7. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph: Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise

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By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. ~Hebrews 11:20-22

Isaac

The God of the Living blessed Isaac according to his father’s blessing, and because of it, Isaac knew a fruitful life. He and Rebekah had heard the tale of What God had promised Abraham concerning his offspring. Isaac was the beginning of that offspring. Could you imagine being the first son among innumerable children? Isaac’s life had already been given back to him, and so now all he had to do was wait, and keep walking with God, enjoying His bounty and thanking him.

Now Isaac favored Esau, but with a little finagling according to the predetermined plan of God, at the end of Isaac’s life, Jacob got the greater portion of the blessing. And all Isaac needed to do was just keep living according to the promise. The nobly simple life of the first son of Abraham is an example of resting in the continuous stream of God’s faithfulness to His promise. God had chosen to bless Abraham forever, and there was nothing Isaac could do about it, except pass the blessing on to the next generation.

Jacob

Faith in the life of Jacob has been hard for some to find. After all, he got much of his wealth, blessing, and advantage by tricking other people out of theirs. Indeed, what wealth and advantage did he seek to gain from God?

At Bethel, after Jacob slept on a stone, and saw the angels and God in his dream, Jacob made a vow to God. “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” ~ Genesis 28:20–22.

I have often wondered why God wanted to “back this horse in the race” so to speak. I mean he had promised Abraham, and this was two generations, and already we’ve got a conniving swindler and deal-broker. Where is Faith in this? Why is God called the God of Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob?

I think the answer lies in the encounter Jacob had with God, as a result of which he leaned on his staff in worship. When he wrestled with God in Genesis 32, he refused to let go of the Angel until He had blessed him. He laid hold of God until God gave him what he wanted. This is the kind of faith that is worth learning from. The story of Jacob is about God materially blessing him, and making good on the vow-deal Jacob had made in faith that God was faithful to do what He had promised. And once Jacob returns to the land of his father, he erects the altar to Yahweh as his own God, and takes on the name God has given him.

Joseph

The stories of Joseph are told in such a way as to inspire people with his faithfulness to God when going through extreme difficulty– how he faced his brothers and Potiphar’s wife, and prison, but got elevated to the second highest place in all the land! Surprisingly, this is not the lesson of faith this passage is seeking to teach. It’s rather about the bones being carried out of Egypt. What could be the purpose of this seemingly trivial thing in light of all Joseph went through?

Faith doesn’t just look back at the glory days, or consider the victories for the present only, but faith looks forward and gives direction to those about to walk the next league of the journey so they too can keep in line with the promise. This is the lesson of faith learned from Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Faith is a larger commitment than the short time we live on this earth. The real task for many of us is to nail our own faith down during this lifetime by grappling with God as Jacob did, and resting in it as Isaac did. And when it comes time to pass it on to the next generation, we must keep our eyes on the Promises of God, so that the generation to come may See Him who is Unseen by looking at our lives to help them understand the mystery of their own.

Application:

  1. Keep track of your story: how you got here, and where you’re headed.
  2. Rest in full assurance of faith and communicate that to all whom God has given you to continue your journey.
  3. Grapple with God to accomplish His desire. And you be fully assured of his presence with you, and power to work in you.
  4. Pass your faith on to the next generation. This can look like passing on inheritance to your children, or telling them how God has worked in your life to get you here. Specifics really help, because a lot of youngsters these days need to hear the hard-core details about how God got you through your own self-made nightmares, and still proved to be good. Remember it’s a story about Him, not you. It is the sober reality of our failures and God’s salvation that makes up the most profound heritage one can leave to one’s children. Then, they too will know what promises to keep their eyes on.
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