Genesis 27:41 – 28:9
41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45 until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
28 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” 5 Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.
6 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth. 
When Isaac lifted his hands from Esau’s head, Esau realized the “blessing” he just received was more curse than blessing. His devious brother had stolen his blessing. So, Esau comforted himself with his plan to murder Jacob after Isaac finally died. Esau was not the kind of guy to keep his thoughts private. And his mother Rebecca was very observant. She didn’t doubt Esau’s homicidal intent. Satan was always searching for a way to destroy the Promised Seed. Now he was using Esau. So, she commanded Jacob to flee to Mesopotamia, to her brother’s house until Esau’s temper cooled. Fortunately, Esau’s explosive anger never lasted long, as his mother knew.
You might be tempted to see this family through the lens of our fleshly relative morality and think to yourself, “These are some seriously messed up people.” But I hope to show all of us this morning how the Isaac Family is nothing more than an ordinary slice of life in our fallen world. They are regular folks, simultaneously saints and sinners (excepting Esau). We’ve already seen enough of this family’s drama to wonder how they can be the ones in whom God was at work and through whom the blessing of Messiah would come to all people. They, like you and I most of the time, rely on their own HUMAN wisdom to accomplish their own desired outcomes. Like you and I, they are certain THEY know what’s best rather than being clueless and certain only God knows what’s best.
We watched Isaac’s willful, deliberate determination to thwart God’s plan by attempting to name Esau the promised seed. We have seen Rebecca’s scheming to the point of planning an elaborate hoax to secure the patriarchal blessing for her favorite boy, Jacob. Esau is sensuous and secular. Jacob is a shifty cheat. “But now, in the sequel to the episode of the stolen blessing, the plot sickens.”
REBECCA’S SCHEME (27:41-46)
In Genesis 27:38, we saw Esau appear repentant. He was weeping as if his heart would break. But it was mere worldly sorrow. Three verses later, he’s plotting Cain’s sin of fratricide. Luther wrote, “He is angry not only with his brother but also with his parents and with God Himself, whose blessing… it is and from whom alone it was also to be expected.” He will kill his brother with the bow or the sword and both his parents with mourning and grief. So, he plots to bide his time until daddy has been gathered to his people. His comfort comes from fantasizing about how he’ll kill his brother.
Rebecca is unchanged. She learned nothing from her previous scheming. She quickly determined to send Jacob out of the camp and put him on the road to her brother Laban’s house. “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away… Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?” She plans to retrieve Jacob as soon as Esau’s rage cools. But she needs a way to convince Isaac to let Jacob leave. And she quickly finds one.
Scheming Rebecca brings up to Isaac the bitter fact of Esau’s pagan marriages to remind him of how miserable the two shrews had made them. “46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?’” The suggestion that Jacob would add to their misery by taking a Canaanite wife was so unnerving to Isaac that he instantly grasped the alternative – just as Rebecca knew he would.
Isaac believes he’s made his own decision, just like Rebecca had planned. Again, she achieves the right goal in the wrong way. Did Rebecca grasp the theology behind her plan? Did she know the Promised Seed could only come through the blessed line of Shem? If she remembered that fact, it wasn’t her first motivation. But it was certainly God’s plan for Jacob and the precious line of the Promised Seed.
ISAAC’S RESPONSE (28:1-5)
Jacob has become the pawn, hated by his brother, and manipulated by his mother. But the ensuing 20 years will ensure that he becomes a man of God and the prince of his nation that will always bear his new name, Israel. Isaac is the only person in this scene who seems to have been granted repentance and become reunited with his Covenant God. Earlier, we saw him utterly committed to rebelling against God’s plainly revealed will. But he had been put through his own personal earthquake when he realized how useless it is to plot against the Sovereign God. Then he stamped his unknowing blessing of fake Esau with his regained faith by saying in 27:34, “Yes, and he shall be blessed!”
Jacob obtained Isaac’s first blessing through lying and trickery. Now Isaac willingly blesses his chosen son using the stronger terms of the Abrahamic Covenant. Isaac is back on board with God’s plan of producing a lineage for the Promised Seed to come. First, he prohibitively commands Jacob to take no wives outside the blessed line of Shem as his brother had done. Then, he specifically commands Jacob to only take a wife from Laban’s family. Finally, Isaac blesses Jacob with the invocation of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Isaac says, ‘3 God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” Isaac demonstrates a willing reversal of his pro-Esau attitude, now recognizing Jacob as the true heir of the Abrahamic covenant.
