Thursday, July 19, 2007

Isaac and Rebecca:Rearing Rivals

Let’s allow A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 messengers, to set the tone for this lesson study:

“Thus it was that ‘by the word of the Lord’ all things were created. He spoke the word only, and it was so: the word spoken, itself produced the thing.

“Thus it was in creation. And thus it was in redemption: he healed the sick, he cast out devils, he stilled the tempest, he cleansed the lepers, he raised the dead, he forgave sins, all by his word. In this, also, ‘he spake, and it was.’

“And so he is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. Always he is the Creator. And always he does all things by his word only. And always he can do all things by his word; because it is the very characteristic of the word of God, that it is possessed of the divine power by which itself accomplishes the thing which is spoken.

“This is why it is that faith is the knowing that in the word of God there is this power, the expecting the word itself to do the thing spoken, and the depending upon that word itself to do that which the word speaks.

“The teaching of faith is the teaching that such is the nature of the word of God; the teaching of people to exercise faith is the teaching them to expect the word of God to do what it says, and to depend upon it to do the thing which is by it spoken; the cultivating of faith is by practise [sic] to cause to grow confidence in the power of the word of God itself to do what in that word is said, and dependence upon that word itself to accomplish what the word says.

“And ‘the knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired.’

“Are you cultivating faith?” (Lessons on Faith, p 18, orig. ed.; emphasis original).

Rebecca heard the word of God. “The elder shall serve the younger.” Jacob would receive the birthright.

It is possible to believe that God’s word actually does have inherent within it the power to create what it says. It is possible to believe this while at the same time expecting that His word will do what it says. However, do you believe that God’s word only actually will do what it says—for you? Or do you believe that God has to “help” you do what He says? So often, more often than any of us truly know, we can act as if we believe that God is our helper. That God gives the big idea, and it is our job to carry out His idea, and the result is that God becomes our “helper.”

This may very well be what Rebecca believed (and also her mother-in-law, Sarah, before her). God said, “The older would serve the younger.” (And to Abraham and Sarah, “You will have a son.”—even though you are past the age of having children.) And Rebecca set out to accomplish God’s will. The results were disastrous. The deception—bold and crass.

We may not be as bold or crass as Rebecca and Jacob were, but we can be just as full of unbelief. What does it mean to depend on God’s word only to do what it says?

A hypothetical story is told of a man standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, a huge hole in the ground in the southwestern United States about ten miles wide. He has stretched a tight rope across the canyon, then takes a wheelbarrow and walks the full twenty-mile round trip across that canyon with the wheelbarrow. When he returns he asks the crowd that had gathered whether they thought he could do it again with a person in the wheelbarrow. And everybody raised their hand, “Yes, I have faith. Yes you can do it again with someone in the wheelbarrow.” So he asks them, “Who will volunteer to go in the wheelbarrow?” No one responded. No one would get in the wheelbarrow.

If Rebecca had depended on God’s word only to do what it says, would she have needed to carry out the deception? God would have worked it out in His own way, and the result would have been realized much more smoothly. I’m not sure how it would have worked out. Maybe Isaac would have just made the correct decision through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Maybe Esau would have simply walked away from the birthright that he did not seem to care about anyway. But it never ceases to amaze me the way God works out events, if we will simply believe Him and stay out of the way!

These thoughts go deep into our subconscious. Back in the deep recesses of our minds, when confronted with a project, we immediately try to figure out how to accomplish the task. Then we may ask God to “help” us. Either way, the term for this is “Old Covenant.”

The better way is the response of Abraham (in his better moments) and also that of Mary. “Behold the handmaid (or handyman) of the Lord. Let it be as Thou hast said.” Having responded that way to the Lord, my advice is to fasten your seat belts. You are in for a ride. God will take you places and at speeds that you do not expect.

The very thing that Rebecca craved for Jacob was the very thing she already had—the promises to Abraham. She merely needed to believe, truly believe, the word of God, depending on that word only to do what it said. Thus through exercising that faith, she would have realized her heart’s desire, and more. And all this without the heartache that accompanied her the rest of her life.

How is it with you today? Do you expect God to “help” you? Do you expect to become righteous with His “help”? Or do you claim God’s promise and tell Him, “I don’t know how in the world you are going to make a Christian out of me, but you have promised—and I claim that promise. I lay myself at your feet, including all of my plans, my hopes, my dreams, and my aspirations that you may work out the details of my life according to your will. Thank you. Amen.”

—Craig Barnes

If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Messages in the Bible,” please request it from: Or, download the PDF document here.

(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 3 now in MP3 format. To recieve as a podcast go to Wolf's Oath Audio.