Preached on 2022-7-13 at DTS by Ken Yeo.
(Put on headscarf)
My grandpa came from a foreign land, why did he come? Because Yahweh spoke to him. Yahweh promised He will make grandpa’s descendants a nation, give them a land, and the entire world will be blessed through grandpa. When dad was 40 years old, he married mom. However, mom was barren. So dad prayed to Yahweh. After twenty years, finally, Yahweh answered dad’s prayer and mom was pregnant with me.
However, there was a problem, I was not alone in her womb, I had a brother, a twin brother. We fight violently inside mom’s womb. Mom could not stand it, so she prayed to Yahweh, and Yahweh told mom something incredible, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” But, I was not aware it at that time, because I was just a baby in mom’s womb. Therefore I tried to grab my brother’s heel so I could come out first. However I lost the race. Because my brother was stronger, he came out first. He was the firstborn. He had the bekora, the birthright.
My name is Yacov, my parents gave me this name because I am a heel grabber. And my brother name is Esav, because he is a hairy man. Since our births, I have been trying to grab my brother’s heel, because I want his bekora, the birthright.
(Take off headscarf)
You and I are like Jacob. Instead of grabbing for bekora, We grab for name recognition among siblings in our family, we grab for praise and name recognition in seminary, we grab for name recognition in ministry, we grab for name recognition in social media. Sometimes through the grabbing process, we hurt our friends, we hurt our wife, we hurt our children, we hurt our coworkers, we hurt our parents. Is there anything we can do to avoid putting ourselves in these situations? Does the bible reveal to us God’s solution to Jacob’s problem as a grabber? The answer is yes. When we carefully read through the story of Jacob in Genesis, we will conclude that the solution to Jacob’s grabbing problem is to live by faith in God. This is confirmed by the author of Hebrews because he put Jacob in the list of the hall of faith in Hebrews 11. In Jacob’s life, we see that he started with little or no faith in God. But God loves Jacob. He relentlessly used the circumstances in Jacob’s life to build his faith slowly but surely.
Today, we will look at Genesis 25:19-34 to see three reasons why we should live by faith instead of by flesh based on the beginning of Jacob’s life. We will see that the lack of faith to God in Jacob’s life is the source of his problems. Again, we will look at Genesis 25:19-34, the origin of the Jacob’s story. Genesis 25:19-34 talks about three events. First the birth, second the family issues, and third the sells of bekora, the birthright.
Because we are chosen by God (25:17-25)
The first reason we should live by faith not by flesh is because we are chosen by God. Verse 23 tells us that God has chosen the older shall serve the younger. This verse is quoted by Paul in Romans 9:12. Paul’s commentary on this verse is this, “though they (Esau and Jacob) had not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of He who calls”. God has chosen Jacob before he was born, apart of his works, before he did anything good or bad. This is the key verse to understand Jacob’s life. Because God has chosen Jacob, God will work in Jacob’s life to build Jacob’s faith towards God. No matter how bad Jacob’s situations become, God was always there behind the scenes, leading Jacob’s to grow his faith towards God.
We are like Jacob, chosen before the foundation of the earth, for salvation and for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, so that God will be glorified in us and through us. You may be facing a tough situation in life right now. Maybe your money is tight. Maybe you have a relationship issue with your girlfriend or wife. Maybe you are dealing with a very difficult person at ministry or at work. Maybe you are not sure how you can study and serve and raise a family at the same time. No matter what is the problem you are facing right now, God is working behind the scenes because you have been chosen by God. Else you would not be seating here today. Therefore, don’t try to handle the situation with your flesh. Trust God, trust His promises to you that are written in His words, trust that God is sovereign, He is faithful, He is all-powerful, and He is working in your life to accomplish His purposes.
We have looked at first reason why you should live by faith not by flesh. It is because you have been chosen by God. The second reason you should live by faith not by flesh is because life is full of trails.
Because life is full of trials (25:27-28)
Look at verse 27-28 with me. “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
Growing up, Jacob probably knew God’s has chosen him to carry out God’s covenant with Abraham and Isaac. However his father loved his elder brother Esau, not him. Jacob would be wondering when will Isaac ever transfer the birthright to him? Will God’s word come true? Imagine the kind of conflicts this cause to Jacob’s family. The conflict between Isaac and Rebekah. The sibling’s rivalry between Esau and Jacob.
