The Mystery of God
Friday of Pentecost 9
11 August 2017
We never know how God will use us to work His purposes. It is hard to see the divine pathways in the world. The saints of the Bible often missed the divine pathways, because the Lord God was hiding His glory from them and forcing them to hope in His mysterious ways. The story of Jacob being blessed by Isaac and receiving the divine blessing is certainly one of those instances of the hiddenness of God's glory, in which no human comes out looking particularly well and God is glorified by His gracious actions toward sinful men. Isaac set his heart on the manly man, Esau. His father appreciated this man because of his great abilities as a huntsman. Jacob was not honored because of his quiet and homely demeanor. The choice of the father was expected to fall upon the "Mensch:" Esau. Instead, God had it in his heart to extend the messianic line through the quiet man, Jacob. The mystery of God is unfathomable according to human standards.
 
The blessing of Jacob is all the more mysterious when we consider that his name, Jacob, implied that he was less than guileless. Jacob means something like "supplanter." Jacob may have thought himself quite shrewd in bargaining away from Esau the birthright. Yet God blessed him by grace with that which he thought he had earned. He was not aware that his action ran within the divine pathway to the fulfillment of the promise in Christ. Augustine reveled in the irony of the guileful man being led into an unexpected and unpredictable role as a guileless and quiet receiver of the grace of God. Even when we think we are acting and accomplishing something specific with our cunning and strength, God often accomplishes very different things in our lives than the ones which we have expected. His grace is hidden under the spiritual weakness of our own strength.
 
Although we should not make too much of this, that Jacob was wrapped in animal skins when he received the messianic blessing is at least note worthy. When Adam and Eve were found to be fouled by sin by their heavenly Father, He Himself prepared for them the animal skins which would cover their shame (Gn 3:21), already showing that only death could cover sin and wickedness and foreshadowing the purpose of the promised Seed fulfilled in Christ the sacrificial Lamb. Only as Jacob came into the presence of his father to receive the messianic blessing covered by skins was he able to receive what he could not fathom nor expect by right. Augustine thinks that this covering meant that Jacob became a sin bearer in anticipation of the Messiah. Perhaps he is right. However, it may also be that only those covered by the sacrificial victim may approach the sacred mystery of the messianic blessing. For us the divine pathways are set toward the altar where the body and blood of Christ cover our sin and set us in the messianic train, following where Jacob led in the mystery of God. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Isaac's two sons, Esau and Jacob, grew up together. The primacy of the elder was transferred to the younger by a bargain and agreement between them, when the elder immoderately lusted after the lentils the younger had prepared for food, and for that price sold his birthright to him, confirming it with an oath. We learn from this that a person is to be blamed, not for the kind of food he eats, but for immoderate greed.
 
"Isaac grew old, and old age deprived him of his eyesight. He wished to bless the elder son, and instead of the elder, who was hairy, unwittingly he blessed the younger, who put himself under his father's hands, having covered himself with kid-skins, as if bearing the sins of others. Lest we should think this guile of Jacob's was fraudulent guile, instead of seeking in it the mystery of a great thing, the Scripture has predicted in the words just before, 'Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents' (Gn 25:27). Some of our writers have interpreted this, 'without guile.' But whether the Greek means 'without guile,' or 'quiet,' or rather 'without reigning,' in the receiving of that blessing what is the guile of the man without guile? What is the guile of the simple, what the fiction of the man who does not lie, but a profound mystery of the truth? But what is the blessing itself? Isaac says, 'Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness-- an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed' (Gn 27:27-29).
 
"The blessing of Jacob is therefore a proclamation of Christ to all nations. It is this which has come to pass, and is now being fulfilled. Isaac is the law and the prophecy. Even by the mouth of the Jews Christ is blessed by prophecy as by one who knows not, because it is itself not understood. The world like a field is filled with the odor of Christ's name: His is the blessing of the dew of heaven, that is, of the showers of divine words; and of the fruitfulness of the earth, that is, of the gathering together of the peoples. His is the plenty of corn and wine, that is, the multitude that gathers bread and wine in the sacrament of His body and blood. Him the nations serve, Him princes adore. He is the Lord of His brethren, because His people rule over the Jews. Him His Father's sons adore, that is, the sons of Abraham according to faith; for He Himself is the son of Abraham according to the flesh. He is cursed that curses Him, and he that blesses Him is blessed. Christ, I say, who is ours is blessed, that is, truly spoken of out of the mouths of the Jews, when, although erring, they yet sing the law and the prophets, and think they are blessing another for whom they erringly hope. So, when the elder son claims the promised blessing, Isaac is greatly afraid, and wonders when he knows that he has blessed one instead of the other, and demands who he is; yet he does not complain that he has been deceived. Indeed, when the great mystery is revealed to him, in his secret heart he at once shuns anger, and confirms the blessing. 'Who was it, then,' he says, 'that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him-- and indeed he will be blessed!' (Gn 27:33). Who would not rather have expected the curse of an angry man here, if these things had been done in an earthly manner, and not by inspiration from above? O things done, yet done prophetically; on the earth, yet celestially; by men, yet divinely! If everything that is fertile of so great mysteries should be examined carefully, many volumes would be filled."

Augustine, The City of God, 16.37
Genesis 27:18-29
  
So Jacob went in to his father and said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am. Who are you, my son?" 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." But Isaac said to his son, "How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?" He answered, "Because the LORD your God granted me success." 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." 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." And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands. So he blessed him. He said, "Are you really my son Esau?" He answered, "I am." Then he said, "Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son's game and bless you." So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, "Come near and kiss me, my son." 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! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!" (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have become the blessing of the whole world. Give me grace to speak Your name to those who know You not. Cover sinners like us in your grace-giving blood, that we might live in the mystery of Your divine pathways in faith. Amen.
 
For Pastor Robert W. Paul, who will be installed as Headmaster and Associate Pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord of the Church would bless him in his labors
 
For Brenda Blackwell, who is undergoing surgery, that Lord would watch over her and bring her fully recovery
 
For Cathy Jutzi, that the Lord Jesus would watch over her bringing her health and healing
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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