By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Isaac was a devout man. Mention is made in his history of positive acts of worship by which devotion is expressed; and in his walking out to meditate at eventide, we have a beautiful picture of an act by which devotion is sustained. The good man left his tents, and forsook his associates, and walked out, thoughtful and alone, to admire the affluence of Providence, and to look upon the works and the wonders of nature. His faith was sometimes overcome by the force of temptation, but it speedily acquired its wonted ascendancy; it was, at others, darkened by defects in his character; but upon the whole, the life of Isaac was marked by comparative simplicity and innocence; that at last he slept with his fathers in a good old age; that he died with confidence in the promise, amid the tears and the benedictions of his household. In the text the apostle specifies one particular act in which the faith of Jacob was shown, "He blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come."
1. The first thing to be noticed is the faith displayed by Isaac in his readiness and desire to bless his children at all, to bless them in the name, and according to the previous communications of Jehovah. This was a pious determination, resulting from continued confidence in God — from the practical persuasion of his truth — from reliance upon the consistency of His moral character; or, in one word, from faith, properly so called — that sentiment of the heart which leads a man to feel the absolute certainty of whatever he knows to be the sayings of God. In this, therefore, Isaac's faith was right though his feeling was wrong. He intended the chief blessing for the elder son, and he pronounced it with the thought that he was thus actually conveying it. But the time was now come for him to be corrected upon the .point which he had either not known, or had neglected to keep sufficiently in view.
2. The second circumstance, therefore, which it becomes us to observe, is the obedience of faith which he manifested in respect to this point, when the Divine will was clearly and fully revealed in relation to it. In blessing Jacob, though he might be prompted to the act simply by the devout determination of principle, he felt himself, while performing the act, to be under the direction of a Divine impulse. When Esau afterwards approached and informed him of the actual state of the case, the whole truth seemed to flash at once upon his mind. What he had been led to do, though unconscious of it at the moment, revealed to him the purposes of God, and the direction of the promises with respect to his sons. "I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed"; as if he had said, "I have been the unconscious instrument of imparting to myself a knowledge of the will of Him whom I serve; to that will I bow with ready and voluntary obedience. 'I have blessed him,' and I cannot bless another to the same extent; I have been the medium through which the God of our fathers has now repeated and enlarged His promises, and these, I believe, will assuredly be fulfilled. He has declared the line in which they are to pass, and that line He had a right to select; I approve of what He has done, and I confide in what He has said, as I have often approved and confided before. The things which my lips have uttered are as certain and immutable as are all the intentions and purposes of God; I have blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed! " Let us now make a remark upon the last clause of the text; Jacob and Esau were blessed respecting " things to come." They were both blessed, for both of them, as men, were objects of pre-determined benediction in the Divine mind; though previous to their birth, that the purpose of God according to election might stand — it was declared that the younger should be the greater Of the two. The expression "things to come," is intended to signify things which were so emphatically future that they related not so much to the individuals themselves as to the posterity to descend from them. Both were to be the founders of nations; these nations were to be remarkably distinguished from each other; and in them were to be realised the circumstances — the prosperity, and the vicissitudes — which had been so clearly and so copiously described in the language of Isaac.Looking at the two prophecies pronounced over Jacob and Esau respectively, they appear to include the following things.
1. In the first place, they may be said either to presuppose, or to predict, the separate existence of the posterity of the two brothers as nations. Jacob is as a field which the Lord hath blessed; in him were to be fulfilled the promises given to Abraham. Esau is represented as living by his sword. The one expression describes a people organised and religious: the other a people of habits and manners rude and predatory; and such, in fact, was the case — the Jews descending from Jacob, and the Edomites from Esau.
2. The second circumstance is, that both nations were to possess very nearly the same local and physical advantages, which was at first also the fact.
3. The third thing is, the reduction, by the other branch, of the posterity of Esau to submission and servitude. This, after frequent advances towards it, was fully accomplished by David.
4. But the fourth and last particular to be observed is, that at length this yoke should be broken off from the neck of the degraded race, when they should obtain dominion, that is, when they should steadily range themselves under a leader, as a strong and united people. This, too, actually occurred; it took place in the reign of Jehoram.After making these observations explanatory of the text, we propose in the second place to deduce from them a few others of a practical character.
1. In looking at the comparatively calm and unruffled history of Isaac you may learn that the life most favoured of Providence is still required to be a life of faith. In prosperity, faith will render us grateful, moderate, and cautious, as under other circumstances it will inspire fortitude and prompt acquiescence: it will take the form of filial confidence in the continuance of good, so long as that good shall be seen to be consistent with higher purposes. Above all, since the most distinguished lot can never adequately meet the. demands and capacities of our spiritual nature, faith in a future world must be ever felt by the devout man to be the only means by which he can endure, so to speak, even the highest happiness of this.
2. You learn from the history of Isaac the propriety of seasons of retirement for collected and serious thought.
3. From the history of Isaac you may learn the pernicious consequences of parents pursuing a system of favouritism with respect to their children.
4. By the nature and the circumstances of the fact to which the text refers — the blessing pronounced by Isaac upon Jacob and Esau — we are reminded of the variety of the proofs that may be adduced in support of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. There are two connected with the present subject.
(1) The first is, the obvious and honest impartiality of the historian in describing the faults and vices of the most distinguished men whose lives he records.
(2) The second, the fulfilment of prophecy.
5. In the last place, from a comparison of the portions of the two brothers let us learn to aspire after the best blessings which God can confer. It will be of no lasting advantage to us to have the portion of Esau, unless we have the portion of Jacob along with it.
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.