BIBLE STUDY SERIES: #6-7

8 December, 1991

BIRTHRIGHT AND BLESSING

by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In this series of talks, we are examining the Biblical promises given by Almighty God to a specific chosen family of mankind. It is that line of descendants which God covenanted to develop out of the loins of the ancient Patriarch, Abraham and his beautiful wife, Sarah, in consequence of the aged Abraham's complete demonstration of faith in leaving his homeland and removing to a different land as God had directed him.

God had told Abraham in Genesis 17:7 "...I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."

This covenant is directed specifically to the one line, that of Isaac, which God chose from among all Abraham's sons for in Genesis 17:19 we read: "And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." Isaac had thus been specifically promised to Abraham and Sarah, and God had named him. Further, God had specifically created a difference between Isaac, the seed born to Abraham and Sarah, and Abraham's other descendants, for in Genesis 21:12 God had said: "...in Isaac shall thy seed be called."

Thus, the line of descent we are tracing, in order to see how God has fulfilled His promised word, is that which descends through Abraham's son, Isaac. We had noted that of Isaac and Rebekah, twins had been born, and again, God had selected from these two, one brother, Jacob, to whom those covenanted promises would descend. Paul shows us this separation in the purposes of God even before the twins were born, in Romans 9:10-13, where he writes:

10. ...when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac:
11. (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purposes of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12. It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

On our last programme, we saw how Esau had, indeed, sold his birthright to Jacob for a meal. We saw also how Rebekah had thwarted Isaac's intention of diverting God's blessing to his favourite, Esau. Rebekah had dressed Jacob in Esau's apparel, you will remember, with the skins of kids for hair to make Isaac, his blind father, think him to be his brother, and to receive that blessing, a blessing which was irrevokable even when the substitution was later revealed.

We now return to Genesis 27:41 at the point where Isaac and Esau now know what Rebekah and Jacob have done:

41. And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
42. And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.
43. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran:
44. And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away;
45. Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?.

I might just stop here to interject a few comments on that passage. First, we might note the wisdom of Rebekah in her attempt to settle a family row by parting the two sons for a "cooling off" period. Sometimes that is the best way to resolve a heated situation.

Second, we might note that Rebekah had expected the anger of Esau to cool off in a few days or weeks at most, for she promised to send for Jacob when that happened. Esau, however, must have had a very long memory concerning this matter. He obviously had not forgiven Jacob in the next few days as Rebekah had hoped. We can make this deduction because Rebekah was not able to send for Jacob, as far as we can tell, even to the hour of her death. After Jacob departed, she never saw his face again. It is as though he was saying in his heart "never forgive, never forget", although we note that, when Jacob did finally return after twenty years (Genesis 31:28), and prayerfully make a new commitment to God at the Brook Jabbok, Esau did relent.

Had Esau truly, indeed, intended anything of substance when he first made that contract with Jacob, trading his birthright for the red pottage? Perhaps he had thought it nothing but a word to be broken when convenient. Perhaps such an attitude had characterised all Esau's dealings from the first. With his maturing years, however, he had obviously brooded about it. Perhaps, also, Esau's pride was hurt, for the blessing carried great honour, and his sons would certainly have prompted him to seek its return for it formed their lost heritage too. That lost blessing must certainly have meant more to Esau than at first appeared to his parents. He must truly have come to regret his casual dismissal of his birthright in selling it to Jacob, for Paul, in Romans 12:16-17 speaks of Esau as a profane person who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. Paul says: "For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."

A third point might be overlooked. Rebekah asks "why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?." This indicates that a law which God gave to Noah was operative, for God had said in Genesis 9:5-6:

5. And surely your blood of your lives will I require: at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
6. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Thus, had Esau carried out his threat against Jacob, to slay him, this law would have required that Esau be put to death, thus depriving Rebekah of both her sons; the one by murder, the other by execution!

