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the death of sin to the life of righteousness. In this the seed of Abraham has seen the travail of his soul, and has been satisfied. His enemies have been confounded, and we have an earnest that He shall go on to triumph gloriously, until all the kingdoms of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Such is this extraordinary history. Suffer me shortly to make one obvious application of it, and so conclude. When Abraham at the Divine command stretched forth his hand to slay his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved, you are sure that he must have loved the Lord his God supremely. The sincerity of his devotedness to Him and his zeal for his glory, cannot, you think, after such an exhibition of self-denial for his sake, possibly be doubted. If you do think so, brethren, how is it that you do not believe that God loves you, and wills your welfare? For did not He give his Son, his only Son Jesus, whom He loved, to be made a man of sorrows, and to die upon the cross for you? and is there not love in this? yea, must not the love, which bestowed such a gift on you, be great as the gift itself? must it not be infinite love which provided nothing less than an infinite atonement to save your souls from destruction?
Beloved, then, if God so loved you, whom should you love, whom should you serve, whom should you trust but Him only? Be persuaded to cast all your care upon Him who careth for you; be certified that He intends no other than your good in all his dispensations towards you. And as you use the good things He gives you without suffering them to usurp the Giver's place in your affections, so likewise be content to receive affliction as the loving correction of a Father who would make you great. And as He has kept back nothing from you, but delivered up even his Son for you all, so do you keep nothing back from Him. Beseech Him to impress your whole souls with a deep and lasting sense of your obligations to Him; to shed his love abroad in your hearts by his Spirit, and so to purify you to Himself to be a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
GEN. xxvii. 19.
"And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me."
You have here a very remarkable history.
The patriarch Isaac, supposing himself to be near his end, was desirous of giving his blessing to his eldest son Esau. He directed him to go out into the field, and hunt for venison, to dress it, and bring it to him, that he might then receive the benediction. Rebekah, Isaac's wife, overheard this conversation. She and her younger son Jacob agreed to deceive Isaac, who was blind, and to procure the blessing for Jacob instead of Esau. Rebekah, in order to effect this, dressed two kids, and gave them to Jacob to put before his father: she clothed Jacob in Esau's garments, and because he was a smooth man, but his brother a hairy man, the better to impose upon Isaac, who might feel his hands, she covered them with the skins of the goats. These matters being arranged, Jacob took the meat which hist mother had prepared, and set it before his father, feigning himself to be Esau, and, at the same time, request
ing to receive the blessing. Isaac had some suspicion of the cheat, but being persuaded, by feeling Jacob's hands, to believe him to be really his firstborn son, he solemnly bestowed the blessing upon him. Esau soon afterwards returned from his hunting, and then the whole artifice was of course discovered. But Isaac refused to reverse what he had done. Jacob retained the blessing, and Esau departed, much grieved and disappointed, and with a full determination to take vengeance on his brother, as soon as a favourable opportunity should present itself.
In discoursing upon this extraordinary portion of Scripture,
I. I shall first offer some observations which may serve to explain both the narrative itself, and the conduct of the parties concerned;
II. And then endeavour to make some practical application.
I. In order to our understanding the narrative, we must inquire in the first place what this blessing was, and how it came to be considered a matter of such vast importance.
The last solemn benediction of parents in those early times, was the settling of their inheritance, and the making those their heirs upon whom they bestowed their blessing. And this was implied in the words of Isaac: "God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine," that is, an ample portion of wealth, and "be lord over thy brethren '," that is, have the right of eldership and dominion in thine own family.
But this was not all in the case before us; for God had promised a special privilege to the family of Abraham, namely, that his posterity should have possession of the good land of Canaan, and that from him should descend that righteous seed, in whom all nations should be blessed. This promise had been limited
1 Gen. xxvii. 28, 29.
before to Isaac, to the exclusion of his half-brother Ishmael; and now it was limited to Jacob to the exclusion of Esau. And Isaac's words are a prophecy, which was completely fulfilled to Jacob's descendants. God gave them of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, when they took possession of the land of Canaan, "a land flowing with milk and honey." The people were made to serve them, and the nations to bow down to them, when David overcame the Moabites, Ammonites, Syrians, and Philistines. They were made lords over their brethren, when the Edomites were also subdued, who sprang from Esau. And from Jacob descended the Redeemer Christ, concerning whom, according to the concluding words of the prophecy, it shall be true to all eternity, "Cursed is every one that curseth thee, and blessed is he that blesseth thee." These privileges, by Isaac's benediction, were conveyed and limited to the house of Jacob.
We must observe in the next place, that before Esau and Jacob were born, God Almighty had decreed, and had declared his determination, that the elder should serve the younger: that is, that Jacob should have the blessing with the privileges annexed to it, and that Esau should be rejected. Why God chose Jacob rather than his brother we are not told; and it is presumptuous as well as needless to make inquiry. "The secret things belong unto the Lord "." "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonours?" He is not bound to give account to us of any of his matters. But this we know, and it is enough to know, that the Judge of all the earth will assuredly do right.
God's determination respecting Esau and Jacob was made known to their mother Rebekah, and seems to have been by her clearly understood. She being with child (it is said), "the children struggled together within her; and she went to inquire of the Lord.
2 Deut. xxix. 29.
3 Rom. ix. 21.
4 Job xxxiii. 13.
And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb "." Upon this, Rebekah concluded it to be the decree of God, that the posterity of Jacob, the younger of the twins, should, in process of time, become a great nation, mightier than that which should spring from Esau, the elder of them; and that Jacob, notwithstanding his being the younger child, was chosen by God to be heir to those privileges which He had promised to the family of Abraham and Isaac. In this Rebekah judged rightly.
Accordingly, when she overheard the conversation recorded in the chapter under our review, in which her husband, Isaac, declared his intention of bestowing the blessing upon his firstborn Esau, and so making him his heir, she determined to defeat that plan, and to procure the blessing for Jacob by a stratagem.
But, in order to this, she had recourse to what was a very wicked contrivance. "Go now (says she to Jacob) to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father. And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death." Jacob was startled at this proposal; not indeed at the iniquity, but at the hazard of it. And he replies, "Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: my father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing." But Rebekah made light of his fears, and answered very profanely, "Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice." She then dressed him up in Esau's raiment, put the skins of the goats upon his hands, and sent him to his blind and aged father with a lie in his mouth to steal the blessing.
5 Gen. xxv. 22—24.