is told about them that the older will serve the younger. What we watch then is that Esau, sells his birthright to Jacob for some soup after a bad day. And later as Isaac is dying, at a time when it is traditional for the father to place his blessing on the oldest son to bequest his inheritance to him, Jacob deceives Isaac by posing as Esau. And Isaac places the blessing on Jacob.
It is important for us to note at this point that God does not bless Jacob because he is a good person. The Apostle Paul refers to God’s blessing upon Jacob while he was in the womb, recalling Genesis 25:23:
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.”
Paul writes to the Romans:
And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
Note it is not because of works - obviously as none of us has done anything while we’re in the womb - but instead it is “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.”
And so as the promise was made to Abraham, and Isaac, that promise is now conferred upon Jacob.
So often we hear it said, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” reminding us of the promise.
The covenant God makes with Abraham is established not only with Isaac, but with Jacob. We’ve seen the Abrahamic promises repeated to Isaac:
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, 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. 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,
And repeatedly to Jacob:
And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “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. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, 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. 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.”
and in Genesis 35:11-12, and 46:3-4.
Now we see the lineage of Abraham.
Abraham and Sarah had Isaac.
Isaac and Rebekah have Jacob and Esau, Jacob being the chosen one.
In chapter 32 Jacob’s name gets changed, much like Abram became Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel.
Jacob means “He takes by the heel” or “He cheats.” Remember he had taken Esau’s birthright for some soup, and then he deceived his father for the blessing.
Israel means: “He strives with God.”
What has happened is that Jacob had sent his family away, and we read this account:
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Scholars point to this being a change in Jacob where now his father’s God has become his God.
Now for clarity, I’m going to continue to use Jacob to speak of the individual and Israel to refer to the people, because from Jacob and his descendents the 12 tribes of Israel are formed.
On the front of your bulletins you will see the lineage:
Jacob, remember fell in love with Rachel, but her father Laban gave him her older sister Leah with whom he had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.
Then, through Rachel’s servant Bilhah, he has Dan and Naphtali.
Then, through Leah’s servant Zilpah, he has Gad and Asher.
Then Leah’s womb is opened again, and he has Issachar and Zebulun.
Through Rachel, he would have Joseph and at her last Benjamin
The family legacy of deception continues - as we’ve said in the past these are not necessarily “good” people, but somehow God is working his plan of redemption.
Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery and through a variety of events he finds himself in the service of the Pharaoh himself in Egypt. In fact he is put over all of Egypt, and it is through Joseph that his family survives a great famine that occurs in the land.
He says to his brothers,
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Now what we see happen is God’s redemption and protection of Israel as all of Jacob’s sons move down to Egypt. This is where Genesis ends with all of Jacob’s sons living in Egypt, outside the land that was promised. But remember they were told that they would be enslaved outside the promised land for 400 years.
Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.
Though Joseph is soon to die, he affirms that God will care for his brothers and that they will get back to the promised land in fulfillment to the covenant made with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
So we see how our understanding of Genesis is foundational to our understanding of God’s redemptive story throughout the Bible.
As we look forward to Thanksgiving, what is in your heritage, your legacy where you can see that perhaps you thought was “the worst thing ever” that ended up being a blessing. Where do you see God working in your life?
God is not silent. God continues to work.
Wrestling with God
Wrestling with God
Too often we think of our struggles with our faith to be a bad thing. The father that brought his son to Jesus in Mark chapter 9, wanted so badly for his son to be healed. And lets read that story together quickly here as we wrap up. It comes from Mark 9:17-29.
And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
If you’re struggling with God over something: forgiveness, unanswered prayer, hope, a decision - know that the struggle is a good thing. Especially if it is driving you to prayer. We’re all on that spectrum of belief and unbelief at any given moment. Still, God is there, and God meets us there as he met the father in the midst of his struggle.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, continues to redeem, and their God is our God. Amen.