The Gospel for the City in Genesis 25-27

Genesis 25:12-27:46 reminds us that God is faithful to fulfill his covenant promises despite human unfaithfulness.  Isaac shows a similar failure of faith, as did his father. He lies about Rebecca being his wife and instead of blessing the nations, he arouses disdain from them. Yet, despite Isaac’s unfaithfulness, the Lord blesses him and causes him to prosper. He recovers numerous wells that his father had dug and digs new ones, making his mark as he sojourns in the land of promise. In the land of promise he builds an altar and worships, calling upon the name of YAHWEH.  Isaac’s sojourn in the land of promise it twice threatened both by famine and disputes with Abimelech and his herdsmen. Nevertheless, God encourages him to remain in the land of promise and twice reaffirms to him the promise given to Abraham. Isaac and Rebecca give birth to Jacob and Esau.

Though Esau is the firstborn, Jacob is chosen of God to be the bearer of the Abrahamic promise.  Esau later confirms God’s choice showing his disregard for the birthright by selling his firstborn rights for a meal to Jacob.  Esau also shows his disregard for covenantal life by marrying two women who displeased his parents. Though the birthright and the Abraham blessing belong to Jacob, he yet resorts to chicanery and deception to obtain the blessing from Isaac.  Nevertheless, in grace to Jacob God affirms that the Abrahamic promise will come through his offspring.

Our faithfulness, as God’s covenant people, is often tested. The rest that was expected in the land was only partially realized by the patriarchs. This “rest” in the land anticipated “rest” in Jesus Christ (Matt 11:28-30).  This rest is semi-realized in the believers present experience in Christ (Heb 4:3), yet it awaits a more consummate fulfillment (Heb 4:9) in the New Creation. Our rest is sometimes threatened by natural elements (famine) and relational conflict (Abimelech’s herdsmen).

This is especially true in urban ministry.  The natural and relational elements of city living are often more adverse due to the increased diversity, density, and depravity of the city. The corrupt politics, the deteriorating infrastructures, the inefficient government services, and the depleted availability of goods and services (especially in poor neighborhoods) aim to disturb the rest (landedness) we have found in Christ. We are often faced with the question faced by the patriarchs: Do we seek to find that rest in some other place than in Christ or do we endure those challenges to that rest by believing that God’s promise is secure in Christ? We bring blessing to the nations, neither by our own self-protective designs, nor by flight from the difficulties of life. We do not need to contrive means to secure the blessing of God in Christ. It is a gift of God’s grace. We bring blessing to the nations by looking in faith to God’s promise in Christ – abiding in Him and enjoying the rest He offers.


On September 10, 1970 I came to understand the great love of God for me, a sinner and a rebel. That evening I received God’s forgiveness and a new life through Jesus Christ, who died in my place and rose again to offer forgiveness and new life. I have been senior pastor for over 30 years planting two churches in Buckingham, PA and Queens, NY and serving two other churches in Brooklyn, NY and Roslyn, PA. I am currently the lead pastor at Grace Church of Philly.

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