26:25 Then Isaac built an altar there (where the Lord appeared to him) and worshiped the Lord. What was the purpose of the altar? We see that Isaac worshiped at the place where God met him and gave him a promise, but note he "built" the altar, which was probably constructed of rocks and would serve as a permanent reminder of his encounter with God.
27:4 Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die. Little did Isaac know that he was about to pronounce the blessing to his second born son. There is an interesting similarity between Jews and Gentiles. Israel was called God's firstborn son (Exodus 4:22) but in a sense, Israel sold "his" birthright to the second born son (Gentiles) and missed the blessing, too. "But did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God had said, ‘I will rouse your jealousy by blessing other nations. I will make you angry by blessing the foolish Gentiles (Romans 10:19).'" But the important difference is that Esau forfeited his blessing for all time, whereas the Jewish people who are unbelieving will regain their blessing during the tribulation (note: there has always been a remnant of Jewish people who regard Jesus as their Messiah and who did not forfeit the blessing).
27:29 May you be the master over your brothers... Here Isaac seals the blessing for Jacob that was promised when the Lord visited Rebekah during her pregnancy: the descendants of your older son will serve the descendants of your younger son (Gen. 25:23)." Once again, Rebekah did not have to resort to trickery. Even if Isaac had blessed Esau, it would have meant nothing because God had already given the blessing to Jacob.
I like the commentary on this passage: Instead of trusting God to fulfill what He had promised in Genesis 25:23, Rebekah goes about to "do what is right" in the flesh. Good intentions don't justify acting in the flesh! But again, Isaac is no less scheming than Rebekah. In the willfulness of his old age, he is determined to pass on the blessing to Esau, despite what the Lord has said and what the boys have shown with their lives. The fact Isaac is trying to dispense the blessing secretly shows he knows what he is doing is wrong. Sadly, in this house, no one trusted anyone else.
Jacob, true to his name ("trickster" or "scoundrel"), is all too willing to go along with this plan. His only concern is whether or not it will succeed. When we are willing to abandon the question of right and wrong, and when our only concern is "what works," we have bought into the modern idea of pragmatism, as much of the church has today. Jacob, the scoundrel, does not hesitate to bring in God as a party to his deception. He says, "Because the Lord your God brought it to me."
How can he do this? Simply because his only concern is "what works." Since he knows God wants him to have the birthright, he will justify any lie or sin he commits in the pursuit of the birthright and say he is making a stand for righteousness! He justified it to himself by saying his sinful conduct was fulfilling the promise of God.
Significantly, at this point, who is not in the flesh? None of them! Even Esau, in agreeing to Isaac's plan to give him the birthright, disregarded his previous promise to allow Jacob to have the birthright. The worst aspect of this all is they seem to regard the blessing as "magical," as something detached from God's wisdom and will. But the most Isaac can do is recognize God's call and blessing on Jacob. Only God can truly bestow the blessing. Esau could receive the blessing from Isaac a hundred times, but it only matters if God in heaven honors it. "The point is that the sovereign will of God is done, in spite of our or any other person's opposition to it." (Boice)
Remember, there are consequences for taking matters into our own hands, getting ahead of God, and justifying sin as a means to gain His promise to us through our own means. Had Jacob waited for God to fulfill the blessings instead of deceiving his father, he would not have brought the serious discord between he and his brother that we will see in coming chapters.
9:2 Why did Jesus tell the paralytic his sins were forgiven first instead of healing him? Wouldn't healing him first have made a bolder statement? Jesus did this for at least 2 reasons:
1. He set the Pharisees up so He could reveal their unbelief and powerlessness. You can see that by claiming forgiveness first, Jesus got quite a reaction and really got their attention. If he'd healed the man physically first, it wouldn't have had the same effect of showing the Pharisees His deity. The unseen miracle held more intrigue when followed by the seen miracle.
2. He did the greater healing first. Of course, what the paralytic really needed was eternal life, even more than he needed to walk. Jesus showed that the spiritual healing takes precedence over the physical healing.
11-13: Healthy people don't need a doctor-sick people do. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." I have noticed in many churches today that it is not popular, proper, or even acceptable to admit you struggle with sin, especially certain sins like pornography, adultery, domestic violence, drinking, etc. Many people put on masks of being steady, solid, unwavering Christians on Sunday, but the rest of the week, their lives are a mess. They are locked in a prison of pretense. Others keep those who struggle locked in prison by not allowing the truth to surface lest it contaminate everyone else. Until we recognize our need to admit our sickness, weakness, fragility, and sin, we will not find the healing we so desperately need. As the old adage says, "You are only as sick as your secrets." If our church is not a nurturing environment or hospital for sinners, we have missed the ministry of Jesus both corporately, and individually. We have become nothing more than Pharisees.
9:15-17 New Wineskins. When Julie is clueless, there is always commentary: Jesus' reference to the wineskins is His announcement that the present institutions of Judaism could not, and would not, contain His new wine. He would form a new institution, the church, which would bring Jew and Gentile together into a completely new body (Ephesians 2:14-18). Jesus reminds us that what is old and stagnant often cannot be renewed. God will often look for new vessels to contain His new work, until those vessels make themselves unusable. For more on this topic, you can also visit Wickipedia.
Questions for personal reflection:
What are some of the places where God has met you in life with a word or a touch? Did you build an altar to remember? If so, what was your altar "constructed" of?
If not, would you consider building an altar now to remember your Amazing God and how He worked in your life? Some people might keep a tangible reminder in a prominent place in their homes, or plant a tree, or wear a piece of jewelry. Many of my altars of remembrance are contained in my writings, whether used publicly or kept in my prayer journals.
Are you waiting on a promise God has given you? Do you get tempted to arrange the fulfillment of it by your own devices?
Is your home, your small group, and your church a hospital for the hurting, or a prison of pretense? What can you do to bring about change, if anything?