It is time to dig a little deeper into last weeks sermon. We spent most of our time in Genesis 25. I want to spend a little bit of time on verses 19-21 of Genesis 25. Those verses are as follows: “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
What we find out in Genesis 25 is that Isaac is 40 years old when he marries Rebekah. When Rebekah gives birth to Jacob and Esau Isaac was 60 years of age. So, for at least 19 years Isaac and Rebekah struggle with barrenness. As Mark said Sunday we need to see the characters of the Bible as real people with real struggles. Put yourself in Isaac and Rebekah’s shoes, and think about not being able to have children for 19 years! This had to have been a tremendous burden for both of them. What does Isaac do with this burden? Verse 21 answers: “Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren.” Isaac went to the throne of grace and prayed for his wife there.
We need to start implementing what Isaac did with his burden, and start immediately taking our burdens to the Lord. Philippians 4:6 famously says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Donald Whitney says: “We may bring ‘everything by prayer’ to God. Everything is something we may pray about. Every person, every object, every issue, every circumstance, every fear, every situation—everything in the universe is something we may bring before God.” We can bring everything to the Lord in prayer. Every single thing in our lives we can take to the throne of grace. It doesn’t matter how small the matter may be, even the slightest headache that we have, we can take it to the Lord.
D.A. Carson says: “What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. That means we can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray, our actions disown our words.” These words from Carson may sting a little bit. They stung me. I have written several blog posts about pouring out our dirty cup of water before the throne of grace. I feel as though I have pretty well hammered this point home, and I feel as though I understand it in my head. However, I feel as though I am so slow to implement this type of praying in my own life. I am just too slow to run to the throne of grace in my own life. I want to change, I want to be more like Isaac and just pour out my burdens to the Lord.
I also want us all to be better at not only taking our burdens to the Lord, but to take our praises and our thanksgivings to the Lord. As Philippians 4 says: “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” How often have I let mercies of God just slip through the cracks in my life and have not thanked God for those fresh mercies? This past weekend my wife and I went to go walking at the Sandy Creek Nature Center. In the middle of our walk together I realized that this walk with my wife in the park was a fresh mercy from God that day. I just paused and said a quick prayer to God thanking Him for the chance to enjoy the nice day and the nice walk with my sweet wife. I need to be doing this type of praying so much more. We all have so much to be thankful for. So, let us be quick to run to the throne of grace with grateful hearts full of thanksgiving to our gracious heavenly Father.
I want to shift gears slightly and talk about Moses and Esau. In Genesis 25 Jacob and Esau are born as twins and they couldn’t be more different. Jacob is the home body and Esau is the outdoorsman. At the end of the chapter Esau has been out in the field and he comes back to the tent exhausted. He then foolishly sells his birthright for a bowl of soup to Jacob. The end of chapter 25 says: “So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” So, after selling his birthright and eating his meal he just ‘rose and went his way.’ He didn’t feel any remorse or sadness that he had sold his birthright. That is why the verse says that he ‘despised his birthright.’
R. Kent Hughes says this about Esau: “Young Esau could not see beyond what was in front of him. He possessed no vision, no spiritual imagination. He had no eyes or mind for God, or for Heaven, or for Hell. Spiritual realities were to him dull and opaque. He was a single-dimensional soul. Pleasure now was his guiding star. For him all that mattered was the excitement of the hunt, a hearty meal, a woman’s company—all good things in proper perspective and place. But pleasure is all that Esau could see. Thus he despised his birthright, selling it for a single meal, and likewise he despised his heritage for the pleasure of Canaanite women. Esau’s blithe arrogance brutalized everything precious to life and fixed him on his tragic course.
For every generation, the challenge is the same—to see that there is more to life than a meal, or a video game, or baseball, or a party, or a movie, or an indulgence of some kind—to see, as Paul put it, that “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”
Mark took us to the book of Hebrews towards the end of the sermon. Hebrews 12 tells us about Esau when it says: “See to it that no…one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” John Piper commenting on this passage says that when Esau ‘sold his birthright for a single meal’ he: “looked down the straight path that leads to life and he saw adversity and hunger, and instead of believing that God was in it and working for his good – as a loving, disciplining Father – he sold it for a single meal and left the race.”
