The Faith of Esau (Genesis 26:34-28:9)

When we first met Jacob and Esau…we were not impressed.

These were a couple of violent kids! — from before birth into adulthood, these two brothers fought over everything.

But at the very heart of their hatred for one another has been this question: who is going to win the Father’s blessing? Who is going to win God’s protection and provision? Who is going to gain God’s love?

And really this question lies at the heart of every human conflict. We fight over resources, we fight over ideas, we fight over a million different things! — but underneath it all lies the poison of fear: the fear of missing out. The fear of losing what is most precious to us: the love of our Father.

So now, after a brief recap of Isaac’s life before the sons were born, we return to the story of the brothers:

[34] When Esau was forty years old — when he had reached maturity as a man — he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. [35] They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

— a source of grief because Isaac and Rebekah did not want their sons marrying into the local tribes.

Abraham had worked very hard to make sure Isaac would not get entangled in marriage with the local people and the local gods. Abraham’s household is supposed to be a living model of what true worship looks like — and that will never work if the household gets tangled up with other gods and other systems of worship.

And what Moses is showing us here is that, once again, Esau despises his birthright. Esau knows the story of how his mother Rebekah was brought from far away at great effort and expense, and he knows why! — but he does not care. Esau despises God’s plan to use Abraham’s household to bless all the nations on earth.

And by this point in Genesis, we have learned that if a man really wants out of God’s plan, then God will let him go.

So this moment, here, is Moses’ way of getting us ready for what is about to happen:

So, [1] when Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

Here I am,” he answered.

[2] Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. [3] Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. [4] 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.”

Just like Abraham, when Isaac feels his death approaching he decides to write his Last Will and Testament.

And, just like Abraham, Isaac loves his oldest son. Abraham loved Ishmael, whom God rejected, and who also rejected God. In the same way, Isaac loves Esau, whom God has rejected, who has also rejected God.

And Moses wants us to make this connection between Esau and Ishmael: that is why he makes special mention of Esau’s quiver and bow, because in the previous generation it was Ishmael who grew up to be a famous archer.

So just like Abraham, Isaac loves his oldest son. However, unlike Abraham — in this case — Isaac is not willing to set Esau aside at the Lord’s command, as Abraham was willing to set Ishmael aside. Isaac knows about the prophecy Rebekah received before the boys were born: he knows that the older is destined to serve the younger. In fact, he probably also knows about how Esau gave away his inheritance for a bowl of dal. But Isaac loves Esau more than Jacob! — so he is going to ignore the prophecy, ignore the deal that his sons made between them, and bless Esau anyway.

And we know that Isaac knows that he is going against God’s will here because he asks Esau to meet him privately. Everywhere else in the bible, when a father is getting ready to die, he calls all of his children together so he can give each one a share of the family blessing. But here Isaac only calls Esau. His plan — his secret plan — is to give 100% of the blessing to Esau, and leave nothing for Jacob.

But Isaac should have known that God cannot be mocked or manipulated: because it turns out that Rebekah noticed her husband’s strange behaviour, and she made sure to be listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau.

And as soon as Esau was gone, [6] Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, [7] ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ [8] Now, my son, this is serious: you are about to get cut out of your father’s will! So listen carefully and do what I tell you: [9] Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. [10] Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

And here we get a little more insight into what Rebakah’s childhood home must have been like: in a house full of men who were obsessed with money and success and getting ahead in life at all costs, Rebekah learned that the only way a woman can survive is by watching out for herself: being deceptively submissive to those who are over her, being forcefully dominating to those who are under her — and she uses both techniques here. She dominates her son into doing what she wants, even while she plans to cook a deceptively submissive for her husband.

But Jacob says, “Mom! Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. [12] What if my father touches me? What if I get caught? Then dad will curse me for sure!”

Notice: he is not worried about lying, he’s worried about getting caught.

But [13] his mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; let me take care of the details.”

