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The Wiersbe BIBLE STUDY SERIES: GENESIS 25â?"50
Exhibiting Real Faith in the Real World
By Warren W. Wiersbe
David C. CookCopyright © 2012 Warren W. Wiersbe
All rights reserved.
Father and Son
Before you begin ...
Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.
Read Genesis 25—26. This lesson references chapter 1 in Be Authentic. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.
From the Commentary
Isaac was the son of a famous father (Abraham) and the father of a famous son (Jacob), and for those reasons he is sometimes considered a lightweight among the patriarchs. Compared to the exploits of Abraham and Jacob, Isaac's life does seem conventional and commonplace. Although he lived longer than either Abraham or Jacob, only six chapters are devoted to Isaac's life in the Genesis record, and only one verse in Hebrews 11 (v. 9).
Isaac was a quiet, meditative man (Gen. 24:63), who would rather pack up and leave than confront his enemies. During his long life, he didn't travel far from home. Abraham had made the long journey from Haran to Canaan, and had even visited Egypt, and Jacob went to Haran to get a wife, but Isaac spent his entire adult life moving around in the land of Canaan. If there had been an ancient Middle East equivalent to our contemporary "jet set," Isaac wouldn't have joined it.
—Be Authentic, page 17
1. How are the differences between Isaac and his father and son significant to the unfolding Genesis story? What does the fact that Isaac stayed close to home say about him? What does his story teach us about God?
More to Consider: Respond to the following statement: Isaac wasn't a failure; he was just different. What made him different?
2. Choose one verse or phrase from Genesis 25—26 that stands out to you. This could be something you're intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.
From the Commentary
Abraham recognized his other children by giving them gifts and sending them away, thereby making sure they couldn't supplant Isaac as the rightful heir. Along with his father's immense wealth (Gen. 13:2; 23:6), Isaac also inherited the covenant blessings that God had given Abraham and Sarah (12:1–3; 13:14–18; 15:1–6). Isaac had parents who believed God and, in spite of occasional mistakes, tried to please Him.
Abraham's firstborn son, Ishmael (chap. 16), wasn't chosen to be the child of promise and the heir of the covenant blessings. God promised to bless Ishmael and make him a great nation, and He kept His promise (17:20–21; 25:12–16); "But my covenant will I establish with Isaac" (17:21; Rom. 9:6–13). Ishmael was on hand for his father's funeral (Gen. 25:9), but he wasn't included in the reading of his father's will.
—Be Authentic, page 18
3. Review Genesis 25:1–18. In what ways does Ishmael picture or represent the unsaved person (1 Cor. 2:14)? How does Isaac portray someone who trusts Jesus (1 Peter 1:22– 23)? What was the most important part of Isaac's legacy?
From the Commentary
When Isaac was forty years old, God selected Rebekah to be his wife (Gen. 24; 25:20), and we have every reason to believe that they were both devoted to the Lord and to each other. The record indicates that Rebekah was the more aggressive of the two when it came to family matters, but perhaps that's just the kind of wife Isaac needed. Whatever mistakes Isaac may have made as a husband and father, this much is true: As a young man, he willingly put himself on the altar to obey his father and to please the Lord (chap. 22; Rom. 12:1–2).
Isaac and Rebekah waited twenty years for a family, but no children came.... Abraham and Sarah had to wait twenty-five years for Isaac to be born; Jacob had to labor fourteen years to obtain his two wives; and Joseph had to wait over twenty years before he was reconciled to his brothers. Our times are in His hands (Ps. 31:15), and His timing is never wrong.
—Be Authentic, pages 19–20
4. What kind of father was Isaac? Why did he and Rebekah wait so long for a family? What does the waiting reveal about God's sovereignty? Why might God choose to delay the gift of children to married couples?
From Today's World
Genesis is littered with stories of husband and wife waiting on God to give them children and fulfill His promises. Throughout the Bible, God's timing with the arrival of children plays a critical role in His ongoing plan for salvation. In recent years, the scientific community has provided several (sometimes controversial) solutions to infertility. While there are many unsolved problems in the science of infertility, there are certainly more options available today than in the time of the patriarchs.
5. Is there room for God to work in a world shaped by science? How does the "waiting on God for children" truth still play out today? Does the medical community's attempt to end infertility leave God out of the equation? Where is God when science steps in?
From the Commentary
One problem soon led to another, because Rebekah's pregnancy was a difficult one: The babies in her womb were struggling with each other. The Hebrew word means "to crush or oppress," suggesting that the fetal movements were not normal. Since Rebekah wondered if the Lord was trying to say something to her, she went to inquire. Isaac was fortunate to have a wife who not only knew how to pray, but who also wanted to understand God's will for herself and her children.
