Divine Election & Isaac (Genesis 25-26)
Battle for Birthright (Genesis 25:27-34)
The birthright is the right of the firstborn son to receive a double portion of the inheritance, as well as the divine promises associated with the covenant God made with Abraham. It is clear to anyone who looks objectively at this account, that neither Jacob nor Esau deserved the birthright—Esau despised it, and Jacob was a deceiver. The only explanation as to why Jacob received it, rather than Esau, is grace, electing grace. The Apostle Paul makes clear that God’s choice of Jacob rather than Esau was not based on anything found in either of them, but was based solely on His mercy (Romans 9:10ff).
The book of Ephesians, in the same way, makes clear that for each of us, God’s choice in saving us does not find its cause in us, but in His grace, since “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,” and He made us alive when we were idolatrous and carnal, dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 1:3-4; 2:1ff). As Boyce described it, “God, of His own purpose, has from eternity, determined to save a definite number of mankind, not for or because of any merit or work of theirs, nor of any value to Him of them, but of His own good pleasure.”
If we are sinners (and we are), and if God is holy (and He is), and if salvation is possible (and it is), then we must conclude that salvation lies necessarily in God alone. Without biblical, unconditional election, we are lost and hopeless! Our understanding of our own sinfulness and unworthiness of God should convince us that unless salvation is all of God, and not of any doing of our own, we would have no hope of salvation. (Consider these passages: John 13:18; 15:16; 1 Thess 1:4; 2 Thess 2:13).
Like Father, Like Son (Genesis 26:1-17)
There is quite a bit of family resemblance between Isaac and Abraham. Isaac followed in Abraham’s footsteps, both for the good and the bad. When famine strikes, he first intends to go to Egypt, until interrupted by the Lord, and then, like his father had done, he compromises his wife in order to preserve his own life. Isaac had learned that deception, rather than trusting God’s faithfulness, was acceptable. However, Isaac also imitated Abraham’s faith and was ultimately committed to trusting in God’s promises (vv. 23-25).
It is unfortunate that we pass down horrible sin habits to our children. But on the other hand, we should consider the possibility of securing blessings for our children through obedience! Consider the fact that in part, the blessing given to Isaac was the consequence of Abraham’s obedience to the Lord (vv. 3-5).
Water Wars (26:18-25)
The prior agreements made with Abimelech had been disregarded, or at least conveniently forgotten. Isaac found himself with a hostile city on one hand, and waterless country on the other. However, Isaac did not go to war over the wells. While in some ways he might have even seemed weak in our day of politics, his self-control and restraint is actually a sign of strength.
Let’s Make a Deal (26:26-35)
The renewal of the covenant is cemented by feasting. The hand of the Lord was obvious even to Isaac’s enemies (v. 28). True to the proverb, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). Christians should be known by our love, not our long faces. We should not be grumblers, but peacemakers. We should not be dreadful neighbors, but kindhearted.
Esau married two Hittite women, giving further evidence of his hatred of God and his defiance of the commands of God (John 14:15). In the language of the New Hampshire Confession, “election may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the gospel,” and the opposite is also true—as we see in Esau’s life.
- How does the biblical description of the sinfulness of man relate to our understanding of election? Why must salvation be entirely of God’s own doing, and not the result of anything we do? Do you see the tremendous grace that is offered to you in the gospel? Have you embraced the free gift of forgiveness in Christ through faith? This passage reminds us that no one is too sinful to be saved, since salvation is the result of God’s boundless and unmerited grace.
- What effect are you having on your children in terms of either their blessedness on the one hand, or sin habits on the other hand? Consider the privilege and responsibility you have to either bring them great blessing or exemplify dishonoring characteristics. Pray for God’s grace to convey Christlikeness.