March 31, the Twentieth Day of Lent

March 31, 2011 § 1 Comment

It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.

-Hebrews 11.20-

Having considered the highest example of faith in the life of Abraham, the author of Hebrews now moves on to the patriarchs that followed. Today we will consider Abraham’s son, Isaac, and how he exemplified faith.

If we read the story that is referenced here (it can be found in Genesis 27.1-40), we may wonder: just how does Isaac live by faith here? After all, he is deceived by his son, Jacob, into giving the blessing of the firstborn to the wrong son. Esau, the rightful owner of the blessing, receives a pronouncement that could hardly be called a blessing at all. This doesn’t look like a faith story; this looks like a family feud. The author of Hebrews knows this. As we have seen before, he knows his Israelite history, and he expects his audience to know this history as well. So why reference this event, since it makes Isaac look stupid, Jacob seem dishonest, and Esau robbed?

As in previous verses, the author is directing our attention to a specific point of the story. He is highlighting the fact that Isaac blessed his sons by faith. We have watched how God’s promise in Genesis 12.1-3 is kept throughout Abraham’s life; now we will begin to track the rest of Israel’s history and see how the promise is kept in the generations that follow.

So, despite the sordid details of this tale, the author draws our attention to the fact that Isaac believed the promise, and blessed his sons accordingly. J. Wesley Adams summarizes the transmission in this way: “When Isaac imparted the blessing to Jacob, the promises concerning the future that had been passed to Isaac from Abraham were activated in Jacob. In this fashion, Abraham’s spiritual heritage was passed down…” As an audience, we can see the promise being kept and fulfilled through generations.

Perhaps this is what we are to take from this verse. God used an old, blind man (Isaac) as his chosen vessel to pass down the blessings associated with the promise. Has God used unlikely circumstances or people to bless us? Has he used us, out of our sin and brokenness, to bless others? God will fulfill his promise, and he will use unlikely people in that process. Isaac may have been blind and at death’s door, but the author of Hebrews takes pains to make sure that we know one thing: he believed the promise, and he passed on the promise as his father did to him.

Have we limited the ways in which we look for God to work? Or are we open to God using the unexpected and surprising in our lives? Sometimes we can limit God’s grace in our lives simply because we are not open to receive it as it comes. Think about a time when God used an unexpected event, person, or situation to bless you or challenge you to greater faith. Do we get so preoccupied with the messenger that we miss the message?

As we journey through Lent together, may we experience God in the unexpected.

“Dear Lord, thank you for working in my life. I am aware of the conventional points of faith and ways that I can receive grace, but sometimes I forget that you are much bigger than those. Please help me to see you when I’m not looking for you, and to find you when I’m not seeking you. I confess that in the past, I have rejected your gifts because I doubted how they came. Please give me faith to live in your promises and grace to accept your work in the world and in my life, from wherever it comes. Amen.”

 

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