In fact, the opening invocation of the blessing—“God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless you” (28: 3)— bears the divine name first introduced in 17:1 when the covenant of circumcision was given to Abraham. Isaac’s blessing fully recognized Jacob as the third patriarch of the line of the Promised Seed. “It shows that Isaac had come to value the covenant of salvation and was at last acknowledging the sovereignty of God in the manner in which it was unfolded.” This is just a regular family, full of sinners, some of whom are saved by the electing grace of God’s free will.
GOD’S FREE WILL
The most important thing we learn from this little scene in the life of the Family Isaac is that the will of God, not the will of man, is always and ultimately established. God uses man’s will (both spiritual and sinful) as a secondary cause for establishing his sovereign free will. He used Isaac’s sin and Rebecca’s sin, and Jacob’s sins, and Esau’s sins to accomplish his will that Jacob receive the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.
In the process, he also shook Isaac’s rebellious heart to the core and gave him a huge reality check on just who’s in charge of life, the universe, and everything. The will of God is like an anvil. It is there for us to be conformed to, just as a bar of metal can be bent on an anvil and be beaten into something useful. But if we do not want to be conformed to the wise and holy will of God, then it is like a piece of wood being beaten against the anvil. It is the wood (us) and not the anvil that will be broken.
We see two diverging paths in this little family scene. Moses paints for us this metal versus wood analogy. Last week we saw Isaac and Esau as secret partners in a revolution against God’s free will. Like super-heated metal, Isaac has changed in the span of a few verses. God has changed him – because ONLY God can change hearts. Isaac again comes to see YHWH as El Shaddai.
This is one God’s of great names. God originally revealed this name to Abraham when Abraham was ninety-nine years old and God was promising him a son to be born when both he and Sarah were long past the age of childbearing. The will of this God is always done. Isaac had learned from his failed attempt to bestow the blessing on Esau. Now he commends the blessing of this same, all-powerful God on his departing son, Jacob.
If Isaac was the super-heated bendable metal, Esau was the intransigent wood. He too had been defying God, but God never granted him a heart of repentance and submission. So far as we know, God never granted him saving trust into the Promised Seed. Instead, he became Satan’s tool in the devil’s war against the Promised Seed, vowing to kill his brother. His only comfort in life and death was revenge (27:42).
He learned nothing from his pagan wives’ strife with his parents. He was observant enough to know something needed to be done about this. Moses gives us this parenthetical statement beginning in 28:6:
6 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
Esau heard of Isaac’s command to Jacob. But he was utterly deaf to the spiritual significance of it. He rejected the promise of the Seed, embracing the natural man-centered religion that is the default mode of all unsaved humans. Rather than undertake the 500+ journey to Mesopotamia to find a woman in the blessed line of Shem, he traveled maybe twenty to fifty miles to find Uncle Ishmael. Esau went out to marry a cousin like Jacob would do. But his new wife-cousin came from the cursed line of Ishmael, not the blessed line of Shem. Poor old Esau just didn’t get it.
After all, his new wife is a granddaughter of Abraham. What’s the problem? Finally, his parents should be happy with him. Maybe now he can wring a real blessing out of the Old Man. But Esau has just become a three-time looser in the great double-elimination tournament of life.
Esau, faced with his embarrassing sins of marrying two pagan women and being caught out in a scheme to murder his brother, does just what Adam and Eve did when they were caught out in their first sin. He reacts by trying to cover it over with human works. Adam and Eve chose dead, itchy, and scratchy fig leaves. Esau chose to marry a cousin in Abraham’s line. Both are human works that cannot solve a spiritual problem. Like all religious judgments of the natural man, this was mere superficial and ill-advised effort devoid of the righteousness only Jesus would earn and offer to his people.
