Expository Sermon on Genesis 25 – 28
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 5/22/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
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Please open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 25.
This is a follow-up sermon to last week’s topic. I’m calling today’s sermon “Doing Loneliness God’s Way, Part 2.”
If you were able to tune in last week, you will remember that we talked about both Joseph and Job. Both men felt extremely lonely for various reasons, but no matter how difficult their circumstances were, both men trusted God completely. They both “did loneliness God’s way.” Totally trusting God, Joseph used his talents for the work at hand. And, totally trusting God, Job talked out his feelings.
This morning we’ll be looking at the life of Jacob. As we’ll see, there was a point in his life when Jacob was lonely too – but this was a totally different situation. Both Joseph and Job became lonely through no fault of their own. But when Jacob became lonely, it was his fault.
My mother was the type of person who generally gave people the benefit of the doubt. Once in a while, when I would show my frustration about the way somebody was handling a situation, Mom would often mildly say, “Well, that’s their way.”
What she meant by that was that this person was dealing with life in a different way than I might – but they seemed to be doing the best they could with what they had.
There were certain practices, of course, which mom set her face firmly against, such as anything illegal or immoral, and she had no patience at all with drinking. If she heard about somebody drinking alcohol, her brow would lower in a frown, and she would turn to us kids and shake her finger at us and say with great intensity, “Don’t ever let me catch you doing that!”
As I say, mom was generally tolerant of people. But there was another type of person she had no time for – it was someone who was sly and dishonest. Speaking of that kind of person, she would say warily, “He’s a little sneak.”
Well, there’s a good chance that if she had known Jacob personally, she would’ve called him a little sneak. Because that’s what he was, though I believe he was eventually converted out of that habit.
I mean, think of Jacob’s descendant David. Because you could say that, in a way, both of these men were “anointed.” When the Lord grew weary of King Saul and his apostasy, He had Samuel take a little jar of oil and anoint David’s head with it. In other words, he was crowning David the next king of Israel.
But even though David probably never forgot the feel of that cool olive oil on his head, he always was very careful to not run ahead of God. David was content to allow the same God who had chosen him king to be the one to work out the details.
Contrast that approach with what a man named Hazael did in 2 Kings 8. The prophet Elisha had told Hazael that he would become king once the current king had died. But Hazael wasn’t willing to wait. When nobody was looking, he took a heavy, water-soaked cloth in to the king’s sickroom, and smothered him to death.
Even though Jacob wasn’t nearly so violent, he was a sneak. He and his mother had the habit of going ahead of God to try to manipulate the outcome.
Let’s get some background on Jacob first.
Genesis 25:19 – 23 [NKJV]: This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”
So here, in a way, we have Jacob’s “anointing,” even before he was born. He wasn’t anointed to be a king, but he was anointed – by the very words of God Himself – to receive the birthright of the eldest son, even though he was born just a few minutes after his twin, Esau.
Well, the pregnant Rebekah gives birth. Watch what happens next.
Verses 24 – 34: So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
When I was a boy, reading through this story, I remember thinking, “Well, this is Esau’s fault. He shouldn’t have been so foolish as to sell his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew. After all, God had said that Jacob would rule over his brother, and now it’s happened.”
But you see, this wasn’t God’s way of doing things. David would never have done this. Joseph and Job would never have done this. David and Joseph and Job had too much respect for God, and were too well acquainted with God’s power and ability, to tamper with things this way.
But Jacob was a sneak.
And maybe he inherited this sneakiness, at least partly, from his mother Rebecca. Let’s pick up the story at the start of Genesis 27.
Genesis 27:1 – 10: Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” And he answered him, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.” Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, “Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, ‘Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.”
Now, here is Jacob’s chance to behave like his future son Joseph. Jacob should have looked at his mother with wide open eyes and said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
But he responds to his mom in a different way.
Verses 11 – 12: And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”
Do you see the difference between Jacob’s and Joseph’s responses? Jacob tells his mother that he is uneasy with this plan–not because it’s wrong, not because it’s running ahead of God–but because he might get caught!
This might be a good time to introduce what you could call Sermon Point One. You see, God has been watching Jacob every moment of his life. He’s probably wishing that Jacob would behave like his grandfather Abraham, and Noah, and Enoch who walked with God.
You see, Jacob doesn’t know how to be lonely for God. Because Jacob’s habit of running ahead of God, manipulating things rather than waiting for God to work them out in His own way, does indeed give rise to some questions.
So I believe there are some probing questions God might like to ask Jacob at this point. Just looking at this story, I came up with four of them, and I think these are good questions to ask ourselves as well, to see if we’re recognizing our own loneliness from God.
