Warning, this post is very long.
Bryan L had a post the other day asking about the possibility of partial predestination – it was an interesting post and made me think of a sermon I did in a preaching class on Genesis. I include it below. It is not perfect but let me know what you think.
Sermon Title: Hairy and the Heel Grabber
Text: Genesis 25:19-26
1. Contemporary Connection:
2. Modern Extension:
Many of us have spent years and years seeking God for his direction and provision in our lives. Some of us may be waiting for answers to prayers that we’ve been praying for all our lives. We are beginning to beginning to wonder if God will answer or not, or when will the answer come. For others here we know God gave us a promise of something he is going to do in our lives but we have yet to see him carry it out or even begin the process. We’ve been waiting and praying, begging and pleading to the Lord that he will fulfill his promises to us
3. Biblical Analogy:
In the Bible, we see a similar thing going on in the lives of many Bible characters. One person in particular is Isaac. Isaac spent twenty years asking the Lord to fulfill a promise he made to Isaac. We are going to see that in God’s perfect timing he answered Isaac’s pleadings and begging for the fulfillment of his promise. It came through the birth of Jacob and Esau. It is through this birth that God chose to fulfill is promises to Isaac and his father Abraham. In the end, Isaac received the promise and acknowledged God sovereign provision in his life.
4. State the central proposition:
Those who walk with the Lord in faith, acknowledge God’s sovereign grace and provision in their lives.
5. Preview the main points:
Tonight as we go through the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau, we are going to see first, that God will provide for his promises to us. Next, we will see that God has absolute control over the situations in our lives. Finally, we are going to see that when God works in our lives we need to acknowledge it.
6. Announce the text and read the passage:
Open your Bibles with me to Genesis chapter 25 and verse 19. We’ll be reading verses 19-26. Read along with me if you will.
Main Point 1:
The first point that can be made about this text is that God will provide for his promises to us. Because God has a plan, only he can provide for the promises he gives us. This text begins with the phrase “these are the generations of Isaac.” The book of Genesis shows the progressive development of a consistent structure and common theme of God’s creation, and blessing in accordance with his greater purposes. These themes are arranged in traditions from the past in a series of successions called tôledôt, which is the word for “generations” or “account.” Each set of tôledôt develops the motif of divine blessing, in order to present the historical basis in tradition for the creation, election of the seed of Abraham. So, the grand theme of the tôledôt traces the theme of creation and blessing and its development and protection by the Lord. Here we begin a new succession of the generations of Isaac, who was born to Abraham.
In verse 19 through 21 we see there are two different ways God provided for the promises he made to Abraham and Isaac. The first is through family connections. First we see that Isaac was born to Abraham. Now this may seem like a redundancy but what is happening is that the narrator is showing the promise had been transferred to Isaac and it is through him that the blessing will go on. We also see that Isaac married Rebekah. While this is where Genesis 24 picks up and carries on, we are reminded that Isaac married into the family line. God was ensuring his blessing would carry on untainted.
The next way God provided for his promises was through prayer. We see in verse 21 that Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was barren. It is through Isaac’s prayers God provided for his promises. The use of the Hebrew verb ±¹tar, which has to do with prayer, emphasizes the ongoing fervency of Isaac’s prayer to the Lord on behalf of his wife (it’s in the imperfect). It has the nuance of begging and pleading to the Lord. He really wanted God to remove the unpleasant barrenness of his wife.
The reason Isaac pleaded with the Lord so strongly is because in his day the worst thing that could happen to a couple was to be childless. It was taken as a sign of being outside God’s favor. For Isaac to be childless also meant he would have no one to take care of him in his old age. Also, Rebekah’s inability to give birth presented Isaac with a dilemma. God had promised Abraham his “seed” would become a great nation. In Genesis 22, the promise was repeated to Isaac. But how would it happen unless Rebekah became pregnant? In this, we see that prayer becomes a means of how God provides for his promises.
Finally, in verse 21 we see God answer Isaac’s prayers. The word ±¹tar is used again for the Lord in saying he answered the prayer. It is a tolerative construction showing how God allowed himself to be prayed to and in so doing was moved to answer the prayer. In effect, Isaac’s fervent begging and pleading with the Lord moves him to answer Isaac’s pleadings. The use of the verb here also highlights that God is always the one being prayed to for deliverance or relief. The answer resulted in Rebekah becoming pregnant indicating God’s sovereign and gracious removal of her barrenness so that she can bear a child who will carry on the blessing.
The main point of these verses is that despite Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah and his continual pleadings to the Lord on her behalf, these things are not enough to produce the heir of the promises of God. God alone is the one who provides for his promises, as he did with Isaac and Abraham. It is important that we remember God is sovereign and he will provide for the promises he makes to us.
