“Isaac’s Legacy: The Power of the Blessing!”
Hebrews 11:20 (ESV)
April 2, 2017 by Pastor Jerry Ingalls
How did you come into the faith? What is the starting point of your transforming story?
Kimberly and I both came to know Jesus through outreach ministries to the military; we were both young adults out of high school and in the beginning of our military service.
Maybe you were blessed to come from a faith home and have been a Christian as long as you can remember.
Regardless of how or when your story began, in Christ we each have the power to bless another generation. Though the story of Isaac and his twin sons, Jacob and Esau, we are going to learn the power and choice of blessing.
We are going to use Hebrews 11:20 for a classic 3-point sermon. Hebrews 11:20 states, “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.”
I. BY FAITH ISAAC…
The context of this whole Hebrews 11 passage is that one word: faith. Hebrews 11:1 teaches us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It means to put your whole trust in someone or something, in this case, and throughout the Bible the object of our faith is in God. God who is trustworthy and true. In fact, the purpose of highlighting the people and their stories is to teach us more about who God is and that He is faithful (i.e. worthy of all our trust!), than about the people of the stories. The stories bring to life these doctrinal truths through illustration, illumination, and inspiration!
We have been learning about the faith and obedience of Isaac’s mom and dad: Abraham and Sarah. Though far from perfect as a man and women, above all they modeled a real relationship with God; they imperfectly put their full trust in God and God’s grace sustained them. They believed and they acted upon this belief; they are people of the promise, and Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise to them. We learned of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness!
Isaac was raised as a prince and his parents would have told him repeatedly—to the point of memorization—about God, His promises to them, and the greatness of Isaac’s own life. They blessed him with faith in God and purpose for his life as a person of the promise.
Here is what we know about Isaac: his birth was foretold, longed for, and miraculous (Genesis 21:1-3). He was circumcised by the very hand of his father Abraham on the eighth day as a sign of the covenant that God had personally made with Abraham (Genesis 21:4).
Isaac’s mom died when he was approximately 37 years old (Gen. 23:1, Sarah dies at 127 and gave birth to Isaac at approx. 90). She dies 22 years after the climactic event of Genesis 22 when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son as an act of worship (that was our sermon for last week). I can only imagine how for 37 years Sarah loved Isaac and spoke of why he was named, “Laughter.” With a smile on her face she would recount her own lack of faith in God’s plan to give her a baby at 90, and how Isaac shouldn’t make the same mistake: God had proven time and time again, through Isaac’s birth, Isaac’s experience with her crazy husband on the mount in Moriah at 15, that God is a great provider and worthy of all his trust.
What is amazing about Isaac is his rich faith heritage. When many focus on the speculation of his psychological damage caused by being a 15-year-old boy who was almost slaughtered at the hands of his father Abraham, their musings miss out on the one thing that is the point of this ongoing story of the people of the promise: the powerful influence one generation’s faith in God has on the next generation. Isaac’s family blessed him to be a blessing to others!
That is the promise of Genesis 12:2, given to Abraham, and being passed to Isaac: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, SO THAT you will be a blessing” (emphasis of caps is mine).
How can your home be a place of faith where the next generation is not indulged, but rather blessed SO THAT they will be a blessing to others? When I serve my son, I tell him that I do serve him SO THAT he will serve others. When I read the Bible to my kids at night, talk about God with them, pray with them, we set the example SO THAT they will do it with their children.
II. By faith Isaac INVOKED FUTURE BLESSINGS…
Isaac may have been a 2nd generation follower of God, but he believed in God’s promises for himself. His father’s God was His God. His mother’s God was His God. His faith was His own!
Isaac was blessed to live in a family with faith, but even as a member of that community, he had to know God for himself. The promise of Genesis 12 had to become his own!
God provided a faithful wife to Isaac in Rebekah (see Genesis 24). Isaac was 40 when he was married and 60 when Abraham died. Before his death, God blessed Isaac with great abundance; Genesis 25:5 says, “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac.” The Bible summarizes who did the blessing this way, “After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son” (Genesis 25:11).
Isaac was blessed with everything; everything except the one thing that was necessary to keep passing on the legacy: a child. Genesis 25:21 records, “And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren [for 20 years they had tried (Genesis 25:26)!]. And the Lord granted his prayer and Rebekah conceived.”
Every generation must embrace faith as their own (God does not have grandchildren; only children)! In the same way that Abraham and Sarah wandered through the nothingness of infertility, so did Isaac and Rebekah. For 20 years, they had to wrestle with their own faith and trust in God; to believe in God to keep God’s promises! To learn that God is good!
