God Is In Control (Genesis 25:19-28)
We have a simple sermon today with a simple main point and a simple thing to walk away with, it is that God is in control. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said,
“I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes—that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens—that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence—the fall of sere leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.”—Charles Haddon Spurgeon
You may believe that God’s control of the Universe and the march of history along the pages of time is a topic to be debated. Let me tell you that this is not at all how this topic is portrayed in Scripture. Repeatedly and throughout Scripture it is declared unabashedly that God is in control of all things.
The world is not spinning out of control. And some of you likely need to hear that today. It is likely that you have watched the news and started to believe that everything is floating out of control. But that is not the case. God is in control. It is likely that some hardships have fallen in your life over the past few years, or maybe there are long term things that you are still trying to figure out. God is in control.
Whatever the case may be, the title of the sermon today and point that I hope you take home with you today is that God is in control.
God Is In Control And Keeps His Promises (Genesis 25:19-20)
We begin our passage today with a rehearsal of what took place just a chapter ago. Remember, Isaac was 40-year-old when he married Rebekah. That seems old to us now, but that was typical for men in ancient times. There was an expectation that men make something of their selves before they got married and took care of a wife. Because no one was marrying the unkempt lay-about that plays video games in their parents’ basement, men went forth and made something of their selves so that they could provide for and take care of a wife and family.
Even though his marrying age was typical, the way he got married was not. Remember, Abraham’s servant left having made an oath to find a woman from among Abraham’s people for Isaac to marry. It would be difficult to find a woman who was eligible for Isaac, let alone one that would come back and marry him. This outlandish idea would have to pass through her father as well as her. But, the servant prayed and the prayer was answered. The needle in the haystack just appeared before him and she and her family agreed to go as well (Genesis 24).
This description of who Rebekah was is loaded with the fact that God made promises to Abraham that were dependent upon Abraham finding a non-Canaanite wife. And this was fulfilled through miraculous means.
Because God is in control and keeps His promises, He made it happen.
When God says that He is going to do something, it will get done.
When I say that I am going to do something, I try to get it done. But sometimes things get in the way. Sometimes it is my memory. Sometimes it is my lack of ability to do what I wanted to do. Or sometimes I just didn’t prioritize it as I should have. As Christians we want to be truthful people and when we make commitments, we try our best to keep them. But we do have limitations that at times keep us from doing what we have committed to do. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we didn’t foresee something that would take place that would keep us from doing what we had agreed to do. Sometimes it is unavoidable because we do have limitations.
I have limitations, God does not.
God does not forget. And God is in control of all factors. So, when God says that He will do something, you are guaranteed that it will happen.
Therefore, we can rest on the fact that God is with us, that He is for us, and that He will give to His people eternal life.
What promises are the believer resting on? Well, a lot of them. But the most foundational ones are the ones that we have repeated often as we’ve looked through the Book of Genesis.
“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.”” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)
All of this is accomplished through Christ. All of it.
God promised a land to Abram. And the people of Israel would certainly be given the Promised Land. But even in the Old Testament it was understood that the land that was promised was the entire world and not just the plot of land that we now call Israel (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22, Micah 4:1-5). And we also see this in the New Testament (Romans 4:13, Hebrews 11:10). This expanded land promise that encompasses the world is fulfilled in Christ. It is through Christ that Abram and his descendants are made heirs to the entire world.
God promised that He would make a great nation out of Abram. And He did. That tiny people of Israel, surrounded by massive neighbors were really quite extraordinary and that showed time and time again. Yet, that is not the end of the promise. It is through Christ that this is truly fulfilled as people from every tribe, nation, and tongue are engrafted into the family of Abraham through Him. As Paul stated in the Book of Galatians.
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:7-9 ESV)
Those who have trusted in Christ are made a part of Abraham’s family. Therefore, the promise is being fulfilled as more and more people come to faith in Christ and are adopted into God’s family, the family of Abraham.
And God promised His special presence to Abraham. Again, a promise that is fulfilled to us in Christ. It is the reason that we read in both the Old and New Testament that God will never leave or forsake His people (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).
