In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Isaac was a man of God. Literally. He existed because of God’s miraculous action. His father, Abraham, was 100 years old (Gen. 21:5) and his mother 90 (Gen. 17:17) when he was born. This was long before in vitro fertilization or fertility drugs. There was no scientific intervention. It was pure miracle. The Lord’s promise fulfilled by the Lord’s gracious intervening in the lives of us mere mortals. Now Isaac, the inheritor of God’s promise (Gen. 17:19), to make Abraham a great nation and bless all the families of the earth through Abraham's offspring (Gen. 12:2-3), gets married at 40. (Gen. 25:20) They had a habit of putting things off in this family. But The Lord had promised. So biological clocks don’t matter when the Lord promises you’ll have kids. Except when you run up against cold, hard reality: Rebekah was barren. Infertile. Try though they might, they couldn’t conceive. So Isaac cries out to the Lord. He reminds Him of His promises. He stands in faith on what God Himself had said to him. The Lord is true to His word. She who was barren conceives. (Gen. 25:21)
God doesn’t care about your worthiness or your goodness. To be sure, you need to be good to those around you. Or you will make your life a living hell. But it's your fellow man who needs you to be a decent person. Not God. Your neighbour needs your "good" works. Not God. God cares about His promise to Abraham to bless all. (Gen. 12:3) He cares about His Son Jesus Christ who has paid the price justice demands of every slight, big or small, you have given to Him or anyone else. (Rom. 3:23-25; 2 Cor. 5:21) He, as a loving Father, has saved you from the messes you have gotten yourself into. Your sins don’t keep you out of His family. Rather His promises He makes to you, His Word He speaks to you, His forgiveness He grants you places you in–in Him, in His family.
But back to Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first. Which means that one of those little human conventions, just a few minutes of time, the hairy boys’ decent through the birth canal first, means he automatically gets the birthright of the firstborn–a double portion of the material and spiritual inheritance when dear, old dad pops off.
But Esau doesn’t think past the moment. He doesn’t care about the promises of God made to his family. His neglect shows he doesn’t want this inheritance. He only thinks about now. Not the future. Not about God’s promises for his family and the whole world. He sells this glorious inheritance for a bowl of red stew. (Gen. 25:30-32) And he gets new name out of the bargain–no longer is just known as Esau or "hairy," but now as Edom or "big red." This name reminds all that who know the story that he doesn’t have the faith of his father and mother and brother in promises that brought all of them into existence.
And that’s the thing with the Triune God: He turns our expectations on their ear. He does what delights Him, which is the saving of His children. He doesn’t do what we think is right. He intended to give inheritance to Jacob, not Esau. Because your goodness and Jacob's goodness has nothing to do it. God will do what God will do. He gives things by faith and not by works. And that is a blessing to you and me. Because in reality, try though we might, we aren’t that good. We fail constantly. We neglect to do more than we ever accomplish. We want to think that our intentions are good, but even if they weren't self-centered, the results of what we accomplish pale in comparison. And we all know there are times where our own intentions are downright wicked. So the fact that God saves you in spite of your goodness is awesome!
What a blessing! But sadly when people get told Christianity is about bein' real good, it breaks them. It kills their faith in this saving and gracious God. And they can often become the most hateful enemies of this God and His Church. Just like Esau who intended to kill this miserable sinner Jacob. (Gen. 27:41) Next week we’ll hear about the results of these sins of Jacob against Esau and these sins of Esau in despising his own faith. But this week we rejoice that Emily is baptized and clothed in Jesus; that all the saints of God are saints because God has declared you so, not because you are actually that saintly. For this is what it means that God is loving and merciful: that He saves sinners, from themselves. (1 Tim. 1:15)
In +Jesus' name, Amen.
---Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON