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Dealing with the Man in the Mirror

Sermon by Justin Pillsbury on Oct 17, 2010

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The Lord's Day Evening

October 17, 2010

Genesis 27

Dealing with the Man in the Mirror”

Mr. Justin Pillsbury

Good evening. It's an honor to be with you to open the Word of God once again and, one I want to thank you for the privilege of getting to hang out with your students, your covenant kids on a weekly basis. It is a privilege and a true joy and each week as we welcome our students to Sunday School or Insight, we recite something I heard when I TC/RUF. If I hear good things I usually steal them. Dustin Salter was the RUF campus minister and each week he would say, “We believe you’re never so bad that you’re beyond the reach of God's grace and never so good that you don't stand in other need of God's grace.”

The passage we're looking at tonight opens with a family that hasn't grasped their utter need of God's grace. And as we come to the end we're left thinking, “How could God work in a family like this?” It's a troubling, a disturbing passage, but it offers great insight and hope for families. It shows us how relevant the Word of God is in the life of the believer and it speaks to the inerrancy of scripture because why would you ever record something like this about your family. These are the relatives; these are the situations that you hide, that you disassociate from.

But before we deal with that man or the woman in the mirror, let's walk through some helpful background on the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis was written by Moses and he's writing to reinforce the truths of God's promises. The original audience, the second generation Israelites on the plains of Moab about to enter the Promised Land and it's that second generation because the first generation failed to believe the promises of God. And what Moses is saying through God is here's how to live in the land when you get there. Here are the situations you will face. Here's how to live in faith and when you doubt remember my grace is more than sufficient. It is more than enough just like it was for your father Abraham, just like Isaac, just like Jacob, and on it goes. So God is saying, “I am good to my people.”

One more helpful thought for tonight before we read it, it can be helpful to think of reality TV as strange as that sounds, but this is a little bit like Jewish reality TV; just like reality TV gives you snapshots of either individuals or especially if it's families, families at their worst. And we're going to see this great family at their absolute worst.

So think back on those moments, those worst moments in your families’ life and that's what we have here. So before we engage on a little bit of Jewish reality TV let's pray.

Father in Heaven, Lord, this is your word and we get the privilege of coming before you tonight. We thank You that, Lord, You've established this church long ago and, Father, year after year, Lord, Your Word has gone forth.

We pray tonight that You would deal with our hearts, Father, that we would truly look into the mirror and see the sin that is there. Father, that it would disgust us, but, Father that we would run to Your arms because we realize that Your grace covers that sin however heinous and ugly it is, Lord God. Open our eyes as we read Your Word. In Your name, Jesus' name. Amen.

Hear the Word of God. This is Genesis chapter 27:

“When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, “My son”; and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.”

So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” Jacob said to his father, I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands. So he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it neat to me, that I may eat of my son's game and bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate and he brought with him wine and he drank.

Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!

May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.

Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.

Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you.

Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also prepared delicious and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that you may bless me.” His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, “Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

Then Isaac his father answered and said to him:

“Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be,

and away from the dew of heaven on high.

By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran and stay with him a while, until your brother's fury turns away– until your brother's anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me.”

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever.

Alright, we're going to look at three things tonight. The first thing is the skill of ignoring the man in the mirror. The second thing, the consequences of ignoring the man in the mirror, and the third, how does the man in the mirror change?–Repentance.

In R. C. Sproul's forward to The Man in the Mirror, he pens these words: ‘If the dog is man's best friend perhaps his worst enemy is his mirror.” Well, maybe his mirror isn't really his worst enemy. It merely reflects the image of his most formidable opponent. What opponent is more dangerous than the one who knows our deepest, darkest secrets? What opponent is more lethal than the one who can probe our most vulnerable points? The man in the mirror is me. Ouch! What I see in the mirror is what I get, like it or not. My mirror won't lie to me either.