And as the gospel moves forward and more and more people profess faith in Christ, we understand that every family of the Earth will be blessed in Him. And people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will be brought into this family of God (Revelation 7:9).
God will give these promises to us. They are guaranteed. He accomplishes this through the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ. God the Son took on human flesh and dwelt among us, His name was Jesus. And He lived a perfect life, accomplishing all righteousness on behalf of sinners. This perfect God-man died on the cross and paid the punishment for sin, not of Himself, but of guilty sinners. And all those who turn from ruling their own lives and trust in Him are made partakers of these promises through faith in Jesus Christ. These promises are ours in Christ. And as outlandish as they may seem, they are guaranteed for God is in control and He will keep His promises.
God Is In Control And Is The Giver Of Life (Genesis 25:21-24)
Isaac’s wife was barren for 20 years. That is a long time. They had been given a promise that depended upon Isaac and Rebekah having a child, and they find their selves in much the same situation as Abraham and Sarah though less drastic.
And as I consider their situation, it seems to me that it was brought about so that God could teach a lesson to Isaac, Rebekah and all that would come after them. And the lesson is this, it is God who is in control. It is God who brings about the fulfillment of His promises. And it is God who is in control and the giver of life.
So, Isaac prayed to the Lord, we don’t know how much or how long, and the Lord answered his prayer. After 20 years of barrenness, Rebekah had twins.
God says of Himself,
“‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39 ESV)
He declares of Himself that He is the giver and taker of life. All life is dependent upon Him. And therefore David would proclaim that all life comes from Him. God Himself is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9).
God’s control reaches into our very existence. In God is life itself. He is the giver of life.
When Amanda and I first got married we wanted to wait a few years to have children. But truth be told, we were pretty happy living our selfish lives. We did whatever we wanted, when we wanted, and had plenty of money to spare as we did so. But God convicted us both of the wrongness of our attitudes toward children. And, the most extraordinary thing about this story is that Amanda was already pregnant with Haddon. She had been pregnant for a few weeks at this point but neither of us knew it. We just thought we had all the control. And God revealed to us that He is the giver of life.
God is in control and is the giver of life. Therefore, when it looked as if the promise was going to die, God gave not one but two children to Isaac and Rebekah.
God Himself is in control and has in Himself the power to give life. And all of life is given by God.
God Is In Control And So We Pray (Genesis 25:21, 24)
Why is it that Isaac prayed to the Lord when Rebekah could not conceive? It is because God is in control and has the ability to answer prayer. God is in control and has the ability to do whatever He wills.
Why do we pray?
Why do we pray?
Why do you pray?
We pray because we know that God loves and cares for us. We are His people. And we know that God answers prayer. And we know that God is in control and can answer prayer.
God who created the world and everything in it is in control and answers prayer.
God who flooded the Earth and preserved Noah is in control and answers prayer.
God who rescued Sarah from the stupidity of Abraham is in control and answers prayer.
God who enabled Abraham and Sarah to have children when they were long past child-bearing years is in control and answers prayer.
God who enabled Rebekah to have twins after 20 years of barrenness is in control and answers prayer.
That is why we go to the Lord in prayer. He is in control. And He answers prayer.
Another thing to be considered is the reason that Isaac and Rebekah were barren. It seems that the Lord made her to be barren so that Isaac would have to come to reliance upon the Lord. This is not unlike our own lives. And there are times when hardships enter our lives so that we will go to Him and be in dependence upon Him. Sometimes God strips our independence away from us to bring us closer to Him.
As Charles Spurgeon once famously said,
“I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
And there are times when God allows the waves to rock our lives so that when we finally understand our own helplessness, we rely upon Him. God is in control and so we pray and depend upon Him.
God Is In Control And Is The Giver Of Eternal Life (Genesis 25:22-28)
The twins were a real problem within Rebekah. They struggled so much within her that she just wanted to die (Genesis 25:22). She has gone from desperate for a child, to wishing there was an end to her plight. And so, she went to the Lord in prayer. And here she was given a strange oracle.
“Two nations are in your womb,
And two peoples from within you shall be divided;
The one shall be stronger than the other
The older shall serve the younger.”
