“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.”Hebrews 11:20
Unfulfilled promises test the very fiber of our faith. Unfortunately, they are a normal part of the Christian life. As the author of Hebrews gives multiple examples of those who lived and died in faith, he briefly mentions Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. He calls attention to incidents from each man’s life just before they died. In each case, as they faced death, none of God’s promises were near fulfillment. Circumstances seemed contrary to their fulfillment. These men had lived all of their lives hearing about and believing in God’s promises, but God had not yet delivered. Even so, they all died with their faith and focus on things to come, believing that God would keep His word.
Through them, we learn a few things about faith and trusting God when we don’t see results. Isaac’s blessing of Jacob and Esau shows faith in God’s promises, even when circumstances seem to contradict those promises (Hebrews 11:20). The mention in Hebrews 11 comes from Genesis 27. Isaac was old and blind. He called his favorite son, Esau, and requested that he bring back some fresh game and cook it up his favorite way. Then he would bless Esau.
Read the story to learn more, but here’s the short version. Jacob dressed in his brother’s garments and took mama’s stew to his aged father to con him and his brother out of the blessing. Being deceived, Isaac inadvertently fulfilled God’s earlier prophecy to Rebekah by conferring the blessing on Jacob.
God used the whole soap opera, with each character acting selfishly without regard for God, to fulfill His sovereign purpose. God had chosen Jacob and rejected Esau. His purpose according to His choice will stand (Romans 9:11-13). It does not depend on people fully understanding His purpose. It doesn’t depend on people obeying Him, although they should obey. He used Rebekah’s and Jacob’s deception to fulfill His purpose. Paul tells this story and then says that God’s purpose “does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).
The story of Isaac blessing his sons is in the Bible so that we will learn to trust God, even when circumstances seem to contradict His promises. We may look at the sinfulness around us, even of those who claim to be His children, and think, “There is no way that the Great Commission will ever be fulfilled or that the church will bring glory to God’s name.”
In spite of all of our shortcomings and failures, His purpose will be fulfilled. That should not cause us to shrug our shoulders in apathy or to sin that grace may abound. It ought to encourage us to be faithful in spite of disappointments with sinful people or ominous world events. It should cause us to be steadfast and immovable in the Lord’s work, knowing that our work is never in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).