So, the first thing about this formidable opponent is the skill of ignoring the man in the mirror. We are very skilled at ignoring the sin in our lives. We’re going to walk through the lives of four individuals: Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Esau; a cast of characters in a sense who in this passage were skilled at ignoring the man or the woman in the mirror. So as we look at these individuals ask the Lord, “How can you open my eyes to the sin that is present in their lives? Where are similar sin patterns in my life?”

Isaac, the defiant patriarch, is the first out of the gate. Isaac is probably around100 years old at this point and Isaac has always loved Esau more. Esau was a man's man. He was rough. He was tough. He loved to hunt game; a man who in a worldly sense would make a father proud.

Well, Jacob, was not quite the manliest of men; what some today might call a momma's boy. He might not be the one who's able to throw a fastball, throw the football very far. He may not even enjoy sports, but as we read between the lines about these two boys and Isaac's affection for Esau, Isaac is probably doubting why God would make Jacob the covenant head. He wasn't as tough as his older brother Esau. He was doubting if Jacob would really be able to be the head of the covenant line, but in doubting Jacob ultimately he was doubting God.

So Isaac thinks he's near death at this point as his body's beginning to fail him especially his sight, but in actuality he lives to near 180. So he wants to go ahead and give this deathbed blessing and he wants to give it to Esau, the godless one.

A little bit about this deathbed blessing. It comes from the father and it's to be done in a public setting, but Isaac's gone about it in a private manner. And the fact that he does this in a private manner, it reveals his sinful intentions. He knows he's stepping into sin. This is premeditated sin on the part of Isaac because Isaac knows it is God's plan for the older to serve the younger. Isaac is deliberately defying the will and the word of God as we read from Genesis 25:23; again, the older will serve the younger. Isaac doesn't hesitate and he gives instructions to Esau on how to secure the blessings and more than likely it was his worldly affections for Esau that blinded his obedience to God.

How true is that in our lives? Our worldly affections, whether it's for a child, for a spouse, for a job, for a football team blinds our obedience to God. We tend to follow the world's call before we follow the call of God. We fail to pay attention to our spiritual eyesight. We trust our own eyesight over that of our heavenly Father.

Isaac was going blind, but his spiritual eyesight was even worse than his physical eyesight. And the sad part as the head of the house, as the patriarch, Isaac is setting up a painful and chaotic situation for his household. Even though Isaac knows he's stepping into sin, he can't grasp how deep the wounds of this sin will go in destroying his family as he fails to see the sin in his own life.

And for men, as the head of the household, as we live our lives and make decisions due we grasp the impact those decisions have on our families? Do we see beyond ourselves? And do we live by the Word of God or do we live in defiance to the Word of God.

The second character that shows up on the scenes is Rebekah, the manipulator. She enters this story by overhearing a conversation and instead of confronting Isaac and Esau, she begins to lean on her own understanding. So we have a mom behind the scenes trying to situate Jacob for success.

And what's interesting, again, the relevancy of Scripture still to this day, there are boys in this world who sadly are the beneficiaries of mother's leaning on their own understanding instead of trusting on the promises of God. And it leaves a group of boys sitting around for mommy to save the day instead of being a man and leading.

Jacob, more than likely, is in his forties at this point and is still being treated like a little boy as mom tries to manipulate his life to fit her dreams and not the glory of God.

Many moms continue this tradition today, a tradition that really needs to cease. We have moms who want their boys to not suffer any harm and one day when they’re out of the house to make lots of money and having an attractive family or successful family is more important than glorifying God.

On the flip side, ladies, sometimes your moms may want you married more than they’re concerned about the glory of God.

So, the relevancy of the Word of God–we have too many little boys who've been coddled by their moms and sometimes you have to let harm come their way so they begin to take initiative and lead, becoming men who have families of their own one day.

What are some small, simple, practical ways that this looks like? Sometimes it's just increasing responsibility and chores around the house. Maybe it's giving them allowance and forcing them to do a budget. Or maybe it's even the training to hold the door open for ladies. Maybe it's having them sign themselves up for summer camp or a basketball camp, to go through that process and when they’re about to get a car, they sign up. They've got to go find insurance on their own. And as you employ things like this remember you’re still there as the resource, guiding, teaching as they come back with questions, but they’re learning to live apart from you; part of that successful launch into manhood, adulthood.

