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Jacob Series: Experiencing God's Promises (Gen 25:19-28)

Updated: May 1

Experiencing God's Promises

This is the account of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac. When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. But the children struggled inside her, and she said, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant!” So she asked the Lord, and the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will be separated from within you. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” When the time came for Rebekah to give birth, there were twins in her womb. The first came out reddish all over, like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau. When his brother came out with his hand clutching Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born. When the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the open fields, but Jacob was an even-tempered man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for fresh game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Genesis 25:19-28 (NET)

In Genesis 12, God called Abraham out of the pagans of this world to begin a work of reconciliation. Through Abraham, God was going to bring forth a people named Israel—who would be the stewards of God’s temple and God’s Word. They were to be lights to the world who had rejected God. From this nation was to come the messiah—Jesus—who would die for the sins of the world so that they might be saved and have a relationship with God. This promise passed from Abraham to his son, Isaac, and eventually to Isaac’s son, Jacob.

Jacob’s story is peculiar among the stories of biblical heroes. Though all of the biblical heroes had clay feat and made mistakes, it seems that none failed as much as Jacob. He doesn’t seem like the right choice for God to begin a missionary nation through. It was not Abraham or Isaac who was the direct father of Israel, it was Jacob. He had twelve sons that became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. The climax of Jacob’s story is when he wrestles with God and God calls him Israel—one who wrestles with God and prevails.

Throughout his narrative, he seems nothing like a hero, and in many ways, he appears to be a villain. He manipulates his brother, deceives his father, cheats his father-in-law, and raises up ruthless children who murder a village of people and sale their own brother into slavery. However, it’s with Jacob where we learn that God can redeem and change the worst of sinners—people like us. We are all part of God’s redemption story, where he is taking people from sinners to saints, from Jacobs to Israels. It is not a fast work but a calculated and slow one, as God is patient with our failures. As we study Jacob, we see ourselves—maybe even more so than with other biblical heroes.

F.B. Meyer said this about Jacob:

His failings speak to us. He takes advantage of his brother when hard pressed with hunger. He deceives his father. He meets Laban’s guile with guile. He thinks to buy himself out of his trouble with Esau. He mixes, in a terrible mingle-mangle, religion and worldly policy. His children grow up to hatred, violence, and murder. He cringes before the distant Egyptian governor, and sends him a present. Mean, crafty and weak, are the least terms we can apply to him. But, alas! who is there that does not feel the germs of this harvest to be within…[1]

Unlike many biblical heroes, we will learn more from Jacob’s failures than his successes. In addition, we learn a great deal about God and his redemptive grace, as we consider the depths of Jacob’s failures.

Here specifically in Jacob’s birth narrative, we see how God fulfills his promise to Isaac. God gives children to Isaac after years of waiting—continuing his original promise to Abraham to make him a great nation. From this we learn principles about experiencing God’s promises.

We all have promises from God; many of them are made clear to us in the Scripture—some conditional and others unconditional. Second Peter 1:3-4 says:

I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

It's been calculated that there are some 3,000 promises in Scripture—all given to us so that we can take part in the divine nature (become righteous) and escape the corruption of the world (separate from sin). In addition, God has given us many personal promises, which he reveals during our intimacy with him and confirms through our hearts and the validation of others. These personal promises may be for a career, a ministry, a family, a revival, or even to be set free some habitual sin. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” God prepared works for each one of us to accomplish, even before we were born. As we walk in him, he develops desires in our hearts and works in us to complete them (cf. Psalm 37:4).

How can we experience God’s promises even as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did?

Big Question: What principles about experiencing God’s promises can we learn from Jacob’s birth narrative?

To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Be Willing to Wait

This is the account of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac. When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.

