The Passing of God’s Inheritance - Genesis 25:19-28
Scripture: Genesis 25:19–28
What comes to mind when you hear the word inheritance? Most of us have some familiarity with the concept of inheritance. I am speaking of the passing on of one’s possessions or belongings to the next generation. Often, the passing of an inheritance can be problematic. It can be problematic because it involves finite, fallible, and sinful people.
The passing down of an inheritance should be meaningful because it generally involves the passing of possessions or belongings from parents to children, and those possessions typically have great sentimental value for the one or ones inheriting them.
It can be problematic many times because the allure of material things, particularly money, outweighs the sentimentality. Many families have been fractured or damaged because of the way the inheritance is determined and distributed. I am fairly sure you would not have to travel far back in your family tree to discover some controversy with an inheritance.
I did a quick search for the biggest inheritance disputes ever. There were numerous accounts of controversial inheritances on a number of reputable sites. One of the more controversial ones involved Australian mining mogul Gina Rinehart who is the wealthiest person in Australia and one of the wealthiest people in the world. Her estate is reported to be worth $31 billion. For years, she has been trying to cut her children out of a trust fund established by their father, the late Frank Rinehart. Supposedly, each child would receive a share of the $5 billion fund when they turned 25. But just before her eldest daughter Bianca’s birthday, Gina prevented her from accessing it. A lengthy legal battle ensued, and even though Bianca was finally made trustee in 2015, Bianca has since sued her mother for not giving her enough of the money. Other siblings got involved and it got really ugly. No doubt it has caused issues in that family.
No doubt history and/or experience teaches us that the passing of an inheritance can be problematic and damaging when sinful man is involved. However, that is not the case with inheritance from God. God is infallible, perfect, holy, and pure. He is sinless and He knows exactly how to handle His inheritance.
The question may come to mind, what exactly is the inheritance of God? What is received in this inheritance? Pastor Stacey alluded to the inheritance a couple of weeks ago when he preached on Colossians 3:24. It says, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” He reminded us that the believer’s inheritance is spending eternity in fellowship with God, worshiping and glorifying Him. Question and answer number 1 of the WSC tells us that the chief end of man, our purpose, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That is the inheritance.
So, what’s the issue with the inheritance? Well because of sin, man does not naturally deserve the inheritance of God. We are not naturally heirs of the inheritance. Actually, what we naturally deserve is to be separated from God and to never receive His inheritance.
Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and Ephesians 2 teaches us we are, “dead in our trespasses and sins.” What does it mean to be “dead in sin”? Ephesians 2:12 answers this way, “Remember that you were at that time (that time being dead in our sins, before salvation) at that time you were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Being dead in sin means we are without an inheritance. But God sent His son Jesus to live a sinless life on His people’s behalf. And through Jesus’s finished work on the cross, He earned the inheritance for His people.
Therefore, the inheritance is passed to us by faith. But in what must we have faith? You can see the points printed for you on page six of the Worship Guide. We see two characteristics of the heirs of God’s inheritance; God’s people must have faith in His perfect timing and God’s people must have faith in His chosen heir.
If we think back to our illustration; when inheritance involves sinful man, many factors come into play. Quite often, those factors are determined by impure motives. Motives like - whoever lived closer, who was more liked, who had their act together more, who deserved it more, the list can go on and on. However, the same is not true with God. When it comes to the inheritance from God, he knows perfectly who to give the inheritance to. It is those for whom Christ died. Those about whom Jesus said in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all.” Christ is the only one who deserves the inheritance. And only those who have faith in Christ will inherit the promises of God.
The sovereignty of God over the inheritance, and ultimately over salvation, is what we see displayed in today’s passage. In Genesis 25:19-28, Isaac’s wife Rebecca gives birth to twin boys. Through the account of the birth of Esau and Jacob, we see God’s sovereignty governing the passing of the inheritance.
Let’s look at our passage together. In verse 19, it is reemphasized that Isaac is the rightful heir, the “heir apparent” if you will. Isaac is described twice in the verse as the son of Abraham. The covenant was going to continue through Isaac. Remember what we learned earlier about this heir. Isaac, the covenant child, came by way of God’s plan. This was contrasted with Ishmael, who came by way of Abraham and Sarah’s man-centered schemes to produce a child for the inheritance.
In verse 20, we are reminded that Isaac had taken Rebekah to be his wife. We see a similar beginning between Isaac and Rebekah as we did with Abraham and Sarah. God brought each pair together and promised the continuation of the covenant with them. However, in verse 21 we read, like Sarah, Rebekah was barren. She was unable to have children. From a human perspective, it appears the promised seed, the promised inheritance, is once again in jeopardy. Abraham and Sarah had endured a long period of barrenness and now Isaac and Rebekah had to endure a long period of barrenness.
Also notice the time frame here. We are told in verse 21 that Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as his wife. If we jump down to verse 26, we discover that Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah bore the children. They waited for twenty years. Twenty years is a long time to wait for a child. Imagine the temptation to give up; the temptation to start to believe the promise had failed.