No human effort can save or atone for sin. Rightness with God ONLY comes in and through helpless trust into the person and work of the perfectly lived life and sacrificial death of the risen and ascended Promised Seed. It was so for Adam and Eve. It could have been so for Esau, had he but repented and turned in hopelessness to the Covenant God of Abraham and God’s promises to his family. But Esau is content with his easy, superficial efforts. He is confident in his own wisdom (which is no wisdom at all). He would rather hunt for his own solutions than repent and accept the only true solution to separation from God – the Promised Seed coming to crush the head of the dragon-serpent. There is only ONE wisdom, and it doesn’t come from inside of us:
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 
Another conclusion from this scene from the lives of this regular family is that sin may taste sweet, but it always produces bitter consequences. Proverbs 19:21 teaches, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  Those who do not learn that it is God who writes history labor under the delusion that they must create their own destiny, work their own system, take the bull by the horns in order to achieve their own wants in their own ways. We inherited this delusion from our parents Adam and Eve and God spends our lives breaking us of it bit by bit, sin by sin, and consequence by consequence.
There were three results of their deceit that neither Rebekah nor Jacob anticipated in their rush to secure Isaac’s blessing. First, Rebekah lost Jacob; for, so far as we can tell from the account, she never saw her favored son again. This is a pathetic note in the narrative. Rebekah is still in charge, still trying to stamp her willful designs on history, still convinced of her own wisdom. But she has just lost her favorite son for the rest of her life.  She expected Jacob’s exile to be just a short while, maybe a year or so. Instead, Jacob was gone from the land for 20 years. Rebecca died during his absence (Gen. 35:27). Rebekah is not mentioned again in Genesis, except in one passage that tells that she, along with the other patriarchs and their wives, had been buried in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre (Gen. 49:31).
If Rebecca thought about how her scheming was a sin, she likely reckoned she would only pay some small price for it. That’s always a lie from the pit of hell. But the consequences of sin are always much greater than we imagine them to be at the point where we comfort ourselves with the delusions of being in charge of our lives. The thing Rebekah feared most happened. She was afraid to “lose both” her sons, but she did. Jacob left never to be seen by her again, and Esau soon went off to live in the hill country of Seir, or Edom (Gen. 32:3). Only by losing our inwardly-curved ideas of life do we find true life. So said the Promised Seed:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 
The second consequence of the sins of these regular folks is that Jacob, the deceiver of his father, is even more cruelly deceived. This happened at least twice. First, when he came into his uncle Laban’s household, he contracted to work seven years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. But Laban substituted his other daughter Leah and forced Jacob to labor an additional seven years to receive Rachel. His next (and most heartbreaking) deception happened at the hands of his own sons, when they told him his favorite son, Joseph, had been killed by wild animals when they had instead sold Joseph into slavery. Deception and favoritism were ingrained into the sin patters of these regular folks.
Don’t deceive yourself. You reap what you sew. Being a believer never exempts you from the consequences of your sins. In fact, as we’re seeing in the lives of the Isaac Family, the consequences contribute to our spiritual growth in Christ. So wrote the apostle Paul to the Romans:
He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 
The final result of the mother and son scheming was that Jacob went from the luxury of wealth and influence, to abject servitude to his scheming and greedy uncle in a faraway land. Isaac was the heir to all of Abraham’s great wealth and all the wealth his father had amassed on top of Abraham’s. Jacob went from being the spoiled rich kid with hundreds of servants to fulfill his every wish to a fugitive on the run alone in the wilderness.
In our text for next week, Moses makes no mention of Jacob leaving with a train of camels. Unlike the wedding party that came to Laban’s house to purchase Rebecca’s hand for Isaac, Jacob has no gold or precious treasure. He has no faithful servants with him, no fighting men to protect him along the trade route. All he has to offer his uncle is his service as a slave. God will spend the next 20 years stripping away Jacob’s veneer of self-trust and Jacob will spend that time striving against God. Guess who wins in the end?
What causes regular folks to become better? How do the ordinarily selfish grow into extraordinary trophies of God’s kingdom? The sovereign God must make them die to themselves and resurrect them into a new life and a new kingdom, and true wisdom. What does this extraordinary new life look like? Paul describes it to the church at Philippi:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
You cannot experience the peace of resting in the sovereignty of God who plans all things for his glory and your good if you, like Esau, refuse to recognize your need for the Seed.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 27:41–28:9.
 Boice, 2:759.
 Luther, 5:162.
 Hughes, 357-358. Kindle Edition.
 Boice, 2:760.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 1:30–31.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Pr 19:21.
 Boice, 2:761.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:31–34.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 2:6–11.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 2:3–11.