Mark talked about meeting with various guys who have told him that they want to enjoy college first before getting serious with God. They want to just enjoy life first. They want to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, then when they get married they will get close to God. This is an utterly foolish way of thinking. This is foolish because God has not promised any of us another day on this Earth. John Piper powerfully tells us the sad reality that: “many professing Christians today have such a sentimental view of God’s justice that they never feel terror and horror at the thought of being utterly forsaken by God because of their persistence in sin. They have the naïve notion that God’s patience has no end and that they can always return from any length and depth of sin, forgetting that there is a point of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws forever with his convicting power, leaving them never able to repent and be forgiven.
They are like the buzzard who spots a carcass on a piece of ice floating in the river. He lands and begins to eat. He knows it is dangerous because the falls are just ahead. But he looks at his wings and says to himself, “I can fly to safety in an instant.” And he goes on eating. Just before the ice goes over the falls he spreads his wings to fly but his claws are frozen in the ice and there is no escape — neither in this age nor the age to come. The Spirit of holiness has forsaken the arrogant sinner forever.”
Mark contrasted Moses with Esau in his sermon. Esau foolishly sold his birthright for a single meal. Moses however was different. Hebrews 11 tells us: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” John Piper commenting on this passage says that the writer of Hebrews: “expresses the dangerous, painful path Moses had chosen in two ways: First (in verse 25) it is the choosing of ill-treatment with the people of God over the passing pleasures of sin. Second (in verse 26) it is the choosing of reproach for Christ (the Messiah) over the treasures of Egypt…Now the question was, would he endure in this chosen path of suffering for the people of God and the glory of the Messiah? Or would he cave in – like so many cave in today to the Egypt – the passing pleasures – of this world?” Verse 27 of Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that Moses did not cave in to the passing pleasures of sin: “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”
Piper says that Moses: “looked to the unseen God to work out some purpose for his people, and forty years later he would discover what that purpose was, and he would be back.” Moses did these things ‘by faith.’ Hebrews tells us that Moses did things by faith over and over. John Piper tells us that: “Faith is a hunger for God that triumphs over our hunger for the pleasures of this world. And so faith unleashes radically God-centered, risk-taking, people-loving behavior.”
He then challenges us to be people of faith: “Let’s be like Moses this morning. Let’s look to the reward of God’s promises, as it says in verse 26. And let’s look to the God who is unseen, as it says in verse 27. And let’s be so hungry for the superior worth of our glorious God that the bridges are burned to a hundred sins and a hundred fears.”
Mark powerfully pointed us to Jesus at the end of his sermon. We had seen how Esau gave up his birthright for a single meal. Jesus also gave up his birthright. As Russell Moore said: “Jesus gave up His inheritance and went to the cross for you.” This is the stunning truth of the gospel. Jerry Bridges tells us that: “God delivered the innocent Christ over, as a judge delivers a criminal to punishment, that the prisoners might go free instead. Christ was innocent—until our guilt was made his own. Christ took our sin and punishment; we took his innocence and vindication. The treason and blasphemy charged to Christ by the human tribunal was an emblem of our own treason and blasphemy against God for everything, from our apathy toward him, to thinking we can do God a favor by attending church, to the in-your-face rebellion that we deliberately commit at times.”
Bridges continues by talking about the cross: “The cross was planned from before the foundation of the world as the place where God would inflict his Son with the curse and wrath due redeemed sinners as their sin was charged to him. Behind the visible tribunal and the visible punishment was something infinitely more formidable and severe. What Christ suffered directly at the hand of God is beyond human imagination.”
Lastly Bridges says: “Christ endured much more than the observable agony of torture by the hands of evil men. In the ultimate execution of God’s infinite wrath upon our sin, Christ received inconceivable anguish by the hand of God, an unstoppable surge of torment invisible to our eyes and unfathomable to our imaginations. Yet he did not deserve it; we did.” Let that last line from Jerry Bridges sink in: “Jesus did not deserve it; we did.” Jesus deserved unending joy and fellowship with God, and we deserved the wrath of God and eternal destruction. Jesus, though gave up His inheritance and went to the cross for you and me!
This is the great and glorious news of the gospel. In light of this glorious gospel John Piper reminds us that we: “can’t love Christ too much. You can’t think about him too much or thank him too much or depend upon him too much. All our justification, all our righteousness, is in Christ.
This is the gospel — the good news that our sins are laid on Christ and his righteousness is laid on us, and that this great exchange happens for us not by works but by faith alone.”
Picture from here