Genesis 25:19-21

Since Genesis 25:19 says Isaac was married at forty and had a child at sixty (v. 26), we can discern he waited twenty years to have children. Rebecca was barren, which would have been very hard on them for many reasons: It probably would have been hard because of lofty expectations. Isaac, no doubt, had told Rebecca, that God was going to make a great nation out of their seed and that their seed would be the like the stars of the sky and the sands on the seashore. In fact, before Rebecca left her home to marry Isaac, her parents prayed that she would be the mother of thousands (Gen 24:60). So they probably had a great expectation, which made the barrenness more difficult. They probably thought, “If we are going to fulfill God’s plan of forming a great nation, we’ve got to start popping out kids!” In addition, this waiting would have been hard simply because of cultural expectations. Women were expected to birth children in that culture—it was how the family name was carried on, how a work-force was developed, protection, and retirement, as they would provide for their elderly parents. To not be able to have multiple children would have been very discouraging. A woman without children would have considered herself a failure. We saw this with Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Her infertility was a constant source of tension in her marriage (1 Sam 1). This waiting season would have been especially difficult for Isaac and Rebekah. Maybe, it was easier for Isaac. He, no doubt, considered often how he experienced a miraculous birth. His father, Abraham, was 100 years old when Isaac was born and his mother was ninety. No doubt, his past made it easier to navigate this season.

It must be known that this is common when God is preparing somebody to experience his call and promises. With Joseph, he had a vision of his family bowing down before him, but soon after, he was sold into slavery, then later, he went to prison. After all that, God exalted him to second in command in Egypt, where his family did eventually bow down before him. We also saw this with Moses. In the beginning, he killed an Egyptian, thinking that the people would be ready to follow him; however, it wasn’t God’s timing yet. Therefore, he escaped into the desert for forty years (cf. see Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:23-29). There God humbled him, as he served as a shepherd. After those forty years, God called him to set Israel free. With Israel, after Moses delivered them from Egypt, God made them wait in the wilderness for over a year before allowing them to attempt to enter the promised land. Even Christ, waited to fulfill God’s call. For thirty years, Scripture is primarily silent about him. We don’t know much about his childhood and early manhood. However, at thirty years old, he approaches John the Baptist and was baptized. The Holy Spirit comes upon him. Then, he waits for one more season in the wilderness as he fasts for forty days and was tempted by the devil. It was then that the Holy Spirit came upon him in power and he began his ministry. Even the Son of Man had to wait to fulfill God’s promise. God often sends his people into a waiting season before he fulfills his promises to them—the promise of a spouse, children, a ministry, or some great work.

Application Question: Why does God make his people wait before they experience many of his promises?

1. In the waiting season, God teaches us how weak we are.

With Abraham, his wife’s womb was dead. Only God could bring life to it. All of Abraham’s striving by marrying another woman only brought pain. Often young people who are waiting for God to bring them a mate, they get tired and therefore go find “Mr. Right Now” instead of “Mr. Right.” In that season, they bring themselves heartache and pain—sometimes as with Abraham, they create life-time consequences. In the waiting season, God humbles his people to show them how weak they are. In the flesh, we cannot bring about his promises.

2. In the waiting season, God teaches us how much we need him.

As we are weaned off our flesh, we learn to trust God more. God’s power is made perfect in those who recognize their weakness and rely totally on him. Our weakness and dependency are fertile ground for God’s power. So much so, God often allows storms or trials to create the fertile ground in us, so he can use us more. When Paul understood this about his “thorn in the flesh,” he began to boast in his weaknesses, for when he was weak, then he was strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).

3. In the waiting season, God teaches us contentment.

Often what happens when God gives us a specific promise by placing desires in our hearts and confirming them through circumstances and others, the promise can become our focus and even our idols, as we think on it and pursue it more than God himself. Therefore, in the waiting season, we learn to be content with God alone—whether we ever experience the promise or not. In the waiting season, God cleanses us from idolatry and teaches us to be content with the Giver, even if we never experience the gift. Some promises that God gives us will be taken up by later generations, as we see with Abraham’s posterity. God may put the seed of revival in our hearts for a person, a church, or a city and we may only see it through eyes of faith. Though we participate in the labors for it, the fulfillment may wait another generation. Sometimes, we sow, and others reap. Sometimes we get to do both.

The waiting season can be a blessed time, if we are faithful in it. When it seems like God isn’t working, he is working in us and those around us to eventually fulfill his promise. Are you willing to wait?

Application Question: In what ways has God made you wait for his promises in the past? What are some promises that God is calling you to wait on currently? What are some negative tendencies of people in God’s waiting seasons?

To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Persevere in Prayer

Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.

