Summary: This is the second 1/2 of a two part sermon addressing the link between God’s sovereignty to act without us and his requirement that we pray so that he can act.
Returning to our study of Genesis tonight, we are in chapter 25 and the story of Esau and Jacob, the story begins with the prayer of Isaac that his wife might bear children and in this setting ends with a tragedy of faithlessness – and an interesting peek into God’s sovereignty working out in practical life. Last week we looked at the promises and the prayers discovering that even when God has a plan, he will sometimes not work it out till we pray.
The other side of that wonder is how the hand of God works to develop and bring about his will in the lives of people who seem completely oblivious to his existence and yet by their very actions and attitudes God’s will is accomplished. Of course the end result of looking at both of these texts which are so closely compressed together is not only a greater understanding of how God works to accomplish his will, but I believe also a greater trust, a greater peace and a greater assurance that God’s purposes of redeeming those he has called. I think too that for our own lives in the here and now understanding the potency of the sovereign hand of our God will help us to keep our eyes on him in these troubled times.
While I sat in a Haitian church two years ago, with people fighting, throwing bricks, swinging 2x4’s and people running around outside with Guns – It was enormously tempting to get caught up in the middle of the ferocity of the moment, but God by grace continually called me back him in the words of Isaiah 41:10
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (NASB95)
It was not my strength that held me there, it was not my abilities, it was my double assurance that 1) God had promised his presence to me.
2) God was sovereign – even over the hearts of men consumed with bitterness; and with no apparent regard for Him.
A firm grip on the sovereignty of God can also give us hope when life comes unraveled. When the phone rings at 1 AM, and the voice on the other end comes through tears. When the doctor says the words we didn’t want to hear. When life ends too soon; when suffering continues in all these things God is sovereign.
A firm grip on the sovereignty of God will sustain us and give us peace amidst the turmoil of making daily decisions. Should you stay in your Job, or move on? Should you go to the left or to the right when you come to the fork in the road of decision making? I believe that with a grip on the sovereignty of God we can absolve ourselves of much agony in understanding that as we look to the Lord for wisdom, and consult him in prayer and then make our choices we can be assured that even in these sometimes trivial – sometimes monumental choices that God is sovereign.
So look at this text with me, starting in Genesis 25:19-34 at the unfolding story of Esau and Jacob. It’s a text replete with the blatant realities of Birth, Life, and God’s sovereign promise, and God’s sovereign hand, and the clumsy maneuvering of sinful men trying each to accomplish their own goals and through it all unwittingly living out the revealed – and sometimes mysterious will of God.
While God’s sovereignty and prayer seem to the be the focus in the first half, God’s sovereignty period is played out beginning with God’s answer to Rebekah’s prayer in verse 23
Genesis 25:23 The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger."
It’s a prophecy that turns everything on it’s head, and yet reassures that God’s plan is being accomplished. One of the major promises to the patriarchs from their perspective is that God will make of them a great nation which means lots of children and so forth, so for Rebekah to hear that there are “two nations” in her womb it was a testimony to God’s fulfilled promise taking shape. The second half however turns things around because the first born child was supposed to receive twice the inheritance of every other child, almost as if they were two people; so that for instance in this case of two children, Esau would normally have received 2/3 of the inheritance while Jacob would receive 1/3. In addition they were supposed to then take the leadership of the family and so forth. But God’s decree is that the reverse here will be true. In a sense then, everything that follows about Jacob and Esau is the fulfillment of this prophecy from the selling of the birthright to the stealing of the blessing.