So let’s use that as a springboard for the sermon points. At this point in Jacob’s story, what question would God be asking Jacob? The answer, I believe, could be Sermon Point One:
“How much of your life are you trying to live without Me?”
Chillingly, it seems–so far–as though Jacob was trying to live his whole life without God. We don’t see him praying to God, we don’t see him being open and transparent and truthful, we don’t see him being patient with God while God works things out the way He knows is best.
And this could be a good question for us. How much of my life am I trying to live without God?
How do you figure this out? Well, I think we should ask ourselves how often we ask for God’s input on things that are happening. What do we pray about – just the crises, or other things as well? What do we thank God for? In important matters, do we take Him as a partner in our life, asking Him to open doors we should go through, and close those we shouldn’t—or do we just muddle blindly ahead on our own?
And could it possible that we are trying to manipulate our way through life, as Jacob was? Are we trying to work out God’s promises in our own power, by hook or crook?
Now let’s move toward another possible divine question.
Jacob goes through with his mother’s plot. She tells him to wear Esau’s clothes, and wrap animal skins around his arms and hands so they will seem hairy like Esau’s.
During those few minutes with his father Isaac, I’m sure that Jacob was trying to make his voice sound like Esau’s voice. I’m sure he was worried that Isaac wouldn’t be fooled by those bristly animal skins.
But Isaac “bought” the deception, and gave him the firstborn’s blessing. Here’s the last part:
Verse 29: Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!”
Perspiring profusely, his knees weak with relief, Jacob hurries from his father’s tent. And his mother is probably waiting outside with the ancient Hebrew equivalent of a high five.
But on with the story . . . .
Verses 30 – 31: Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.”
And Isaac tells him that he’s already given away the firstborn’s blessing. Esau is horrified. Weeping, he begs for a blessing of his own, and Isaac finally gives him one, but it’s not as good as Jacob’s blessing. And Esau gets very angry, and resolves that once their father has died, he will kill Jacob.
Without saying anything to Isaac about this, Rebecca urges Jacob to travel about 400 miles northeast to the town where her brother and family live. Maybe he can find a wife among the Hebrews there. And Jacob obeys her, and runs for his life.
And as he runs, we don’t know what he’s thinking. He’s afraid, of course, and I’m sure that that first day, he wanted to make sure that he put as many miles as possible between him and his brother, who is an expert archer. I mean, Esau the seasoned hunter knows many ways to kill things, and Jacob wouldn’t have a chance.
Let’s see what happens next, in chapter 28.
Genesis 28:10 – 11: Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.
Isn’t that’s really chilling? Jacob is lonesome for God, but he doesn’t know it.
Think about other Bible people who had to run for their lives. When David ran for his life, from the armies of King Saul, he poured out his heart toward God in several Psalms, asking God for protection from his enemies.
When Elijah ran for his life, he cried out bitterly to God and actually admitted that he was lonely. “Nobody else in this country is righteous,” he said, “I’m the only one. And now they are seeking to take my life.”
But after a day of chest-squeezing jogging, Jacob just rolls over and tries to get to sleep. Jacob evidently does not realize that he is lonely for God. He’s probably keenly missing his parents, and the friends he had, back home. But it seems as though, all along, Jacob has gotten used to living his life without much regard for God.
This is a good time to insert what I would consider Sermon Point Two.
But first, let’s watch as Jacob receives his famous dream.
Verses 12 – 16: Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall 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 spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
So, what could be a second question God might be asking Jacob—and asking us?
God asks not only “How much of your life are you trying to live without Me?” But He also asks, “Can you realize how close I really am?
Jacob says, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” Jacob had no clue how close God was. He didn’t know that the Lord is always close to those of a contrite heart. But that night he discovered that God will get in touch – sometimes whether or not you expect it.
And this might be a good chance to ask ourselves this same question. Can we really realize how close God is, even when we have strayed away from Him?
Some of you already realize this. Maybe you have been someone who wandered away from God, or never really knew Him to start with. Yet God got through to you, made contact in some way. Maybe He did it through a Bible passage, a Christian song, a sermon, a Sabbath school class comment, a friend’s testimony, or a book.
People of my generation who grew up Adventist had their souls revived by books by Adventist pastor Morris Venden. People have been converted by Ellen White’s little salvation manual Steps to Christ. Atheists have seen sense in C. S. Lewis’s books, such as Mere Christianity. Just this week in the mail I got the June issue of Signs of the Times magazine. The cover story is by Adventist professor of biology and paleontology at Loma Linda, Dr. Leonard Brand. The name of the article is “Can a Creationist Be a Scientist?” It’s a wonderful article, which logically and answers the question with a resounding “yes.”