Genesis 25:21

We don’t know how long Isaac and Rebekah tried to have children, it could have been five years, ten years, or for the whole twenty. Either way, Isaac is to be commended for his response of praying. Many years earlier in Abraham’s waiting season, instead of praying and waiting, he married another woman—Hagar. His sin created two competing seeds—Isaac and Ishmael. The conflict between their people still exists today between the Jews and the Arabs.

As we consider this, it must be noted that we do not have to continue in the sins of our parents. Sadly, this is often exactly what happens. God declared that the sins of those who hate him will follow the children to the fourth generation (Ex 20:5). Frequently sins follow family lines—neglect of family for career, domestic abuse, addictions, marital unfaithfulness, divorce, witchcraft, etc. Sins tend to follow generations. However, it does not need to be this way. Isaac broke that trend. Instead of sinning against God in his waiting season, he instead committed himself to prayer.

This doesn’t seem to be a one-time prayer, but a fervent persevering prayer. The same word used of Isaac’s prayer was used of Moses when he prayed various times for God to remove the various plagues that came against Egypt in Exodus 7-10.[2] Many of God’s promises don’t come without persevering prayer. In order for Isaac to receive the promise, he had to faithfully pray. Similarly, before Christ began his ministry, he spent forty days in fervent prayer and fasting. We need prayer to receive God’s promises.

Is God going to mightily use one’s church, heal one’s family, bring revival to a city? It must come through persevering prayer. Christ taught us to ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking and God would answer our prayers (Matt 7:7-8). In Luke 18, Christ gave his disciples a parable of a widow that continually came before a judge seeking justice. Though her request was originally denied, she continued to petition the judge and finally he granted her request. Christ taught that in the same way, his disciples must pray and not faint (v. 1).

Are you praying or fainting? Without faithful prayer, we’ll often get discouraged or give up in waiting seasons and various trials. God’s promises come through prayer, but we must persevere in those prayers to experience them.

Application Question: Why is it hard to persevere in prayer? In what ways is God calling you to practice persevering prayer? What blessings have you already received through persevering prayer?

To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Expect Difficulties and Seek God’s Wisdom During Them

But the children struggled inside her, and she said, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant!” So she asked the Lord, and the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will be separated from within you. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

Genesis 25:22-23

Often the mistake of God’s people when pursuing God’s promises is that they believe the answers or blessings will come without problems. That seems to be the situation with Rebekah. After she gets pregnant, she finds that her pregnancy is difficult. Verse 22 says, “the children struggled inside her.” The Hebrew word for “struggled” means “to crush or oppress.”[3] It was clear to Rebekah that something was wrong. She declared, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not sure I want to be pregnant!” The promise didn’t come in the way she expected.

As with Rebekah’s situation, God’s promises often come with pain—leading to disillusionment. We see this in his dealings with many others in the biblical narrative. When Abraham finally obeyed God to leave his home for the promised land, when he arrived, there was a famine (Gen 12). In Abraham’s disillusionment, he left the promised land for Egypt where he almost lost his wife to Pharaoh. Similarly, Joseph boasted about God’s promise of his family bowing down before him. However, soon after, he was sold into slavery and later became a prisoner. Scripture doesn’t tell us about Joseph’s thought process, but most likely it was disillusionment: “God, I thought you were about to exalt me! God, I thought you were going to use me! Why am I going through this?” To prepare Abraham and Joseph for their promises, they had to go through struggles and so did Rebekah.

Unlike Abraham, Rebekah doesn’t rebel against God in the season of difficulty and disillusionment, instead, she drew near God. It says, “So she asked Lord” (v. 23). We don’t know how she approached the Lord. Maybe, she sought a priest. Though Abraham was unique in that he worshiped the one God in a time when the majority worshiped many gods, he wasn’t the only God follower. In Genesis 14, Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek who was the king of Salem, which would later become known as Jerusalem. Melchizedek was also a priest of Yahweh. Maybe, she sought the word of the Lord through a priest. Or, maybe, she simply built an altar and sacrificed to the Lord, as she sought his counsel. Either way, God spoke to her—revealing that there were twins inside her that would become two warring nations. Esau, the oldest, would become the nation of Edom, and Jacob would become Israel. Esau, and Edom, would ultimately submit to Jacob, and Israel (cf. 2 Chronicles 21:8).