And she does: she sends Jacob in, dressed in his brother’s clothing, with hairy goatskins on his arms and neck just in case Isaac touches him.

And Isaac is fooled.

But not right away. All the way through this interview Isaac is suspicious. He actually checks three times to make sure this is really Esau he is talking to.

The first time is in verse 18: Jacob goes to his father and says, “My father.”

And Isaac says, “Yes, my son: who is it?” He hears the voice, but he does not know which son it is.

And at first Jacob talks too much: “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

But Isaac is thinking, “Wow, that was fast!” so he says, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

Uhhhhhhmmmmm…the Lord your God gave me success?”

This is a blasphemous answer, by the way: to use the Lord’s name to reinforce a lie…!

But Isaac is still suspicious, so now he checks for a second time, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

[22] Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”

And so — for a third time! — Isaac feels compelled to check and make sure this is Esau.

And the fact that Isaac is so suspicious gives us some insight into what his household has been like during these years of conflict: Jacob is clearly well-known for his deceptive ways, he is well-known for how he manipulated and robbed his brother, and Isaac is seriously worried that something similar could happen to him!

So he says, [24] “Are you really my son Esau?”

And at this point Jacob realizes that he has been talking too much, his voice has almost given him away, so he says, “I am.”

And so Isaac finally goes ahead: he eats and drinks with his son. He asks for a kiss. So Jacob went to him and kissed him.

— thus completing the betrayal of his own father with this expression of love and faithfulness.

And when Isaac caught the smell of Esau’s clothes, his finally set his suspicions aside. He blessed him and said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. [28] May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. [29] 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.”

Almost every good promise that Abraham passed down to Isaac, Isaac has now passed down to Jacob.

[30] After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. [31] He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

[32] His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

I am your son: your firstborn, Esau.”

[33] Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, 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!”

[34] When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

[35] But Isaac has figured out what just happened. He said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

[36] Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

[37] Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

These men, father and son, plotted together to cut Jacob out of the inheritance. And now their plan has backfired terribly upon them. Isaac intended to give Esau everything. Now he has given Jacob everything.

[38] Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

[39] His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. [40] You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”

And in this blessing we find another connection between Esau and Ishmael.

Because, back in Chapter 16, when pregnant Hagar was in the desert running away from Sarah’s abuse, God told her that her son Ishmael “will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone, and everyone hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” And that sounded bad! — until we realized that, for a poor, abused slave-girl, this promise was good news, because it was a promise that her son would not be a slave. And so, even though Ishmael grew up to reject God’s covenant promises, still God kept his promise, and gave him the blessing of not being a slave to others in this life. 

In the same way, this blessing for Esau sounds bad. And it is bad! But for a man like Esau, who craves strength and independence above all, this good news. He has already rejected God’s covenant promises, and now he has been rejected by God’s covenant promises — but still, God is going to keep his promise, and allow Esau to break free from slavery in the future.

Still, [41] Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “Dad is going to die soon. Once he does, then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

But Rebekah again figures out what is going on. And again she uses her two favourite weapons: she forcefully dominates Jacob, commanding him to run away to her brother Laban, because, “Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

And then she uses deceptive submission on her husband: [46] Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

She dominates her son, but she does not dare dominate her husband; instead, she just plants the right concept in his head and then stands back so Isaac will think that sending Jacob away is his own idea.

And poor, blind Isaac falls for her manipulation yet again: he calls for Jacob and blesses him, and commands him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. [2] Instead, go back to your uncle Laban in the east and marry one of his daughters. [3] May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. [4] May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.”

Abraham took great care to keep Isaac from travelling back to the ancestral homelands in the east. He made sure to send a servant to find a wife for his son. But here, the son, Isaac, sends Jacob directly back to the ancestral homelands.

Was he supposed to do this? Or is this even more evidence of Rebekah’s hand at work behind the scenes? Did she suggest that perhaps Jacob will have better luck if he goes himself to seek a wife, instead of sending a servant to find one?