You and I are like Jacob. We are chosen by God. God has promised us eternal life in Christ. But God never promised a life without trials. Instead it is the opposite. The Lord Jesus told us “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). 1) Some trials are just there because we are living in a fallen world. 2) Some trials are there because Satan is attacking us. 3) Some trials are there because you are the victim of sins of other people in your life.
I don’t need to convince you because you know that. Some of you are going through trials right now. 1) Maybe you are being hurt by someone you loved because of his words or actions. 2) Maybe you are not getting the recognition or appreciation for your hard work at home, at work, at seminary or at ministry. 3) Maybe you are having a conflict with your wife, or your parents, or your siblings, or your children, or your coworkers because they misunderstood your words or motives.
How do you respond to trials in life? 1) Do you grow in bitterness to the person who hurt you, or do you live by faith by praying to God for the capacity to forgive and love the person? 2) Do you take the matter with your own hands to work for recognition and appreciation, or do you live by faith by bringing the matter to God and be content with God’s recognition for your faithfulness? 3) Do you respond to conflict with arguments and anger, or do you live by faith by responding with patience and love to others?
We have looked at two reasons we should live by faith not by flesh. First, because we are chosen by God. Second, because life is full of trials. Now, let’s look at the third reason.
Because we want to avoid the consequences of sins (25:29-34)
The third reason we should live by faith not by flesh is because we want to avoid the consequences of sins. Let’s look at verse 29-34 with me.
“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Gen 25:29-34)
In this story, we see two negative examples of living by faith. Esau and Jacob are great role models if you want to live by flesh. Jacob took advantage of his brother weakness to obtain the birthright. He wanted the birthright and he wanted it now. “Sell me your birthright now.” “Swear to me now.” He could not wait for God’s timing.
How about you? Maybe you desire a certain ministry result. Maybe you desire to get an internship. Maybe you desire to get a wife. Are you willing to live by faith to trust God in His timing, or do you live by your flesh to grab what you want, now?
Jacob was a person who was willing to sacrifice his relationship with others to grab what he wants. He was willing to get ahead or get protection at the expense of others, including his family.
One time I had an opportunity to lead a group of Chinese Christians to Israel for a study trip. Since that was my first trip as a group leader, I wanted to do well. So I told my wife to seat at the back of the 60 seats tour bus to make it easier for me to work with the tour guide to explain the biblical land while we were on the tour bus. The problem is the tour guide was a rather attractive Jews lady. You could imagine the hurt I have inflicted to my wife. The sad thing was, I did not even know I hurt her at that time because I was blinded by my desire to do well in ministry. I was grabbing for my bekora, at the expense of my wife. My wife was upset with me for a while. By the grace of God we finally reconciled. If I would have asked my wife to seat next to me on the bus, and trust that God would take care of the ministry, I would have avoided the consequence of my sin.
How about you? What is your bekora? 1) Are you getting great grades at the expense of quality time with your wife? 2) Are you getting ahead in your ministry at the expense others? What are you grabbing?
Esau is the reverse. He despised his bekora. He sold his bekora for a cup of red bean soap. Hebrews chapter 12 verse 16 warn us not to be like Esau, because he is immoral, unholy, godless, worldly. How about you? 1) Are you selling your testimony as the disciple of Jesus Christ for worldly gain? 2) Are you selling your spiritual blessings for a cup of red bean soup?
Jacob had to face the consequence of his sins in his life because he did not live by faith in God’s promise. You will face the consequence of sins too if you live by flesh instead of by faith in Christ.
Is there hope for Jacob? Yes! When we read the rest of his story, we see that God never give up on Jacob. The reason is, God has chosen Jacob before his birth. Jacob’s story is an amazing redemption story of God. God relentlessly worked in Jacob’s life in spite of his lack of faith. God patiently worked in Jacob to grow his faith, so that eventually Jacob would become Israel, the father of the nation chosen by God to reveal His redemption plan and ultimately from Israel came the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Like Jacob, you too have hope because have also been chosen by God. No matter what kind of problems you get yourself into in life, God will never give up on you. He will relentlessly work in your life to mold you into the image of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Because those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified, He also glorified.
In conclusion, we need to live by faith instead of by flesh because we have been chosen by God, because life is full of trials, and because we want to avoid the consequence of sins.
(Put on headscarf)
My name is Yacov, I am now 147 years-old. I will die soon in Egypt, but I trust Yahweh is going to bring my body, and my people, into the promised land.