Hebrews 11:17-21 | The Blessing Of Faith


The Blessing Of Faith


Hebrews 11:17-21

Key Verse 11:20


“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.”


Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. We have in these the ancestors of our faith, the patriarchs of faith in whom God Almighty set aside for himself a nation of obedient, God fearing and faith driven people, and through whom he promised to bless all nations of the world. Although God made many promises to Abraham, this was God’s foremost promise to him, the promise that his Seed (or Offspring)— the Messiah, would come to this world to save all who believe in him. And God maintained this promise to Abraham in the successive generations of his descendants, first to Isaac, then to Jacob, then to Jacob’s children and so on until the promise was fulfilled through the coming of the Savior. But the blessing of this particular promise needed to be passed on from generation to generation— from father to son. Why? Because “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (11:1). We do not see, but we believe because God said it, because God promised it. And what God promised, God will certainly fulfill.


So now Abraham had this promise. He had this blessing of a promise planted in the depth of his heart. He and his wife believed it and practiced faith in it by living according to God’s word and trusting God in all things. And in time God gave him a tangible evidence of the truth and power of this promise when he gave him and his wife a miracle son in their old age. The boy Isaac was the living testimony that God will bring about to Abraham everything he had promised him. (Genesis 18:19) In the same way God never leaves us without some deposit of assurance that he will fulfill his promises to us. Now that the savior has come, just as God gave Abraham a son Isaac as a deposit of the Christ to come, likewise God had given those who belong to him “The Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:5). The Holy Spirit living in us is the evidence and guarantee that we will inherit the kingdom of God to come. So, God gave Isaac to Abraham. And now it was time to test Abraham’s faith in the promise. Why test him? To see if Abraham’s faith is in Isaac or in God! In other words does Abraham’s faith rest on Isaac or on God? Is Abraham’s faith in what he could see, or is it in God and his intangible promise which he couldn’t see!


Look at verses 17-19. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”  It was an excruciatingly painful test of faith. But it was a necessary test because on Abraham rested the responsibility to pass on the blessing of the promise to his children, beginning with Isaac. But how can he pass such a blessing on to him if he’s not fully grounded in that promise! He can’t. He would have to pass on the faith to Isaac in the form of a blessing— a blessing Isaac also in faith would himself accept and look forward to in a very personal way— and then pass it on to his own children. If Abraham passes the test, God’s history would go on uninterrupted. Isaac in turn would pass it on to his children, mainly Jacob and so on.


The blessing is very important. But a blessing without a foundation is useless. People bless each other all the time, but for the most part it’s an empty blessing like straw in the wind. Indeed the blessing is very important. You have to understand it. You have to understand that it points to a promise or to promises. You have to accept it yourself personally. You have to live in it by faith in the promise. Then you can pass the blessing on to those around you. This is the story today of these patriarchs and what they did in faith.


Abraham passed the test. He nearly sacrificed Isaac on the altar when God who was in awe of Abraham’s sincere love for God and faith in his promise told him to stop. Abraham’s faith is great because it’s the faith in God’s intangible promise. The Bible tells us what was going on in Abraham’s heart while he was getting ready to sacrifice his son on the altar. The Bible tells us that Abraham reasoned that God could and would raise his son from the dead. He reasoned and believed that because he was absolutely certain of God’s promise and blessing. Those who trust God in faith especially in times of severe testing do not think negatively of the things they have to do for the Lord, nor do they make excuses to disobey him. Like Abraham, they usually reason that God knows best— that God knows what he’s doing— that God’s love for them is wonderful— even though it may seem difficult to understand at times. Abraham simply trusted God and believed the promises. He held tenaciously to the blessing.


In sacrificing Isaac Abraham also blessed Isaac and passed on the blessing to him who witnessed the sacrifice himself and believed. When a father or mother serve God’s purpose in difficult circumstances and in extraordinary ways, they might think it damaging to their children. On the contrary, over protecting them is damaging. But from the heavenly perspective, it is not! Rather it’s a blessing to these children because they’re witnessing their parents living faith in action. Isaac was exceedingly blessed by Abraham’s faith. He learned to walk in it. He also learned the value of passing the blessing to his own children— that it’s vital to their spiritual well being.


Now let’s see about Isaac’s, Jacob’s and Joseph’s faith. You will notice that only in Isaac and in Jacob’s cases, their faith is expressed through the passing on of the blessing to the next generation. Joseph’s faith is expressed through the speaking of future events. But Isaac and Jacob, although their faith was expressed in many ways during their life time, the Apostle here, as he was moved by the Holy Spirit, celebrates their faith expressed in blessings. How significant and urgent are God’s and God’s servants’ blessings! So many Christians have no concept of the urgency of the blessing in their lives. Even if they have some regard for it, it usually doesn’t mean to them anything more than simply a greeting. They never ask for God’s blessing nor for God’s servants’ blessing because they don’t understand its value nor do they appreciate it. As such their daily lives and actions continue un-blessed. But we should know that the blessing is precious. Its value rests in the faith of those who bless and in God’s willingness to honor their faith. More than that, the value of the blessing is grounded in the promise of God and in its certainty. When a person blesses you, their faith usually rests on the promise that God fulfills all his promises, otherwise the blessing is pointless.


