What’s going to happen to the covenant and its blessings now that this great man has died? Will competition break out between Isaac and his half-brothers? Will Yahweh demonstrate His grace to a new generation? The biblical narrator doesn’t let us wait long for an answer. Almost immediately he tells us, “After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi” (Genesis 25:11). Then Yahweh appears to Isaac and confirms the covenant: Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 26:3-4).
But the transfer of the covenant to a new generation doesn’t occur without difficulties. First, it turns out that Rebekah, Isaac’s new wife, is sterile. Isaac has to face the same difficulty that his father did… and it seems like he learned from the latter’s experience. Instead of looking for another woman like Hagar, Isaac prays to God, “And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21). Even though he waits 20 years, he keeps faithful in prayer and finds Yahweh to be faithful in His promises (Genesis 25:20, 26).
Second, there is the constant threat from the pagans in the land who may decide to rob Isaac of his covenant blessings (to take his wife, his wells or even his life). In spite of Isaac’s lie, Yahweh displays His grace again by protecting this small family in chapter 26, even giving them peace with the Philistines who threatened them earlier.
Third, there’s conflict in the family itself. Both Isaac and Rebekah want their favorite son of the twins to inherit the covenant blessing, and that leads to the deceit of chapter 27. But Yahweh reveals that they will not decide who receives the covenant blessing, nor can they manipulate the outcome; instead, it is His choice: “[Rebekah] went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger’” (Genesis 25:23). As the apostle Paul says about Jacob and Esau, “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger’” (Romans 9:11-12). The security of the covenant in the new generation is based on the sovereignty, the faithfulness and the grace of Yahweh, not on the manipulations of its participants.
And what joy and thankfulness that gives us today when we recognize that the security of God’s covenant is established on His sovereignty, His faithfulness and His grace! When we worry about the transmission of our faith to the next generation, when we feel the threats from a world hostile to the Christian faith, when we grow discouraged by news of conflicts within the family of Christ, when we suffer through the sterility of some churches and ministries, we don’t need to worry but to pray faithfully and continue forward in the Lord’s work, knowing that our work in the Lord is not in vain. Instead, He will build His church as He promised and will remain faithful to His covenant even in the challenges, the threats and the conflicts that show up in the next generation.