November 2, 2014 Genesis Sermon # 4
“Isaac: Shaken, not Just Stirred” Genesis 27:1-33
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
He grew up as a God-fearing man who saw God at work all his life. He was raised in a godly and faithful family. Many times he had heard the story of how he was his parent’s “miracle child,” since he was born long after there was any human chance of his folks having any children. When he was perhaps in his teen years, he himself witnessed a most dramatic miracle that not only saved his life, but also served as further proof of the Lord’s amazing faithfulness. This man knew God as “Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Who Provides.”
Later on this man saw the Lord providing for him a wonderful wife: she was beautiful, hardworking, kind and generous, willing to make great sacrifices, and one who was submitted to the Lord. They had a loving marriage. Then, when they struggled through almost 20 years of infertility problems, he saw the Lord once again answering his prayers, as they welcomed twin boys into their family! And if that were not enough, he experienced God’s hand of blessing upon his flocks and herds, so much so, that even the pagans envied his obvious prosperity.
He seemed to have it all: a godly heritage, a personal testimony of how the Lord had worked miracles in his life; a loving wife; two growing sons; and an heir of God’s promises and covenant, that He would bless the whole world through his descendants!
All these things must have “stirred up” his faith in the Lord, but one thing was missing: The Lord needed to really “shake him up” and turn his world upside-down, in order to capture his mind, his heart, and his will. Isaac needed to be shaken, not just stirred.
As we consider the life of Isaac this morning, I want to ask you: “What about you? Have you been shaken by God? Or have you only been stirred? That is, have your dreams and priorities been turned upside-down by the Holy Spirit, or have you been merely pushed along in life? For if we are going to really know God and walk by faith, we need to be “shaken” by God. Let’s see how that plays out in Isaac’s life.
Most of us are familiar with the main points of Isaac’s life:
- His mother Sarah, through old and barren, miraculously conceived and gave birth to Isaac
- When Isaac was perhaps in his teens, the Lord told Abraham to offer up Isaac, his beloved son, upon an altar, and he obeyed, believing that even if he had to offer up his son, God could raise him from the dead. Instead the Lord provided a substitute sacrifice to be offered up. (A foreshadowing of God providing a substitute sacrifice for us- His own Son, upon the cross.) Imagine the impression that made on Isaac!
- Then when he was 40 years old, God wonderfully brought Rebekah into his life, as his loving wife, and even after they struggled for 20 years with infertility, God finally gave them two sons, twin boys, Esau and Jacob.
I’m sure the Lord used these things to stir Isaac’s heart toward God again and again.
But it doesn’t seem that Isaac’s heart and will had yet been shaken enough to totally transform his life. So…What was Isaac’s problem? How would you diagnose his problem?
I think Isaac’s major problem in his walk with the Lord was that he suppressed the truth about God’s future plans for his sons. That is, Isaac repressed the Word of God regarding the Lord’s sovereign choice of Jacob, the younger son, over Esau, the older son.
This suppressing of God’s truth is something that all of us are born with, as sinful people:
We read in Romans 1:18-19 that “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”
In this case God had made it clear to Isaac, through the prophecy to his wife, Rebekah, that the older brother would serve the younger brother. (Gen. 25:23).
But Isaac suppressed God’s truth (about his sons) for two reasons:
First, for what Esau could do for him. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob because Esau was more of a man’s man, a skillful hunter, who would bring the wild game he caught in the open country, and prepare a delicious meal for his father. Isaac wasn’t willing to accept the truth that God would bless Jacob over Esau.
Second, because Isaac lived by sight, not by faith. It was only “natural” that the oldest son would receive the birthright and the blessing. That’s what always happened in every family. It would take great faith to believe that God actually wanted to work against the natural way of doing things, in order for him to bless Jacob instead of Esau, and Isaac didn’t want to go that way of faith.
Therefore Isaac, like an ostrich, put his head in the sand, and pretended not to see the truth of God’s Word. He suppressed the truth that God wanted to work not according to Isaac’s fleshly desires, nor according to the way of nature. It would shake his life, his priorities, and his will, to surrender to the truth that God wanted to work by the Spirit, and not by the flesh; that the Lord wanted to work in super-natural ways, not in natural ways.
Therefore in Gen. 27, we see Isaac going full speed ahead with his plan to give Esau the covenant blessings, despite what he should know by now:
- Isaac is willfully ignoring/ suppressing the prophecy that the Lord gave to Rebekah, in Gen. 25:23, that “The older (son) shall serve the younger.’
- Isaac deliberately ignores the fact that Esau has sold his birthright to Jacob, which means he has traded in his spiritual future for the here and now: one simple meal!
- Isaac also is turning a blind eye to the painful fact that Esau has married not one but two pagan women (26:34-35), which is not only a source of grief to both Rebekah and Isaac, but is completely counter to what Isaac did, in waiting for a godly wife. (Gen. 24)
And despite all these signs, Isaac is going ahead here, in Gen. 27, with his plans to give Esau his blessing. This is like a man who while driving down the highway at 70 mph is ignoring all the warning signs such as “Reduce speed’ “Danger ahead” “Road ends in ½ mile” – until he crashes head on into a concrete barrier and totals his car.
You cannot ignore God’s word any more than you can ignore such traffic warnings.
I think we can make three interesting observations in Gen. 27:
First, there is the matter of vision: Isaac’s blindness: When we read in v. 1 that “Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see,1 he called for Esau his older son,2” God wants us to understand that not only was Isaac’s physical sight impaired, but also that his spiritual sight was impaired. “There is none so blind, as those who will not see,” and Isaac did not want to see the truth of who should receive this blessing.
