Sermon Notes

November 11th 2018

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson November 11th

Deception in the Family / Genesis 27:5-10; 18-29 (NRSV/MSG)

NRSV
27 5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.’
8 Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. 9 Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your
father, such as he likes; 10 and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” 18 So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” 19 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.” 20 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.” 21 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.” 22 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.” 23 He did not recognize him,
because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25 Then he said,
“Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father
Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,
“Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. 28 May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

MSG
5-7 Rebekah was eavesdropping as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. As soon as Esau had gone off to the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah spoke to
her son Jacob. “I just overheard your father talking with your brother, Esau. He said, ‘Bring me some game and fix me a hearty meal so that I can eat and bless you with God’s blessing before I die.’ 8-10 “Now, my son, listen to me. Do what I tell you. Go to the flock and get me two young goats. Pick the best; I’ll prepare them into a hearty meal, the kind that your father loves. Then you’ll take it to your father, he’ll eat and bless you before he dies.” 18 He went to his father and said, “My father!” “Yes?” he said. “Which son are you?” 19 Jacob answered his father, “I’m your firstborn son Esau. I did what you told me. Come now; sit up and eat of my game so you can give me your personal blessing.” 20 Isaac said, “So soon? How did you get it so quickly?” “Because your God cleared the way for me.” 21 Isaac said, “Come close, son; let me touch you—are you really my son Esau?” 22-23 So Jacob moved close to his father Isaac. Isaac felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He didn’t recognize him because his hands were hairy, like his brother Esau’s. 23-24 But as he was about to bless him he pressed him, “You’re sure? You are my son Esau?” “Yes. I am.” 25 Isaac said, “Bring the food so I can eat of my son’s game and give you my
personal blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate. He also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then Isaac said, “Come close, son, and kiss me.” 27-29 He came close and kissed him and Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. Finally, he blessed him, Ahhh. The smell of my son is like the smell of the open country blessed by God. May God give you of Heaven’s dew and Earth’s bounty of grain and wine. May peoples serve you and nations honor you. You will master your brothers, and your mother’s sons will honor you. Those who curse you will be cursed, those who bless you will be
blessed.

INTRODUCTION TO THE LESSON
This week’s lesson explores how the four characters highlighted in this chapter—Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob—form a dysfunctional family. Isaac and Rebekah each have a favorite son—one that they apparently prefer over the other. But while Isaac’s favoritism is less revealed in the text, Rebekah’s actions are predicated on her preferential love for Jacob over Esau. Indeed, the preference seems to have no limit. She is willing to initiate and carry out a plan of deception against her handicapped (blind) and aged husband; she incorporates Jacob into the conspiracy as an accomplice; she victimizes her son, Esau, in the process. And she makes it possible for Jacob to escape the immediate consequences of his actions. Yet, it is a family upon which the blessing of God rests. The blessing was initiated by God, in his call upon Abraham’s life (Genesis 12:1-3). The blessing was confirmed several times by God’s reassurances, and by His miraculous power enabling Sarah to conceive Isaac at such an old age. The blessing was reconfirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26). And the blessing was reconfirmed to Rebekah, through Jacob (Genesis 25:23). 27 5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. 9 Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; 10 and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” 18 So he went in to his father, and said, “My father”; and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?” 19 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.” 20 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.” 21 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.” 22 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.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” 25 Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. 28 May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. 29 Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!” 27 5-7 Rebekah was eavesdropping as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. As soon as Esau had gone off to the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah spoke to her son Jacob. “I just overheard your father talking with your brother, Esau. He said, ‘Bring me some game and fix me a hearty meal so that I can eat and bless you with God’s blessing before I die.’ 8-10 “Now, my son, listen to me. Do what I tell you. Go to the flock and get me two young goats. Pick the best; I’ll prepare them into a hearty meal, the kind that your father loves. Then you’ll take it to your father, he’ll eat and bless you before he dies.” 18 He went to his father and said, “My father!” “Yes?” he said. “Which son are you?” 19 Jacob answered his father, “I’m your firstborn son Esau. I did what you told me. Come now; sit up and eat of my game so you can give me your personal blessing.” 20 Isaac said, “So soon? How did you get it so quickly?” “Because your God cleared the way for me.” 21 Isaac said, “Come close, son; let me touch you—are you really my son Esau?” 22-23 So Jacob moved close to his father Isaac. Isaac felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He didn’t recognize him because his hands were hairy, like his brother Esau’s. 23-24 But as he was about to bless him he pressed him, “You’re sure? You are my son Esau?” “Yes. I am.” 25 Isaac said, “Bring the food so I can eat of my son’s game and give you my personal blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate. He also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then Isaac said, “Come close, son, and kiss me.” 27-29 He came close and kissed him and Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. Finally, he blessed him, Ahhh. The smell of my son is like the smell of the open country blessed by God. May God give you of Heaven’s dew and Earth’s bounty of grain and wine. May peoples serve you and nations honor you. You will master your brothers, and your mother’s sons will honor you. Those who curse you will be cursed, those who bless you will be blessed. All of this is a reminder that the sovereignty of God cannot be upset by any human eventuality—not dysfunction, deception, ignorance, malice, or manipulation. God accomplishes Divine will—with or without our approval, with or without our participation, with or without our compliance.

