Devotional & Reflection

Week 1, Aug 2003

Gen 27: Isaac – From Hero to Zero
By Teo Kok Hong, Regional Director & Trainer, Ezra Resources

Gen 27: 1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, [he called Esau] “4 Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” 27 So he (Jacob) went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him . . .

I have often wondered what it would be like coming from a family of godly upbringing. Would I live out a life emulating the godly heritage of my parents? What if their shoes were too big for me to wear? Would I always have them as my shadow sticking like a leech to me and in a way stifling my own sense of identity? Would I ever learn to own my faith? I guess all these are hypothetical questions when in reality I am a first generation Christian. I can never answer those questions but can only turn to Scripture for clues.

If there were ever such a man who had life made out for him in the early years of life, it had to be Isaac. He was the inheritor/heir of the covenant, the seed of the Promise and the son of the Father of Faith, Abraham. He had everything going for him: large flocks of cattle and herds, exceeding riches in his time, and a fabulous, godly example to emulate from. But sadly, whatever great heritage he had from his Father, Abraham, it was almost turned to ruins by him had God not intervened in the strangest fashion.

If we were to trace the life of Isaac, we see that he is the most passive of all patriarchs. “A rapid review of his story from the vantage point of his role in Gen 22 illustrates his passive, submissive nature: he is bound to over-aged parents (Gen 21); he is protected from the assumed threat of his older half-brother whose potential as a rival is taken care of by his mother Sarah (Gen 21); he is preeminently the victim in his near sacrifice at the hands of his father, emerging as a survivor only because of divine intervention (Gen 22); he is a compliant son in the idyllic, romantic tale of Abraham’s match-making on his behalf (Gen 24); he is the one to yield ground in order to avoid conflict with the Philistines in a series of well-disputes (Gen 26); he is duped by his shrewd, strong-willed wife and his wily younger son and tricked into giving his deathbed blessing to the “wrong” son. The only time Isaac acts ‘independently’ was when he imitates his father’s pattern of perpetrating a lie about his wife’s marital status in order to protect himself while in foreign territory. Thus on the one occasion when Isaac acts on his own he hardly appears as a strong, resourceful individual and only emerges successfully because of who he really is – passive recipient of divine favor – not because of his ability to act wisely and independently.” (J. Cheryl Exum; J, William Whedbee, Semeia).

However, when we come to the lengthiest narrative of Isaac’s Life (chapter 27), a strange depiction of Isaac emerges: a weak and seemingly visionless man. His initial charge to Esau before pronouncing the blessing was to have him “hunt some wild game for me”, and “prepare me the tasty food I like” (27:3,4). One could hardly understand why such emphasis on food was placed over the pronouncement of the blessing. Wouldn’t it have been better to pronounce the blessing first and then have a feast of an enormous magnitude? In fact, such a request was made in secrecy. Rebekah and Jacob were not to know of it since blessing Esau was not proper. It had already been revealed that the older would serve the younger. So why the defiance . . . for Isaac loved Esau for he had a taste for wild game (25:28a).

This is not all - a seemingly visionless man whom the narrator depicted as one whose “eyes were so weak that he could no longer see” (27:1), could not distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, son (Esau) from heir (Isaac). The story tells us further that his other four senses were utilized to identify the “wrong” son whom he seemingly doubted. Notice the dialogue: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (27:22b); “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not” (27:21); “Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank” (27:25); “When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him” (27:27).

Where was the sense of sight? It was absent. Sadly it was about a man, who had lost his spiritual senses; that which guided the soul and informed the heart was filled with an immense indulgence of the flesh that numbed his sense of spiritual sight. This sense of sensual indulgence caused him to favour one son over another that caused such immense hatred between the brothers (25:28a). However, the turning point for Isaac came when he acknowledged Isaac as the heir of the covenant (28:3,4). Thus, we see once again divine intervention for this passive recipient of divine favour.

1. What do you think is the main point of the article?
2. Divine intervention in life’s circumstances for the sake of the covenant is a key point in this passage. How would you reconcile foolhardiness that receives divine intervention and personal responsibility for our actions? How do you personally handle this tension?
3. At what point of our lives must we be totally responsible for our spiritual growth?

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