(Genesis 25:23 ESV)
It is not strange to think that two nations would be created from the children of Isaac and Rebekah. God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations in Genesis 17:5. So, this nation creating must begin somewhere.
But the oracle also says that the two peoples within her womb would be divided. This is so strange. It had to puzzle Rebekah, but time would show how true this statement was. And stranger still is the fact that the older would serve the younger. That is simply not how business was done in ancient times. The older received double inheritance. The older would run the family after the father was gone. Simply put, the older was the one that was primary in the sight of the ancient world, but here God announced that he had different plans for this household. In this case it would be the younger sibling that would run the show. And God had chosen the younger seed to deliver the promise, not the older.
Jacob was the younger sibling through whom the promises of God would be named. His life is so important to the Book of Genesis that the entire last half of the book deals with him and his family. In fact, Jacob’s name will be changed to “Israel” and his twelve children will be the “twelve tribes of Israel”. And it is Jacob’s son Joseph that will usher the people of Israel safely into Egypt.
But Esau is the older sibling, the one through whom the blessing is supposed to pass according to custom. And while Israel would essentially found Israel and her twelve tribes, Esau would found Edom. The nation that Esau would later found ended up being a major rival and notorious enemy of Israel that dwelt south and east of the Dead Sea. And the rivalry was so bitter that during the wilderness wandering the people of Edom would not allow Israel to pass through their land (Numbers 20:14-21). They cared so little for their starving and thirsty sibling that they would not allow them in their territory. And throughout the Old Testament the two countries would be in conflict. They come up often in the historical books of the Old Testament. The conflict happened so often that 1 Samuel 14:47 just lists them as an enemy. Things were so bad that they even aided in the destruction of Israel at the hands of Babylon. Ezekiel 35 and Amos 1 deal with the harsh punishment God has in store for Edom because of their aid of Babylon in Israel’s time of need.
While Jacob’s family would be the foundation of the people of Israel, Esau would be the foundation of one of her greatest enemies.
The Scriptures don’t leave us with many questions as to what happened. We receive a lot more insight from God’s Word on this matter. In Malachi we read,
“The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.'”” (Malachi 1:1-4 ESV)
There is great debate as to what is meant by the word “hate” in theological circles and the reason for the usage of the word. You will often hear that it just means that God loved Esau less. In fact, I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard that. But I can’t find a time where that is actually the case in the Scriptures. The word is שָׂנֵא, and it is pronounced, “saw-nay’”. It is used 146 times and of those 146 times it is translated as “hate” 136 times in the KJV, enemies 3 times, enemy 2 times, foe 1 time, and hateful 1 time. If you’re good at math, then you’ll realize that there are three times left. Those three are parts of idioms, or Hebrew turns of phrase and they don’t really count them and call it “miscellaneous”. There can be an argument made for some of those instances being translated “rejected”, but it still doesn’t cause us to use the word “loved less” especially in reference to Esau.
And we are tempted at this point to say that God looked into the future and saw what Esau would become, so God chose for the seed to pass through Jacob and not Esau. But Paul does not let us do that when he discusses this text. Notice what he says concerning Jacob and Esau.
“And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls– she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (Romans 9:10-18).
Before either child was born, God chose the younger. And it was not because of anything that either child had done. Read part of this text again slowly, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger”. As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What can all of this mean other than that God was in complete control of His choosing of Jacob and rejection of Esau?
And what does this mean other than that God is in complete control of even our own salvation?
We fancy ourselves as being in control. And we think to ourselves things like, “if only I teach a certain way, or preach a certain way”. “If the invitation were longer more people would come to Christ.” “If we just turn the lights down a bit and play softer music…” “If only we tell the right sentimental stories with the music at the right volume…” But it is not us that is in control. It is God. He is in control. And we see that vividly in the election of Jacob and rejection of Esau.
So, Rebekah gives birth to her children and all questions are suddenly answered. All confusion about what had taken place made complete sense to her. The war in her womb continued even as they were leaving her womb.
