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The Older Shall Serve the Younger
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor
Overview: The death of Abraham marks the end of an era but not the end of God’s promises, which will continue through the line of Isaac and Rebekah. Like Sarah before, Rebekah is barren until the Lord graciously grants children to her in light of Isaac’s prayers. The difficulty she experiences in pregnancy foreshadows the difficulties Israel will face in the future as the two children become progenitors of two disparate nations. Although Esau and Jacob are born into the family of promise, only Jacob will carry the promises to the next generation. This surprising turn of events, where the older serves the younger, is the result of a sovereign decree that is manifested early in the lives of the two brothers. The theological import of this episode is provided in Romans 9 where the Apostle Paul reminds us that God’s purpose of election is not a result of our works but His grace, while also assuring us that our actions matter and have consequences.
01. God’s purpose of election does not depend on human agency but upon His mercy; therefore, let us not question His wisdom or love but thank and praise Him for such marvelous grace.
02. God’s purpose of election does not negate human responsibility but is evident in our actions; therefore, let our lives demonstrate that we truly trust in the Lord and are truly living for Him.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION & DISCOVERY
1. How many sons did Abraham father after the death of Sarah? Why do you suppose God gave him so many sons afterward when he and Sarah struggled for so long to have but one? In what way did Abraham ensure that Isaac alone would be seen as the true heir to the promises?
2. When Abraham left Haran in Genesis 12, the Lord promised him descendants and land, and that he would be a blessing to the world. In what way were these promises fulfilled by the time he died? In what way did these promises continue to expand after his death? What does this gradual fulfillment of God’s promises suggest to us about the need to live by faith?
3. Note the connection between Sarah and Rebekah with respect to being barren. Why is this connection important? How long does Isaac pray for her before the Lord answers his prayer? How did the promises of God fuel his prayers for so long? How do the promises of God and the words of Scripture fuel your prayers?
4. What is the significance of Esau and Jacob’s names? How do Jacob’s actions illustrate the meaning of his name? What do Esau’s actions suggest about his dismissal of the promises of God in light of his desire for immediate satisfaction? Are you living for the moment only, or living for eternity also?
5. What theological lesson does the Apostle Paul draw from this episode in Romans 9? How does God’s choice of Jacob demonstrate God’s grace over and against Jacob’s works? What does this text suggest about the importance of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility?
For Further Reading: D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension (Wipf & Stock, 2002)