Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "Behold, I overheard your father saying to your brother Esau,
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.
Luther was very importunate at the throne of grace to know the mind of God in a certain matter; and it seemed to him as if he heard God speak to his heart thus: "I am not to be traced." One adds, "If He is not to be traced, He may be trusted; and that religion is of little value which will not enable a man to trust God where he can neither trace nor see Him. But there is a time for everything beneath the sun; and the Almighty has His 'times and seasons.' It has been frequently with my hopes and desires, in regard to Providence, as with my watch and the sun. My watch has often been ahead of true time; I have gone faster than Providence, and have been forced to stand still and wait, or I have been set back painfully. Flavel says, 'Some providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards.'"
Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth. I.
THE HUMAN ELEMENT IN IT.
1. The partiality of a fond mother.
II. THE RELIGIOUS ELEMENT IN IT.
1. It seemed as if the oracle of God was likely to become void.
2. The crisis was urgent.
This is a mysterious affair. It was just that Esau should lose the blessing, for by selling his birthright he had despised it. It was God's design, too, that Jacob should have it. Rebekah also knowing of this design, from it having been revealed to her that "the elder should serve the younger," appears to have acted from a good motive. But the scheme which she formed to correct the error of her husband was far from being justifiable. It was one of those crooked measures which have too often been adopted to accomplish the Divine promises; as if the end would justify, or at least excuse the means. Thus Sarah acted in giving Hagar to Abraham; and thus many others have acted under the idea of being useful in promoting the cause of Christ. The answer to all such things is that which God addressed to Abraham: "I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou perfect." The deception practised on Isaac was cruel. If he be in the wrong, endeavour to convince him; or commit it to God, who could turn his mind, as he afterwards did that of Jacob when blessing Ephraim and Manasseh; but do not avail yourself of his loss of sight to deceive him. Such would have been the counsel of wisdom and rectitude; but Rebekah follows her own.
To this day the method of Rebekah and Jacob is largely adopted by religious persons. It is notorious that persons whose ends are good frequently become thoroughly unscrupulous about the means they use to accomplish them. They dare not say in so many words that they may do evil that good may come, nor do they think it a tenable position in morals that the end sanctifies the means; and yet their consciousness of a justifiable and desirable end undoubtedly does blunt their sensitiveness regarding the legitimacy of the means they employ. For example, Protestant controversialists, persuaded that vehement opposition to Popery is good, and filled with the idea of accomplishing its downfall, are often guilty of gross misrepresentation, because they do not sufficiently inform themselves of the actual tenets and practices of the Church of Rome. In all controversy, religious and political, it is the same. It is always dishonest to circulate reports that you have no means of authenticating; yet how freely are such reports circulated to blacken the character of an opponent, and to prove his opinions to be dangerous. It is always dishonest to condemn opinions we have not inquired into, merely because of some fancied consequence which these opinions carry in them; yet how freely are opinions condemned by men who have never been at the trouble carefully to inquire into their truth. They do not feel the dishonesty of their position, because they have a general consciousness that they are on the side of religion, and of what has generally passed for truth. All keeping back of facts which are supposed to have an unsettling effect is but a repetition of this sin. There is no sin more hateful. Under the appearance of serving God, and maintaining His cause in the world, it insults Him by assuming that, if the whole bare, undisguised truth were spoken, His cause would suffer. The fate of all such attempts to manage God's matters by keeping things dark, and misrepresenting fact, is written for all who care to understand in the results of this scheme of Rebekah's and Jacob's. They gained nothing, and they lost a great deal, by their wicked interference. They gained nothing; for God had promised that the birthright would be Jacob's, and would have given it him in some way redounding to his credit and not to his shame. And they lost a great deal. The mother lost her son; Jacob had to flee for his life, and, for all we know, Rebekah never saw him more. And Jacob lost all the comforts of home, and all those possessions his father had accumulated. He had to flee with nothing but his staff, an outcast to begin the world for himself. From this first false step onwards to his death, he was pursued by misfortune, until his own verdict on his life was, "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life."
()We must walk in simplicity, sine plicis, for though the serpent can shrink up into his folds, and appear what he is not, yet it doth not become the saint to shuffle either with God or men. Jacob got the blessing by a wile, but he might have got it cheaper by plain dealing.
()The minister of the seminary at Clermont, France, having been seized at Autun by the populace, the mayor, who wished to save him, advised him not to take the oath, but to allow him to tell the people that he had taken it. "I would myself make known your falsehood to the people," replied the clergyman; "it is not permitted me to ransom my life by a lie. The God who prohibits my taking the oath will not allow me to make it believed that I have taken it." The mayor was silent, and the minister was martyred.
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