Interestingly, Jewish legend says that Jacob and Esau were trying to kill each other in the womb—which obviously would play out in real life, both individually and nationally. Legend also said that every time Rebekah got near an idol, Esau got excited—representing his profane nature. Also, every time Rebekah got near an altar of God, Jacob got excited—representing his tendency towards God.[4]

Either way, if we are going to receive God’s promises, we must expect difficulties, and in the midst of them, we must seek the Lord and his wisdom like Rebekah did. Psalm 25:14 says, “The Lord’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.” God still speaks and reveals his will to his people today.

Application Question: How should we seek the Lord’s wisdom in the midst of our difficulties?

1. God’s wisdom comes through prayer.

In the context of believers going through trials, James said, “But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him” (1:5). In the midst of our trials, we must cry out to God for wisdom—for he gives it liberally to his children, just like any parent.

2. God’s wisdom comes through abiding in his Word.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path.” Rebekah didn’t have the benefit of God’s written Word, as there was none at that time—therefore God commonly spoke to people in more charismatic ways. But, God’s primary way of speaking to us is through his completed Word, found in the Bible. His Word either tells us what to do (especially in moral situations) or gives us principles to apply. When we are in the Word, it’s like the lights are on. When we are not in God’s Word, it’s like trying to navigate life in darkness.

Are you living in God’s Word? Are you walking in the light?

3. God’s wisdom comes through the counsel of godly saints.

Proverbs 24:6 says, “for with guidance you wage your war, and with numerous advisers there is victory.” God has chosen to do his work on the earth through his body—the church. Often, he will guide us and speak to us through the counsel of godly saints. Therefore, when encountering family, health, or career issues, we should share with others in order to receive both prayer and counsel. Often God’s wisdom will be given through them. Therefore, we should listen intently for God’s voice when we seek their counsel.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced difficulties while waiting on God’s promises? In what ways has God spoken to you in the midst of difficulties through times in prayer, God’s Word, and counsel with others?

To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Accept God’s Choice of Operating through Weakness

and the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will be separated from within you. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

Genesis 25:23

Interpretation Question: Why did God choose Jacob, the youngest, to receive the promise over Esau, the eldest?

Again, when Rebekah sought the Lord, he gave her a prophecy about the children’s futures. Two nations would come from them—Edom and Israel. In same way that Edom would eventually serve Israel, Esau would serve Isaac. This did not fit cultural norms. Typically, the oldest son in the family would become the patriarch or chief, when the father died or no longer could lead the family. However, God said it would be different with them. This would be hard for a family to accept in that day, and this was true in the case of Isaac. As the story unfolds, regardless of the prophecy, Isaac decided that the blessing would still go to Esau, which caused conflict with Rebekah (cf. Gen 27).

In Romans 9, Paul spoke of God’s choosing Jacob over Esau, when describing God’s sovereignty in the election of those who will be saved. Consider what he said:

Not only that, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac—even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling)—it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger,” just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.

Romans 9:10-16

Paul quotes Malachi 1:2 and 3 where it says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” Paul makes the argument that God chose Jacob not because of works or future works but so that God’s purpose in election might stand—meaning to demonstrate God’s sovereignty, his right to choose. Now, when God talks about loving Jacob and hating Esau, this did not mean that God literally hated Esau. This was a common Hebraism. Christ used it in Luke 14:26, when he said that anybody that comes after him must hate his father, mother, wife, and children. Are Christians supposed to hate their families? No! Christ simply meant that our affection for our families must pale in comparison to our affection for Christ. In the same way, the extent that God favored Jacob over Esau could be compared to hate. It must be noted that God was not condemning Esau to damnation or hell. His selection of Jacob had to do with receiving the blessing of Abraham and the messianic line—Christ would come through Jacob and not Esau.

Why did God choose Jacob over Esau? Again, it had nothing to do with merit or future merits, as they weren’t even born yet. It was based solely on God’s choice. However, his choice represents how God commonly operates with people. He commonly chooses the weak over the strong. We see this throughout Scripture. If we were going to choose somebody to become a great nation, why choose Abraham and Sarah who were barren or Isaac and Rebekah who had the same struggle? Wouldn’t we, at the minimum, pick a fertile couple to create a great nation? When God found somebody to lead Israel in conquering the Midianites, he found the guy who was hiding and threshing grain, Gideon. He didn’t find a great warrior or somebody who others would recognize as such. God commonly chooses the weak to fulfill his purposes. First Corinthians 1:26-29 says:

Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence.