In salvation history, the conception and birth of children is a divinely ordained event that has significant consequences. This was true of the birth of Isaac (Gen. 18; 21), the twelve sons of Jacob (29:30—30:24), Moses (Ex. 1—2), Samuel (1 Sam. 1—2), David (Ruth 4:17–22), and our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4–5). Conception, birth, and death are divine appointments, not human accidents, a part of God's wise and loving plan for His own people (Ps. 116:15; 139:13–16).
Imagine Rebekah's surprise when she learned that the two children would struggle with each other all their lives! Each child would produce a nation, and these two nations (Edom and Israel) would compete, but the younger would master the older. Just as God had chosen Isaac, the second-born, and not Ishmael, the firstborn, so He chose Jacob, the second-born, and not Esau, the firstborn. That the younger son should rule the elder was contrary to human tradition and logic, but the sovereign God made the choice (Rom. 9:10– 12), and God never makes a mistake.
—Be Authentic, pages 20–21
6. Why is it significant that God chose the second-born child (in two instances) rather than the first to lead His people? In the context of a culture that revered the firstborn, what does this say about God? About God's people?
From the Commentary
Esau probably means "hairy." He also had the nickname "Edom," which means "red," referring to his red hair and the red lentil soup Jacob sold him (Gen. 25:25, 30). The twin boys not only looked different but they also were different in personality. Esau was a robust outdoorsman, who was a successful hunter, while Jacob was a "home boy." You would think that Isaac would have favored Jacob, since both of them enjoyed domestic pursuits, but Jacob was Rebekah's favorite. Rebekah was a hands-on mother who knew what was going on in the home and could contrive ways to get what she thought was best.
It's unfortunate when homes are divided because parents and children put their own personal desires ahead of the will of God. Isaac enjoyed eating the tasty game that Esau brought home, a fact that would be important in later family history (chap. 27). Isaac, the quiet man, fulfilled his dreams in Esau, the courageous man, and apparently ignored the fact that his elder son was also a worldly man. Did Isaac know that Esau had forfeited his birthright? The record doesn't tell us. But he did know that God had chosen the younger son over the elder son.
A friend of mine kept a card under the glass on his office desk that read: "Faith is living without scheming." Jacob could have used that card. Before his birth, he had been divinely chosen to receive the birthright and the blessing; thus there was no need for him to scheme and take advantage of his brother. It's likely that Jacob had already seen plenty of evidence that Esau didn't care about spiritual things, an attitude that made Esau unfit to receive the blessing and accomplish God's will. Perhaps Jacob and his mother had even discussed the matter.
The name "Jacob" comes from a Hebrew word (yaaqob) that means "may God protect," but because it sounds like the words aqeb ("heel") and aqab ("watch from behind" or "overtake"), his name became a nickname: "he grasps the heel" or "he deceives." Before birth, Jacob and Esau had contended, and at birth, Jacob grasped his brother's heel. This latter action was interpreted to mean that Jacob would trip up his brother and take advantage of him. The prediction proved true.
—Be Authentic, pages 21–22
7. Did God allow apparent deception to determine the path of His plan? Explain. What does this say about the responsibility of those chosen by God? What choices did Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau each make during the selling of the birthright? How was each of them responsible for these choices and their consequences?
From the Commentary
True faith is always tested, either by temptations within us or trials around us (James 1:1– 18), because a faith that can't be tested can't be trusted. God tests us to bring out the best in us, but Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us. In one form or another, each new generation must experience the same tests as previous generations, if only to discover that the enemy doesn't change and that human nature doesn't improve.
When Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found a famine in the land and faced his first serious test of faith (Gen. 12:10—13:4). His solution was to abandon the place God had chosen for him, the place of obedience, and to run to Egypt, thus establishing a bad example for his descendants who were prone to imitate him. The safest place in the world is in the will of God, for the will of God will never lead us where His grace can't provide for us. Unbelief asks, "How can I get out of this," while faith asks, "What can I get out of this?"
Isaac could flee from famine, but when he put himself into a situation that offered no escape, he had to turn to deception to protect himself. Abraham committed this same sin twice, once in Egypt (Gen. 12:14–20) and once in Philistia (chap. 20). Remember, faith is living without scheming, and telling lies seems to be one of humanity's favorite ways to escape responsibility.
Isaac was asked about the woman who was with him and, like his father Abraham before him, he said she was his sister. But when Abimelech saw Isaac caressing Rebekah, he knew she was his wife. Why did Isaac lie? Because he was afraid his pagan host would kill him in order to obtain his beautiful wife. His lie was evidence of his unbelief, for if he had claimed the covenant promise when he prayed for children (25:21), why couldn't he claim that same covenant promise to protect himself and his wife?