But there was a difference between Isaac and Rebekah’s waiting and Abraham and Sarah’s waiting. Simply put, Isaac and Rebekah seemed to trust in the Word and providence of God while they waited. Where Abraham and Sarah failed and resorted to their own impatient schemes, Isaac and Rebekah endured and continued to walk by faith rather than site during this time. How do we know that they trusted God and continued to walk by faith?
There in verse 21 we read that he prayed to the Lord for his wife. Isaac’s faithfulness in prayer demonstrates that he acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all things, including the blessing of an heir. Isaac does what all believers must do when facing a desperate situation: he prays to his Father in heaven. Also, Isaac did not stop praying when Rebekah's womb was not immediately opened. He continued on his knees for twenty years before his wife conceived.
What is your response when you’re faced with a difficult situation? Do you turn to God, praying for His help in the situation, like Rebekah and Isaac? Or do you take matters into your own hands, rely on human plans and schemes like Abraham? What if the situation doesn’t change? Do you persevere in trusting God and walking by faith, knowing that He will work all things out for our good and His glory? That promise refers to our ultimate good, not necessarily our immediate desires or requests.
Do you have a heart of faith to trust Philippians 4:6-7, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Why would God allow this to happen to Isaac and Rebecca? Why would He seemingly put the “promise of the seed” in jeopardy. Why did they have to wait? Why would any believer have to wait for prayer to be answered and even potentially to not have the prayer answered the way they want? Could it possibly be to show God’s power, His sovereignty, and His faithfulness? Could it be for the purpose of increasing man’s submission to the will of God? For Rebekah and Isaac, it was to teach them, and by way of application us, that the production of the holy seed, the heir, the recipient of the inheritance, is not produced by the efforts of a man but was and is the result of the grace of God alone. Barrenness here is not an occasion for anxiety but for sovereign grace.
You see, the passing of the inheritance happens in God’s timing. All that comes to pass in the world, including the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan which includes the reception of the inheritance, is determined by God. Romans 5:6 states, “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” God’s timing is perfect and those who receive the inheritance trust in God’s perfect timing. We see perfect trust in the timing of God’s inheritance in the life of Jesus. In John 7, Jesus is in Galilee and some of his family is trying to get him to reveal who He is. Jesus knows that if he reveals himself, the Jewish religious leaders will imprison him and potentially kill him. Jesus says to his family, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” Jesus trusted in the timing of God’s inheritance. An inheritance He would secure at the determined time.
Are you trusting in God's timing? Or do you think you know better than God when it comes to the timing of things? Do you ever find yourself growing impatient when waiting on God? Well, God, if you would go ahead and give me this, things will work out or I will be content. The Lord Jesus was perfectly content with his father’s timing. God’s people must have faith in his perfect timing.
In the second part of verse 21, we read that the Lord granted Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah conceived. God determined in His providence to answer Isaac’s prayer. The phrase there, “the Lord granted his prayer” reveals the sovereignty of God. It was still dependent upon God. It can be easy for us to get discouraged when we have prayed for years, and it seems that God has not intervened in our situation. We can be tempted to give up interceding for that sick person or wayward friend when things do not improve. But the example of Isaac and Rebekah shows us that we must persevere in earnest prayer and not lose heart. Stay on your knees for the salvation of souls and other needs, for the Lord works in prayer even when we cannot yet see it.
As we continue in verse 22, we read that while Rebecca was pregnant the children struggled in her womb. It appears that Rebecca was aware of some type of abnormal activity during her pregnancy. There may have been pain and discomfort or a higher rate of movement than normal. Regardless, it was significant enough to cause her to be anxious.
But just like her husband, her reaction was to seek counsel from the Lord. She prayed. Here we see another indication of trust and dependence on the providence of God. Those who have had their eyes and hearts opened to the sovereignty and faithfulness of God understand that ultimately God determines the timing of things.
This “struggle” in Rebekah’s womb is not without meaning. It is the first sign of conflict between the two brothers and is indicative of what is to come.
Rebekah inquires of God and in verse 23, God tells Rebekah that, “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.” God’s answer provides Rebekah as well as the readers of this Biblical account an explanation of the struggle that is occurring. This is really the key verse of the passage. God gives a “heads up” as it were. Rebekah is carrying twins. God explains that each twin will give rise to a nation of people, and those nations will be divided. In other words, the nations will not exist together but will be separated. The declaration that one will be stronger than the other indicates that there will not be peace but animosity and strife between the brothers and their descendants. We are even told specifically that the older will serve the younger. Trouble lays ahead for the twins.
Some of us, I assume, have known a set of twins. One of my good friends growing up had two younger brothers that were twins. As a matter of fact, they were identical twins. For the longest time, I could not tell them apart. They looked the same, they talked the same, they acted fairly the same. And that makes sense because their nature and nurturing would have been very similar.
