A gracEmail reader in Texas writes, “Hebrews 11:20 says that ‘by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.’ Yet in Genesis 27, in which Jacob disguised himself as Esau to mislead his blind father and cheat his brother, Isaac’s blessings seem more the result of deception than of faith. What about this?”
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Apparently old Isaac believed “that God is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). In that confidence, fully aware of God’s prior promises to his father Abraham and to himself concerning their descendants, Isaac “blessed” Jacob and Esau — committing them to God’s care for the outworking of God’s sovereign purposes (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:13-21; 26:1-5). That is what it means, I think, that he did this “by faith.”
True, Isaac could not see the fulfillment of his words any more than he could see his deceitful son Jacob masquerading as Esau, but he trusted God to fulfil the prophetic words which he spoke to both sons. God’s purpose was not affected by Jacob’s deceit in this story, or by blind old Isaac’s mistake. Instead, it used both human elements, in keeping with God’s word to Rebekah, the boys’ mother, before these twins were born (Gen. 25:21-26).
This ancient story reminds us that we also can speak, plan and conduct our lives based on the same confidence Isaac had — that God, though unseen, is there, and that he is able and faithful to reward those who seek him. It is reassuring to know that we may live by faith in God’s promises even when, like Isaac, we do not have a clue concerning what we are doing or how God will fulfill his word. And it is comforting to remember that neither intentional human scheming nor inadvertent mistake can hinder God’s purpose or thwart his power.