(This is the gist of what I preached this morning. Video can be seen herein: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohCfOJqMLrc )
INTRODUCTION – King Solomon, one of the wisest men who has ever lived on planet earth, after having watched some of his father’s short comings as a husband and as a father, and I’m sure after feeling the pain of some of his own family failures – penned these profound words about family building, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Psalm 127:1 The good news is – He is very passionate about building and healing and restoring your house or family.
One of the privileges Anne and I have had over these last 41 plus years of marriage is that we have been able to live for a time in diverse places like Dallas, Tx; Knoxville, TN; Pasadena, CA; Singapore; Hong Kong; Fort Wayne, IN; and now for 27 years and four months in Los Osos. And in all of these places we have been able to be see firsthand how knowing and walking with the risen Christ over time transforms marriages and families and spills over into communities and cities and nations. Because one thing our Lord specializes in is building marriages and families.
Not only does He build strong and well grounded families, but He often chooses to use family units, whether it is a marriage, a family or even a set of siblings, to build His kingdom on planet earth.
Have you ever given much thought to the fact that Jesus had at least four younger brothers & two younger sisters, and a mother and a step father of sorts - all of whom He related to throughout His earthly life of 33 years? And that after He was crucified and rose from the dead and ascended to re-join God the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven, a group of about 120 Jewish men and women gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem for ten days – praying and waiting for the promised Holy Spirit to come. Perhaps there has never been a more history transforming prayer meeting than that one. And do you know that all of Jesus’s four brothers and His mother and possibly his two sisters were a part of that gathering?
Did you know that two of those four brothers of Jesus - James and Jude authored a New Testament book each?
Did you know that James – one of those brothers was one of the key leaders of the early church based in Jerusalem?
Have you ever given much thought to the fact that when Jesus was looking for and choosing the twelve men that He would invest His life in and leave the responsibility to form and lead the early church – that of those twelve men - He chose two sets of two brothers – Peter and Andrew and James and John? Some say the other James and Lebbeus surnamed Thaddaeus were also brothers. But I can’t confirm that.
Did you know that one of Jesus’s favorite places to go for fellowship and a break from the action was in the home of two sisters and a brother named, Mary, Martha and Lazarus?
Some day when you have a couple of hours trace in your concordance how many times Jesus ministers in homes or houses.
Family units seem to have a special place in the heart of God, and family units appear to have a significant role in the establishing of His kingdom – or His presence, rule and reign, purposes and plans here on earth.
And that may be one of the big reasons why there was so much turbulence and conflict among family units (especially siblings) in Bible days, and why there tends to be the same in our day. We do have a cruel and cunning enemy who knows full well the potential of a marriage or a family or even two or three siblings to bring about transformation and to provide a sense of stability in a world that seems to be falling apart.
My thesis this morning is this: Often as God seeks to establish His people and His kingdom on the earth, He chooses to use the natural God given bond of family. Or to put it another way, Family relationships are worth fighting for because God has often accomplished great things through them in human history.
The question is how can we family members engage this battle effectively; how can we win this battle - especially when often there are great strains and estrangements in our relationships? How can we thrive in our marriages and parenting when our parents were not Christians, their marriage didn’t last, and we didn’t come to Christ until later in life; and maybe we already find ourselves walking in some of their destructive patterns? How can my family unit become a place where Jesus regularly dwells and manifests Himself, and we can have the joy of being used by Him to help others come to know Him?
To answer those questions I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis 25:19-34
In this passage we are going to learn three very important lessons from the marriage and parenting of Isaac and Rebekah and the sibling relationship of Jacob and Esau.
Here’s the first lesson:
I. The best shot children have of discovering and walking in their God given calling and destiny is to have parents who know and walk with God. vs. 19-26
“Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.”
A. Isaac had the privilege of being the long awaited, prophesied and prayed for son of Abraham and Sarah. When God chose to birth a nation and a people that He would primarily manifest Himself through to the other nations, He chose Abraham of all the men on earth to birth this nation through. He was not perfect, but he walked with God, he increasingly obeyed and trusted God, and he left Isaac a great spiritual heritage of faith to follow after.
