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The Patriarchal Blessing

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 26, 2023 12:01 am

The Patriarchal Blessing

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 26, 2023 12:01 am

The book of Genesis traces how God's promises to Abraham were passed from one generation to the next. Today, R.C. Sproul considers what we learn about God's plan of redemption from the life of Jacob, who received the Lord's blessing.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

It came to pass when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see that he called Esau his older son.

Do you see the picture? Isaac now is not the young man bound by ropes and placed upon an altar looking up at the upraised knife of his father there at Mount Moriah. Now Isaac himself is of advanced age and he knows that the moment of his death is near. Although none of us deserve the favor of God, the Bible is filled with individuals who seem like unlikely candidates to receive the blessing of God. Numbered high on that list would be Abraham's grandson, Jacob. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. Jacob conspired, schemed, lied, yet he still received the blessing from his earthly father and God himself. Today, R.C. Sproul tells the dramatic story of Jacob, the patriarchal blessing, and the redemption that we enjoy in Christ.

Here's Dr. Sproul. The history that is recorded for us in the book of Genesis is sometimes called the history of the patriarchs or the history of the patriarchal period because the featured characters in this narrative include people like Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and so on. These are the leading characters throughout the history of Genesis. Now a patriarch in Old Testament days, as the name suggests, indicates a father who is a ruler. That is, the authority in this environment and this system is invested in the father. We've also known cultures that we call matriarchal, where the ruling authority is vested in the mother.

When a queen is on the throne in a monarchy, at that time the monarchy is matriarchal, as it were, as opposed to patriarchal. But the term patriarch indicates more than the head of an individual household. In the ancient Scriptures, that patriarch, for example Abraham, was not only in a position of leadership and authority over his own immediate house but also over his extended family. And as long as he was alive, even after his sons were born and so on, he remained the patriarch of the wider family.

In fact, it went beyond that to include headship over clans and over tribes. Remember that the ancient Hebrews, before they were organized into cities and so on, were semi-nomads. They were tribal people moving about the Middle East, and the head of their tribe would be called a patriarch. And now, when we look at the Old Testament character of God, before God reveals His name to Moses that His name is I Am, Yahweh, the normal way in which God is identified is by the phrase, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because those three men, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are the principal three men through whom the patriarchal blessing is transmitted. Now, we noticed in our last session that God made this promise initially to Abraham, the promise of a land, a nation, of many descendants, and of a blessing. And that covenant promise was a promise that would then be carried on from generation to generation. And in the customs of the day, the inheritance of a family would normally go to the firstborn son or the eldest son, and that person would get the lion's share of the inheritance. Now, when Abraham was giving his inheritance to his descendants, I mean, they had to be concerned about how many tents they got and how many cattle they got and all the rest of that thing. But the chief importance of Abraham's inheritance in the book of Genesis is the question, who inherits the blessing?

That is, who inherits the covenant promise that God originally swore to Abraham? And again, remember that in the New Testament, Abraham is seen as the supreme patriarch because he is described as the father of the faithful. So that in a very real sense, any person who is incorporated into the family of God is, in a specific sense, a descendant of Abraham, an heir of this patriarchal blessing.

Now, the book of Genesis is filled with intrigue and suspense and conflict about those who were seeking to possess the richness of this inheritance. And we've already seen how that when Abraham sired a son, his firstborn son was Ishmael. But it was not God's design that Ishmael would inherit the patriarchal blessing. And God insisted that that blessing be given to Isaac rather than Ishmael. Again, as the Apostle Paul elaborates in the New Testament, it is through the seed of Isaac that God's people would be called so that not everyone who was a direct descendant of Abraham was included in the blessing.

And to this day, if you pick up a newspaper and you read about conflict that is going on right now in Palestine, between the Palestinians and the Israelis, you will be reading about an ongoing hostility and conflict between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac. But God declared, it is in Isaac that my seed shall be called. And so, the blessing then was given first to Abraham, then from Abraham to Isaac. Now, Isaac's wife has two sons who are twins, and those two sons are Jacob and Esau. And the first of those two sons that is born is Esau.

So, in terms of this whole schema of the transfer of the patriarchal blessing, the person who is in line to the throne, as it were, the person who is in line to inherit the blessing is Esau, not Jacob. Recently, I had the opportunity to hear a sermon, and just in passing, he made a brief, almost footnote, anecdote referring back to an incident that took place in the life of Jacob. And it's the story that Genesis records about that moment when Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of his enemies, engages in a wrestling match with the angel of God at Peniel.