Main Point 2:
The next point I want to make is that God has absolute control in the situations of our lives. Moving along in the story we see in verse 22-23 that God has absolute control in the situations of the lives of Isaac and Rebekah. To be sovereign is to have absolute control and this is true of God and how he handles our lives.
In answer to Isaac’s prayers Rebekah becomes pregnant but then the babies begin to jostle in the womb or push each other around. The word for “struggle” is a word that is associated with the idea of crushing or oppressing others. What was happening was the twins were in a sense smashing each other and crushing each other giving Rebekah a lot of grief. Think here of a WWF fight going on in Rebekah’s belly!
Because of the great turmoil that is going on, Rebekah seeks the Lord about what is going on. The Hebrew word here for inquire is what a person does when seeking the Lord for divine direction in difficult situations. Rebekah was extremely distressed and desperate for guidance.
In verse 23 we see God’s response. We see that the Lord gave her an oracle concerning what is going on. In her womb were two nations, two peoples. Two ways God was going bring about his promises to Abraham and Isaac. The oracle is given in couplets and the second set intensifies the first. Not only were their two nations and two peoples, the older was going to serve the younger. This is a foreshadowing of future relationship between the nation of Israel and Edom. In time, Israel came to dominate over the people of Edom.
Rebekah’s experience reflects two motifs taking place in the patriarchal narratives of the Genesis account. The first is that the wives of the patriarchs experienced barrenness until God intervened. The second motif is that God chooses the younger child to carry out the covenant promises, Able over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Joseph over his brothers, and in this passage Jacob over Esau. Jacob owed his election to none other than the Lord. The Lord chose Jacob over Esau because he knew what was in Esau’s heart. He was not a worthy to carry on the blessing of God because of his selfish and disobedient heart. It is the same with others who had been passed over as the future beneficiaries of the covenant. Instead, God chose Jacob over Esau because he knew Jacob would have a heart for God and would be obedient to him. In these verses we learn the lesson that answered prayers don’t always bring us the results we hope for. When God directs human affairs in these ways, it shows that he alone is sovereign and that he is elevated over and above human presumption and arrogance. The simple fact of the matter is, God has absolute control over the situations of our lives.
Main point 3:
The final point I’d like to make is that when God works in our lives we need to acknowledge it. This is what Isaac and Rebekah did in naming their children. We may not always like how God answers our prayers but when he does we need to acknowledge it. In verse 24 we see how Rebekah’s giving birth to twins brought truth and clarity to the word the Lord had given her. Two nations and two peoples made sense now. To recognize the Lord’s working in her life, naming the children shows they acknowledged God’s sovereign provision.
Typically in Bible times names were chosen to acknowledge the unusual circumstances of their children’s births and were commemorative of God’s sovereign provision (For example, Seth means replacement – he was a replacement for the loss of Able to murderous brother Cain). The names given to Jacob and Esau reflect their appearance and activity at birth but they also reflected the future character and nature of both the children and their descendants.
Esau was named for his appearance at birth. Esau’s skin was a reddish brown color and very hairy, almost like an animal and so the name Esau is a play on the word for red and that would point to his founding the nation of Edom. Jacob was named for his activity at birth, he was holding on to Esau’s heel. Jacob’s holding Esau’s heel, reflected the conflict that was going on inside his mother and also the conflict they would have in the future. The name Jacob sounds like the word for heel and originally had a positive connotation, something like “May God protect or reward.” Only later did Jacob’s name come to reflect the negative aspects of his behavior.
Finally, we see that Isaac was sixty years old when his sons were born showing a twenty year wait for God’s answers to his prayers. That Isaac had to wait that long for God’s promises to be fulfilled in his life only serves to show that the birth of Jacob and Esau was a supernatural act of God rooted in faith and hope. Psalm 9:10 says “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” This was true of Isaac and Rebekah, and it is and can be true for you.
Tonight we have seen in the story of Jacob and Esau’s birth that in all things God is sovereign. We see that he will provide for his promises to us. We see that he has absolute control in the situations of our lives. And when he does work in our lives we need to acknowledge it. It is ultimately a story of sovereign grace and protection as God was making sure his purposes were being fulfilled.
Those who walk with the Lord in faith, acknowledge God’s sovereign grace and provision in their lives.
Like Isaac and Rebekah, do we realize that God is sovereign in our lives and do we acknowledge it? Or are we instead going against God’s working in our lives and trying to do something other than what he intends for us? God is sovereign and he will see that his purposes are fulfilled. We as believers can either allow God to work in us and through us or we can find ourselves being set aside from the plan God has for us. When we do allow God to work in us and through us, the results are blessed life for which God alone deserves the credit.