We don’t know for sure.

But we do know this: Isaac’s blindness is not just physical, it is spiritual as well. So far in Genesis, blindness and spiritual foolishness have always gone together: we remember the men of Sodom, struck blind by the angels; we remember Lot’s sons-in-law, who refused to believe his warnings; we remember Lot himself, who impregnated both of his daughters and did not even know it was happening. So when Moses opens this episode here by telling us that Isaac is old and blind, we are supposed to connect the dots and realize that Isaac is no longer the wise man he used to be.

Which is…really sad. Because this is the last time we get to hear Isaac’s voice. This is the last time we get to see Rebekah. Their roles in Book 9 of Genesis have now come to an end — and they have both ended so poorly.

And what makes it worse is the fact that they both started so well:

The young man who was once willing to give up his own life to God’s plan…has turned into an old man unwilling to give up his son Esau to God’s plan.

The young woman who once risked everything to escape from her brother’s house and join God’s family…has turned into an old woman who sends her son Jacob back to her brother’s house.

The last words we ever get to hear Rebekah speak are manipulative, dishonest, unfaithful. Her last words to her beloved son are, Why should I lose both of you in one day?” And it is unclear who she was talking about: is she worried about losing her relationship with Jacob and Esau? or with Jacob and Isaac?

Again, we don’t know for sure.

But we do know this: Rebekah never sees Jacob again. She tells him to go away ”for a while” — for just a few days — but as we are going to find out: a few days are going to turn into years. And so, as a final irony, Rebekah’s own words back in verse 13 turn into a prophecy against herself. Back when Jacob said, “but mom, what if dad figures it out and curses me?” she replied, “My son, let the curse fall on me.” And now: it has. In order to benefit Jacob, her favourite, Rebekah has destroyed her relationship with her husband and her oldest son — and in the end she has lost Jacob anyway.

A discouraging end to these lives of faith.

Just about the only good news we can find here is that, with Isaac’s final words, he does pass on to Jacob “the blessing given to Abraham.”

So even though God’s covenant household is now a total train-wreck…God’s covenant with Abraham is still secure. God’s plan to bless all nations on earth is still on track.

Then Isaac sends Jacob on his way back to the ancestral homelands, hopefully to connect with Rebekah’s brother Laban.

But in the meantime, Esau has been paying attention, and he suddenly realizes how displeasing his Canaanite wives were to his father Isaac; [9] so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, Ishmael’s daughter.

And…you know what? We have to give Esau some credit here: his heart is finally in the right place. So far he has totally despised his birthright, given away his inheritance, gotten married — twice! — without consulting his parents! But here, as soon as he realizes how unhappy his father is about all this…he tries to do the right thing, and marry someone from within the family of Abraham.

It’s just really too bad that, instead of actually consulting his dad, he just went and married into the wrong side of the family. He marries the daughter of the rejected son of Abraham: Ishmael, the son who rejected God.

And so, as a result, Esau actually ends up confirming his own rejection of God, and his own rejection by God. The rejected household of Esau has now bound itself into a covenant with the rejected household of Ishmael.

And this detail meant something to the ancient people of Israel, the people of Moses’ generation. They had an uncomfortable relationship with the Ishmaelites and — especially — with the Edomites, who were the people descended from Esau. So all this history about Esau was meant to help the people understand why the Edomites were so nasty.

This history was also meant to help the people of Israel be kind to the Edomites, even though the Edomites were so nasty. In fact, later on, in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses makes this point explicit: he says, “Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.” In other words, if the Edomites come and want to join our nation in worship, let them!

And so this history of Esau also contains hope; this hope that, one day, God is going to call all the rejected sons of Abraham, and all the rejected nations, back into the blessing and protection of the covenant. Esau and Ishmael have both rejected God’s covenant, but this does not mean that God has completely cast them off: the promise of blessing for all nations is also a promise for them.