Faith becomes your own when you have personally have had to put your full weight into God. You see, you can’t bless someone with a future promise that you yourself don’t believe in. Sure, you can give them a name and stuff, but you can’t give what you don’t have!
Brothers and sisters, what matters is not that you pass on your last name or stuff, but that you pass on the name of Jesus! The name that you have learned is trustworthy and true! It is only by the name of Jesus you will have an eternal legacy.
How has the faith become your own? One day, when each of us must stand before God to give an account for our lives, it will be just you and Him. No pastors, no parents, no excuses, no ATMs, just God and you… Do you know Him?
And that leads us to the last part of today’s verse and conclusion of our message today…
III. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings ON JACOB AND ESAU.
Jacob and Esau are real people in real history; they are the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, the grandchildren of Abraham and Sarah. But, they represent so much more than who they are.
We cannot spend as much time with these brothers as I would like and prefer as a Bible teacher, but for today’s purposes allow me to draw an important contrast between them. Genesis 25:27-34 says a lot in a short space: “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. [Note to Parents: favoritism is natural, but is not a good plan in parenting!] Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ 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 his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Here is the contrast: Jacob highly valued the birthright of the promise of God and Esau despised his because of his own foolish decisions. Jacob and Esau both have some glaring character flaws, but what matters is that they both made a choice: Jacob for the promise of God and Esau for the pleasures of the world.
You have a choice: every generation must choose whether they will be a Jacob or Esau.
Esau violated the covenant of God, married many foreign wives (Hittites and an Ishmaelite) representing his compromises away from the promises of God and yoking with the world, and he fathers nations who war against God’s people, just like Ishmael fathered great nations who still war against God’s people. Listen to the summary of Esau’s bitterness at rejecting his own birthright and choosing foreign wives: “They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:35). “Esau” passes on bitterness and war, generation after generation.
Bitterness begets bitterness! What are some examples in our everyday lives of how we can choose Esau: the bitterness of the world? [suggestion for examples: Negativity, anger, defeat, living in blame, looking for what is wrong rather than for what is right, always critiquing instead of looking for ways to build up and edify, never satisfied rather than living in contentment, never trusting another, but yourself–prideful.]
There is a way out of bitterness and the consequences of choosing this mindset and lifestyle. Jesus sets the prisoners free; He heals the brokenhearted; and He uproots bitter roots!
Jacob’s legacy is the 12 tribes of Israel through whom the Savior—Jesus Christ—was born to carry the promise of Genesis 12 to all the nations. Jacob passed on to us today blessings and peace. Listen to Isaac’s blessing to Jacob when he sends him back to Rebekah’s people to find a wife and to protect him from his enraged brother Esau (who Jacob had tricked one too many times for his own safety!): “God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 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!” (Genesis 28:3-4).
Blessing begets blessing! What are some examples in our everyday lives of how we can choose Jacob: the blessings of God? [suggestion for examples: Faith, hope, and love! Forgiveness and grace, patience and peace, truth in love and with gentleness, endurance and diligence, resilience and faithfulness, goodness and kindness, faithfulness and humility.]
It’s a choice! We see here both generational blessings and curses, but also generational hatred trained into people and passed on to today. Jacob and Esau’s sibling rivalry has become regional and national conflict today, millennia later. But they also represent the choice each person must make to receive between the blessings of God and the bitterness of the world.
Hebrews 12:15-17 confronts us with this choice of bitterness or blessing: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”
Do you want to have a transforming story? It’s a choice between blessing and bitterness…
The time ran out for Esau; it was too late to get back what he had rejected for the world! But you are here today, there is breath in your lungs, and there is still time for repentance: REJECT BITTERNESS! God’s grace is available today. Until the Lord Jesus returns or you take your last breath on this earth, you can receive the promises of God as yours through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus came into the world as the light of God to show the way in to God’s blessings.
The Gospel invites you today to accept Jesus Christ and to receive the promises of God: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).
You cannot rest on your parents’ faith, your faith heritage, or you church affiliation. The most important decision of your life is what you do with Jesus Christ. This is a holy moment of decision.
Today can be the first day of your eternal legacy…
 There is a lot in this story of Isaac’s life and about his twin boys, Jacob and Esau, that cannot be covered in today’s lesson so I highly recommend that you read for yourself Genesis 24—35. This is a complex story that I did not intend to white wash or intentionally skip important details of, but it was impossible to cover everything and most likely you will find important details of their stories missing. I encourage you to take this sermon as a starting point, not a finish line, in your discovery and study of the Bible and the amazing stories that teach us first and foremost about the eternal God, and secondly, apply to our lives today.