Faithful God, Fallible Followers Genesis 26:1-16

Intro:  When we talk about the patriarchs in the Bible we’re referring to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  Out of the four, Isaac really gets the short end of the stick in terms of chapters.   But there are  two important truths revealed in Isaac’s life.

  • God uses whoever he pleases—Isaac was the son of the promise, not Ishmael
    • No matter how much Abraham tried to help God’s plan “work out”, and in the process he put God’s promises in danger,  it was always God keeping his plan, ordering his plan, and being faithful to his plan and his person. 
  • The second truth:  God’s people should face into the background of God’s work. 
    • Understand this, God’s people are eminently important to Him and His plan.
      • In Isaac’s case: Israel couldn’t have been born without Isaac, therefore, neither could the church,
    • But as we consider Isaac getting only about 3 chapters of exposure, the point is clear. 
    • God preserves his people, his promises, and his plans.  Usually in spite of us.
    • Or as Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”, not us, Jesus.  But we are a part of the church and without us, without Jesus building us into the church, there wouldn’t be a church.  It’s God’s work and we’re the beneficiaries.

Isaac’s story serves to show us that God’s purpose in working with Abraham was more about working with his people than just his individuals.  Of course, individuals are important because without individuals there can’t be groups, but God has always been about “multiplying and filling and subduing the earth” for his glory through his people.

Today we’re going to survey hundreds of years and several chapters in Genesis to see God’s unfolding purpose of making Abraham’s family into a great nation.   We’re going to see a Faithful God serving, keeping, restoring, and even comforting his faithless people.  And we’re doing it with a bunch of F’s:  1. Fallible Fathering;  2.  Functional Famines;  3.  Foibled Following

