Driven by Love

November 6, 2022 Preacher: Rev. Stacey Severance Series: Genesis

Scripture: Genesis 27:18–29

If someone asked you, “What is the number one rule in your home?”, what would you say? Some of you are raising children; some of you have raised children; some hope to. What should be Rule Number One in a household?

Or how about where you work? What is the foremost rule at your job? It makes for an interesting discussion.

Once there was a lawyer who tried publicly (and maliciously) to test Jesus’ knowledge and understanding of God’s rules. The lawyer said, “Teacher, which is the great (or the greatest) commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 

There’s no indication in the Scriptures that Jesus hesitated with his answer. Of all God’s rules, the preeminent one deals with love for God: being devoted to Him, reverent toward Him, grateful to Him, and determined with your whole self to follow His ways.

All the other rules of God - His other commandments or laws - follow after this one.

There’s no doubt that many different things compete for your love. Many things contend for first place in your heart and in your life. If you were told to list your loves in order of priority, you probably know the right answers. But your words and actions, even your thoughts and feelings, reveal what you love the most.

This part of Genesis 27 demonstrates how what we love drives what we do. Jesus says that loving God is the greatest commandment because humans are driven by love. We make our decisions based on what we love. It’s that simple. And that is what is on display here as Isaac, the father, blesses Jacob his son.

We’re going to deal with Jacob in future sermons because God deals with him later. These events take place near the end of Isaac’s life; Jacob’s life is just beginning. And Isaac’s feelings and actions reveal that his loves are out of order.

This doesn’t make him different from any of us. Our hearts are often divided. Even the great Israelite king David, a man after God’s own heart, sang to God, “Unite my heart.”

4th century church leader Augustine of Hippo studied the Scriptures, and he wrote about this. He pointed out that what we need is “love ordered rightly.” We need God to change our hearts so that our loves will exist in the right order.

Think again about the question that the lawyer asked Jesus. “What is the greatest commandment of God’s law?” What is the first rule of doing God’s will? Where do you start?

Jesus tells him that doing God’s will begins with love for God. Notice the sermon outline for you on page 6 in your WG. Today’s passage shows that rightly ordered love is necessary to truly discern and truly obey God’s will. God’s plans are fulfilled here in Genesis 27; however, the way it happens is not good. And yet even still God's love for Isaac will not change and God’s grace toward him will remain.

Now, two weeks ago we saw all kinds of trouble in the covenant family of Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac is ready to pass the covenant blessing on to Esau rather than Jacob, even though in God’s plan of election, Jacob is the rightful heir. Isaac told Esau to hunt down and kill an animal to cook and serve to him for this blessing. That was the ritual. 

But Isaac’s wife Rebekah overhears this and she devises a deceptive way around it. She knows that Jacob is the chosen one, and she sets out to trick Isaac into thinking that Jacob is Esau. Isaac was very old and he could not see. So Rebekah has Jacob put on some of Esau’s clothes, and he even puts animal hair on his body so that he appears hairy like his brother. So Jacob smells like Esau, he feels like Esau, he has the cooked-up meal like Esau.

Look again at verse [18] So he (Jacob) went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he (Isaac) said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” [19] Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 

Already Isaac is suspicious. He says “Who are you?” It sounds like Jacob. Isaac cannot see, but he can hear. Notice verse [20] But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” How is it that you’ve already hunted something, killed it, and prepared it to eat?  

This is a good question. If you’ve ever hunted before, you especially understand this. There’s a lot of waiting involved. It’s a lot like fishing. You can go all day and return home  with no fish. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “That’s why they call it ‘fishing’ and not ‘catching!’” 

Look at Jacob’s reply. He answered, “Because the LORD your God granted me success.” That’s not exactly true. But like I said, God will deal with Jacob later. Verse [21] Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 

Why wouldn’t it be Esau? Because it doesn’t sound like him. Verse [22] So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” [23] And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 

This is a little bit puzzling at first. Isaac blesses the right son, but he doesn’t mean to. I want to bring to your attention what the writer of the NT book of Hebrews says about Isaac. Hebrews 11 is commonly referred to as “the hall of faith.” It honors various OT people who demonstrated great faith in God. Verse 20 of Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” By faith. 

If Isaac is going against what is right in Gen. 27, why does he receive honor in Hebrews 11? Well, it’s because, technically, Isaac’s problem was not his faith. His problem was his love.

He’s performing the ritual of blessing because he had faith in the promises of God. And yet, Isaac had what 16th century pastor John Calvin calls “an inordinate love of Esau, which had taken entire possession of his mind.” His love for the other son was “inordinate,” which is to say, it was unreasonable. He had a disordered love for his son. He loved his son Esau so much that he disregarded God’s will. Why would he do this?