INTO THE LESSON
27 5-7 Rebekah was eavesdropping as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. As soon as Esau had gone off to the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah spoke to her son Jacob. “I just overheard your father talking with your brother, Esau. He said, ‘Bring me some game and fix me a hearty meal so that I can eat and bless you with God’s blessing before I die.’ 8-10 “Now, my son, listen to me. Do what I tell you. Go to the flock and get me two young goats. Pick the best; I’ll prepare them into a hearty meal, the kind that your father loves. Then you’ll take it to your father, he’ll eat and bless you before he dies.” Rebekah spied on Isaac’s conversation with Esau. Upon learning of Isaac’s intentions, it is she, not Jacob, that masterminds the plan of outwitting Isaac and obtaining his blessing for Jacob. Note that Rebekah did not just happen to overhear the whisperings of Isaac and Esau as they plotted the diversion of divine promises to the elder son. The text tells us that she “was eavesdropping.” The Hebrew form that is used in the original text suggests that this was a habit, a pattern of behavior, not a happenstance. Therefore, the deviousness that Jacob exhibits in this pericope, and later in the gook of Genesis, appears to be learned behavior. He learned his devious and deceptive behavior from his mother. This is an object lesson that contemporary believers should take note of: we must be careful about what we teach our children, and the young within our care, through our actions and our speech. Children are especially impressionable. They naturally mimic
the negative behaviors that adults model. The plan was incredible, one that could hardly have been conceived on the spur of the moment. It lends to the belief that Rebekah had been thinking about this possibility for some time. Moreover, while it is not part of the printed lesson, in verses 11-17, Jacob objects to this
plan, not on the basis of moral or ethical behavior, but on the basis of the likelihood for failure, given the physical distinctions between the men—pragmatics rather than principle. Since Jacob does not rebuke his mother for the evil which she has proposed, he clearly agrees with her unethical strategies. No moral verdict is pronounced, nor even considered. Rebekah even has a ready answer for this objection. She promises to assume the negative consequences personally if anything were to go wrong. From a contemporary perspective of Christian ethical behavior, Rebekah’s action is clearly situational ethics. She is acting on the premise that the end justifies the means. However, her attitude and actions belie the theological reality that, as Christians, our ethical decisions should be grounded in the love ethic of Jesus Christ. Our personal agendas must not override the love of Christ, or the justice of God. 18 He went to his father and said, “My father!” “Yes?” he said. “Which son are you?” 19 Jacob answered his father, “I’m your firstborn son Esau. I did what you told me. Come now; sit up and eat of my game so you can give me your personal blessing.” 20 Isaac said, “So soon? How did you get it so quickly?” “Because your God cleared the way for
me.” 21 Isaac said, “Come close, son; let me touch you—are you really my son Esau?” 22-23 So Jacob moved close to his father Isaac. Isaac felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He didn’t recognize him because his hands were hairy, like his brother Esau’s. 23-24 But as he was about to bless him he pressed him, “You’re sure? You are my son Esau?” “Yes. I am.” 25 Isaac said, “Bring the food so I can eat of my son’s game and give you my personal blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate. He also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then Isaac said, “Come close, son, and kiss me.” 27-29 He came close and kissed him and Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. Finally, he blessed him, Ahhh. The smell of my son is like the smell of the open country blessed by God. May God give you of Heaven’s dew and Earth’s bounty of grain and wine. May peoples serve you and nations honor you. You will master your brothers, and your mother’s sons will honor you. Those who curse you will be cursed, those who bless you will be blessed. As Jacob pretended to be Esau, there are six lies recorded in the text. The most egregious lie is found in verse 20: “… your God cleared the way for me.” Jacob
excused his sin by claiming that God was his Partner in its performance. Christians frequently say, “The Lord led me to …” something, when often, it’s something we always wanted and intended to do. We must be careful with such statements, for they serve as evidence of selfish/sinful thinking, designed to conceal our sin!
The decision Isaac reached was one based on his reliance on his five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. It serves as a practical reminder of the danger of making decisions solely on the basis of empirical evidence. If we cannot see it, hear it, feel it, or smell it, it does not exist. But a truth that we must always take into consideration is that the one whose heart is at enmity with God can look at empirical facts and come up with a conclusion that is totally false. The problem is not with the facts; the problem is with the individual whose head and heart are not totally submitted to God. In the end, Isaac blesses Jacob because he thought he was blessing Esau. Jacob’s deception causes further strife within this family, emphasizing their dysfunction. While Genesis is clear that Jacob is the son of promise, his and Rebekah’s actions bring unnecessary pain to their family unit. Perhaps the most important question one can ask while reflecting on this lesson is: Have I ever brought unnecessary pain to people because I was deceptive or dishonest like Rebekah and Jacob? If one answers in the affirmative, then confession and repentance is in order.

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