So, they’re becoming men and one day if they become a man, you’re not going to have to worry about them being thirty-five and living in the apartment above your garage, playing X box three hours a day and still folding their laundry and packing a sack lunch for them, but as you don't have to worry about having a little boy in a man's body, the even more important thing than that is that they’re engaged in the outside world as they work, as they have a family. And they’re affecting the world for the glory of God. That is a job well done by a mother.

And a quick side note to all ladies, to all fathers; when that day comes to marry and fathers when that day comes to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage, do make sure that that boy become a man loves his mom, but make sure he loves your daughter or loves you, ladies, more than he loves his mom because if he loves his mom more than you, he's going to be controlled by her and your life will miserable.

So, make sure he's a man, not a little boy.

The sad thing is the story with Rebekah and Isaac gets worse. And it's not just Rebekah listening in to the conversation. It's her execution of the plan to get Jacob the blessing. Instead of going to Isaac and confronting him in his sin and reminding him of how God's plan for Jacob to lead, she goes about it in her own way. She grabs life by the horns kind of like Eve did and kind of like her mother-in-law, Sarah did.

Sarah doubted the promises of God. I'm old. There's just no way that I'm going to have a son. We've waited year after year after year so the best case scenario is we have help. We've got this Egyptian servant. “Abraham, why don't you sleep with her and then that way we can have a son.” Sarah took it into her own hands.

Rebekah takes it into her own hands. You have this pattern of women taking things into their own hands and doubting the promises of God. And as we know from hindsight those situations turn out terribly.

So, be careful about mom's word. As important as it can be, it's not God's word. In fact, sometimes mom's word can even lead you into sin. Verses 8 and 13 as you read these stand out and as you read scripture sometimes it just jars you. Verse 8: “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you.”

Verse 13: His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son. Only obey my voice and go bring them to me.”

Sometimes a popular question amongst the students is, “Hey, when can I disobey my parents?” and they are usually looking for a different response than the one that we find here. But mom's word is not the ultimate authority. It is for everything aside from the Word of God. It does not trump the Word of God. And Rebekah, right here is saying, “My word is more important than the Word of God.”

So, make sure it's not just, “I'm the parent and you’re going to do everything I say.” Make sure it's, “I'm the parent and we do what the Lord says.”

So when mom questions why your dress is not shorter and why you haven't kissed this guy yet, turn to God's Word because God's Word trumps even mom. And God has blessed so many of us with incredible mothers; mothers whom he has used to grow us in grace and depths unmeasured, but remember God's Word always trumps mom's word even in the South.

Third, Jacob, the late bloomer or some may refer to him as the girly-man, did you catch this? His mom is dressing him in clothes at forty! Dressing him! If your mom is still picking your clothes out at forty, wake up, ‘cause there are some serious problems and issues. Very wrong. And as his mom is telling him this insane plan and dressing him in Esau's clothes. If Jacob was a mature and godly man, there should have been alarm bells ringing in his head and he should have put the brakes on mom in a hurry, saying, “Mom, you are crazy. You are dressing me up like Esau. Instead, let's go to dad. Let's trust in the promises of God.”
Thus begins this sad series of lies. Verses 18-27, again and again Isaac asks, “Are you really Esau?”

“Yes, I am.” Lie after lie after lie to deceive his father and his father is blind and aging at this point. It's just a troubling, troubling passage, but in regards to the lying, sometimes it's a little bit familiar because for us, we get caught in a series of lies and the lies grow. And we don't know what is true and what is not true because there have been so many lies, but it's clear as you get to Jacob, his family has serious integrity issues. They can't trust each other and it leaves us with a question, “Is our family life marked by integrity?”