In order to obtain Isaac's agreement to Jacob's departure, Rebekah broaches the subject of her daughters-in-law. We find this in Genesis 27:46:

46. And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?

Isaac's response is seen in Genesis 28:1-5:

1. And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
2. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.
3. And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
4. And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
5. And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.

Isaac here makes a very significant pronouncement in that he makes a definite and clear designation that Jacob is to be the recipient of the inheritance of all God's covenanted blessings given to Abraham. In spite of Isaac's own former inclinations to favour Esau, the act of transmitting the blessing to Jacob stands because it is not Isaac's to withdraw. It is God's blessing. We know that Esau is excluded because the blessing includes inheritance of the land which God gave unto Abraham and that is unique. Only one son can inherit that promise of the land. We find that Esau later takes up residence in Mount Seir, the land to the south and south-east of the Sea of Salt, otherwise called the Dead Sea.

The next verses give us some indication of Esau's true attitudes, and thus his character. We read that

6. When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;
7. And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan-aram;
8. And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;
9. Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishamel Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

Seeing that his two Hittite wives are not acceptable to his parents, it would appear that Esau wants to arrange his marital circumstances so as to gain parental approval, but only on his own terms. He appears inclined to serve his parents' wishes up to a point. He now selects a third wife, one from among the daughters of Ishmael and thus a descendant of Abraham. However, God has parted Ishmael's line of descent from the promised covenant given to Isaac's seed, and Esau is thus still marrying outside of that covenant line. His descendants will be set aside from those blessings in any event, but perhaps we can here sense something of God's reasons in so doing.

We must leave the further developments in this Biblical drama for our subsequent programmes, but in closing, we should remember that our purpose in this study is to reveal the correspondence of God's promises to the subsequent historic unfolding of those promises in the seed of Jacob, renamed Israel: the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of our own time.

15 December, 1991

BETHEL VISION

by Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In the present series of talks, we are seeking to present evidence, sufficiently compelling to persuade even those holding only a casual interest that the Almighty God of the Bible has been, and is, in control of events down to our own day and beyond.

If God has made promises which later became unconditional, as He did to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to King David, and then proceeded to fulfil these promises to the letter, the implications for a logical thinking person must be very great indeed, and involve life-challenging and life-changing commitments, for the subsequent developments down through history will go a long way towards proving that God exists, that He is Almighty, and that He is honourable in His dealings with mankind. Christ's promised Salvation is shown to be a credible reality, and the hope of mankind is enhanced.

The purpose of our Federation is to present such evidence as will yield God all the glory, and persuade His people to take His further words seriously under their consideration. Particularly is this so in the case of those of Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred racial background, for we perceive that these are the seed promised to those Patriarchs by God, and their development as a people thus becomes a proof of God's holy word.

From our former talks in this series, those of our listeners who have followed our theme will remember that we are examining the record found in the Book of Genesis wherein God promised that the aged Patriarch, Abraham, and his seed would inherit the blessing of multitudinous seed, of land, of the gate of their enemies, and many other promises which form God's part in a sequence of contracts with the Patriarchs.

As these Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob met their parts in those contracts, these promises on the part of Almighty God become henceforth unconditional.

We had arrived at the point in Genesis 28 at which Jacob has, through subterfuge, received the heritage of those special, God-promised, peculiar blessings from the aged Isaac whose eyes were dim, and angered his brother Esau who had expected to receive them. Now Isaac and Rebekah have sent Jacob on his way back to the home of Laban, Rebekah's brother, in Padan-aram, to obtain a wife, and Jacob has now started out on that journey.

We should read the account from Genesis 28:10-22, for it forms one of the outstanding high-points of promise to the succession of the Patriarchs, and in particular, in the life of Jacob. We begin with verses 10 to 15.

