Isaac and Jacob – Heirs of the Promise
May 25th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
ISAAC AND JACOB, HEIRS OF THE PROMISE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-25-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Isaac and Jacob, Heirs of the Promise. In these early morning services, we have been preaching of the types and the figures in the Old Testament. And in that study, and in Genesis, we have come to the life of Jacob. And as an introduction, before entering into the story of the revelation and the mercy and the grace of God through him, this is a message on his father as well as the son, Isaac and Jacob.
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, you have the title and, which is also, the text. Hebrews 11:9, "By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; and it is a strange thing that the elective purpose of God was in each instance here exercised through a younger son, and a son which was not of the elective choice and wish of his earthly father. God said, "It shall be Isaac and not Ishmael," although Abraham prayed that it might be his first son Ishmael. But God said, "No. It shall not be Ishmael; I will bless him for thy sake. And he shall be a great nation and a great people, and kings shall come out of his loins; but he shall not be thine heir." God chose Isaac and not Ishmael [Genesis 17:18-21]. God chose Jacob and not Esau. And there again the choice of the earthly father was Esau. Esau was a man’s man. He was a rugged animal. He could run like a deer, he could stalk prey like a lion, he could endure all of that outdoor life like a man born to the Nimrod Hunter’s Association. He liked it. But although Isaac loved that older boy and ate of his venison and would have chosen him, God said it shall not be Esau, it shall be Jacob [Genesis 25:21-28]; Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise [Hebrews 11:9].
So we’re going to look at these two men for a moment this morning. This son Isaac, for one thing he was born contrary to nature. It says here in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, "Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age." She was ninety years old; "Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead," Abraham was a hundred years old, "there sprang of him, one who was as good as dead, there sprang of him this promised son, Isaac, through whom God multiplied the chosen seed, like the stars in the sky for multitude, and the sand which is by the seashore innumerable" [Hebrews 11:11-12]. They named him Isaac, "laughter, gladness, joy, brightness"; for Sarah laughed when the angel said, "And according to the time of life Sarah shall have a son" – ninety years of age [Genesis 17:16-17] – "that the child should be a child of promise" [Genesis 18:9-14]. That is, when we had come to the end of human strength and when this life was as dead, then God quickened a spiritual life, born according to the mercy and grace and covenant promise of the Lord. And Isaac was born [Genesis 21:1-7]. Why, that’s the best picture I know of in the Bible of our spiritual birth. It is only when we come to the end of the way of our selves that God can ever create in us a new life, a new birth. As long as a man can boast of his own righteousness, as long as he’s proud of his own accomplishments and deeds, as long as a man thinks that he can save himself, then God can have no part in him. But when a man comes to the end of his own strength, and in weakness and in helplessness, he falls on the strong arms of omnipotent God, then God can do something with him, God can save him. That’s the same thing that happened in the life of Sarah and of Abraham. When they came to the end of their strength, and in helplessness waited upon God, then God wrought the miracle of a new birth; not according to the flesh, nor according to blood, nor according to the will of man, but by the strength and the power of God [John 1:13]. So this is a child of promise; just like you are a child of promise in the goodness and the mercy of God.
All right, another thing about Isaac. When he was a little fellow and his mother weaned him, Sarah upon a day, passing by, or looking out the door of the tent, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking him, poking fun at him; he was a little fellow, and Ishmael was a teenage boy [Genesis 21:9]. That also is a figure of that little nation through all of these days and years and centuries since, such a little nation, and in the eyes of the world, such a peculiar nation. "Why, the God they worship," said the ancients, "you can’t see Him, can’t touch Him, can’t find Him." When Pompey pulled aside the veil of the temple and stalked inside to see the God of these Jews, he came out and said, "Why, it’s empty; there’s nothing in it." Yet that’s the place where Isaiah said he saw the Lord high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1]. The God of these Jews, said the idol worshiping Babylonians, and Assyrians, and Egyptians, and Greeks, and Romans, the God of these Jews is such a strange God. And they have such strange habits. For example, on every seventh day, they rest; they don’t work. "Isn’t that a strange institution?" said the world. Let me tell you, the thing that impressed me most about India – I’ve heard a hundred thousand impressions that people describe when they go to India – let me tell you the thing that impressed me the most: every day in India is like every other day; they don’t have a Lord’s Day, they don’t have a Sabbath day, every day just on and on and on and on. And I missed that more than I missed anything that I had seen in my life. I am accustomed to that strange, strange turn of life, of that strange and peculiar people: one day out of seven. And oh, you could just continue on. We haven’t time. But the whole world thought they were the strangest people, peculiar; and they ridicule them and mock them.
