LIVING IN THE NATURAL LIFE AS JACOB
In Isaac there was not only the natural weakness but also the natural life. He still lived in the natural life. He did not live a so-called spiritual life all the time. After Isaac prayed, God gave him two sons, Esau and Jacob. Isaac loved Esau because he was a skillful hunter and Isaac “did eat of his venison” (25:27-28). Isaac’s love for his firstborn son was altogether in the natural life according to his natural taste, as was Jacob’s love for Joseph (37:3-4). Since the husband took the lead to have a partial love, the wife followed. Esau, a “skillful hunter” (Heb.), was a father’s boy, and Jacob, a “quiet man” who dwelt in tents (Heb.), was a mother’s boy. Every mother loves a child who quietly stays around her. No mother would love a wild child who enjoys sports all day long. In Isaac’s family, the father had a partial love for Esau, and the mother had a partial love for Jacob. What kind of life was this? Was it a spiritual life, a resurrection life? No, although it was not a sinful life, it was a natural life. We should not think that we are different, for every parent has some partial love. If you have several children, you will love one of them more than the others according to your taste, and all your children will know who is the object of your partial love. This partial love is not according to our spirit; it is according to our natural taste. We love a particular boy or girl because he or she suits our natural taste. This is the natural life.
The natural life always causes trouble. Out of this partial love in Isaac’s family came the need of supplanting. Rebekah wanted her beloved son to receive the blessing. In chapter twenty-seven we see that she was very capable of supplanting (vv. 5-7). She taught Jacob how to supplant. In chapter thirty Jacob tricked his uncle Laban in the matter of the cattle (vv. 31-43). The principle is the same in chapter twenty-seven. Rebekah prepared savory meat and put goat skins on Jacob’s hands and neck. When Isaac felt him, this caused him to say, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (27:22). Here we see that Jacob was taught the supplanting skill by his mother, who was a part of his father. In a sense, the mother cheated the father, meaning that the second part of a person cheated the first part of the same person. All such family cheating is self-cheating. Eventually, everyone in the family was cheated. When I was reading this chapter, I said, “Rebekah, you thought you were smart. Actually you were stupid. Didn’t you know that God had ordained Jacob to be the first? There was no need for you to help.” Rebekah, who tried to help her son, lost him. Genesis does not tell us how long Rebekah lived. She might have died before Jacob returned from Laban’s home. This means that Rebekah lost her son by cheating. Rebekah probably did not live to see her son Jacob again. She thought that she was helping him; actually, because of her supplanting, she lost him.
It is difficult to believe that a person like Isaac could still have such a natural weakness and still live in such a natural life. Isaac suffered because of his natural life (26:34-35; 27:41-46; 28:6-9). Although Isaac was always enjoying grace, there was an aspect of suffering in his life. Both Isaac and Rebekah suffered because they lived in a natural way, for Esau’s wives were “a bitterness of spirit” to them (26:34-35, Heb.).
Because of the partial love in this family, Esau hated Jacob and wanted to kill him. When Rebekah heard of this, she told Jacob to flee to her brother Laban and to stay with him until Esau’s anger had turned away. But Rebekah told Isaac another story (27:46). She seemed to be saying, “The wives of Esau have caused us so much bitterness of spirit that I could not bear to live if Jacob took such a wife. We should send him away to get a wife.” Rebekah told the same thing in two different ways. Every wise wife does this, telling one story in two ways. Like many wives today, Rebekah lied to Isaac by telling the truth. Her intention was to send Jacob away, protecting him from Esau, but she did not tell Isaac of this. Rather, she said that she was tired of her Gentile daughters-in-law and that she did not want Jacob to have such a wife, suggesting to Isaac that they send Jacob away to take a wife from their own race. According to her intention, this was a lie; according to her speaking, however, it was the truth. This caused suffering.
While Isaac was enjoying grace, he was also suffering because of his living in the natural life. The natural life will not frustrate grace, but it will cause us to suffer. It will not decrease the amount of our grace, but it will increase our measure of suffering. As long as you have one aspect of your natural life, it will cause you to suffer. If you do not want to suffer, you should not live in the natural life. Do not practice your cleverness, exercise your wisdom to help God, or do anything in your natural life. This will only add to your suffering. It is better for us not to live in our natural life.
Although Isaac lived in his natural life, God was sovereign over all. In a sense, the natural life helped God’s sovereignty. God had predestinated Jacob to have the birthright and to participate in the blessing of the firstborn. While Rebekah’s supplanting caused her to suffer, it was sovereignly used by God to fulfill His purpose. Everything was under God’s sovereignty for the accomplishment of His purpose. Therefore, we all can say, “Praise the Lord, whether I am good or bad, spiritual or unspiritual, God’s purpose is being fulfilled. No matter what happens, I am under grace and in the enjoyment of grace.” Nothing should frustrate us from the enjoyment of grace. Nevertheless, if we would avoid suffering, we should not live in the natural life.
NOT HAVING MUCH MATURITY IN LIFE
Isaac had some maturity in life, but not very much. Although he blessed, he blessed blindly (27:21-29). His blessing was according to his natural taste (27:1-4). He blessed blindly, not only physically but also spiritually, because he had been blinded by his natural taste. However, he did bless by faith (Heb. 11:20). He had said that his soul would bless, but eventually it was not his soul that blessed; it was his spirit that bestowed the blessing, and his blessing became a prophecy. No one can prophesy in the soul. If we would prophesy, we must be in our spirit. Thus, Isaac did bless in the spirit by faith.
Faith does not depend upon what we are; it depends upon what we see. Whenever you want to exercise faith, you should not look at yourself, at what you are, nor at your environment. You must look at what God is and to what He says. Then you will be able to exercise your faith in God and in His word. Isaac blessed by faith in this way. According to his situation, he was not qualified to have faith. But he did not consider what he was; he looked away to God and to God’s promise, blessing his son by faith and in the spirit. If we would have faith, we must look away from ourselves, for if we look at ourselves, faith will disappear. Look unto God and see what He has spoken in His word. Then simply utter what God has already spoken. This is faith. Isaac blessed his son in this way.
DIED IN FAITH AT THE FULLNESS OF DAYS
Although there is no hint in the Bible that Isaac was very spiritual, he did not die in a miserable condition. He died in faith at the fullness of days (35:28-29). This is proved by the fact that his sons buried him, along with his wife Rebekah, in the cave of Machpelah (49:30-32). Before he died, he must have charged his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham and Sarah were buried. This proves that Isaac had the faith of Abraham.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 29, by Witness Lee)