Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17
(sermon note: 09-26 sermon note)
When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son’; and he answered, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.’ Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.
So he went in to his father, and said, ‘My father’; and he said, ‘Here I am; who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.’ But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ He answered, ‘Because the Lord your God granted me success.’ Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him 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; and 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 all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that 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.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a group of seniors who were sitting down at the coffee shop talking about all their ailments. “My arms have gotten so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee,” said one of them. “Yes, I know,” said another. “My cataracts are so bad; I can’t even see my coffee.” “I couldn’t even mark an ‘X’ at election time because my hands are so crippled,” volunteered a third. “What? Speak up! What? I can’t hear you,” said one elderly lady. “I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck,” said one, to which several nodded weakly in agreement. “My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy!” exclaimed another. “I forget where I am, and where I’m going,” said another. “I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old,” winced an old man as he slowly shook his head. The others nodded in agreement. “Well, count your blessings,” said a woman cheerfully….”Thank God we can all still drive.”
Poor, old Isaac, no longer able to see and hard of hearing…thank God he didn’t have the opportunity to drive in his day! Perhaps he would have counted it one of his few remaining blessings too! That’s a hard truth to accept about life in this world: the older we get, the more that we stand to lose. The ability to safely drive is just one of several possible losses. We stand to lose friends and loved ones, careers and sources of income, mental, bodily, and spiritual health, opportunities and time itself. Indeed, we have much to lose in this life. It’s no wonder they say getting old isn’t for the weak. We have to be strong to endure all that loss. All things considered, losing the ability to drive is quite a minor loss.
But our reading isn’t necessarily about loss as it is about what we stand to gain. Isaac was at the end of a long and fruitful life. He had come a long way from his father, Abraham, holding a knife over his body as we heard about in last week’s reading. He had acquired a family and an estate and his days were coming to an end. And, as was the tradition in his culture, he needed to bestow his estate to his oldest son through a blessing. Well, everyone was fine with that except Isaac’s wife, Rebekah. Recall that God had spoken to her earlier when Esau and Jacob were in her womb and told her that the older son would eventually serve the younger son. In her mind, this meant that she needed to ensure that Jacob received Isaac’s blessing instead of Esau. How could one serve the other without the blessing? So Rebekah was merely acting to fulfill God’s words by enabling Jacob to trick his father into blessing him. Jacob, ever dutiful to his mother, was simply going along with his mother even though he didn’t believe he deserved the blessing. And by all rights he didn’t deserve the blessing. Esau, being the eldest, deserved the blessing as dictated by the larger culture. Or did he?
Jacob goes on to trick Esau into giving him his birthright for a bowl of stew. It’s ultimately the birthright that gives him his father’s estate, not the blessing. Jacob’s cleverness gets him the estate, not the blessing. No, the blessing is something else entirely. The blessing was simply a gift from God, as all blessings are gifts from God. Recall the words of James that say, “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (1:17) All blessings come from God and God alone and they bestow their own rewards. God was working through Rebekah and Isaac to ensure Jacob received his blessing. I know it’s a fine distinction to make between the blessing and the birthright but it’s an important distinction. God blesses those He wants to bless regardless of whatever system of fairness or justice we create in this world. And God’s blessing is more than a birthright. God’s blessing is God’s love and protection. God’s blessing is God’s wisdom and might. Indeed, to receive God’s blessing is greater than a birthright. A birthright only bestows worldly goods while a blessing bestows godly support and encouragement. And who’s to say who deserves God’s blessing but God himself? And how God blesses us is truly unique to each of us.
Which gets us back to what we stand to gain at all points in life. The older we get, the more we stand to lose. But we also stand to gain more too. God’s blessing can come to us whenever and however God wants. Indeed, I’d argue that the more we lose in this life, the more room we make to receive God’s blessings. Maybe I’m echoing Jesus’ words about losing life to receive life! But it’s so true, God blesses whomever, whenever, and however he likes! Jacob did deserve to receive God’s blessing. Why? Because God wanted to use Jacob, not Esau. God wanted Jacob to lead his people and share his love to his people. Jacob’s dream only confirmed that God wanted him to receive the blessing…”all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that 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.” This is God’s mighty blessing, bestowing far more than a mere birthright can! It’s similar to the blessing bestowed on the prophet Isaiah, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (41:10) And we can ALL receive his blessing no matter who we are or where we are in life. We have to simply be open to receive his blessing. The blessing of Jacob reveals this.
Jacob went on to be a great leader with God’s blessing. Let us seek out God’s blessings in our own lives…”count our blessings” so to speak. Better believe that God has blessed us in so many ways! Our God is a good and generous God. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.