Look at what the Bible teaches us about the value of the blessing, by giving us an example from Esau’s life. Now Esau was Jacob’s first born son. But this young man loved the world more than he valued the blessing. So the Apostle tells us what happened to him. He says of Esau: “See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” (12:16-17). It’s tragic how many are like Esau despising God’s blessing. In fact Esau didn’t think it was such a big deal. But the Bible tells us that God interpreted his attitude as one who despises God’s blessing (Genesis 25:34). We shouldn’t neglect, ignore or despise God’s blessing. Rather we should value it more than the world’s treasures, because God’s blessing is precious. We should also learn that blessings are rooted in God’s promises and faith in God’s promises. Then we can fully appreciate the blessing and learn how to pass it on to others. Do you know how powerful God’s blessing is? At creation, God blessed mankind to be fruitful and to multiply in number and to fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28) Look at mankind today! We are numerous and have filled the whole earth and have subdued it for the most part. That’s the power of God’s blessing. Now consider if any blessing in the Word of God actually falls on you in faith! If you pursue it with your whole heart in faith! If you value it above all else, in faith. I’ve been contemplating the Lord Jesus’ words “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”, and I have eagerly desired that blessing. (Matthew 5:8)


Now let us look at what the apostle tells us about Isaac’s faith. Read verse 20. “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” Let’s first review the background story of Isaac and his twin sons, Esau and Jacob. After 20 years, Isaac’s wife Rebecca conceived and had some trouble with her pregnancy. But instead of worrying about it, she went to God to find out what was happening to her. And God gave her this amazing prophesy. “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.’” (Genesis 25:23) This perfectly tells us the will of God and who of the twins is to inherit the blessing. The older shall serve the younger, making the younger the heir to the blessing of the promise. God chose Jacob from the beginning. He chose Jacob to inherit the blessing even before he was born. We don’t know why God did this. Was it because God seeing the future knew that the older son was spiritually inept and unfit to serve God’s purpose? Was it because God loved Jacob rather than Esau? (Malachi 1:2-3) We don’t know why God chose Jacob over Esau. But if we trust God, we would let Paul explain it to us when he says: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad— in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’” (Romans 9:11-12) God chooses according to his own will and purpose, not according to who we are and what we’ve done or will do. He chooses by grace so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:9) except in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31). So God chose to bless Jacob by the mercy of his grace. If you’re chosen, you can’t ask why. You could only humbly marvel at the undeserved grace God has shown you; you can be ever thankful; and you can live out your life for his glory alone.


The prophesy intimated that Jacob rather than Esau would be the heir to the promise. So, Isaac should have been more than willing to bless his younger son Jacob. But it didn’t go that way.  He favored Esau more than Jacob, and thought that Esau his firstborn was more qualified. The story in Genesis tells us that in his old age, when Isaac’s eyes were dim, he said to his son Esau: “Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” (Genesis 27:1-4) Now something was very wrong here. Isaac is suppose to pass on the blessing to Jacob who was God’s choice and not to Esau. It seems that Isaac was about to pass on the blessing to the wrong son. But the story goes on to tell us that Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, agreed with her son Jacob to deceive Isaac, where Jacob would impersonate Esau thereby receiving the rightful blessing. And so it happened that Isaac, while thinking himself to bless Esau, blessed Jacob instead. Thus the Apostle tells us here that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. Of course when Isaac learned what his younger son did, he trembled violently. It wasn’t his anger at Jacob that shook him. It was Isaac himself realizing the sovereign will of God. He then offered a blessing for Esau that seemed more like a curse than a blessing. Yet, it was a blessing in that it was offered in faith regarding the future of both sons.


Let me then focus on what the apostle tells us about Isaac’s faith here. He tells us that Isaac blessed these two sons in regard to their future. One of them, Jacob’s future, would be a history of faith leading to the Messiah. And Esau’s future would be in subservience to his younger brother. Their future was sealed by God’s sovereign decree. But it doesn’t change the fact that it took faith on Isaac’s behalf to bless them. Here’s the wonder of Isaac’s faith then. Isaac ended up blessing both in faith. He was spiritually blinded for a while, but the truth is that his faith was in God’s promise and it never wavered. When he realized the truth about the deception, he trusted God’s choice for the chosen son and blessed him again believing that God would fulfill his promise in and through him. (Genesis 28:1-4) But it wasn’t humanly easy to bless Jacob, the younger son. Jacob had shown no signs of true leadership compared with his older brother Esau who was a natural born leader. But he humbled himself before the Lord and by faith blessed him. By faith he passed down the blessing without seeing any thing in his son’s future except that the promise would surely pass down through him. Isaac saw nothing else. And so by faith he passed on the blessing to his sons. Of all the faith that Isaac exhibited during his life, the faith to pass on the blessing of the promise was not only exemplary but also influential. He trusted the sovereign Lord in his salvation plan. And Jacob was indeed blessed because his father Isaac believed that the Lord will bring about in Jacob’s life the blessing he had given him.