God chooses the weak in order glorify his name. He works through them in such a way that everyone knows that the work could have only been done through God. The strong are not weak enough to be used by him—they would boast in their family-background, their finances, their education, their competency, etc.

Though Isaac showed great faith earlier in his narrative when it seems that he was willing to give his life on Abraham’s altar. In Genesis 22, we see no fight. It seems that he was a Christ-like figure. In obedience to his father and in trust to God, he believed that the Lord would resurrect him (cf. Heb 11:17-19). Also, Isaac showed great faith in the beginning of this narrative, as he prayed, and God opened Rebekah’s womb. However, after the birth, as seen in the unfolding of the rest of the story, Isaac was unwilling to accept God’s sovereign right to choose Jacob over Esau (cf. Gen 27). Why? Esau was the obvious choice! He was the firstborn! He was strong and a hunter! Everybody would choose Esau! Isaac was a momma’s boy who liked to cook soup. He probably had no hair on his chest and couldn’t grow a beard! He was the weakling. Even in the womb, though he fought to come out first, he lost—he was left grabbing his brother’s heal, eating his proverbial dust.

However, this is how God often works, and if we are going to see his promises fulfilled, we must accept it. Often when God decides to use us, he calls us to serve in areas of weakness where we don’t feel equipped. Like Moses, we cry, “Lord, I can’t speak! I can’t lead! You’ve got the wrong guy!” However, when God calls a person, he typically calls someone who is weak or calls them to step out in faith in their weakness. Moses could have missed God’s best if he had not accepted God’s sovereign right to call him to serve in his weakness. Sadly, in Jacob’s narrative, Isaac worked against God’s promise as he later chose to select Esau for the blessing. Often, we do the same by not accepting God’s sovereignty.

Are you willing to accept God’s call, even though you feel too weak and incompetent? Are you willing to see others as God’s sees them and not the way the world classifies them based on their beauty, athletic ability, education, or socio-economic status? If not, we may fight against and potential hinder the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Application Question: How should we apply this reality of our need to accept God’s sovereign right to choose the weak over the strong?

1. We must accept the fact that God may allow us to become weak or call us to work in an area of weakness in order to reveal his power in us.

With Paul, he had a thorn in the flesh—possibly some sickness. When he asked God to take it away, the Lord responded, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:8). God decided to not take away his thorn but instead to manifest power through Paul’s weakness. God may do the same with us—he may allow a trial, a sickness, or for us to simply serve in an area where we are weak. He does this, so he can empower us. He works more powerfully through weak vessels. We must be willing to accept this, if we are going to allow God to fulfill his promises and plans in us.

2. We must be careful to not misjudge others.

Again, God chose the youngest—not the oldest. He similarly chose David over his older brothers. His selections are not the obvious choices. Elijah was a mountain man who wore animal clothing and ate bugs. He lacked the high-level education of somebody who went to school in the capital, Jerusalem. He was not the obvious choice. Christ came from the ghetto (John 1:46), and Scripture seems to indicate that there was nothing attractive about him (Is 53:2)—nothing that would draw people to himself. Many of the disciples lacked formal education, as they were fishermen (Acts 4:13). Be careful to not misjudge others. In God’s economy, the first will be last and the last will be first (Matt 20:16)—the servant will be the greatest of all (Matt 23:11).

3. We must learn to humble ourselves so that God may lift us up.

He passes over the proud and self-confident and finds the humble—those who have a proper view of themselves in comparison to God. They see themselves as sinful, unwise, and weak. They are not like the Pharisees who saw themselves as righteous, wise, and strong. God opposes the proud and exalts the humble (James 4:6).

Are you willing to humble yourself—confessing your pride and weakness—so that God can use you?

Application Question: Why does God choose the weak instead of the strong? How have you experienced God using you or others in their weakness? What are your thoughts in regard to God’s sovereignty in the election of those who will be saved—apart from anything they have done, before the creation of the earth (cf. Rom 9:10-24, Eph 1:4-5, 1 Peter 1:1-2)?