B. God had made it very clear that this people eventually to be named Israel would come through Isaac’s lineage. So for that to happen Isaac had to have a wife; and typically in those days people obtained spouses much earlier in life than Isaac did. Isaac, following his father’s example and his father’s instruction, waited at least twenty years for God to provide for him a wife of His choosing. He obediently waited until he was forty years old for God to provide a wife, the story of which is found in chapter 24.
Then of course he not only had to have a wife, but she had to bear his children, and at least one of them had to be a boy. Only problem - for the first twenty years of their marriage, Isaac’s wife was barren, just like Sarah had been with Abraham. Isaac waited and Isaac prayed. And my guess is he prayed regularly and increasingly desperately for God to open his wife’s womb, which God eventually did.
Why didn’t God do it sooner? Because God’s ability to fulfill His purposes through a man or a woman or a couple is largely dependent upon the level or depth of their faith and trust in God. And our faith is best developed and strengthened through trials or difficult circumstances, wherein we learn to base our emotions and our lives not on our circumstances, but on what God has said. Please know that it is a way of God that He will give us a sense of calling and destiny perhaps through a prophetic word or a dream; and over time He will give confirmation of that calling. But then He will create some kind of barrier or obstacle that will make it seem like we must have heard God wrong. The enemy of our soul in such circumstances will pound us with darts of doubt. It is persistent prayer and standing on the promises of God that enables married couples to win this battle of faith.
C. And that leads us to Rebekah’s prayer in vs. 22. Knowing that Isaac – her husband was the promised son of Abraham by God; and that his birth was supernatural coming in Abraham and Sarah’s washed up years; and now God has heard her husband’s long standing prayer and she is clearly pregnant. What could go wrong? Surely it is all downhill now. But something strange was going on in her womb. Now it is not unusual for a child in a womb to move around as it develops. But Sarah had full on gymnastics going on in her womb probably on a daily basis. So she goes to prayer and asks God – what gives? If the Lord gave her the ability to get pregnant, perhaps He could give her the understanding of what was happening in her womb.
D. For all of you parents, grandparents and potential parents in the room – please give your undivided attention to God’s answer in vs. 23. And please note, she spoke to the living God of the Universe in prayer and He spoke back to her - - “the Lord said to her” “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
Rebekah – there are two destinies in your womb. Both are loved by God; created by God. But only one is called of God to continue Abraham’s lineage. Only one is chosen by God to walk with God and to eventually marry and have sons that God can use to bring forth this people that is in His heart.
Parents in the room - - one of the most challenging but rewarding responsibilities you will ever have is that of discerning from God how He has wired your children, what He has destined for them, and how to help them walk in that destiny or calling. I say challenging because God only chose Jacob, not Esau for bringing forth His people Israel. And Esau was the firstborn, which in that culture usually meant that he would have advantages over any sons or daughters born after him. God loves your children; God wants the best for your children; but His calling on them will be different; and part of your job as parents is helping each of them get in line with God’s calling and not envy or compare themselves with their siblings, and not have to fit in some mold that you have for them that is not in keeping with God’s plan and purpose.
Husbands – please do not rely on others to pray for and comfort your wife in her times of testing and difficulty. Women’s groups are great, friends have their place; but God delights in working through the caring and understanding prayers of a husband for his wife. No friend of your wife will ever have the authority and influence with God over your wife that you have. Don't settle for just bringing home the bacon when God wants to give you much more through prayer. He may not answer your prayers for your wife immediately. But He will answer if you persevere.
Transition: So the first lesson I see in this passage is “ The best shot children have of discovering and walking in their God given calling and destiny is to have parents who know and walk with God”. Thankfully Jacob and Esau had such parents.
Here’s my second lesson:
II. The next best thing parents can do to help their children become who God has called them to be is to become impartial like God and to learn to hate or refuse favoritism. Vs. 27, 28 “When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
Now there is nothing wrong at all with Esau’s love for hunting or Isaac’s love for fresh cooked game; but when Isaac allowed his love for freshly cooked game to cause him to favor Esau over Jacob, great harm was done to this family. Every ounce of energy a parent gives to favoring one child means the other child or other children get less of the parental energy and focus they so need.
