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Examples of God's Sovereignty
a commentary on Genesis 25-26
In this week’s Biblit we jump back into Genesis 25–26! These passages are jam-packed with cool stuff so I highly suggest reading them yourself! We see some confusing stuff, some weirdly familiar-sounding passages, sin, and faith, but most importantly we see that God is sovereign over everything! So, without further ado, let’s jump in and see what I’m talking about!
End of Abraham
So, jumping into the beginning of Genesis 25 we see Abraham is about to die. We also catch a brief glimpse of his last few years in between his wife’s passing and his own. To sum up, he remarried and had numerous children.
All of these children were sent away from the promised land, just as with Ishmael. This is important because Abraham, once again, believed in God’s promises and wanted to protect his promises through his son Isaac.
So why have more children at all? Well, the reasons are not recorded, but we can make some assumptions. One potential (that I personally like) is that God promised Abraham would be the father of nations plural. He is not the father of only Israel which is the promised line of Isaac, but he was promised to be the father of many nations. So perhaps this was God working his sovereign plan to allow Abraham to see the fulfillment of God’s promise! Whatever the reasons, contextually that is what happens haha.
This account of Abraham’s other children is also paired with Abraham’s funeral. During the funeral, we get to see good old Ishmael and how well he’s doing in life! He has many children and obviously connected and well-off enough to hear of his father’s death and make the journey back. Seeing Ishmael doing so well is once again God fulfilling his promise to Abraham and showing his ultimate sovereignty.
Birth of Jacob and Esau
So after the funeral, we move the story focus to a new patriarch. We transition fully to the life of Isaac and Rebekah. We jump in and learn that they, just like Abraham and Sarah, cannot have children.
They, however, did not take matters into their own hands like Isaac’s parents. They prayed faithfully and waited on God. They waited faithfully for 20 years! And then God fulfilled his promise once again! How marvelous is God’s sovereign will and plan that both Sarah and Rebekah were barren! It shows how God is fully in control and that the children they bore were born entirely from his power alone!
So, they wait for 20 years. That testament of faith shouldn’t be overlooked! How powerful a message! How many of us could wait on God for 20 years, let alone 20 days!
But after all their waiting and praying, God brings them, twins! Along with baby boys, God also reveals a prophecy to Rebekah and along with it one of the first examples of God’s divine election. He tells Rebekah that:
You have two nations in your womb
Two peoples from within you will be separated
One people will be stronger than the other
The older will serve the younger
What does this mean? Well, let’s break it down real quick. Two nations mean that Jacob will become one nation (Israel) and Esau will lead a different nation (Edom). That those two nations will be separated, which is true later on. That the Israelites (Jacob’s descendants) will be stronger than Edomites (Esau’s descendants). And finally, that Jacob will receive the birthright, breaking tradition. Whoo! That was a mouthful, but hopefully that all made sense.
Traditionally, the birthright of the family goes to the eldest child. However, God shows his divine will by sovereignly electing Jacob to receive the inheritance. Paul uses this example later in Romans to explain the doctrine of election. We won’t get into that too deeply here, but it is just more evidence that God is entirely in control and has a sovereign plan for all of us! All we have to do is trust in his plan and submit our will to his. However, we often don’t do this as we will see Jacob do in just a minute.
Next, we do a quick time jump and see Jacob and Esau a little more grown-up. Jacob is a civilized tent-dweller, while Esau is a man of the field and a mighty hunter. Basically, Jacob is a city boy and Esau is a country bumpkin.
We see a brief encounter with them that should not be overlooked. It’s a strange encounter but if we look closely we can see the hearts of both of these men. Esau comes back from a long hunt and Jacob is cooking a stew in his tent. Esau is hungry and demands something to eat.
Jacob, seeing his brother as hungry and weak, takes advantage of the situation. He proposes a trade. Esau’s birthright for some stew. Esau doesn’t hesitate at all! He basically passes it off like his birthright is nothing and makes the trade.
Ok…what?? There are so many weird things going on here. But first, let’s answer the question of what even is a birthright.
The birthright consists of:
A double portion of father’s inheritance
Ceremonial blessing to confer authority and responsibility of father’s remaining household
The land promised to Abraham and now Isaac
Covenant promise through the lineage from which Jesus would come
So why would Esau not want any of this? There are two broad things in this inheritance. A physical blessing and prosperity and a spiritual blessing.
Esau was a man of the field, strong, and independent. He didn’t think he needed his father’s stuff. Much like many of us, he thought he could take care of himself.
He also clearly didn’t care about anything spiritual. He did not desire God at this moment. He desired to fill his hunger. That’s it. He basically thought of the birthright as trash and traded it for food without thought.
Well, what about Jacob, we ask? Jacob was divinely elected to receive the birthright so is it wrong what he did? It seems deceptive and sinful…and that’s because it is!
He may or may not have actually known that he was chosen to receive the birthright (depending on what his mom shared with him). Either way, he takes matters into his own hands rather than relying on God’s will. He thought that if this is God’s plan then he needed to take action and make it happen no matter what. He was not trusting God would protect him in his own timing.
The Final Chapter
The next chapter does a total shift and goes back to Isaac. Here we briefly see a similar story that happened to Abraham. First, God reminds Isaac of all his many promises for him, then there is a famine and Isaac seeks aid, Isaac lies about his wife being his sister, it causes strife, he is protected and given physical blessings, he makes a peace treaty with the people, there are some issues with wells and Isaac keeps the peace. That is the super short form. I suggest reading it yourself to truly appreciate it, though.
I find it remarkably funny and such a testament again to God’s sovereignty that all these circumstances happened to Isaac just like they did to Abraham. It shows that God is working in his life and protecting him just the same. It reaffirms the promises he made to Abraham and that he truly is still with Isaac despite Abraham now being dead.
I got one big takeaway. I want to trust in God’s sovereign will. A lot of people get upset and debate the doctrine of election. The doctrine is a mystery much like many of God’s attributes. How can we mere humans possibly believe we are capable of understanding an infinite God?
What can we do? Trust. Trust that God is just. Trust that God loves us and cares for us immensely. That he is with us always. And that he has a plan and a will.
All we have to do is trust he will fulfill his promises in his time and align our will with his. Easier said than done, for sure! But come, let’s pray that God works in our lives and changes our hearts to rely on him!