  1. Fallible Fathering
    1. There’s only one perfect father, his name is God.  The human fathers of the Bible prove it through their imperfections.
    1. Abraham—fathered Ishmael before Isaac
    1. Isaac—preferred Esau over Jacob
    1. Jacob—his list is really too long to recount here
    1. The point I want to make is that God is faithful and we’re faithful as we trust in his word, especially his promises.  But only as we trust in God’s word.
    1. In spite of their fallibility, each of these men had moments of faithfulness, too.  Isaac was the son of the promise!  In him we see a beautiful picture of the gospel.
      1. Gen. 22:  He willingly let his father ,Abraham, put him on the altar and raise the knife that would kill him
      1. We don’t know how old Isaac was at this point, but we know Abraham was over 100 because that was when Isaac was born
      1. He obeyed his father in a demonstration of how Jesus would obey our heavenly Father submitting to death on the cross for his people.  To heal our broken hearts and bind up the wounds of this world.
      1. We are all fallen, guilty, sinful people with broken understandings of the world, of God, and even of ourselves.  Our relationships reflect this, our daily work reflects this, how we deal with stressors and trials reflect this. 
      1. We can’t fix ourselves—just like Abraham understood he couldn’t fix himself, so he relied on God’s plan.
      1. We have to rely on God’s plan to fix us.
      1. You need Jesus the real son, the final son of the promise to fix your soul and mind. That’s the gospel!
    1. Notice what God’s response is to these fallible fathers.
      1. After they fail, God simply repeats his promises to them and gives them opportunities to trust, to obey, and to grow.
  2. Functional Famines
    1. Before we get to the famines, let’s see the promises from Genesis 12 because those promises are the foundation that make severe famines into opportunities for growth, and for sanctification (mention the slide)
      1. I’ve edited the passages to make them fit
      1. God repeats these promises to Abraham several times, sometimes he repeats all the promises, sometimes not.  As they are given to us in the Bible, God sees the four promises as one.  We separate them for teaching and learning purposes.  So, when God repeats just one or two of the promises, he’s indicating all of them. 
      1. 12:1-3  Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
      1. Then God repeats them to Isaac in chapter 26:2-5  And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
      1. And to Jacob in chapter 28:13-15  And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
      1. Look at the bold portions on the slide:  people, place, presence, program
        1. Presence was implicit in Gen. 12 but made explicit in 26 and 28
        1. They’re a little different but all tell us the same things
        1. Later in the Pentateuch we’ll see that God’s presence is the central feature of the covenant, the most important blessing
          1. This is revealed in the design and placement of the Tabernacle
          1. When you step back from the cultural weirdness of sacrifices, priests, blood rituals and see the big picture, this makes perfect sense because when Adam and Eve sinned they lost God’s presence immediately
          1. And God in his grace restores it through promises confirmed by his covenant.
    1. These promises form the basis for each patriarch’s opportunity to obey, to grow in their trust, and to follow God when trials come
      1. The promises are the basis of their faith—what they are trusting in
      1. The trials are like the gymnasium of faith—we’re all born with about 600 muscles, but you have to exercise them to make them healthy and strong.  The trials God sends us exercise our faith, making our faith healthy and strong.
    1. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all endure a severe famine in the land
      1. Abraham— famine ch. 12 so he goes to Egypt
      1. Isaac— famine ch. 26 so he goes to the Philistines in Gerar (God said don’t go to Egypt here)
      1. Jacob— famine ch. 46 he heads to Egypt, like Abraham did, in fact God told Jacob “don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation”
      1. Reading the history of the famines would show Israel that God was using these famines for a purpose.
    1. This last famine, Jacob’s famine was important to the nation of Israel—remember the first audience!
      1. 2nd generation, plains of Moab, about to enter the promised land
      1. It explains how they got where they are and why they were in Egypt in the first place.
      1. Jacob’s famine shows us that God’s trials always produce character and understanding in us, but they aren’t always about us.
      1. Gen. 46:2-4  And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”
      1. Going to Egypt:
        1. Fulfilled God’s purpose of making Jacob, Israel into a great nation, even through 400 years of slavery.
        1. It also brought the family back together because Joseph was in Egypt.
        1. What we see here is that Jacob’s famine served a greater purpose than Jacob could have ever imagined!
        1. And so will some of your trials, I can’t tell you how, but I can encourage you to believe it and to trust in the God who promised Jacob, “don’t be afraid, because I will be with you”.
        1. He’s your God too.  That’s the point of repeating “I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob” to remind the Israelites on the plains of Moab about to enter the Promised Land, and us we that we have the same Father.
    1. God gives his people trials to shape us into his handiwork—to make us look more and more like his son or his daughter
      1. Eph. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
      1. Like Michelangelo chiseling away the excess marble to make the David, God has prepared works for us, trials for us to take part in, to obey in, that he uses to refine us and mature us into people that look like Jesus.
      1. Our call is to trust in God through the trials and even trust him as we head into them, knowing that as hard as it might be, He is always with us and the hard stuff results in good stuff in terms of character and faith in us. 
      1. God’s masterpiece is his people growing in grace, character, faith, and sanctity.
      1. God works for his own glory, if we can faithfully see that all God does in us, for us, and through us is first for his glory, that will encourage our faith and remove some of our sinful contamination.
  3. Foibled Following
    1. Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-3 the promises;  Genesis 12:10-20  Pharaoh, Gen. 16 the Hagar Method, Gen. 20 Abimelech (Pharaoh revisited)
    1. Isaac:  Gen. 26:1-5  the promises, Gen. 26: 6-33 Abimelech (I learned it by watching you, dad!)
    1. Jacob:  Gen. 25 Jacob extorts his brother for a bowl of stew; Gen. 27 Jacob deceives Isaac to get Esau’s blessing; Gen 29 he loved Rachel more than Leah and then loved Rachels children more too.
    1. Yet God always restored them—he was always faithful to keep his sheep firmly within his grip.
      1. Just like Jesus said in John 10:28-30  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
    1. More than simply restored them, often comforted his wayward believers—after Jacob tricked Isaac into blessing him, and then he ran from Esau.  But, instead of rebuking Jacob—God appeared to him in a dream and repeated the promises of the covenant.
    1. He knows our frames, it says in Psalm 103, he knows we’re dust, he knows making this ugly duckling into a work of art is going to be painful, difficult, and it will take some time so he doesn’t just keep chiseling away—he draws near to us, comforts us with his promises, and equips us with the strength of Christ to carry on. Because Christ is the substance and reality of all the promises of God to his people, he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. Amen.