When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak he could no longer see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, "My son." "Here I am," Esau replied.
Isaac, like his father, has his time of sojourn among the Philistines. The events of his intercourse with the Abimelech of his day resemble those of the former patriarch, though there are differences which show that the recurrence is historical
I. GOD REPEATS HIS LESSONS that they may make the deeper impression. The intention of the record is to preserve a certain line of Divine guidance. Isaac trod in the footsteps of Abraham. We have Isaac's wells, oaths, feast, Shebah - all following close upon those of the preceding generation.
II. The SAME PRESERVATION OF THE COVENANT RACE in the midst of heathens confirms that covenant. The same lesson of special providential protection and blessing is thus repeated and enforced. Again the same contrast of man's infirmity with God's unchangeableness. The perversity of the fleshly-minded man forming a marriage connection with heathen people, and bringing grief of mind to his parents, reveals the distinctness of the world from the kingdom of God. - R.
I have read a parable of a man shut up in a fortress under sentence of perpetual imprisonment, and obliged to draw water from a reservoir which he may not see, but into which no fresh stream is ever to be poured. How much it contains he cannot tell. He knows that the quantity is not great; it may be extremely small. He has already drawn out a considerable supply during his long imprisonment. The diminution increases daily, and how, it is asked, would he feel each time of drawing water and each time of drinking it? Not as if he had a perennial stream to go to-"I have a reservoir; I may be at ease." No: "I had water yesterday, I have it to-day; but my having it yesterday and my having it to-day is the very cause that I shall not have it on some day that is approaching." Life is a fortress; man is the prisoner within the gates. He draws his supply from a fountain fed by invisible pipes, but the reservoir is being exhausted. We had life yesterday, we have it today, the probability — the certainty — is that we shall not have it on some day that is to come.
Isaac was old and his eyes were dim. I.
HE HAS WARNINGS OF HIS APPROACHING END.
1. His advanced age.
2. Signs of weakness and decay.
II. HE SETS IN ORDER HIS WORLDLY AFFAIRS.
1. Duties prompted by the social affections.
2. Duties regarding the settlement of inheritance and property.
His longing for the performance of Esau's filial kindness as for a last time.(1) Esau was his favourite son; not on account of any similarity between them, but just because they were dissimilar; the repose and contemplativeness and inactivity of Isaac found a contrast in which it reposed in the energy and even the restlessness of his firstborn.(2) It was natural to yearn for the feast of his son's affection for the last time, for there is something peculiarly impressive in whatever is done for the last time.
2. Isaac prepared for death by making his last testamentary dispositions. They were made, though apparently premature —(1) Partly because of the frailty of life and the uncertainty whether there may be any to-morrow for that which is put off to-day;(2) Partly perhaps because he desired to have all earthly thoughts done with and put away. When he came to die there would be no anxieties about the disposition of property, to harass him. For it is good to have all such things done with before that hour comes. Is there not something incongruous in the presence of a lawyer in the death room, agitating the last hours? The first portion of our lives is spent in learning the use of our senses and faculties, ascertaining where we are, and what. The second in using those powers, and acting in the given sphere, the motto being, "Work, the night cometh." A third portion, between active life and the grave, like the twilight between day and night (not light enough for working, nor yet quite dark), nature seems to accord for unworldliness and meditation. It is striking, doubtless, to see an old man, hale and vigorous to the last, dying at his work, like a warrior in armour. But natural feeling makes us wish perhaps that an interval might be given; a season for the statesman, such as that which Samuel had on laying aside the cares of office in the schools of the prophets, such as Simeon and Anna had for a life of devotion in the temple, such as the labourer has when, his long day's work done, he finds an asylum in the almshouse, such as our Church desires when she prays against sudden death; a season of interval in which to watch, and meditate, and wait.
1. Now very aged. One hundred and thirty-six years old. Feeble. Ought to have been specially reverenced, both as a father and because so aged. Reverence due to old age. What more beautiful than old age (Proverbs 15:31)? See the Word of God concerning old age (Leviticus 19:32; 2 Chronicles 36:17; Proverbs 20:29).
2. Helpless. Forced to sit in the house while his sons were actively employed. Dependent on the kind offices of others.
3. Blind. And therefore should have been specially reverenced, and treated with most respectful tenderness,
4. Felt his end approaching (ver. 4). Should therefore have been treated with the greater consideration.
5. About to impart the covenant blessing. A most solemn act. To be given, and received, in the fear of God.
6. Would signalize it with a feast. The last he might have; and his own beloved Esau should prepare it.
()It is a strange and, in some respects, perplexing spectacle that is here presented to us — the organ of the Divine blessing represented by a blind old man, laid on a "couch of skins," stimulated by meat and wine, and trying to cheat God by bestowing the family blessing on the son of his own choice to the exclusion of the Divinely-appointed heir. Out of such beginnings had God to educate a people worthy of Himself, and through such hazards had He to guide the spiritual blessing He designed to convey to us all. Isaac laid a net for his own feet. By his unrighteous and timorous haste he secured the defeat of his own long-cherished scheme. It was his hasting to bless Esau which drove Rebekah to checkmate him by winning the blessing for her favourite. The shock which Isaac felt when Esau came in and the fraud was discovered is easily understood. The mortification of the old man must have been extreme when he found that he had so completely taken himself in. He was reclining in the satisfied reflection that for once he had overreached his astute Rebekah and her astute son, and in the comfortable feeling that, at last, he had accomplished his one remaining desire, when he learns from the exceeding bitter cry of Esau that he has himself been duped. It was enough to rouse the anger of the mildest and godliest of men, but Isaac does not storm and protest — "he trembles exceedingly." He recognises, by a spiritual insight quite unknown to Esau, that this is God's hand, and deliberately confirms, with his eyes open, what he had done in blindness: "I have blessed him: Yea, and he shall be blessed." Had he wished to deny the validity of the blessing, he had ground enough for doing so. He had not really given it; it had been stolen from him. An act must be judged by its intention, and he had been far from intending to bless Jacob. Was he to consider himself bound by what he had done under a misapprehension? He had given a Messing to one person under the impression that he was a different person; must not the blessing go to him for whom it was designed? But Isaac unhesitatingly yielded. This clear recognition of God's hand in the matter, and quick submission to Him, reveals a habit of reflection, and a spiritual thoughtfulness, which are the good qualities in Isaac's otherwise unsatisfactory character. Before he finished his answer to Esau, he felt he was a poor feeble creature in the hand of a true and just God, who had used even his infirmity and sin to forward righteous and gracious ends. It was his sudden recognition of the frightful way in which he had been tampering with God's will, and of the grace with which God had prevented him from accomplishing a wrong destination of the inheritance, that made Isaac tremble very exceedingly. In this humble acceptance of the disappointment of his life's love and hope, Isaac shows us the manner in which we ought to bear the consequences of our wrong-doing. The punishment of our sin often comes through the persons with whom we have to do, unintentionally on their part, and yet we are tempted to hate them because they pain and punish us, father, mother, wife, child, or whoever else. Isaac and Esau were alike disappointed. Esau only saw the supplanter, and vowed to be revenged. Isaac saw God in the matter, and trembled. So when Shimei cursed David, and his loyal retainers would have cut off his head for so doing, David said: "Let him alone, and let him curse; it may be that the Lord hath bidden him." We can bear the pain inflicted on us by men when we see that they are merely the instruments of a Divine chastisement. The persons who thwart us and make our life bitter, the persons who stand between us and our dearest hopes, the persons whom we are most disposed to speak angrily and bitterly to, are often thorns planted in our path by God to keep us on the right way.
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