10. And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

At this point, I might make some comments before we continue. When, in the course of our studies, we come upon the name of some geographical location, it is usually helpful to look up some background information concerning it, for this helps us to thread our sequence of historic developments like beads upon a string attached to that locality on the map. In the case before us, we find that the name "Bethel" means "house of God", and Young's Concordance adds the following notation:

"A well-known holy place of Central Canaan. Two accounts are given of the origin of the name: 1. It was bestowed on the spot by Jacob under the awe inspired by the vision of God (Genesis 28:19);..." (That, I should point out, is the occasion before us now) "...2. it received its name on the occasion of a blessing bestowed by God upon Jacob after his return from Padan-aram, at which time his name was changed to Israel (Genesis 35:14-15). Luz was the ancient name. Bethel was in the tribe of Benjamin. It is 12 miles N. of Jerusalem on the way to Shechem, and was the seat of one of Jeroboam's golden calves. It is now called Beitin. Luz was perhaps the city, and Bethel the holy place close by it."

So we find that this is not the last time wherein Jacob will have reason to hold the spot called Bethel in holy awe, as a place where he met with God in a personal encounter. On the occasion of our present study, Jacob has found himself out on the road to Padan-aram, and night has come on him near a city of the Canaanites called Luz. We must remember that, while he has received the words of blessing from his aged father, Isaac, he also fears, and is fleeing from, the intense anger of his brother, Esau. Having left his parents and his familiar home for the dangers of the journey, he is probably feeling very much alone. No wives or children are as yet a part of his life to comfort him as he proceeds upon his way and he has chosen the option of staying away from the city, perhaps fearing to sleep where treachery is possible.

Jacob has selected some stones, wherewith to make himself as comfortable as he may, and one of these stones in particular, will, in the centuries ahead, become an important stone of testimony, a great treasure, because in this night it is chosen as Jacob's pillow stone. In the verses that follow we will find it taken by Jacob as a witness to God's words of promise in the night vision, and it will for the same reason become a stone of testimony to God's faithfulness to the nation and company of nations which will later develop from him.

This block of rough sandstone, of granularity peculiar to the area, is attested to reside today beneath the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey.* It is the Coronation Stone, with its ancient worn iron rings, testimony to years of wanderings, and the title deed to a kingdom nation, blessed by the Almighty God of Jacob-Israel.

But first, let us look again at those promises granted by The Almighty in that vision. There are a number of aspects. The vision begins with the identification of the figure standing above the ladder which stretches between earth and heaven. It is the same God who is the God of Abraham and of Isaac Who now speaks, so the promises conveyed form a continuation of the same promises given to these Patriarchs, but these are further amplified.

The land whereon Jacob lies will belong to him and his descendants. These will be multitudinous as the dust of the earth, but now they are promised to spread abroad to the west, east, north and south. It has been noted that the British and related peoples have so spread in subsequent history, and the directions taken were followed in that order. The promise is further confirmed that in the seed of this line of descent shall all the families of the earth be blessed. In Jesus Christ, descended of this line through Mary, this certainly can be seen, for His selfless love provided the means of Salvation to all sinners. There is added for Jacob's very personal assurance, the promise that God will protect him and bring him again to the land which he is about to leave, and further, that God will continue to be his protector wherever he goes. How much that last promise must have meant to Jacob on this night of loneliness and nervous questioning regarding the future!

We shall have more to say concerning that marvellous rugged sandstone block in future episodes of this series, but our time is fast slipping away and we must quickly review what we have begun to learn thus far.

God is a God of promises, and, to His glory, He fulfills those promises. When He speaks in covenant, and the man with whom He makes that covenant fulfills his part, the covenant becomes, on God's part, an unconditional commitment. That which He promises will surely come to pass, and nothing which man can do will change that from happening. The God Who makes those promises is the LORD of history, and the King of all creation. It is wisdom on the part of man to observe and to obey, for in doing so, there is great peace, and perfect contentment.

To attempt to construct a world order or government on any other basis is sheer folly, for time will reveal the structural faults where man's system is inconsistent with God's Great Plan. We shall continue our studies next week.

* This was true in 1991 when this broadcast was presented. It has now been returned to Scotland.

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