With Isaac and Rebekah’s twins, God is declaring that, though they have essentially the same nature and nurturing, He is going to give His favor to one over the other. The younger is going to receive the inheritance. God is choosing the younger twin to be the heir, the one who will receive and carry forth the covenant. Though this declaration may difficult for us to accept, is deeply instructive for us. It gives us insight into the providence of God and the salvation of man.
First, we see God’s purpose, His providence, overrides the traditions of man. According to the tradition of the culture during that time, the oldest male sibling would be given the lion’s share or bulk of the inheritance. He would receive most if not all the family inheritance. But God turns that tradition on its head by choosing the younger twin to receive the inheritance. God’s plan, His decrees, are not dependent upon man nor the traditions of man. Even more instructive for us here is the fact that we see the role of God’s providence in salvation.
In Romans 9, we read starting in verse 10, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were 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 him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 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 depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
There is so much we could unpack here but for our purposes we will focus on verses 10-13. God, speaking through the apostle Paul, gives us greater insight into the choice of the heir. Paul writes, though they had not yet been born and done nothing good or bad, God chose Jacob. In His providence, God determined that Jacob would be the heir and Esau would not. Because the purpose of God was stated before they were born, His choice of the heir was not dependent on their actions. God’s choosing of the heir, the passing of the inheritance, the blessing of salvation, is not based on foreseen actions, deeds, or faith. Rather, it is based on God’s sovereign grace that comes through faith in Christ.
It is all about God’s grace. Grace is a gift; it is not something that is earned. If grace could be earned or if it was due somehow, it would no longer be grace. It would be payment. It would be the wages or the compensation you are due. It’s like the difference between your paycheck that you get at the end of the week and the company dinner at Christmas. One is earned, the other arguably is unearned.
I remember back in the days of growing up on the farm, that Saturday was pay day. The workers would get their week’s pay every Saturday. That was their due, their earned wages. I worked too but didn’t get paid, that’s another lesson for another time. Every so often, my dad would have a little celebration for the workers, and we would enjoy a nice treat, typically in the form of a fresh picked watermelon, at the end of the work week. That was unearned. It was a gift from the goodness of my dad’s heart. At least I think it was.
It is the same with grace. We don’t deserve it. God doesn’t owe it to us.
We are owed something though. Because of man’s sin, all we are due, as Romans 6:23 tells us, is death and separation from God. Our due is Hell. So, if we are rescued from Hell, it is completely due to God’s free and amazing grace, His unearned favor.
The remainder of the passage begins the unfolding of God’s providential plan as it relates to Jacob and Esau and the future of their relationship. You see there in verse 25, the first born was covered in hair and ruddy. He was given the name Esau. The Hebrew word for Esau sounds like Seir, which is the name of the area where Esau would later live. The second born twin came out holding his brother’s heel. Scholars note that the symbolism here is obvious: the younger is holding onto the first, struggling, as if he is not going to allow his brother out before himself. This is a second indication of conflict between them, and it signifies the future relationship of the twins. Jacob’s name means, “one who takes by the heel”.
All this signifies the hostility that exists and will continue to exist, not just between the two brothers, but between the two groups that will descend from each. Ultimately, the people of the promise, and even the Messiah, will come through the lineage of Jacob. The descendants of the elder son, Esau, become the Edomites, who stand outside the line of God’s covenant promises. The chosen heir will be established through Jacob and will continue to receive the covenantal blessings.
Finally, we read in verses 27 through 28, that Esau grew up and was a skillful hunter while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Even these details foreshadow the grace of God in each brother’s life. Esau is a profane, rough and tumble man of the field whose appetite and desire to feed his belly outweighs his family’s future inheritance. Jacob demonstrates the grace of God in his life. Throughout all this we see God’s sovereignty on display, even in the last line. God’s sovereign choice will prevail over Isaac’s appetite for wild game and Isaac’s subsequent love of Esau, God’s sovereign choice will prevail to give Jacob the honor of the inheritance. We understand from a human perspective, Isaac loved Esau more and Rebecca love Jacob more. Despite that, we have seen in these verses this morning, that according to the providence of God, the passing of the inheritance happens in God’s timing and is given to God’s chosen heir.
Do you understand that all that comes to pass is ultimately determined by God? It can be hard to submit to the providence of God. Our flesh desires to be in control. We want God to submit to our will, rather than us submitting to His. That is why we must look to the one who submitted perfectly to the will of God. We must look in faith to Christ. In Matt: 26 Christ prayed, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Christ completely surrendered to the will of God. Are you surrendered to Christ?
This same Christ who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Christ submitted himself to the Father’s will, and because he did that perfectly, he secured the inheritance for his people. Are you one of God’s people? Have you trusted through faith in the one and only one through whom you can receive God’s inheritance?
If we are in Christ, we are the recipients of that inheritance, the inheritance of salvation. The inheritance of an eternal land in which we will experience peace and fellowship with God. Is that true for you? Are you trusting in the One who holds the inheritance? If you are, the promises and the blessings are yours in Christ. If not, I invite you to surrender to Christ. Trust in the work that Christ did to secure the inheritance for His people. Call on the name of the Lord, surrender to Christ and receive the inheritance.