The Drama of Deception
by Jeff Curtis
God’s people create problems when they set aside God’s will in order to have their own way. In Genesis chapter 27, we see a scene of tension, bad attitudes, and destructive actions that dominate the rest of the chapter. In Isaac’s old age, he believed it was time to give the deathbed blessing to his elder son, Esau (27:1-4). He was determined to do this in spite of the divine prophecy Rebekah had received during her difficult pregnancy: “…the older shall serve the younger” (25:23).
Isaac was blind; and his blindness made it possible for Rebekah’s deceitful scheme, performed by Jacob, to succeed. Since Isaac thought that the time of his death was near, he made the good decision to set his house in order. However, his desire to give the deathbed blessing to his older son was not good. Esau was not a spiritual minded person. In fact, he was a carnal person; he lived primarily to satisfy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1John 2:16). The writer of Hebrews called him an “immoral” and “godless” person (Hebrews 12:16). He was definitely not the kind of leader who would set a proper example for God’s covenant people to follow. This is not to say Jacob had a flawless character early in his life as a man; he certainly did not, but he had potential for spiritual leadership. God knew this about Jacob, and Isaac should have recognized it too.
Esau was everything his father was not: an outdoorsman and a skilled hunter who could kill and cook wild game that Isaac loved to eat (25:27,28). Isaac allowed his love for Esau’s wild meat to control his will. Since Isaac desired nothing above another one of his favorite son’s meals, he summoned Esau to go out and hunt game and prepare a delicious feast he could enjoy before he blessed him.
Isaac’s experience stands as a warning to God’s people in every age not to trust in our physical sense of taste (27:4, 9, 25), touch (27:22, or smell (27:27. What makes us feel good may not be what is good for us; it’s not necessarily God’s will for our lives. In Ernest Hemingway’s novel Death in the Afternoon, a character may have expressed Hemingway’s own convictions when he said, “I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what make you feel bad after.” Many individuals today endorse that philosophy in life, and they make crucial decisions based only on feelings. A song from the 70’s said, “It can’t be wrong if it feels so right.” Individuals are still deceived by this kind of thinking, just as Isaac was so long ago.
God’s people are not to use deceptive and manipulative actions, even in an attempt to guarantee that His will to bless the world is done. A sad and sometimes tragic situation occurs when a husband and wife can no longer communicate honestly with each other. This appears to have been the state of affairs in Isaac and Rebekah’s relationship, especially later in their marriage. Rebekah overheard Isaac’s words to Esau about the deathbed blessing, she faced a problem. She thought that trying to reason with her husband about this matter was pointless, since he was determined to bless his elder and favorite son. Also, Rebekah may have feared that Isaac would accuse her of trying to get the blessing for Jacob because he was her favorite son.
Whatever Rebekah’s motives may have been, we must be careful not excuse her actions. God does approve of deception and manipulation, even if they have a good end in view (Romans 3:8). Although Rebekah may have rationalized her actions, they were wrong and destructive to the whole family. Her plan followed the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:13-18). He deceitful scheme calls to mind a well-known saying from Sir Walter Scott: “O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
It may appear that Jacob escaped without suffering any consequences from the lies told to his blind father. As the story continues, it becomes evident that he had to discover through painful experience that “the way of the treacherous” is not an easy path (Proverbs 13:15). In the next few chapters, the story reveals that Jacob had some important lessons to learn about deceiving others. He would come to understand them by being on the not-so-pleasant end of deception. Jacob would discover that his father-in-law, was even more adept at deception than was his young nephew. Someone once observed that “these two men deserved each other.”
An Open Mind and Honest Heart
by Jeff Curtis
The story of the Ethiopian eunuch is the story of an open minded official that people with honest hearts – people who recognize their need for God – can be found in the world if we simply look for them. We may fail to see these people because, like the eunuch, they hold important positions, and we think they will not see their need in Christ. We may fail to see them because, like the eunuch, they are strong in their religious beliefs, and we think they won’t listen to us. Let’s prejudge any man but earnestly search for good and honest hearts. When we find them, we need to guide them to the Lord.
Consider the conversion from the standpoint of the eunuch. He knew nothing about the divine messages given to Philip. For him, the story started with a passage in Isaiah that was difficult for him to understand. Philip asked the question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch invited Philip to join him in the chariot, and as they travelled along, Philip “preached Jesus to him” (v.35). Philip preached the gospel, God’s saving power to save. When the eunuch heard this message, he believed and obeyed (vv.36-39). He wasn’t saved by some “feeling better than told,” but through the preaching which produced faith in his heart (Romans 1:16; 10:17). God’s plan was to get an honest sinner and the preacher together – and then let the Word do its job. If you desire to eb saved, don’ wait for some mysterious “experience,” but rather hear the gospel, believe it, obey it.
Although God’s intervention in this case doesn’t prove that the alien sinner must have a miraculous experience, it does show God’s concern for the lost, especially the lost who have “honest and good hearts” (Luke 8:15). It is implied that God will help honest searchers for the truth find the truth (Matthew 7:7-8). Many examples come to mind of men and women honestly trying to discover God’s truth who came in contact with the very person who could teach them truth under circumstances that cannot be explained as coincidence.
A preacher tells of meeting a young man at a retreat in Texas. The young man grew up on the streets of Brooklyn but had moved to Dallas. One day, not long after he had arrived in Dallas, he was travelling on a bus and started talking to a young woman seated beside him. She invited him to church. The young told her he wasn’t a church-goer, but he didn’t know anyone in Dallas, so he went. The people were so friendly that he thought it had to be an act. He went back the following week to see them again. Soon he became a Christian. The preacher said that at the retreat, the young man went around the camp, asking “Are you a Christian? Let me tell you how I became a Christian!” Think about this story for a moment. What are the odds against the young man’s sitting on this specific bus beside this specific young woman who invite him to the worship services? Both Scripture and experience should convince us that if one is an honest searcher, God will providentially make a way for that one to learn the truth.
An Immediate Response
by Jeff Curtis
The Ethiopian eunuch eagerly desired to obey the gospel in baptism. He took the initiative by spotting the water deep enough to accommodate his immersion. He asked if there was any reason that would prevent his immersion. He also called for the chariot to stop.
Philip didn’t tell the eunuch that they would have to “wait until the next Sunday.” Neither did Philip say, “We will have to wait until the church can vote on you.” Instead, Philip went down into the water with the eunuch and immersed him into the Lord Jesus Christ.