Well, Esau was Isaac’s kind of guy. He could hunt down wild game, skin it, and cook it up. Isaac loved that. And certainly Isaac wanted his son Esau to be happy with him. Passing over Esau to bless Jacob was not going to make Esau happy with him. 

But blessing Jacob was God’s will for Isaac. So why would Isaac choose to do this? Disordered love. Rightly ordered love is necessary to truly discern God’s will. To perceive His will, to truly recognize it.

Remember, Isaac was suspicious. He didn’t have all of his senses. He couldn’t see. But something felt off to him. You will find that at times your discernment is a “mixed bag.”

God’s will may seem clear, and yet…something doesn’t feel right. In those times, you must have to step back and ask, “What is driving me here? What do I love the most at this moment?” In fact, in all matters of discernment we must ask this.

Jesus said you cannot serve two masters. Inevitably, you hate one and love the other. 

In your decision making, as you attempt to discern God’s will, are you examining not only the circumstances, not only the clues that you hope will lead you in the right direction, but the true love of your heart? What love is driving you? The Scripture is clear: Isaac did not recognize Jacob. But isn’t it also true that Isaac wanted it to be Esau? And the way seemed to be clear, so he’s happy to bestow the covenant blessing. He questions Jacob once more, but hearing what he wants to hear, he moves from decision making to action.

Look at verse 26. “Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” [27] So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!”

This must be right, he thinks. Without rightly ordered love, Isaac’s discernment is off. And now his obedience is misplaced, at least from his perspective. In verses 28 and 29, he initiates the blessing meant for Jacob. It includes blessings of prosperity and plenty from God, fruitfulness from God, authority and dominion that is God-given, and protection from God. The redemptive plan of God must be carried on. Isaac says these words by faith.

We talk all the time in the church about faith, and we should. Faith is essential. We talk a tremendous amount about hope, and we should. Hope is crucial. But in 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul writes something that echoes those words of Jesus which I read to you earlier which are actually words stated by God in Deuteronomy 6 in the OT. 

Here’s what Paul writes. “Faith, hope, and love remain…but the greatest of these is love.” Love of God is the greatest commandment. Paul even says, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back and say, “Look what I did by faith! I did the hard thing. I had the discipline and the determination. I was obedient!”

But were you driven by love? Did the love of God have a hold on your heart? Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. 

Do you want to do the will of God? Good! In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul tells the churches: 

“This is the will of God, your sanctification.” In other words, your holiness, your heart devoted to God in love. The fulfillment of the greatest commandment in your life. Rightly ordered love is necessary to truly obey God’s will.

And so honestly, who can do this? Who can generate and possess this kind of pure love? The apostle John tells us. He says, “This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” – the means of our forgiveness.

How do we get rightly ordered love? God must transform us by His grace.

One fascinating thing about this part of Gen. 27 is that in spite of Isaac’s disordered love, God still accomplishes His will! In the big picture, God was gracious to Isaac! God is able to work even through our faulty discernment and our warped obedience!

It is amazing what God accomplishes in spite of us! And surely nothing is more amazing than what He accomplishes in us.

You see, when God saves a person from sin, He begins a work in that person in which, over time, He transforms the heart and puts the loves in the right order. God works providentially in our circumstances and through our failures; and also, He transforms us by increasing our knowledge and understanding of His gospel. 

Pastor and scholar Sinclair Ferguson puts this great biblical truth in very clear terms. He says, “Understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself…leads to a new love for and obedience to the law of God.”  The gospel changes us, and Jesus himself is the gospel. Who Jesus is and what He has done fully reveals the love of God to us. Who Jesus is and what He had done fully restores us to God.

Now, did Isaac know the grace of God? Well let’s see. He didn’t know the name of Jesus Christ, but he knew the gracious covenant promises of God. 

He knew of God’s gracious covenant ceremony with his father, Abraham. 

Isaac himself had received the gracious sign of God’s covenant on his own body. 

Isaac had seen God’s gracious provision of a sacrifice in place of his own life on Mt. Moriah. 

He had seen God’s gracious provision of a wife for him, and he had seen God’s gracious provision of his sons, because his wife had been barren, unable to conceive.

And Isaac had seen God’s gracious blessing toward him though he had sinned repeatedly against God.

Isaac most certainly experienced God’s unmerited, unearned favor toward him. But Isaac had lost sight of God’s grace because his loves were out of order.

What do you love so much that it causes you to lose sight of God’s grace and what it means to truly love and obey Him? Can you admit it to God and just believe in the One whom He sent? 

Just believe that what Jesus did in his life, death, and resurrection was enough?

Just believe that God loved you even when you didn’t love Him?

Just believe that Jesus Christ was driven by love - pure, God-centered love!

It was God-centered love that brought Jesus into this world, and took him through life on earth,and led Him to the cross, and raised Him from the dead. Will you believe in Him who was driven by love?

Let’s bow together in prayer.