The first child came out read and hairy. I have always assumed it was his hair that was colored red and it made him look red, but we’re not told. It could have been that he had a reddish skin tone and was hairy. Or he could have been reddish in color and hairy. But in ancient times hairiness symbolized a wildness and incivility. It was not esteemed and there was a pretty good amount of prejudice against hairy people. Someone tell the ACLU. And this does seem to foretell what kind of person Esau will become. This works to foreshadow the events to come.
The second child came out attempting to overtake his brother. He was holding the heal of Esau (Genesis 25:26). The name Jacob means, “he takes by the heel” or “he cheats”. And if you remember the events of the life of Jacob, you know that either of these names are applicable in Jacob’s life.
So, at 60 years old, Isaac had twins. 20 years previous he had married Rebekah. And in the years to come his children would grow up. Esau was a skillful hunter while Jacob was quiet and dwelt in tents. Esau grew up into the incivility of his looks and Jacob grew up to be a lot like his father and grandfather, herdsmen who lived at home rather than out in the wild.
And the two, very different children, found favoritism from the opposite parents. And this again sets up another major story in the life of this family.
It is often assumed that Isaac loved Esau because of his wildness and Rebekah because of Jacob’s softness. But I don’t believe this is actually the case. Jacob living in tents did not signal softness, but that he would be a herdsmen like Abraham and Isaac. This means that Jacob is not a picture of a soft man. And I think his story in the rest of Genesis backs that up. But Isaac does love Esau’s wild game. And, I don’t blame him. But why does Rebekah favor Jacob then?
Rebekah was told which child would receive the promise. Rebekah favored the child of the promise. And, as you think through this, know that it is Rebekah that is righteous in her feelings toward the children. She loves the child that God has chosen more, while Isaac loves the child that gives him wild game.
God is in control. Whether we are talking about life, death, illness, sickness, childbirth, the weather, or salvation God is in control. There is no facet of this world or Universe in which God is not in control.
And so, as a church I want to make this application for us today. And it’s one that I have stated a few times before. We want to be a church that reaches the lost and sees people come to faith in Christ. We set up events for people to come and hear the message of the gospel. Our budget reflects that as a priority. It seems to me that we are doing well on the business end of these things.
But do you know what we need. We need for God to work. If God doesn’t work, then nothing will happen.
We prioritize people coming to faith in Christ. And we know that God saves. But we also know that if a person is going to come to faith in Christ, it is God who will work, and it is God who will bring them to Himself. So, we pray for we understand that “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9, Psalm 3:8).
I am not a used car salesmen trying to get a person to buy into this Jesus thing. And neither are you. We preach the message of the gospel and leave the results to the Lord. It is God who saves. Salvation belongs to the Lord.
God is in control and that should be a tremendous comfort to you. Whether we are discussing your current situation, illness, family problems, or finances God being in control can give to us a good bit of solace. And the reason is simple, it means that the world is not out of control. It means that God is doing something with what is happening in this moment. And it means that God is working all things for the good of His people, just as He promised (Romans 8:28-30).
For a moment, I want you to imagine what life would be like if it weren’t that way.
I once overheard a pastor counseling a man whose daughter had just lost her husband. He was distraught. His daughter was young, and they had two small children to care for. And her husband had died when a tree fell on top of his car as he was driving down the highway. The pastor’s response: “God didn’t intend for this to happen.”
But what kind of counsel is that? What kind of comfort does that give? And, more importantly, where on Earth did he find that in Scripture?
That pastor just told a congregant that God was not in control of what happened in the world. He told that man that there was a tree by the road that God did not have control over and that things were spinning out of control.
That is not what Scripture teaches and that is not how the world works. The teaching of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is that God is in control. And so, we pray. We pray for the Lord to bring healing because we know He can and does answer prayer. And sometimes we understand that the point of what has happened is to draw us closer to the Lord or to lean more upon him.
There are times when the whole point of the ordeal in our lives is to draw us closer to the Savior. And when we know that God is in control, we understand that our suffering has a point. And we understand that this can be the point of our hardships. So, we go to the Lord.
We also know that God is in control and that He saves. So, we pray for the Lord to save our children, loved ones, and neighbors, because we know that God saves and He answers prayer. And we pray for the expansion of His kingdom through the preaching of the gospel because we know that God is in control and He answers prayer.
R. Dwain Minor