And sure enough, this process of gathering does begin to happen during the generations that came after Moses, and King David actually completes the work: he subdues the nations surrounding Israel. He makes treaties with the peaceful nations, and he defeats the ones that want to fight. The Edomites — descended from Esau — wanted to fight. So David beat them, and forced them to submit to his rule. And so, Isaac’s words to Esau were fulfilled: “You will live by the sword!…and you will serve your brother.”

But that is not all Isaac said to Esau, is it? He also said, “When you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”

And sure enough, a few generations after King David, the Edomites grew restless. They set up their own king, raised an army, and broke away from Israel.

And a few generations after that, when the armies of Babylon came to conquer Jerusalem, the Edomites took terrible revenge on Israel by joining the Babylonians. They pointed and laughed during the destruction of Jerusalem; they chased down refugees and killed them; they helped send the nation of Israel away into exile in the east — just as their ancestor Esau once chased Israel’s ancestor Jacob away into exile in the east.

So, as it turns out, this history of Esau was also meant to prepare the people of Israel for hard times ahead. This episode here was really a preview of Israel’s history. And if you are familiar with Israel’s history in the Old Testament, then you know that it does come to a very sad end. The nation that began so well at Mount Sinai in Arabia, and reached its golden age on Mount Zion in Jerusalem…ends up as just a small, dusty nation in a small, dusty corner of the Roman Empire.

As a nation, Israel was supposed to lead all the nations of the earth back into the true worship of the true God, including their brother nations that had wandered away.

Instead they fractured, and divided, betraying and deceiving one another, until the whole thing turned into one giant train-wreck, just like Isaac’s marriage, just like Isaac’s family.

So…how useful is this history, really? — I mean, especially for us! We look back and we see that the whole disaster was inevitable. Isaac said Esau would get restless and throw off Jacob’s rule, and he did! Israel was on top for a while, but then Edom got on top and Israel never recovered.

So where is our Good News? Where is the Gospel in this terrible ancient history?

Well, I do have some good news: there is Good News in the midst of all this, Good News that was for the ancient people of Israel, and Good News for us, the people of Israel in this age.

And here it is: even though God’s covenant nation of Israel was a total train-wreck by the end of the Old Testament…God’s covenant with Abraham was still secure. God’s plan to bless all nations on earth through Abraham was still on track.

And even the later prophets of the Old Testament knew this. Even as Israel was falling apart, and being driven away into exile in the east, the prophet Amos made this promise: “In that day — that is, on Judgement Day — I will restore David’s fallen shelter, and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the Lord, who will do these things.

So the Old Testament prophets told the people of Israel, “Don’t worry, the story is not over yet. Yes, Esau has rebelled against Jacob’s rule, and taken terrible revenge upon us, just as Isaac prophesied. But a day is coming when Jacob’s nation — David’s kingdom — will be restored, and the people of Esau will be fully incorporated into God’s covenant, along with people from all the other nations.”

And sure enough, it happened just as the prophets foretold: about 2000 years ago, a son of David was born into the darkest time in Israel’s history, a time when many Jews had given up hope of being delivered from the Romans. This man’s name was Jesus of Nazareth, and he claimed to be the promised Messiah, the eternal God-King who would restore David’s fallen shelter, and gather all the nations into the blessing of God’s covenant.

The problem is, Jesus’ claims were actually blasphemous: according to the Old Testament law, a man cannot claim to be God and be allowed to live! And so the leaders of Israel had a trial. The court passed judgement upon Jesus, and had him executed.

And so this man Jesus also came to a very sad end: crucified, discredited, blind, foolish, betrayed with a kiss by one of his closest friends, just as his ancestor Isaac had been betrayed at the end of his life by a kiss from his own son.

That day — that Friday almost 2000 years ago — was Judgement Day for Jesus of Nazareth. He paid for his blasphemy with his life. His ministry ended in a train-wreck.