Read verse 21. “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Now we come to the story of a man whose life had been a raging storm from the day he was conceived till the day he arrived in Egypt to reunite with his lost son Joseph. It is now, as the apostle tells us here, that Jacob’s faith was purged and refined to the point where we can say that he was at peace with his departure from this world. But we cannot deny that Jacob began a life of faith early on— faulty as that faith may have been— and he continued living by faith all his life till the day he died. We cannot ignore the many ups and downs of his life and the heartaches he endured because of his own shady character. He fought with his brother in the womb, and was born grabbing his brother’s heel and it seems that he struggled with that brother almost all his life. His heart was set on getting the blessing of the first born, and he snatched it from his brother in an underhanded way. We know the story of his brother Esau coming back from one of his outings famished, but Jacob would not feed him until Esau relinquished the birthright to him. It was a terrible thing to do, yet we see that he valued that blessing more than his brother did. The Lord did not look kindly on what Esau chosen to give up, and allowed the blessing of the birthright to go to his brother Jacob.


But that was not enough for Jacob. Together with his mother, they schemed to snatch the blessing from Esau, deceiving Isaac and taking advantage of him in his blindness. They thought that Isaac was making a mistake in wanting to bless Esau, and they wanted to help God in fulfilling his prophetic will. Let me here explain to you what faith isn’t. First of all, nobody should do what Jacob did. We witness his strong desire to get the blessing, and that’s commendable! But in reality that’s not faith. Faith believes in God’s promise and patiently waits for it. If God promised that Jacob is the one to inherit the blessing, then Jacob— in faith— should have trusted God. But he didn’t. His mother should have waited. But she didn’t. We teach that Rebecca helped her husband obey God’s directive, and that’s commendable! But in truth Rebecca should have waited on God to fulfill his own promise in his own way in his own time. God is fully capable of fulfilling his own promises. Neither mother nor son should have done what they did. But like us they are sinners who do things they shouldn’t do! Anyway, God works even through our mistakes and failures to achieve his own divine purpose. Our faith should rest on God’s promise— on his goodness. Faith trusts God’s hands of guidance to fulfill its own purpose. It believes in God’s power to fulfill all that God promises. Faith rests in God and waits expectantly for his promise to be fulfilled.


How many mistakes we make in our ignorance to speed up God’s plans and to ensure that his promise comes true. Today there are those who are trying to hasten the Lord’s return to Zion by trying to fulfill vague and enigmatic prophesies. There are also those who take things into their own hands when they can wait no longer, while at the same time claiming that they are taking things into their own hands by faith. But that’s not faith. It’s blasphemy. We shouldn’t have to do that! Faith rests in God. Faith trusts in God. What God had promised he will bring to fulfillment. If he’s promised to deliver you, he will. If he promised to help you, he will. If he promised to cleanse you, he will. All you have to do is wait on his promise as you continue to walk in the truth and live in him. But you shouldn’t be anxious about whether he’ll bring about your sanctification. You shouldn’t think you can help God in that way. That’s not faith. It’s blasphemy. His promises will all be fulfilled. There’s no need for you or me to struggle to make anything happen sooner or later. Some people can’t wait. In their impatience, they hinder the hand of God, and stumble in their faith. Jacob was like that. He received the blessing through deception, but the consequences were disastrous. But Jacob learned his lessons well. He changed into a man of blessing. He became a man who can pass on the faith and the blessing and the promises to most unlikely people.


Look at verse 21 again. “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” By faith in God’s promise, Jacob in turn blessed Joseph’s two sons. He added them to the tribes of Israel who share in the promise of God. Jacob knew that these two sons had grown up in Egyptian palaces. There was humanly no way for them to be included into God’s family of faith. But Jacob blessed them because the saw them with eyes of faith. It was certainly by faith and not by sight then that Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph. What else could these two Egyptian princes come to except to have their family and tribe in Egypt among the ruling class! It was truly farfetched to see as part of the Exodus in the future. But he saw their future with eyes of faith, and trusted the hand of God in their lives and future. He blessed them and included them among the tribes of God’s people. After that he worshipped God, leaning on his staff. In other words, he submitted himself to the will of God. He learned to humble himself and submit to the will of God just like his father Isaac had done with him. Blessing our children and grandchildren has nothing to do with sight. It has nothing to do with what we think they are or could be. It has nothing to do with their character. We can’t see with our eyes what they’ll be, or what they’ll do. But like Isaac and Jacob after him, we can see them— what they’ll be and what they’ll do— with eyes of faith. And we can bless them by faith. How important is our faith and our blessing on them. We can either withhold the blessing from them because our own unbelief or we can pour the blessing on them because of our faith.


Today we saw the importance of faith— how faith is the power that passes on the blessing of God’s promises in accordance with the will of God. We must be blessed and we must pass on the blessing to our children and all those whom the Lord brings into his family of faith and nurture and to raise as his holy people.

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