To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Foster Healthy Relationships

When the time came for Rebekah to give birth, there were twins in her womb. The first came out reddish all over, like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau. When his brother came out with his hand clutching Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born. When the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the open fields, but Jacob was an even-tempered man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for fresh game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Genesis 25:24-28

At birth, the first child was red and hairy. Therefore, they called him Esau—which meant hairy. This probably symbolized the vitality he would be known for. He would become a man’s man—a hunter. The youngest came out with smooth skin. Unlike Esau, the youngest would be a man of the home who did not prefer the outdoors. He came out holding Esau’s heel and was therefore called Jacob. The name originally meant “may God protect” but later developed the negative connotation of heal grabber or deceiver[5] —like a wrestler grabbling the heal of an opponent to trip him. Both aspects of this name were seen in Jacob; throughout his life God protected and blessed him and yet he also tried to work apart from God—deceiving others to gain his desires. Like an immature believer, he had strong swings between the spiritual and the carnal, the heavenly and the earthly.

Esau and Jacob’s time in the womb and birth was a prophetic picture of their lives and the people that would come from them; in fact, the foreboding picture continued in verse 28 when it says: “Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for fresh game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” When the narrator, Moses, shared this, he was setting the stage for future conflict. Not only did these children battle in the womb, but their enmity was enhanced through their parents’ unwise displays of affections. Since the father enjoyed wild gamey food, he gravitated towards Esau—the hunter—and the mom gravitated towards Isaac, since he was a man of the house. It’s normal for people to gravitate towards those with similar interest; however, when this happens with parents and their children, it causes great conflict. Jacob would later commit the same sins of his parents, as he would love Joseph more than his other sons and therefore gave him a jacket of many colors. This created an animosity among the older brothers towards Joseph, and eventually, they sold him into slavery.

As mentioned, when Jacob and Rebekah showed favorites, it provoked the sinful natures in their children and also threatened God’s promise. God’s promise was that through Jacob a great nation would come. However, the enmity and trickery between the brothers, incited by the parents, would later cause Esau to seek to kill Jacob (Gen 27:41). How Isaac and Rebekah related to their children threatened God’s promise of a great nation coming through Jacob. Similarly, how Jacob related to Joseph also threatened the promise over Joseph’s life. In both situations, God took the evil instigated through unwise parenting and used it for good.

It is no different for us. God’s plan for our lives will be fulfilled or hindered in part through our relationships with others. We are not a body unto ourselves, but only part of God’s body of which he fulfills his plans on the earth. An eye can’t say to the hand I don’t need you (1 Cor 12:21). We need each other. Therefore, we must foster healthy relationships with others. Our relationships will either help us fulfill God’s promises or hinder us from fulfilling them. Solomon’s marriages to pagan women led him to worship idols and come under God’s discipline. Rehoboam’s ungodly friendships and their counsel led to the split of the Jewish kingdom. In contrast, the prophets Samuel and Nathan helped David fulfill God’s promise on his life. Elijah discipled and mentored Elisha. Christ mentored and developed the disciples. Consider the following verses:

The one who associates with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

Are your relationships with others helping you fulfill God’s promises or hindering them? Are there any relationships you need to change or let go of in order to fulfill God’s promises to you? Are you helping others fulfill God’s promises or hindering them by compromise?

Isaac and Rebekah, though they loved their children, only caused discord between them and were a hindrance to God’s plans. Sadly, many delay or miss God’s best because of unhealthy relationships. Is God pleased with the relationships you are cultivating?

Application Question: Why are relationships so important in helping us fulfill God’s promises? How can they affect us both negatively and positively? In what ways is God calling you to pursue relationships with those experiencing God’s promises, so they can help you experience yours (cf. Prov 13:20, Eph 2:10)?


How can we experience God’s promises and not miss God’s best for our lives, our families, our churches, and our communities?

  1. To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Be Willing to Wait

  2. To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Persevere in Prayer

  3. To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Expect Difficulties and Seek God’s Wisdom During Them

  4. To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Accept God’s Choice of Operating through Weakness

  5. To Experience God’s Promises, We Must Foster Healthy Relationships


[1] Meyer, F.B.. Jacob: Wrestling with God (Kindle Locations 68-73). Kindle Edition.

[2] Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (pp. 332–333). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 13). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

[4] Guzik, D. (2013). Genesis (Ge 25:19–26). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 14). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

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