Let's look at that briefly for a second to see the dynamics that are taking place here. We read in Genesis chapter 32, beginning at verse 23, he took them and sent them over the brook and sent over what he had, and then Jacob was left alone. And a man, man is capitalized here because this is a theophany, this is a manifestation of God. And then a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now, when he saw that he did not prevail against him, he touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as he wrestled with him.

And he said, let me go for the day breaks. That is, the angel of the Lord who has been wrestling with Jacob all night long calls out to Jacob and says, let me go. And what does Jacob say?

I will not let you go until you bless me. This all-night contest, this fierce agony of struggle between the representative of God and Jacob is all about a struggle for the blessing of God. And Jacob is fighting with all that he has, even to the point of being crippled when he's saying, I'm not going to let you go, God, until you bless me. And now what does the angel of the Lord say?

What is your name? And he said, Jacob. Now, I don't know how many times in my life I've referred to that text to illustrate something that was significant in the Hebrew culture about the revealing of a person's name. And I've always thought that the full significance of this passage was that when the angel asked Jacob his name, he was asking Jacob to surrender. For by exposing his identity and exposing his name, it's like a child today in a wrestling match where one says to the other, say uncle and I'll let you go. It was a statement of yielding to the authority and the superior strength of the angel.

But I had completely forgotten another connection to this text. And this is not the first time in Jacob's life that he sought a blessing. And that directs our attention back earlier to an episode of treachery, of deception, of dishonesty, and of corruption that was so characteristic of the life of the patriarch Jacob. In chapter 27 of the book of Genesis, Jacob schemes together with his mother Rebecca to deceive the aged father Isaac into passing on the patriarchal blessing, not to the older son Esau, but to give it to Jacob. And so what's taking place here is a conspiracy, a plot between mother and son to deceive father and husband.

In a word, what Jacob and Rebecca are planning here is an attempt to steal the patriarchal blessing for Jacob rather than for Esau. And let's look at the text in chapter 27, verse 1, It came to pass when Isaac was old, and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, My son. And he answered him, Here I am. And he said, Behold, now I am old.

I do not know the day of my death. Therefore, take your weapons, your quiver, and your bow. Go out to the field and hunt game for me, and make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.

Do you see the picture? Isaac now is not the young man bound by ropes and placed upon an altar looking up at the upraised knife of his father there at Mount Moriah. Now Isaac himself is of advanced age, and he knows that the moment of his death is near. And so he says to his son Esau, who is famed for his skill as a hunter, he said, Son, go out into the field, shoot me some game, prepare me this meal, my last meal as it were, the kind of food that I savor from your hand as I begin to prepare to give you the blessing. And in obedience Esau leaves the tent of his father to go out into the fields to do his bidding.

But listen to what happens. Now Rebecca was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And when Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it, Rebecca spoke to Jacob, saying, indeed, I have heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, bring me game, make savory food for me that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, go to the flock, bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father such as he loves. And then you shall take it to your father that he may eat it, that he may bless you before his death. And Jacob said to Rebecca, but look, Esau, my brother's a hairy man, and I'm a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I will seem to be a deceiver to him, and I will bring a curse upon myself rather than a blessing.

Do you see what's going on? Jacob is saying, Jacob is saying it's never going to work, and when father finds this out and he sees through the deceit, he's not going to bless me, he's going to curse me, and then we're all going to be in serious trouble. But his mother said, let your curse be on me, my son, only obey my voice and go, do it. And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made the savory food. And then Rebecca took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, put them on Jacob, her younger son, and then she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.

And then she gave the savory food and the bread which she had prepared into the hand of her son Jacob. And so Jacob goes in to the presence of Isaac his father, and he says, my father. And he said, here I am, who are you my son? And Jacob said to his father, I am Esau, your firstborn.

I've done just as you told me, please arise, sit and eat of my game that your soul may bless me. But Isaac said to his son, how is it that you found it so quickly? And he said, because the Lord your God brought it to me.

Do you see the corruption of this? Not only is he lying to his father and stealing from his brother, but he is answering these questions and trying to confirm his lie by calling on the assistance of God. He said, the reason I was able to get this food so quickly is that because the Lord God helped me to do it. And Isaac said to Jacob, please come near that I may feel you my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not. You can imagine the terror that strikes the soul of Jacob at this point. But Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, the voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he did not recognize him because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands, so he blessed him. Then he said again, are you really my son Esau?