But God said, "In Isaac shall My seed be called, My promise wrought, My grace given, in Isaac shall My name be glorified in the earth" [Romans 9:7-8]. And it is so in the elective purposes of God with that little mocked and despised nation. "Salvation is of the Jews" [John 4:22]. Who said that? Who said that? That’s what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, as He sat and talked to her by the well [John 4:6-7]. "Salvation is of the Jews," that little despised nation, that mocked people. Jesus was of the flesh, a child of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob [Matthew 1:1-17].
Now we must continue. May I point out before we turn to his son Jacob, Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the promise [Hebrews 11:9], may I point out three beautiful noble characteristics of Isaac? All right, the first one is this: he was a man of prayer. In the twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis, which has been our chapter the last two or three Sundays, the servant going out, seeking a bride for the son [Genesis 24:1-], the Holy Spirit into this earth; seeking a bride for the son, the son who waits in the Promised Land [Genesis 24:62-67].
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, you have a picture of a habit, a disposition of this man Isaac. In the sixty-third verse: "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide." Now had we been writing that story about a modern man, we would have said, "And Isaac went out to the ballpark to watch the game at eventide" [Genesis 24:63]. Or we’d have said, "And Isaac sat down and turned on his favorite TV program at eventide." Or we would have said, "And Isaac dressed up and went to a hullabaloo party at eventide and hooped it up till the wee hours of the morning." Oh, I don’t know what we’d say today. But no small part of the strength of a true man of God lies in this: there is a part of the day that he sets aside for meditation, for Scripture reading, for prayer, for communing with God. And I do not think there is anything that can ever take the place of those hours of quiet and meditation in the building up of the Christian life and the Christian character. Time for God, set it aside, keep it.
I have told you endless numbers of times: if I did not keep my mornings, my soul and my heart would run dry. The morning in my life, insofar as I can keep it that way, belongs to meditation, and to study, and to poring over God’s Word, and to prayer and communion with heaven. Isaac had a time of meditation with the Lord; and his time was at eventide, when things were quiet, and all nature came home to rest. He meditated before God and thought upon His name.
Now I said he was a man of prayer. When I turn the page in my Bible to the next chapter, the twenty-fifth chapter, I see him on his knees beseeching God. Look at it: in the twenty-first verse, "And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and God heard Isaac’s prayers, and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah conceived" [Genesis 25:21]. God heard Isaac when he prayed. Now, when I turn the page again, in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, in the twenty-fourth verse, I come across Isaac’s praying again: "And the Lord appeared unto him that night in Beer-sheba, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed. And Isaac builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord" [Genesis 26:24-25]. That was Isaac’s way of keeping his life close to God. He had an altar, built it, pitched his tent by it. First he built an altar, then pitched his tent there [Genesis 26:25]. This is the secret of any man’s life: building an altar, then building his home, running his business, carrying on the work of the day; but first, first, an altar to call upon the name of the Lord. No wonder God delighted in this beautiful man, beautiful in thought, beautiful in life, beautiful in character, Isaac.
Now let’s take another. I said there were three beautiful characteristics; now the second one is, Isaac was not only a man of prayer, but Isaac was a man of peace. He was a man of quietness. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis – and we haven’t time to read it – but time and time and time again, Isaac here digs a well, water so precious in that country, he digs a well, and others come and take it away from him. And Isaac just goes to the next place, and he digs another well. And the same thing happens, and then he goes to another place and digs another well [Genesis 26:15-25]. Well, why doesn’t he stand and fight? I suppose there are times when a man ought to fight, I guess so. But they are not very many. A feuding and a fighting church is an abomination to God. Boy, let’s let them have it. How much better in quietness and in confidence, in returning and in rest, leave it to God? [Isaiah 30:15].