So if you’re separated from God, and even if you don’t particularly feel lonely, ask Him to get in touch with you. He created you, and has surprising and heart-fulfilling plans for you. Beg Him to show up in some way so that He can tell you and show you how much He loves you.
Another question that comes out of what we just read could go like this. Here’s Sermon Point Three:
God asks, “How much of your life are you trying to live without Me?” And “Can you realize how close I really am?” And He also asks, “Can you trust My promises?”
Okay. Jacob was a child of promise. God had promised his grandfather Abraham basically the same things He was now promising Jacob. Jacob came from a line of chosen people, who would make a dramatic difference in the lives and hearts of people all around the globe.
But what does this have to do with us? We can’t actually claim the promises made to Jacob, of course. So does God have promises that we can claim?
I believe it’s very important, before we claim a Bible promise, to first of all make sure we understand who the promise was first being made to, and why. We always have to study every promise in context.
That means we have to carefully sort out the general or universal promises from the ones that are more specific. How do we do this?
The best thing to do is to start with the words of Jesus, such as the ones in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew five through seven, and then the other promises He makes in the rest of the Gospels.
The apostles, as they spread the gospel throughout the area in the book of Acts, made promises to the Gentiles, and we can claim many of those. The books of Peter and Paul and John and James have promises we can claim. The book of Revelation is full of promises to the seven churches, and elsewhere throughout the book.
Once we’ve carefully sorted out these general promises, and studied their context, how much can we trust them? Sometimes we might need to say, like the father whose son was demon possessed, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Let’s look for one final question God might have for us. But first, we need to watch how Jacob responds to this staggering realization that – even in the middle of his fugitive’s fear, maybe even as he is feeling confusion and shame over the deceptions he has played – even so, God was just a ladder’s length away.
Verses 16 – 22: Then Jacob awoke 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!” Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
To me, reading Jacob’s response is just a little bit eerie. Sure, he’s responding, and that’s a good thing. But his response sounds awkward and formal. At first, it’s not like he’s even talking to God, but just talking about Him. He says, “If God will do this, if God will do that, and so on, then He will be my God.”
Can it be that Jacob is trying to strike a bargain with God? Could he be trying to manipulate God? Or maybe he’s so much of a stranger to God that he doesn’t at first know that it’s okay to speak of God as “You.” But finally toward the end of his speech, in verse 22, he switches from third person to second person.
Verse 22: And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Finally, a breakthrough. Could it be that God smiled with satisfaction as He finally heard Jacob talking directly to Him? After all, Jacob’s grandpa hosted the Lord at a meal outside his tent one afternoon, and they had a conversation together. Jacob’s grandma had giggled when she overheard the Lord telling her that she would have a son, and He called her on it.
So as we think about Jacob’s response to God, here is Sermon Point Four, the last question God might be asking us.
“How much of your life are you trying to live without Me?” He asks us.
“No matter what you’ve done, can you realize how close I really am?
“And can you trust My promises?”
And finally, He asks, “What is your response to Me?”
Jacob’s response was to express surprise and reverence that God had come close to him, and then try to make some kind of agreement with God, and set up a memorial to commemorate the event. This is Memorial Day weekend. The Sabbath is a weekly memorial of God’s creation. And then Jacob promises to become a faithful tither.
And even though Jacob seems to have been unfamiliar and awkward about relating to God, his heart was in the right place. So maybe you and I should show deep reverence in God’s presence, and find out what His plans are, and make some kind of memorial or memento about this—such as a baptismal celebration. And then, of course, we need to remember to be tangibly faithful to God in a systematic way.
Really, what our Heavenly Father wants is for us to simply let Him lead us day by day, through the wisdom of Scripture, and through the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Is that what you want? It’s what I want.
Our closing song is one in which we can express this desire in music. If you’re on our email list, I sent you the words to this song. It’s number 482 in the hymnal, “Father, Lead Me Day By Day.”
Father, lead me day by day,
Ever in Thine own sweet way;
Teach me to be pure and true,
Show me what I ought to do.
When in danger, make me brave,
Make me know that Thou canst save;
Keep me safely by Thy side;
Let me in Thy love abide.
When I’m tempted to do wrong,
Make me steadfast, wise, and strong;
And when all alone I stand,
Shield me with Thy mighty hand.
May I do the good I know,
Serving gladly here below;
When at last go home to Thee,
Evermore Thine own to be.