Well, then Rebekah catches word that Esau wants Jacob dead upon hearing that Jacob had stolen the blessing, so she has Jacob flee because she doesn't want Jacob to face the consequences of his sin.

Parents, one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is to allow them to face the consequences of their sin.

And kids, one of the greatest gifts your parents give you is to allow you to face the consequences of your sin. It is one of the most loving acts of a parent towards a child. So be grateful when your parents let you suffer the consequences of your sin because far too many parents today want to shield their kids from as many consequences of sin as possible. And I'm one who stands here grateful that my parents made me face the consequences of my sin. I was not grateful at the moment, trust me, not at all, but as I stand here today, the many times I had to suffer those consequences only led to God growing me in grace.

And there's one such memory that stands out and I hope you’ll still let me hang out with your students after this. [Laughter] I was a sophomore in high school and I was on the basketball team. We had been in Dallas for a game traveling back and we got the team van and a mom driving a mini van and I happened to be in the mini van with the mom. We have this brilliant idea, as sophomores do. As I tell our students usually when we increase in numbers, our ideas get worse instead of better, which is a sad thing. But we decided, hey, we've got a banana, we've got an orange. Let's drive up along side the team van and let's throw the orange and apple at the team van. I can still remember my coaches look as he sees that second piece of fruit flying towards the van and at that moment I knew, this is not going to be good when we get back home.

Sure enough, he says, “Guys, my office 7:30 in the morning.” Didn't even want to deal with us there. And he says, “Guys, we've got a game Friday. Y’all are suspended. And what you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have to go to that game and you’re going to have sit there in street clothes.”

And there was the mom who driving the van came up and said, “No, no. It was my fault. It was my fault.” And I even used that defense, “I didn't throw the fruit. It wasn't me.”

And the coach goes, “You didn't try to stop him, did you?”

And I said, “Nope. Done.” And I begged my parents, talked to the coach. They said, “No.” And in the moment, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. But that stands out as a moment where I had to suffer the consequences of my sin.

And, parents again, don't be afraid to let your students face the consequences of their sin.

And this fourth character, Esau, the godless man. It's easy to get to Esau and feel sorry for him. You see him crying. You think his blessing got stolen, but he plays the victim card and many of us will play that same card. And we've got to remember this is the same fool who sold his birthright for a cup of soup. That's like you having a ticket to the Super Bowl in February and selling it for $5.00 now because it has no value in the moment, but then later saying, “I want that ticket back when the Super Bowl is here.” He's a fool!

So Esau was in sin before Jacob on this matter as well. He was trying to get the birthright in a deceptive and sinful way. And Esau is not weeping out of sorrow for the sin that's transpired in his life or in the life of his family. He's weeping because he's embarrassed that his brother is better at sinning than him. And Esau projects that blame on Jacob just like we do.

And remember, just because someone is crying doesn't mean they’re the one who was wronged. Often tears can be a ploy to cover our own sin. We want everyone to think that, “I'm really not that sinful, but everyone out there is sinful and they make my life miserable.”

So, we love this victim card way too much so we must stare intently into the mirror and own up to the sin in our lives and quit projecting it on those out there.

The second point: the consequences of ignoring the man in the mirror. Staying status quo will kill us. In order for things to go like they did, you had a family that ignored sin for way too long. They looked in the mirror day after day, month after month, year after year and thought they were much better off than they really were. It hurt them a little in the short term. There was loss of trust. You had a son in multiple marriages to pagan women and under achiever of a son in Jacob, but the long-term consequences were absolutely gut wrenching because they didn't see the potential effects of sin. They underestimated the power of sin. Sin unchecked wreaked havoc on all sorts of levels in our lives.

What did it cost this family? They dishonored their father, dishonored a husband who they thought was dying. You've got a relationship that's fractured. You have a brother hating a brother. Esau wants Jacob dead. Jacob will later get duped by the master deceiver, his future father-in-law, Laban, into twenty years of hard labor and marrying a woman he never loves. Jacob lives in constant fear of his brother. He vacates the Promised Land for fear that Esau is going to kill him. And Rebekah, this mom who loved this boy so much, this is where it's sad, never sees him again. That's the last time as she sends him away, as he runs from sin.

