By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. Hebrews 11, verse 20.
Perhaps the story of Jacob and Esau is a good example of ‘mixed blessings.’ If you don’t know much about Jacob and Esau, they were twins born to Isaac and his wife, Rebekah. Esau was born first, only minutes before his brother, but was the blood-born heir as firstborn. Yet God wasn’t with Esau as He was with Jacob, and Jacob shrewdly talked his brother out of Esau’s birthright, then deceitfully gained his father’s first-born blessing by posing as Esau. Shady story? Perhaps, yet I’d ask you whether or not such things happen in our world today. You know they do: from families to nation-states, each of us acts in our own best interests.
Sometimes those interests are in line with how God is blessing us. That was the case with Jacob.
When Isaac was old and nearly blind, he wanted to give his formal, ecclesiastical blessing to his first-born son. In cahoots with their mother, Jacob and Rebekah schemed to deceive Isaac so that Jacob, and not Esau, would receive that blessing. You’d be mad enough to kill if your younger brother had taken away everything that was supposed to be yours. Esau was, and he swore to kill Jacob, then prepared to make good on that vow. That’s what happened yet in being both fascinated and repulsed by this story, don’t overlook the miracle of it.
Isaac blessed his sons because he had faith his God would bless them accordingly. What’s more, God blesses Jacob and Esau both after the deception.
Isaac lived his life knowing God, having seen God bless both his father, Abraham, and himself. Isaac gave his blessing when he was old and while Abraham was still alive. In doing this, Isaac is a witness to his belief that God was good and would bless and prosper the world as He said He would. Such faith in adherence with worldly customs like birthright blessing shows trust in God and thankfulness for all that God has given us. Isaac seems like a bit-player in Biblical history yet his faith is most important. God made the covenant with Abraham to bless the world through him. It is Isaac who puts that covenant into motion by passing on his faith-based blessing to his son. God kept that covenant promise despite Abraham’s shortcomings (like lying about the identity of his wife) or Isaac’s (who did the same thing about his own).
And when the world (via Jacob) intervenes with the sin of deceit, God still uses that to make good on what He promised. Hearing about Esau’s vow, Jacob, again with the help of his mother, flees to her homeland and is, himself, deceived by his uncle. Jacob falls in love with his cousin, Rachel, yet is deceived by Rachel’s father into marrying her sister, Leah, in exchange for seven years of work. Eventually, Jacob marries both Leah and Rachel and fathers twelve sons who will become the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
In the meantime, God blesses Esau by giving him wealth and a large family through his cousin Ishmael’s line. Esau never forgot his vow to kill his brother, yet God blesses him with the spiritual gift of mercy. Many years later, a wealthy Jacob returns home to submit to his brother’s will (itself an act of faith). Instead of murder, Esau forgives his brother, and the families are reconciled. When God sees Jacob’s willingness to submit to his brother’s punishment for the deceit of years before, His heart is moved and He renames Jacob “Israel.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Read the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau in Genesis; start in Genesis 27. I’m hoping you see how yesterday’s themes of foreshadowing, devotion, reason and resurrection play out in all their lives because, in some ways, they are both the picture of the life of Jesus to come as well as a picture of the kind of lives even we live today. Each of our lives is a bag of mixed blessings. It’s my prayer you come to see how, mixed or otherwise, they’re all still blessings from above.
For further reading: Genesis 27.
Lord, thank You for mixed blessings. And thanks for the story of Isaac and his dysfunctional family. May it be a blessing to my own.