And Jacob said, I am. And so Isaac said, bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's game so that my soul may bless you. And he brought it near to him, he ate, brought him wine, he drank, and then his father Isaac said to him, come near, his father Isaac said to him, come near, kiss me my son. He kissed him, smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him. And then what follows in the text is the blind, failing, aged Isaac transferring the promise that God had given to Abraham to this treacherous, lying, thieving, undeserving son.

How can this happen as part of redemptive history? The apostle Paul answers it in the ninth chapter of Romans, Jacob have I loved. Before either one of them was born, before they had done anything good or evil, God had determined from the foundation of the world that the promise to Abraham would go not through the elder son Esau, but through even the hands of this treacherous son Jacob that the graciousness of God's redemptive promise may be made manifest. Now the point about this text that so excited my soul was that later on in life when Jacob encounters God at Peniel and rustles all night and he begs the angel of the Lord to give him the blessing, before the angel will accede to that request, before God will bless Jacob in his struggle, God says to him, who are you? Who are you?

What's your name? Now the one who's wrestling with Jacob on this occasion is not blind. He knows perfectly well who Jacob is. Jacob can't all of a sudden put on the smell of his brother and the clothes of his brother and deceive his heavenly Father. Now he's not asking his earthly father for the blessing. He's asking his heavenly Father for the blessing, and God says, what's your name? And this time He doesn't say Esau. This time He says, my name is Jacob.

This may be the first time in his whole life he ever told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And the name Jacob means supplanter, stealer. My name is Jacob, and God blessed him and gave him the patriarchal blessing that he would then later on pass on to his own sons and to his own descendants. There's a pattern in the Old Testament in this transfer and in the whole movement of redemptive history. There's a pattern of fall. There's a pattern of salvation. We remember that creation began with the creation of a single individual, Adam, and then the creation of a helpmate, Eve. And this first family became the head of the human race, and they fell, and their sin was dreadful. But immediately following their sin, sin broadens and widens as it expands, first to fratricide when Cain rises up and kills his brother Abel. And then we see this wickedness expanding through all of the descendants of Adam and Eve so that the whole world is corrupt and doing what is right in their own eyes, and only one man is left obedient whose name is Noah.

And we understand that then God destroys the whole human race, save for again one man and his family. And then out of this small beginning with Noah comes Abraham, and then Abraham passes down to Isaac and then to Jacob. Now we have twelve tribes, and now we have a nation of Israel. But the nation becomes more and more corrupt, and now the blessing and the promise of redemption begins not so much to widen as to narrow again, as now the promise is restricted not to everyone who is of the seed of the Jewish nation, but to the remnant. And this narrowing again to the remnant is further narrowed to the point of one man, the new Adam, who embodies Israel, the supreme descendant of Abraham, who is Jesus. And then what is the history of the New Testament? But that this process reversing from Jesus now, the gospel, goes to the remnant of the Jews, and then to the Samaritans, then to the Gentiles, and then throughout the world. So first it narrows, then it broadens so that even to this day, this one who started here with Abraham, the blessing comes down through history and now is being dispersed throughout all of the world.

And so that history of transfer pre-shadows and prepares us to understand God's whole redemptive plan for His people and for His church. with lifetime digital access to the series and the study guide. I also want you to know that all donations given today at will directly support Ligonier's outreach to military chaplains serving around the world. Your gift today will place Reformation Study Bibles, copies of Table Talk magazine, and other resources from Ligonier Ministries into the hands of servicemen and women, many of whom ask for Dr. Sproul's children's books to be sent to their families at home so that they can be encouraged in the Gospel while they're away. So please make a generous donation today and directly help those serving in the armed forces, men and women who are asking Ligonier for trusted teaching. Give your gift at or by calling us at 800-435-4343. And if you call us, you can also ask not to receive Dr. Sproul's Dust to Glory series if you'd like to maximize the impact of your donation.

Thank you for your support. Psalm 23 is beloved by Christians. You'll hear, The Lord is my Shepherd, read at funerals and sung in worship. Well, next week we'll study the I Am Sayings in John's Gospel, and R.C. Sproul will begin on Monday with Jesus' declaration that He is the Good Shepherd, here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-26 05:59:59 / 2023-05-26 06:08:08 / 8

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