I surely like to say that to lots of men and lots of women who are married. Boy, at the breakfast table and at noon and at night, bip and bang and bop and lay them out! How much better, leave it to God, leave it to God. Let the Lord work it out. You’re not going to tell her anything anyway. And she’s not going to change you. Just leave it to God; leave it unsaid. Lord, seal my lips and my tongue. Just leave it unsaid. And how many times is that true in the life of the church? Just leave it unsaid. All the caustic things, and the bitter things, and how much of life can be thrown into turmoil and bitterness, just let it go. Leave it to the Lord. And I say, once in a while, I suppose, there are times when we ought to stand up and fight. But most of the times it’s better to be like Isaac: a man of peace and a man of quiet. And rather than fight it out, he’d just move over to the next valley, dig himself there another well.
Now I have a third characteristic that I think is beautiful in Isaac, and that is this: he was a submissive man and a meek man before the Lord. Now he was that way when he was a boy. He was that way as a child. When the father took the lad by the hand and made his way to Mt. Moriah, that boy was big enough, and his father was an old man, that boy was big enough when the father built that altar of uncut, unhewn stone, and laid the wood, and when the boy asked for the sacrifice, the harsh dark terrible revelation came to him, he was the sacrifice [Genesis 22:2-7]. I say, that boy was big enough and his father old enough that that strong vibrant virile teenage boy could have resisted the old man, that is, I think he could have. At least ways, they could have had quite a tussle on top of Mt. Moriah – could have been a lot of dust kicked up around there and a lot of rocks strewn around – but there’s nothing like that in the story. Just like there wasn’t anything on Calvary but one of submission and willingness [Luke 22:42, Acts 8:32-25]. The boy allowed himself to be bound, and Abraham bound him, and laid him on the altar [Genesis 22:7-10]. And there’s never an intimation in that story of any resistance or any askance, just one of perfect and absolute submission. That’s the picture of the Son [Luke 22:42] of whom he was a figure and a type; submission to the will of God, that was Isaac [Genesis 22:7-10].
And you’ll find it again in his life, as he found the choice of God working out in Jacob his younger son. For old Isaac had set his heart upon Esau; he loved his venison, he loved the energy of that boy. Father doted on him, just like the mother loved and doted upon Jacob [Genesis 25:26-28]. Well, the father loved this boy Esau, set his heart upon him, and did what he could to give the boy the blessing. But you read the story, you see if this isn’t true: when God, in those devious ways that we cannot understand, but when God intervened through Rebekah the mother [Genesis 27:5-17], and with the red pottage [Genesis 25:29-34], and by these providences of life, the Lord put aside Esau, or Esau put himself away, and the purposes of God according to election fell full and deep and meaningful upon Jacob. Now you read this story and see for yourself [Genesis 27:18-29]. You’ll never hear from Isaac any withdrawing, any word of hatred; but when the blessing falls upon Jacob, Isaac says, "And he shall be blessed" [Genesis 27:30-33]. And when he sent the son, younger son, away to Padan-aram, there in his ancestor’s home to find a wife, he goes with the blessing of Isaac [Genesis 28:1-5]. I would have chosen it to be this way, but when God chose it to be this way Isaac was one of submission and yieldedness. That’s a wonderful characteristic. Instead of fighting against God, when he saw the purposes of God worked out in the providences of life, he accepted it in all submission and yieldedness.
Now, dear people, I don’t know what to do at these morning hours; I have just got one-third the way through a little short sermon that I had prepared. We have now come to Jacob, and I wanted to compare the two: Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the promise [Hebrews 11:9]. Mr. Souther, I will have to quit if you have your Sunday school. We will never get anywhere if I do not halfway summarize these sermons. So, Mr. Souther says, "Go on for just a little while." So may I summarize the main part of this message?