—Be Authentic, pages 23–24
8. Review Genesis 26:1–11. Note all the times Abraham is mentioned by name (or as "father"). Why is this significant to the story? Once again we see deception in one of God's chosen leaders. What does this say about the people God chooses to lead? What does it say about God's character? About God's covenant promise?
From the Commentary
Isaac inherited flocks and herds from his father, who had lived a nomadic life, but now the wealthy heir settled down and became a farmer, remaining in Gerar "a long time" (Gen. 26:8).
Isaac and his neighbors had access to the same soil, and they depended on the same sunshine and rain, but Isaac's harvests were greater than theirs, and his flocks and herds multiplied more abundantly. The secret? God kept His promise and blessed Isaac in all that he did (vv. 3–5). God would give a similar blessing to Jacob years later (chap. 31).
God also blessed Isaac because of Abraham's life and faith (Gen. 26:5), just as He blesses us for the sake of Jesus Christ. We'll never know until we get to heaven how many of our blessings have been "dividends" from the spiritual investments made by godly friends and family who have gone before.
In spite of his material blessings, Isaac still suffered because of his lie, because the blessings he received brought burdens and battles to his life. Seeing his great wealth, the Philistines envied him and decided he was a threat to their safety. (A similar situation would occur when the Jews multiplied in Egypt. See Ex. 1:8ff.) "The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it" (Prov. 10:22 NKJV). Had Isaac not lied about his wife, God would not have disciplined him but would have given him peace with his neighbors (Prov. 16:7). Because of his sin, however, Isaac's material blessings caused him trouble.
—Be Authentic, pages 25–26
9. Review Genesis 26:12–17. How could the Lord bless somebody who claimed to be a believer and yet had deliberately lied to his unbelieving neighbors? (See 2 Tim. 2:11–13.) What condition had God placed on His promise of blessing? What are some of the ways Isaac suffered, despite the blessing? What does this story teach us about God's promises? About how He responds to our disobedience?
More to Consider: Read Genesis 26:34–35. In what ways was Isaac at peace with his neighbors but at war at home? How is this true with believers today?
From the Commentary
No matter where Isaac journeyed, the enemy followed him and confiscated his father's wells and also the new wells that Isaac's servants dug. To find a well of "springing water" (Gen. 26:19) was a special blessing, for it guaranteed fresh water at all times, but the Philistines took that well, too. The names of the new wells that Isaac's men dug reveal the problems that he had with his neighbors, for Esek means "contention," and Sitnah means "hatred." But Rehoboth means "enlargement" because Isaac finally found a place where he was left alone and had room enough for his camp and his flocks and herds.
Whenever Abraham had a problem with people, he boldly confronted them and got the matter settled, whether it was his nephew Lot (13:5–18), the invading kings (chap. 14), Hagar and Ishmael (21:9ff.), or the Philistines (vv. 22ff.). But Isaac was a retiring man who wanted to avoid confrontation. Since he was a pilgrim, he could move his camp and be a peacemaker.
Beersheba was a very special place for Isaac, because there his father had entered into a covenant with the Philistine leaders (21:22ff.). Beersheba means "the well of the oath." The Lord comes to us with His assuring Word just when we need encouragement (Acts 18:9–11; 23:11; 27:23–24; 2 Tim. 2:19). No matter who is against us, God is with us and for us (Gen. 28:15; 31:3; Rom. 8:31–39), and there's no need for us to be afraid. In response to God's gracious word of promise, Isaac built an altar and worshipped the Lord. He was ready to meet his adversaries.
—Be Authentic, pages 26–27
10. How did the different personalities of Isaac and his father play out in the way they dealt with adversity? What do their individual stories reveal about their relationship with God? About how God works?
Take a moment to reflect on all that you've explored thus far in this study of Genesis 25— 26. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.
Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don't press for people to speak if they're uncomfortable doing so.
11. Deception played a role in Isaac's story. What are some examples of deception you've seen recently in the church? Have you ever used deception to accomplish something you think God wanted? Explain.
12. Are you more like Abraham (dealing with difficulties head-on) or Isaac (preferring to avoid conflict)? How does this affect your relationship with other believers? With God? Is there only one godly way to deal with conflict? Explain.
13. God blessed Isaac and others because of His promise. What is God's promise to you? What are some of the blessings you've received from God because of that promise?
Excerpted from The Wiersbe BIBLE STUDY SERIES: GENESIS 25â?"50 by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright © 2012 Warren W. Wiersbe. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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