There is nothing wrong at all with Jacob’s preference for a quieter and more peaceful and domestic life. Rebekah obviously could relate to this kind of life more than she could to Esau’s passion for adventure in the wild. But this just meant she was going to have to work harder at relating to Esau; perhaps sitting down with him upon his return from his hunting trips and wanting to hear of every detail. But apparently she never did that; and instead she developed some very unhealthy bonds with Jacob.
One of the attributes that sets our God apart from all other beings and especially humans is that He is absolutely impartial. Jesus modeled this perfectly while on earth and it did not go unnoticed even by his enemies. Even they admitted one day, and I quote, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any but teach the way of God in truth.” (Mark 12:14).
When the apostle Paul exhorted fathers ”to not exasperate their children, so that they will not lose heart” (Col. 3:21), surely this is one thing he had in mind. Our children may be slow in some areas, but they rarely miss favoritism in the room. One of the things that most contributes to their internal security and sense of well being and safety is that each of their parents has their back and will take a bullet for them. One of the things that most contributes to their insecurity and their tendency to fight with their siblings is the discovery that one or both parents favor their sibling over them.
And that reality leads us to the last lesson or truth we need to see from this passage; And that is
III. Children or siblings innately lean towards selfishness and self preservation vs. 29-34
“When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “first sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
A. When Esau came in from his latest hunting trip – exhausted and hungry – ideally Jacob would have had compassion on him and would have gladly shared some of his stew with him. But Jacob by now possibly had for years witnessed his father gawking over his older brother’s latest kill and preferring to wait and eat from that rather than eating from what Jacob had prepared. And Jacob very likely by now had been told by his mother of what God told her that the younger son would somehow be over the older son; and thus he began to scheme in his natural fleshly mind how he might pull that off. And Jacob very possibly had endured “sissy, mama’s boy” like comments from his older macho brother since he didn’t hunt and didn’t care for the wilderness, and preferred soft pillows at night instead of rocks.
So Jacob took the opportunity to capitalize on his brother’s weakness and get that much coveted birthright – which in that culture was always promised to the older brother.
Lest you have too much compassion on Esau, please note that he was one who rarely planned for the future. He lived on the edge; he lived for the moment; and he was given to exaggeration and victimization “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me.” That is serious short term thinking folks! Pity the wife that had to live with this impulsive passion driven man.
Research on sibling rivalry shows that young siblings fight up to eight times an hour. They are born with the same sinful, me first nature that you were born with ,and they will be plagued with that fallen nature that the Bible calls sin until Jesus Christ invades their lives and they bow their knees to Him as the only Lord and Savior that He is.
Parents – the better you get at allowing Jesus Christ to clean you up and make you selfless like He is, the better you will be at helping your children fight this battle.
Please remember when your children seem to be bent on tearing each other from limb to limb that Moses and Aaron – brothers – accomplished one of the greatest feats ever accomplished in Old Testament days together - - but God had to deal with Moses for forty years on the back side of a dessert to get him to the place of humility and brokenness where he saw Aaron’s value and his need for others and could work side by side with him under intense pressure.
Please remember all of Jesus’s brothers and sisters rejected Him and refused to worship Him and acknowledge that He was God in the flesh until after His resurrection – even though they got to see His selfless character every day growing up.
Often in the kingdom of God things take time. But I want to say that the potential in this room today - - in every couple and family represented in this room today – to impact our cities for Christ and His ever expanding kingdom is beyond what any of us can imagine if we will allow Him to teach us to do family His way.
And of course all of this starts with each of us coming to that place where we no longer are going to waste our lives with lesser things.
If you have never personally, on your own, finally admitted that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer and Deliverer and Lover that your soul has longed for all these years; and that He alone can forgive you of all of your known and unknown sins and cleanse you from all of the effects of those sins - - please do not put this life changing decision off for another second.
The Bible says, “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But it also says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found and call up on Him while He is near.” You are never guaranteed another opportunity to entrust your life to Him who gave His life for you.
If you are ready to do that now you can pray a simple prayer like this, “God I admit I am a sinner in much need of a Savior. Please come into my life and forgive and cleanse me from all my sins, and make me a child of God. Please give me the gift of eternal life. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name, Amen”
If you have prayed that prayer please come and talk to me or Joshua, or if you are watching this online, may the Lord lead you to someone that can help you learn how to walk with the living God.
Prayer for those who know the Lord and their marriages and families