Isaac and Jacob, the heirs of the promise [Hebrews 11:9]; Jacob is so different a man in some ways, and yet, is like his father in other ways. Last Sunday there was placed in my hand a book entitled I Have Loved Jacob; and it is written by a converted Hebrew, a Christian Jew, by the name of Joseph Cohen. His name in Hebrew means "priest"; Joseph Cohen. And in that book, the man, the author, takes exception to every criticism that could be made of the life of Jacob. And he starts off right here with his name. In the womb of Rebekah were two children. And Jacob came out, was born second. And he had the heel of the older child. And they called his name "Jacob" [Genesis 25:25-26]. And he points out a thing which is correct: "heel," "Jacob" means "heel." And in nowise did this author say did Jacob be a supplanter or a cheater or taking somebody’s place and work. But that’s not according to the Word of the Lord. For it says here in the twenty-seventh chapter:
When Esau found that his brother had stolen his blessing from him, he cried with a bitter cry, and said, Is not he rightly called Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times: he has taken away my birthright; and now he has taken away my blessing.
That is, that word "Jacob," which actually means "heel," was used in the sense of someone stalking, and plotting, and planning behind, and taking away, and supplanting. And that’s Jacob. Now, he took great exception to this description of Jacob. And this is it, "And the boys grew. And Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents" [Genesis 25:27]. And he says that word toma, tome, ish tome, translated here "a plain man"; he says that means "a perfect man." And he said that word tome meant "sinless in the sight of God, without fault and without character [flaw]"; and then challenges us to find any fault in the character of Jacob.
Now, I think that word tome here, ish tome, a man, it means that he was a quiet man, a man of the tents; he was a shepherd, and not a wild man and a hunter and an outdoor man like Esau. Jacob was like his father Isaac. He was a man of peace and of quiet; he was a shepherd, a man of the flocks and of the herds and of the cattle. And he dwelt in tents and took care of the home. That was the kind of a man that Jacob was – now, this little summary.
In my humble opinion, one of the great marks of the truth of the revelation of God is this: that whenever the Lord depicts the character of a man, He won’t do like we do; we slide away all of his weaknesses, and derelictions, and aberrations of his life; preach a funeral sermon, you know. Why, you just extol and eulogize all of those fine thingsl; God doesn’t do it that way. When God tells the life of David, He will tell everything. And when God tells you about Abraham, He will tell about Abraham’s weakness in lying and misrepresentation. And when God tells a story about Peter, He will tell all of it. But the glory of the message of the Book is this: that there is a great possibility of conversion, of change, in a man’s life! "Peter, Peter, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but when thou art converted, when you come back, Simon, strengthen thy brethren" [Luke 22:31-32]. Or Paul, "I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle; because I persecuted the church of God" [1 Corinthians 15:9]. But oh, the infinite possibilities of change. So it is in the life of Jacob. I think Jacob was as the Bible presents him: he once was a supplanter, plotting for things and ambitious for things. And thank God he wished for spiritual things and for priesthood in the household of the faith, to excel in the religion of the God of Abraham and Isaac, but he was ungovernably ambitious and grasping. I think that was Jacob. "Twice he has lived up to his name," said Esau [Genesis 27:36]. But think of the infinite possibilities of what God can do with a man and what God did with Jacob. He is called the God of Jacob more than He is called the God of any other thing. And the nation Israel took their name from him, not Abraham, not Isaac; they’re Israelites. Ah, the possibility of change, of conversion, could not be better illustrated than in the life of this supplanter, Jacob.
A fellow was standing in front of a mission and invited a ragged bum to go in. And the bum said, "Why, I couldn’t go in, my coat is in rags." And the fellow said, "Come on in, fellow. There’s a man on the inside that doesn’t have any coat at all." Same way to us: come on in, fellow, we’ve got men in the church who used to be sinners above all men. God’s made saints out of them. Some of them are in our pulpits; they were vile and wicked blasphemers. God changed them, made new men out of them, just like He did here with Jacob.
Now we sing our song. Somebody to give his heart to the Lord, somebody to put his life in the church, while we sing this appeal, would you come on the first note of the first stanza, and stand by me? In this balcony around, on this lower floor, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord, put his life in the church, would you come on the first note of the first stanza? While all of us stand and sing.