We have a vivid reminder–vivid reminders all over scripture that God forgives, but He doesn't sweep the consequences of sin under the carpet.

It also reminds us that the marketing of sin is outstanding, but the product is terrible, kind of like Rebel Black Bear. [Laughter] This family would never, never be the same because of the sin of so many in the family. We have to quit underestimating the power of sin.

And then finally, how does the man in the mirror change?–Repentance. We may get confession, but we rarely get to repentance. The problem with the confession is it's not enough. That's why sitting in a confession booth is not enough. We need repentance. In verse 12, Jacob kind of gets it where he says, “Perhaps my father will feel me and I shall be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” Just as Jacob saw the sin, but he didn't do anything to stop the sin. We must go beyond acknowledgment of sin and seek repentance.

Have you been around on Sunday mornings and even Sunday evenings to an extent, that is a theme that has been coming over and over and over again. And Ligon reminded us a few weeks ago from The Shorter Catechism, question 87 puts repentance beautifully.

And another quick side note: Parents, if you make your students memorize The Shorter Catechism, whether it's for a cell phone, whether it's for a car or just the sheer pleasure of knowing The Shorter Catechism, that is a beautiful blessing for your kids.

But question 87: What is repentance unto life? Repentance unto life is a saving grace whereby a sinner out of a true sense of his sin, in apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ doth with grief and hatred of his sin turn from it unto God with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.

The chapter ends sadly and it reminds us that we can't respond like Rebekah. And Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”

When the image in the mirror is so obvious to Rebekah as her life sits there wrecked, she's still blaming an outside force. “I'm not the problem. It's not my sin. It's the Hittite women, these Hittite women that Esau married.”

And if we don't deal with our sin, we could push our family to the brink of disaster, limit our friend's growth in grace and live a miserable life, but most importantly, God is not glorified.

So let us be real with the image in the mirror. Own up to the sin in our lives and see we're the problem unlike our dysfunctional ancestors. Isaac doesn't repent of his poor parenting. He doesn't talk to his wife and I would imagine this wasn't the first time he tried to hide something from her. Rebekah doesn't repent of being a manipulative, controlling busybody. Jacob doesn't say, “I'm a momma's boy. I'm a deceiver, a liar. I'm disobedient to God.” Esau never repents; a God hater to his death. Nobody owns their sin

God is calling us to own our sin, but the beauty is he takes care of our sin. He brings change, but it has to be repentance and not just confession because true joy comes with repentance. And we see that in the end there is still hope as you continue to read on in Genesis, as you read on throughout scripture that out of this disastrous mess brought by the hands of Jacob and his family, God is at work accomplishing His purposes. He never left His sovereign throne. God will take sin and evil and make a mess absolutely beautiful.

At this point there seems nothing redeemable about Jacob or anything to love, but God sets His love upon Jacob and begins a great work in the life of Jacob.

Now this is humbling that God would use guys like Jacob, which means He will guys like us and families like ours for His glory and the good of the nations and it leaves us saying that great hymn:

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my god, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature's night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray: I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown,

Through Christ, my own.

Let's pray.

Father, we do that right now. We come boldly before Your throne. And it is not because of anything that we have done. Father, there is nothing that we can do to change the man or the woman in the mirror. Lord, we cannot muster enough effort, enough strength, enough good works. And Father, remind us of that sin daily. Expose that sin as painful and miserable as it is, but, Father, it is a blest pain because Your grace covers it.

And Lord, I pray that we would see that tonight that You would be leading us to repentance in our families, with our friends, within the church. Father, that we long to see You reign. We long to see You rid us of sin and make us more like You.

Father God, we love You and we desperately need You. In Your name, amen.

[Reverend Mr. Billy Joseph]

Let's stand for the Benediction.

And now may grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be in abide with each one of you both now and forever. Amen.

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