Introduction: Sometimes, after a death in the family a lawyer reads a will to the surviving family members. As the will is read, some family members accept their inheritance with humility and gratitude, while others might respond in anger or surprise at their inheritance. In Genesis 25 we see no surprises about the inheritance. Abraham’s sons all know that Isaac will receive the blessing. Later, Isaac’s son, Jacob, is the one chosen to receive the blessing. Abraham left his material inheritance to his family, and he left his spiritual inheritance to all those who believe in Jesus Christ. Abraham left us a clear inheritance of salvation by faith; he trusted the one true and living God.
Abraham provides for his many sons, but Isaac gets the blessing (Genesis 25: 1-11).
Ishmael has many sons (Genesis 25: 12-18).
Isaac’s son Jacob tries to insure his inheritance (Genesis 25:19-34).
1. Abraham provides for his many sons, but Isaac gets the blessing (Gen 25: 1-11).
Explain: Abraham eventually had many sons. His first was Ishmael, then Isaac, then the sons from the wife he took after Sarah’s death. Abraham provided for all of his sons, but Isaac was the one to whom he gave the blessing. “Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east” (vv. 5-6). “After Abraham’ s death, God blessed his son, Isaac …” (v. 11). Abraham faithfully, though not flawlessly, followed God’s plan. He made provision for God’s plan to continue after him. Because Abraham had made his desires known throughout his lifetime, after his death there was no surprise in the distribution of his property. He would follow God’s will, and Isaac would be the one to inherit the blessing, according to what God had told Abraham before Isaac’s birth. Isaac was the one through whom God’s purposes would be worked out.
Illustrate: That’s not fair! We often hear people complaining that something isn’t fair. Why didn’t God allow Abraham to divide his fortune evenly between all his sons? Why did Isaac get all the blessing? Simply put, “Because God said so.” But why was it God’s plan for Isaac to be Abraham’s rightful heir? In this case, God had clearly spoken that the blessing of multiple descendants and possession of land would go to the child born of Abraham and Sarah. As we have seen throughout Scripture, God keeps His word. God also kept His word to Hagar and made Ishmael a father of many nations as well. Abraham was conscientious and gracious toward all his sons, insuring they had gifts before he died.
Apply: What seems unfair in your life? Did God give someone else more gifts, better parents, better children, more opportunities? Sometimes people decide their lives have been unfair, so they become bitter and angry and stop serving the Lord. Perhaps we need to take our eyes off the physical things we’ve inherited and focus on our inheritance in the Lord! We’re all richly blessed in Him with a Savior, with a purposeful life, and with an eternal future with the Lord. Divine sovereignty doesn’t destroy human responsibility. Let’s accept what God has given us with thankful hearts. Because our true inheritance comes from the Lord—not from man.
2. Ishmael has many sons (Gen 25: 12-18).
God heard Hagar’s cries and He promised her He would make her son into a great nation (Genesis 16:10, 17:20-21 and 21:18). Sometimes we forget that God had promises and a plan for Ishmael also. Isaac received Abraham’s blessing, but, as God had promised, Ishmael had 12 sons, who became tribal rulers (Genesis 25:16).
Illustrate: Sometimes people try to get an elderly man or woman to change his/her will and name different heirs. Occasionally the aged person does change the will, but later the rightful heirs have the decision reversed in court. Hagar was despondent about her son and cried out to God, and God gave him a blessing, but He didn’t take away Isaac’s blessing to do it. We cannot determine our own inheritance. Our inheritance depends on the One who gives it.
Apply: From birth we depend on the older generation to take care of us until we can take care of ourselves. We should be grateful for the previous generation’s wisdom, knowledge, and traditions; they’re important for the next generation. Imagine how difficult it would be for each generation to start from scratch. God gave Isaac and Ishmael promises about their lives, and He fulfilled them. God didn’t reverse them—Ishmael’s descendents did become a mighty nation; he was the father of 12 rulers. Ishmael had the same choice as Isaac to come to faith in Abraham’s God or to turn his back on God. Sadly, he made the wrong choice.
The Central Idea? Our true inheritance comes from the Lord—not from man.
