How NOT to receive the Inheritance

This is “Isaac Blessing Jacob” (2009),  a watercolour by Alan Falk

The picture is drawn from Genesis 27 which tells the story of how NOT to receive the promised inheritance.

Isaac is about to declare his last will and testament.

I wonder if you’ve ever witnessed the reading of a will. It’s a strange and solemn occasion. Don’t you think so? You are listening to the thoughts of of someone calmly thinking of what’s going to happen when he’s dead. Arranging for the funeral hymns and last bequests.

Isaac knew death was coming. His eyes were dimming. His sight was failing.

Of course, some people just drop out of view with a stroke or a sudden heart attack. Out of this world and into the next. But to many, God allows a few reminders of what’s about to happen: Hair falls out. Teeth. Memory starts to fail and…and I’ve forgotten the other reminders. Anyway. Isaac wanted to get ready.

First, he wanted Esau to do something he’d often done before. Esau was his favourite and he wanted to bask  in his son’s affection once more. One last time. It was a poignant moment, like taking a last walk round the house that you’re leaving.  There’s something of it in that moment when Jesus said “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer….I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” He was basking in the affection of his friends in a “Last Supper.”

So Isaac had –so speak – received the last rites. He was just about ready.  (And, at the risk of sounding morbid – are you ready for what’s coming?)

And then, at this sensitive moment when he’s getting ready to depart, Jacob is getting ready to deceive. With his mum too. Each deceived Isaac and overreached Esau. But the sin was not quite identical. Rebekah was ambitious –but it was for the sake of her son, of one she loved. Whatever the consequences “Upon me be the curse, my son.” It doesn’t clear away the guilt but it changes things slightly, that she was, after all, his mother.

Now the problem is not that Rebekah loved Jacob too much. You cannot love someone too much. It is not the intensity of affection that’s the problem, but its interference with truth. She loved her son more than truth, that is to say, more than God. And so her love for her son became a kind of idolatry. Jesus even said: “If any man love father or mother more than me, he is not worthy of me.”

When I started courting Val I asked the Lord what would please her. He said: “Please me and that will please her.” God gave me a powerful lesson in priorities that has held us through these thirty years together.

Abraham loved his son Isaac, but he was ready to put God first, and to sacrifice Isaac to his duty (as he thought) to what God was saying.

BUt now think about Jacob and Rebekah. What happens later, when they’ve got what they wanted by these false means? It would poison all they had gained. Love has to include respect.

God has to be part of any relationship that lasts.

There are always reasons for doing what we want to do. No one lies for its own sake. But her love for Jacob has overridden any thought of the defrauded eldest son (let alone her deceived husband). It’s a bit OCD, isn’t it?  There is an inflexible pursuit of an object, and all other considerations are shouted down. It’s amazing how ambition and passion can blind us to everything but the desired result.

When the end justifies the means, the true can become false, and the gentle and tender-hearted can become ruthless and harsh.

I saw a documentary about some child-celebrity which focused on the parents of the budding star. They were completely ready to sacrifice their child’s happiness and moral sensitivity to a diseased appetite for distinction. It wasn’t because they were monsters, but because their passion for distinction was inflamed, and their love unregulated.

But think of Jacob’s sin. He had ambition; but not the push to carry the scheme out. It was Mum’s idea. His problem was being weak and pliable. He became a tool of her scheming. Ultimately, he was more afraid of doing the deceiving than anxious that the deceiving should not be done.

It was a moment of moral decision-making. He pondered, played with the notion and then fell. He saw that the “appl”e was good, and took some and shared it…and a plain, simple man, Jacob, became his name, “Trickster.”

We make choices. Like a motorway junction looming up and you just drift into the wrong lane. Once the choice is made it takes a long time to return.

For Jacob it was half a lifetime..

What is God saying to us?

First,  to stay alert to those moments of moral decision-making and learn to say “No” to things that are shady and which lack integrity. Generally, they are the things that make you uneasy but also intrigue you.

And beware of those day-dreams, which represent things as reasonable which should be forever impossible. Watch out for that love which cares for happiness more than for truth.

When temptations come we have to know really what temptation really is; and remember that he “will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it..”

The big point is that God does have an inheritance for you. He is a good father, and he loves to bless. But God is not mocked, and nor can he be conned or manipulated! The Bible tells us of Ananias and Sapphira, and Simon the Sorcerer, remember!

But our inheritance is sure, and clean. It is not to be grasped but to be received and enjoyed. For it is -from start to finish not an “it” at all, but a “He.” It is Relationship itself and is the very joy of life itself.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev 3:20)


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