The Book of Hebrews #53 chapter 11:20-22
The Book of Hebrews
The Patriarchs: An Enduring Faith
Hebrews 11:20-22
 
The next few verses of Hebrews 11 (20-22) are quite a challenge because even though there are only three verses, they summarize a story that goes from Genesis 12 to 50. Obviously, we can’t cover all of that, but we can look at some of the highlights.
 
Hebrews 11:20-22
 
Those are rather cryptic statements aren’t they?  They are much abbreviated and somewhat hard to understand if you don’t know the full story. But keep in mind that this book was written to Hebrews. It was written to Jews who were familiar with the very detailed saga of Isaac and Jacob and Esau as well as Joseph.
 
And remember, also, the point of the writing.  Obviously, he’s not just giving a history lesson.  They knew their history.  He is writing to communicate to the readers that the only way of salvation was by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  The most important message the world will ever hear is that message.  Scripture makes that clear, and it’s not just a New Testament truth; it’s always been that way.
 
So in this 11th chapter we find this listing of people who were reconciled to God, not by works, but faith.  And without exception, beginning with Abel and including Noah and Enoch and Abraham, and now Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, they all fall into that category.
There is something else I notice about these men and that is when the writer talks about their faith it is in the context of death.
 
Abraham died not having received the promise. . .
 
Isaac is seen blessing Jacob and Esau as he is dying.
 
As Jacob is dying, he passes on the blessing to Joseph.
 
As he is dying, Joseph passes on the promise to Israel.
 
And I suppose that makes sense because faith faces its greatest test in the hour of death when one has not experienced the fulfillment of the promise.  And the thing they seem to have in common is they all died before the promise came.
 
And so here we have these three Old Testament men who faith in God that is sufficient to enable them to face death and to face death triumphantly.
 
And what I want us to do is take a look at them one at a time.  It may take us three weeks to do it, but I don’t have anything else to do, do you?
 
Let’s start with
 
1. Isaac
 
verse 20
 
Now the phrase to take note of here is “things to come.”
Remember, Abraham was given the promise and he died without seeing it fulfilled.  However, he didn’t die in despair and hopelessness.  He died in faith as he passed that promise along to his son, Isaac.
 
Isaac does the same thing, passes it to Jacob. Jacob does the same thing, passes it to Joseph. They all knew that God was faithful. That’s what believers know. They were believers and they knew it.
 
Now I am struck by the fact that we have several verses that talk about Abraham, and then only one about Isaac.  And that one verse centers on one primary event in Isaac’s life and that is his two sons, Jacob and Esau.  There’s a lot more, both good and bad that could be said about Isaac.
 
We see indicators of his faith along the way as he worships and obeys God.  We also see some failures as he lies about Rebecca being his sister instead of his wife.  Eventually he winds up in Beersheba where the Lord speaks to him and repeats the promise made to Abraham.
 
And in one of the clearest demonstrations of his faith, we are told he built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord and in this place the Lord provided, he settled in and made a home, which is seen in the fact that his servants dug a well there.
 
In another indication of his faith, Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was unable to conceive and the Lord answered him and Rebecca winds up getting pregnant with twins after about 20 years of being childless.
 
The children struggled together within her and she asks the Lord about it.  He answered by telling here there were two nations within her womb.
 
Through Jacob would come the Jewish people, through Esau would come the Arabic peoples.  The Lord also indicated that one people will be stronger than the other and the older shall serve the younger. The older was Esau, the younger was Jacob.
 
Genesis 25:24 tells us the time came for the twins to be delivered.  The first one came out covered in red hair.  They named him Esau.  Right behind him, in fact, hanging on to his brother’s heel, here came the second one and they named him Jacob.
 
Esau grows up to become a skillful hunter, a man of the field. Jacob, we are told, was a peaceful man, living in tents.
 
So there’s a great distinction between the two. Isaac loved Esau, the outdoorsmen.  You know why? He could deliver a good steak. And Rebecca loved Jacob. There are lots of details about the boys and their individual lives we have to leave out, but let’s look at one of the.
 
 
One day Jacob had cooked a big old pot of stew.  Esau came in from the field and he was starving to death.  Esau said to Jacob, “Let me have a some of that stew you’ve made.  I am about to starve.”
 
Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright.” I’ve always wondered how hungry you have to be to give away your claim to the family farm.  I guess you don’t have to be any more hungry than he was, you just have to be both hungry and treat your birthright with disdain.
 
Esau said, “It won’t do me any good if I starve to death, so you’ve got a deal.”  And right there they made the deal and Esau swore to it and then he sat down and had a good meal of bread and lentil stew.  
 
Now there is a man of the world. There is a man who has no view of the future at all.  He is identified in Scripture as a profane man.
 
But it is also true that Jacob didn’t need to do what he did either.  God had already promised in the prophecy that he would be the chosen son. He didn’t need to gain the birthright by this very unkind act. It was unnecessary. It caused all kinds of problems in the family and in the world even to this day. God would have made it happen. So Jacob didn’t need to do it this way.
 
Eventually the time comes for Isaac to die, at least that’s what he thinks. He is now 137 years old.  He is almost blind.  He will actually live for another 43 years.  But he’s hungry for a good steak, so he calls Esau to his bedside one day and tells him to go kill something and fix supper.  And he promises to bless him when he returns. 
 
Rebecca overheard the conversation and hatches a plot for Jacob to be blessed instead of Esau.  She tells Jacob to go kill a couple of lambs so she can fix a meal for Isaac and get a blessing for Jacob.
 
 
 
Jacob says, “That won’t work!  Esau’s hairy and I’m smooth.  Dad’s going to know the difference!”
 
She tells him to just do what he’s told and she’ll handle the details.  They wind up taking the goat skins and making a costume and because Isaac is so blind, they wind up fooling him and Jacob gets the blessing.
 
Now in that society, the blessing was everything. And as he passes that blessing on to Isaac, the promise of the Abrahamic covenant is vested in Jacob.
 
Eventually the truth comes out, Isaac regrets his decision, there is animosity between the boys and I would imagine some lonely nights in bed for Isaac.
 
So how does Isaac wind up in the hall of fame for his faith?  The answer is found in Genesis 26:24-25.
 
There we find Isaac’s faith.
 
He took up his residence in the place where God had appeared. He built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. That is a statement for really expressing your faith in the Lord. You might even conclude that that was the point of a real true conversion.
 
And in spite of the horrors of the life these people seemed to live and the lies and the deception that is going on, they were people of faith.
 
 
 
And by the way, it continued.  Jacob never saw his mother again. He was alienated from his brother and lived in mortal fear that his brother was going to kill him. But eventually he met again with his brother and his life was spared.
 
And yet they are people of faith.  Kind of encourages me, now about you?
 
The writer of Hebrews says he demonstrated his faith concerning things to come. All that can be said about this man in the listing that occurs in Hebrews chapter 11 and defines him as a man of faith, is that he believed God for what he did not receive.
 
He blessed Jacob with the true blessing and gave a secondary blessing to Esau regarding things to come. This is the essence of faith, when he faced the end of his life and hadn’t received the promise and hadn’t received the land, and hadn’t received the nation and hadn’t become a blessing to the world, he nonetheless passed it to the next generation knowing it was yet to come.
 
Yes he tried to do things his way, but eventually he submitted to the Lord.
 
Notice Genesis 28:1-4
 
And eventually Isaac died in faith that the promise would be fulfilled and that his son, Jacob, was the next link.
 
Let’s pray.
 
 

 

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