But the story was not over yet. Because it turns out that there was a flaw in the process: he was actually telling the truth. His claims were not actually blasphemous. Therefore the court’s judgement against him was actually unjust. And so his conviction was overturned by a higher court: by his Father’s court: God’s court. His life — which he had given up to pay for his guilty verdict — was given back to him: he rose from the grave.

But this time he was different. His body was no longer an ordinary human body, it had been transformed into something greater, something super-human: he had become the eternal God-King who would restore David’s fallen shelter, and gather all the nations in.

Which he set to work doing right away. His death and resurrection had laid the corner foundation stone for the new Kingdom of David.

Fifty days later, he laid the rest of the foundation stones when he poured out God’s Holy Spirit on his remaining disciples, transforming them all into apostles and prophets.

And then, people from all the different nations of the Roman Empire began pouring in to build their lives upon those foundation stones — the teachings of the apostles and prophets — and the walls of the Kingdom of David began to rise into an inter-national Kingdom of God.

And so, ironically, Jesus’ Judgement Day on the cross turned out to be the Judgement Day that Amos had prophesied: “In that day,” Amos said, “on Judgement Day, I will restore David’s fallen shelter, and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name!

And here we are today: God’s people gathered in from every nation of the earth to worship under the protection and blessing of God’s covenant with Abraham. Christ’s Church is David’s kingdom that is being restored. Christ’s Church is God’s kingdom growing on earth. Christ’s Church is the fulfillment of all these ancient prophecies.

And this is why we can say that the Good News for the ancient people of Israel is also our Good News: even though God’s covenant nation often looks like a total train-wreck…God’s covenant with Abraham is still secure. God’s plan to bless all nations on earth through Abraham is still on track. The great in-gathering of all the lost sons of Abraham is happening right now, before our very eyes! — if we have the eyes to see it.

And that is the hard part, isn’t it? To see beyond the train-wreck of our world, our churches — our own lives! — to the hope that somehow God is still in control?

And here is the question we have to ask: why is it so hard for us to see beyond our own earthly train-wrecks to the hope of God’s redemption?

This is why: we all believe, in our heart of hearts, that getting into a train-wreck means we have screwed up and lost our right to receive God’s redemption.

We really struggle to accept that God’s redemption is a gift, an inheritance that he gives to his children. A disbursement from Christ’s Last Will and Testament!

We all tend to believe that if we fail to keep our lives on track, then God will cut us out of his will, and give our inheritance to someone else. Our instinct, when the train-wreck happens, is to ask ourselves, “What did I do to lose God’s blessing?”

Which is really just another way of asking, “What must I do now to get God’s blessing back? Who do I have to kiss? Who do I have to kill? How many hours in prayer do I need to spend? How much money do I have to give? How much of the bible do I need to know before God will be happy with me again?”

We are all like Jacob and Esau here: we are born into the fear of missing out, the fear of losing the love of our Father.

We are all like Rebekah here: trained from youth to use the weapons of deception and domination in order to get what we want for ourselves and for our loved ones.

And we are all like Isaac here: when God graciously gives us what we have been praying for, we turn blindly aside, into ourselves, we hoard what we have been given, we try to distribute it only to those who please us most…

In effect, when our lives fall apart, we turn into Esau, crying out, Bless me too, O my father! Do you have nothing left for me?” And then, if we do not remember the Good News in time, we end up like Esau: doing the wrong thing with good intentions in order to try to win back our Father’s love. We end up marrying Ishmael’s daughter: we end up falling back into the religion that says God’s blessings must be earned, fought for, seized by force or manipulation.

We struggle to see the hope beyond the train-wreck of our lives because our instinct is to believe that this colossal mess means we have fallen out of God’s will somehow.

And that is why this Good News is so important, this is why we preach it again and again: because the Gospel tells us that, if we are God’s children, then it is simply impossible for us to fall out of God’s will. Our Father’s control is complete.