John Calvin wrote: “Isaac is blindly carried away by the love of his firstborn son, to prefer him to the other; and in this way he contends against the prophecy of God. For he was not altogether ignorant of his calling; therefore, his obstinate attachment to his son was a kind of blindness, which proved a greater obstacle to him than the external dimness of his eyes.”
Second, there is the matter of priorities: Isaac’s appetite. Isaac’s appetite seems to take priority over God’s Word. Note the connection with what happened between Isaac and Esau in 27:1-4 and between Esau and Jacob in Gen. 25:29-34. In Gen. 27, Isaac says to his Esau, “Hey, I’m going to die soon, so before I do, if you want me to give you the all-important blessing, then make me another one of those tasty meals from the wild game you hunt so skillfully.”
In Gen. 25, Esau says to Jacob: “Hey, I’m famished and about to die from hunger, so if you will give me some of that delicious stew you are making, I’ll give you my birthright!”
Both father and son were willing to trade away a spiritual blessing for some food… which is what Adam and Eve did in the garden, didn’t they? It’s the sin of putting the physical and material above the spiritual and eternal. It’s a matter of priorities in life. How are yours?
Third, there is the matter of Identity: Isaac’s confusion. Isaac is confused about who his sons are, and in this, we see a continuation of the “identity confusion” theme in Genesis, or “Who are You?”
Abraham told Sarah his wife to pretend she was his sister, twice, to save his own skin
Isaac had done the same with his wife Rebekah, for the same reason.
Jacob will wake up on the morning after his wedding and realize he’s married the sister.
Jacob will wrestle with the Lord and the Lord will ask him “Who are you?”
Later on, Joseph’s brothers don’t recognize their brother in Egypt, after 22 years
Here, Isaac repeatedly asks the question of Jacob, pretending to be Esau, “Who are you?”
Notice the questions Isaac asks His son, and the doubts he expresses:
- 18 “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”
- 20 Isaac asked, “How did you find it (the game he hunted for) so quickly, my son?”
- 21 Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”
- 22-25 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied.”
“What a tangled web we weave, when we at first practice to deceive!”
It is only when we fully trust in God that we know who we are, and don’t have to pretend or cover up anymore, out of fear.
The Lord shakes Isaac. But let’s get to the punchline in this story; it’s found in 27:30-33
“After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” 33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him–and indeed he will be blessed!”
Isaac’s belly is full of good food and fine wine; he’s given his blessing, with gusto, to the son he thinks (he hopes!) is Esau, and all is well with the world for Isaac… until suddenly the real Esau shows up, with another meal, looking for his blessing… and here’s where Isaac’s world is rocked to its foundations!
Look at v. 33 “Isaac trembled violently.” The NIV hardly does justice to the Hebrew here. Literally the Hebrew words mean “And Isaac was terrified with a very great trembling.”
It’s the word used to describe the how Mt. Sinai trembled violently when the Lord Himself descended upon it, in Ex. 19:18. We’re talking about a 9.9 earthquake on the Richter scale!
Here’s Isaac, an old man, who until now has been quietly reclining and resting after a meal and some good wine, and now he’s shaking like a leaf in a hurricane! God has stirred him in the past, but now he’s being shaken by the Lord.
I think this is the cataclysmic moment in Isaac’s life when the Lord finally grabs him, wakes him up, and shakes him so much, that he grasps the true fear of the Lord. (See Gen. 31:42 and 31:53, “the fear of Isaac” or “the trembling of Isaac”)
Isaac, the professing believer, the one who had witnessed many of God’s miracles and blessings, and the inheritor of the Lord’s covenant promises, had finally been shaken to his core, as he suddenly realized that he was not in control! He was rudely awakened to the truth that he had been suppressing God’s truth about Esau and Jacob. God had been stirring in him for decades, but now God was shaking him violently!
And when he realized that he had been doing his own thing all along, he suddenly saw God’s truth for what it was, and now he was going to take action by faith! I think this (and the subsequent blessing he gave to Jacob in 28:3-4) is what Hebrews 11:20 is referring to
Hebrews 11:20 “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.”
‘When Isaac learned that Jacob had received the blessing intended for Esau, he made no attempt to revoke it; rather he confirmed it; “Yes, and he shall be blessed.” (Gen. 27:33)
Isaac, like his father, believed God, and his faith too was an “assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not yet seen.”
The Lord shakes Isaac:
The truth was no longer suppressed; it shot to the surface and could not be denied!
The scales were removed from Isaac’s eyes, so that now he could see by faith!
Isaac realizes that he is not in control over future events, and that God’s sovereign purposes will win out every time!
We see God’s Spirit triumphing over the fleshly ways of Isaac;
The supernatural grace of God is victorious over the natural (sinful) schemes and works of Isaac, Esau, Jacob and Rebekah.
The Lord shakes us through salvation in Christ:
The truth that Jesus is the Savior and lord erupts like a volcano within us! It cannot be denied!
The scales are removed from the eyes of our heart, so that we can see and walk by faith!
We affirm that the Lord’s purposes will prevail, not our own; “Thy will be done!”
We see God’s Spirit triumphing over our fleshly hearts!
The supernatural grace of God is victorious over our sinful nature and our tendency to rely on our own works-righteousness! Hallelujah!
Has the Lord shaken you? Has he put His finger on what you’ve been holding out on him, and turned your life and your priorities upside-down?
Don’t settle for merely being stirred a bit by God… ask Him to daily capture your heart and your will and shake you violently, so that you will fall at His feet in awe and in faith… in Him alone.