3. Isaac’s son Jacob tries to insure his inheritance (Gen 25:19-34).
Again, there should have been no surprise about who was to inherit the blessing from Isaac. After a 20-year wait for their child, Rebekah became pregnant with twins. Rebekah could not understand what was happening to her as her babies were “jostling in the womb,” so she asked God about it. “The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’” When the twin boys were born, the older was red and hairy, and they named him Esau. The younger was born grasping his brother’s heel. They named him Jacob. In time, Esau became Isaac’s favorite, and Rebekah favored Jacob. The boys were polar opposites, and their parents’ conduct served to divide them even more. Despite God’s statement to Rebekah that her older son would serve her younger, Genesis 25:29-34 describes how Jacob insured the birthright inheritance by manipulating his older brother. Jacob schemed and took advantage of his brother’s hunger and made Esau swear to sell his birthright for a dish of stew. “So Esau despised his birthright.”
God had promised Rebekah that Jacob would have the inheritance, but Jacob tried to accomplish on his own what God had already promised. In manipulating his brother, it became obvious that Jacob was deceptive, but Esau was impulsive and shortsighted—willing to sell his future for instant gratification. Our motorways are peppered with large bright warning signs. These are “loud” signs that tell us to slow down and approach carefully. But the Lord warns us in a still, small voice: “Careful! Be Patient! Wait on Me!”
Apply: We continue to see these patriarchs causing themselves problems by trying to work out God’s purposes on their own. Abraham and Sarah became impatient, did things their own way, and Ishmael was born. Here, instead of patiently waiting for God to accomplish His own purpose, Jacob tries to speed things up by scheming and by manipulating his brother. In the next chapter we’ll see all the pain Jacob causes with his impatient plans. Now Jacob owns the birthright, but he has to flee; the birthright didn’t bring him any joy. Do we become impatient and manipulate situations and people to try to work out God’s will for Him? Is God telling you to be careful, to be patient, to wait on Him? Jacob didn’t believe God’s promises and inheritance could be his apart from his own sinful manipulation of Esau. Do I do that?
Do I take “shortcuts” instead of waiting and trusting God? Faith and scheming can’t coexist. Because our true inheritance comes from the Lord—not from man. Sometimes, when we read Scripture, we can think God’s plans seem unfair. However, when we look at the results of who God picked to inherit His blessings, we have to conclude that God knew what he was doing. Once upon a time…
Final Illustration: “A certain man had two sons. One was rich and the other was poor. The rich son had no children while the poor son was blessed with many sons and many daughters. In time the father fell ill. He was sure he would not live through the week so on Saturday he called his sons to his side and gave each of them half of the land of their inheritance. Then he died. Before sundown the sons buried their father with respect as custom requires. That night the rich son could not sleep. He said to himself, ‘What my father did was not just. I am rich, my brother is poor. I have bread enough and to spare, while my brother’s children eat one day and trust God for the next. I must move the landmark which our father has set in the middle of the land so that my brother will have the greater share. Ah – but he must not see me. If he sees me he will be shamed. I must arise early in the morning before it is dawn and move the landmark!’ With this he fell asleep and his sleep was secure and peaceful. Meanwhile, the poor brother could not sleep. As he lay restless on his bed he said to himself, ‘What my father did was not just. Here I am surrounded by the joy of many sons and many daughters, while my brother daily faces the shame of having no sons to carry on his name and no daughters to comfort him in his old age. He should have the land of our fathers. Perhaps this will in part compensate him for his indescribable poverty. Ah – but if I give it to him he will be shamed. I must awake early in the morning before it is dawn and move the landmark which our father has set!’ With this he went to sleep and his sleep was secure and peaceful. On the first day of the week – very early in the morning, a long time before it was day, the two brothers met at the ancient land marker. They fell with tears into each other’s arms. And on the spot was built the city of Jerusalem.”
Final Application: Here is the New Testament fulfilment of the promise God gave to Abraham: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29).
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs… Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:6-7, 28)
God knows our hearts too. He knows what blessings we’re able to receive while still giving Him the glory. He knows that we all need each other and the blessings and gifts that each person brings to the church (Romans 12). There is no place for jealousy or envy or competition or fear within his family for he longs to bless each one of us. As his adopted children, we’re all valuable to Him.
Adapted from Lesson 17 (Community Bible Study International) Genesis 25 “The Death and Descendants of Abraham”