And we know this because of this ancient history of Isaac’s family. In this episode everyone screwed up. Everyone acted faithlessly. Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Esau: they all worked together to train-wreck their own family! And yet history has proven that God used every single faithless action here to accomplish his will, to drive his plan of redemption forward.

And at the end of this story of Isaac and his sons what will we find?

This is a spoiler, so apologies to those of you who really care about that: in the end we are going to find that every single screwed-up member of this family is redeemed. Not even Esau is beyond God’s reach.

So, very practically speaking now, what are we supposed to do with this whole thing? How are we supposed to apply all this to our lives?

Well, how about this: I know that many of you here, like me, have regrets. We look at all the large and small train-wrecks in our lives and we wonder, “What have I done?” When we are a little wiser we also say, “God, what are you doing? Why didn’t you teach me wisdom when I was younger? Then I would have been a better brother or sister, a better father, a better mother, a better husband, a better wife, a better son or daughter. If only I had known these things then…well now perhaps my marriage would not be so broken. Maybe I would still be on speaking terms with my parents or with my children. Maybe I would not be in such poor physical and mental and emotional health…”

Friends, if — like me — you sometimes wrestle with these thoughts, receive this comfort, and this command from our Lord Jesus:

First, the comfort, the Gospel: our Father wastes nothing. He leads us exactly on the path where he wants us to go. He teaches us exactly what we need when we need it. Our mess, our failures, are all part of his plan. Many times we feel like we have squandered the life he gave us, but the truth is we have all been serving him with all of our lives, even before we officially belonged to him.

Second, the command: believe the Gospel! or, to put it another way: do not believe the anti-Gospel. Do not listen to the voice inside you that tells you that you must earn God’s love. Do not listen to the voices outside that tell us that we must try to earn God’s love. The anti-Gospel will suck the joy right out of us. So do not listen to it!

And this command, this warning, is important. Because Jesus told us that his Church is going to look like a train-wreck until the end: we are going to continue to be a mixture of redeemed and unredeemed people. And in fact each one of us is a mixture of redeemed and unredeemed — none of us are perfectly redeemed yet.

Now, that is embarrassing. It is embarrassing to look like a perpetual train-wreck in the eyes of the world around us. And our temptation is always to try to fix the Church so that we will look more successful and feel more blessed by God.

And, Jesus added, this temptation will be strengthened by false teachers who will come and claim that they know how to make the Church more successful. They will claim to have special knowledge that will help us earn special blessings from God.

And Jesus said that, as we draw nearer the end, more and more of these false teachers will show up, performing great signs and wonders, and they will lead many people away from the Gospel, back into the anti-Gospel. They will set up an anti-Church that looks and sounds a lot like true Christianity — but better in every way, of course! — with more money, more miracles, a more sophisticated media presence…all focused on dragging us back into the serpent’s religion that says God’s blessings must be earned, fought for, seized by force or by manipulation.

We, in this church, are committed to rejecting that false gospel. And the way we are commanded to do this is by constantly reminding ourselves of the true Gospel.

And this is the true Gospel: modern Christianity is a train-wreck. It is embarrassing. But we know that this is actually evidence that we are exactly in the center of our Father’s will, and that he is redeeming each one of us little by little, piece by piece, in just the right order, at just the right time.

So we are going to trust our church to Christ, because he is the only one who can restore David’s fallen shelter. And we are going to trust our lives to Jesus, because he is the only one who can gather his people in from all the nations.

And I am going to close here with this promise from Jeremiah the prophet, a vision of what it will look like when the gathering of the nations is complete:

See?” the Lord says, “I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour — people with H1N1, children with broken hearts, men and women who are caught in terrible conflict with other family members — a great throng will return.”

He is describing the train-wreck that is his Church, finally stumbling through the gates of the New Jerusalem at the end of the long journey.

They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father.”

So let us pray now for the eyes to see beyond this train-wreck to that glorious Day. 

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