Altogether, Abraham lived 175 years. He died at a good old age. He was an old man full of years. That is Abraham's obituary. He had two wives, Sarah and Keturah. And his two sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, the cave Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite so he could bury his wife Sarah. We know already that Ishmael lived away from Isaac and we see that Abraham gave gifts to the sons he had with Keturah and sent them away from Isaac. It was clear Isaac would inherit the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. And Abraham left everything he had to Isaac. Keturah’s sons received gifts but Isaac received the whole inheritance and the blessings of the covenant.
There are plenty of things to learn from Abraham. He left us a clear witness of salvation through faith. Paul cites this in Romans 4:1-5, Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. He could not have been saved by the law because the law had not been given yet. And the covenant of circumcision did not save him either because we see God declare Abraham righteous long before circumcision. Abraham was saved by faith and faith alone. We are saved by faith through grace.
Abraham also showed us an example of living a faithful life. Wherever Abraham went, he pitched his tent and built an altar. He always showed people he was a worshipper of the one true living God. He showed us how to walk by faith long before we read 2 Corinthians 5:7. Like the rest of us he had moments where he failed but by and large Abraham was a very faithful and faith filled man. And that true faith will show itself in our obedient response to the Word of God as well.
Abraham gave the world the gift of the Jewish nation...Israel. His grandson Jacob is renamed Israel by God, and his twelve sons become the twelve tribes of Israel. This in and of itself does not save anyone but it is through the descendants of Abraham we have a Savior. When we look at Jesus genealogy in Matthew's gospel, we see Abraham listed. God promised Abraham that through him the world would be blessed, and God has kept that promise.
By comparison Isaac led a much quieter life than Abraham or Jacob. He didn't travel far, never leaving the land of Canaan. He was 40 when Rebekah became his wife. She was his cousin. We see early on he prayed to his father's God. Isaac and Rebekah waited 20 years for a family. Like Abraham and Sarah, God acted in their lives when the time was right. Again, we see that our times are in God's hands and His timing is never wrong. Isaac prayed on behalf of Rebekah because she, like Sarah was barren. The fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham depended on Isaac having a son to carry on the lineage. But God already knew that!
When pregnancy came, the twins Rebekah carried fought in her womb. It was usual and Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord. She too was a person of faith in the one true God. What the Lord told her would trouble her all the days of her life. The boys she carried would struggle and fight against each other their whole lives and their descendants beyond them. And the younger...Jacob would serve the older, Esau. Just as Isaac was the second born to Ishmael, Jacob was the second born to Esau. God chose the second born twice. He does not make mistakes.
Trouble began early on. Isaac and Rebekah chose favorites, creating more division. Esau was an outdoorsman and Jacob a home body. Rebekah favored Jacob and was willing to do anything to help him succeed. It is also clear that Esau didn't think much of things of faith, but Jacob did. God had already chosen Jacob, so he didn't need to scheme but he did. Jacob was cooking one day, and Esau came in from the field, starving. He asked for some of Jacob's stew and Jacob sold it to him for his birthright. The birthright was the oldest sons share of the family's estate. In the ancient world the firstborn typically received a double share of the inheritance. It was a big deal. But selling it for a bowl of stew showed that Esau cared little for things of family and faith.
When Abraham arrived in Canaan there was a famine and he left for Egypt. Now a famine threatened Isaac as well. He was ready to flee Canaan, but God appeared and asked him to stay put. In other words, Isaac was to trust the Lord. God reiterated the covenant promise of land and descendants once again. God has to remind us occasionally because we forget. Some three thousand years later God is still reminding us of His promises. Isaac fell into the same trap as his father, telling people his wife was his sister. And like his father he prospered.
Today’s reading leaves us with one sentence that shows Esau’s disregard for family. He married not one but two pagan wives. Scripture tells us they were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac was at peace with his neighbors but there was war at home. Jacob was faithful and Esau was of the world. And we will see in the next reading Esau took a third pagan wife, just to provoke his parents.
The closer we draw to the Lord, the harder the evil one tries to mess things up. He crouches at the door waiting for any opportunity. Isaac and Rebekah were faithful, turning to the Lord in prayer. We will see Jacob also trusting in the Lord in good times and bad. He and many others before us have shown us the way to do the same. This is a crazy world we live in. The Lord is the only sure thing we have to hang on to. Don't let go.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W