The Flesh Versus the Spirit.
Genesis 27, Matthew 14
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. – Genesis 28:15 ESV
The entire Bible is a picture of God working in the midst of and, in most cases, in spite of man. So far we have seen even those who had been chosen by God and given the promises of God, acting as sometimes unwilling and unhelpful participants in God’s plan. That pattern continues in chapters 27 and 28 as we read about Jacob’s deception of his father in order to receive a blessing from him. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, plays a major role in Jacob’s decision, encouraging him to deceive his father in order to cheat his brother out of his blessing. We see in this story a cast of characters controlled by their senses. The physical and sensual play a major role in all that happens. Isaac is physically old and suffering from the effects of his dying body. Yet he is driven by a desire for food and sends out his son, Esau, to kill some game and prepare him his favorite stew. Rebekah, driven by a desire to see her favorite son, Jacob, receive the blessing, allows her sin nature to control her decision making. She concocts a plan to involve Jacob in an elaborate ruse, designed to deceive her own husband and cheat her own son, Esau. Her sinful passions, while probably well-intentioned, are vividly on display in this story. Jacob, a willing pawn in his mother’s hands, allows his lust for more – a blessing AND the birthright – to drive his actions. Esau, once he discovered what had been done to him, is driven by revenge and an unbearable desire to be blessed by his father. His disappointment will drive him to seek the death of his own twin brother.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Yet, in spite of all the sinful passions the permeate these two chapters, God is in control. His will is being done – in spite of the motley cast of characters that make up this story. God does not condone Rebekah’s scheming and Jacob’s willful deceitfulness. But He uses their sinful actions to accomplish His divine will. What they meant for evil, God will use for good.
And yet, there is both pain and punishment involved in the actions of Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, while blessed, will have to run for his life. His actions drive a wedge between he and his brother. He is forced to leave home and take up residence with his uncle. As a result, his self-imposed exile will ensure that he never sees his mother and father again. He will live in fear of his brother, Esau, for years. Rebekah will live out the rest of her life knowing her favorite son had received the blessing, but never getting to hold him in her arms again. There are always consequences to our sins, but God is always accomplishing His will in spite of them. He did not abandon His promise because of Jacob’s actions. He remained faithful to His word, regardless of the unfaithfulness and unrighteousness of those through whom He was going to fulfill his word. Even after all Jacob had done, God reaffirmed His covenant promise to him. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15 ESV). Regardless of Jacob’s actions, God was promising to remain with him and to someday restore him to the land. You see this pattern all throughout the lives of the people of Israel. One day they would find themselves living in exile in Egypt, and God would faithfully restore them to the land. Generations later, they would find themselves living in exile in Babylon and, once again, God would faithfully restore them to the land. Years later, the people would find themselves living in spiritual exile in the land, and God would send His Son in an effort to restore them to a right relationship with Him. God has been and always will be faithful to His word. He is the covenant-keeping God.
What does this passage reveal about man?
At heart, we are all schemers and deceivers. We are driven by our senses and controlled by our passions. The physical world is the greatest barrier to our spiritual development. Our lust for more of what this world has to offer make it difficult for us to enjoy all the spiritual blessings God has promised. You see in the story of Jacob, the ease at which our passions for the physical can easily overshadow our faith in the promises of God. The enemy is always at work behind the scenes tempting us to doubt God and trust in that which we can see, hold, feel, touch, and taste. And yet, the majority of the blessings of God are spiritual in nature. They are eternal, not temporal. If you think about the gifts of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – they are all spiritual in nature. And yet, they have physical implications. They show up in the physical world, but are made possible only by the Spirit of God. Any attempt to manufacture them in the flesh always fails. No one can make themselves more patient. You can fake love, but you can’t make the real thing. The physical and spiritual are always at odds in our lives. That why Paul wrote, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV).
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
I have to constantly remind myself that God’s divine plan for mankind is far greater and more important than my self-centered plans for myself. He is going to accomplish what He has promised to Abraham. He will fulfill His promises to Isaac and Jacob. He will follow through on all His commitments to the people of Israel. He will come through on all He has promised for the body of Christ. And He will complete what He has begun in my life. My petty passions and selfish desires for the physical things of this earth do not thwart God or harm His plan, but they do make my life more difficult. I can choose to do it His way or my way, but irregardless, God will always have His way. Jacob made his life far more difficult than it had to be. His life would not be an easy one. But God would still accomplish His will through him – in most cases, in spite of him. It would be far more pleasant to live in obedience to God and enjoy His blessings, than to resist Him or attempt to somehow “help” Him and have to suffer the consequences of my sin.
I can’t help but think about Peter in the story found in Matthew 14. He and the rest of the disciples of Jesus are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night, experiencing strong waves and winds. They see Jesus walking on the water toward them in the midst of the storm and Peter begs Jesus to command that he be able to walk on the water too. Jesus simply said, “Come!” And Peter did. But then he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on the wind and the waves. He became overwhelmed with the physical and lost sight of the spiritual. His ability to walk on water was a miracle. It was supernatural and impossible, but Peter became obsessed once again with the natural, and he sank like a rock. But Jesus was there. He rescued Peter, lifting him out of the water and placing him back in the boat. But Jesus’ words still ring true today. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28 ESV). The life of the believer is to be one of faith. It is to be lived by faith, not sight. It is to be based on the spiritual, not the physical. With God, nothing is impossible. But it is so easy to let the physical realm rob us of the spiritual reality of the promises and power of God in our lives.
Father, I want to trust You more and lean less and less on the things of this world. I want to be spiritually-motivated, not earthly-minded. I want to trust You more and the things of this earth less. I want to develop an internal, rather than a temporal, perspective. Forgive me for my doubt. Help my unbelief. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men