Genesis 27.1-5,15-29; Psalm 134; Matthew 9.14-17
The last words of yesterday’s first reading declare that by means of his new love for Rebekah his wife ‘Isaac was consoled for the loss of his mother’. [Genesis 24.67] Subsequent to that death Abraham had remarried [25.1], and to Keturah’s sons, as well as to unenumerated ‘sons of his concubines’ Abraham ‘gave presents’ [25.4-6] but to Isaac ‘Abraham gave all his possessions.’ [25.5]
Today’s lesson leaps forward to a day when ‘Isaac had grown old, his eyes so weak that he could no longer see.’ The time has come for the blessing imparted by God on Abraham and his seed forever to be passed down to another generation. In an elaborate ruse, apparently connived in by their mother, Jacob, the minutes-later younger son, manages to displace his twin brother Esau, and was declared the inheritor of the blessing and the wealth of his father. When Esau discovers the ruse and tries to get his father to withdraw his blessing and bestow it on him, Isaac just mumbles incoherently that he had only one blessing to give and it had been given.
Yet one gets the sense that Isaac knows what he has done, even if he doesn’t understand why. Jacob’s stratagem seems obvious, even transparent. Isaac knows, knows deeply in his soul, that it is Jacob whom God has chosen, not Esau. Since that day on Mount Moriah when Isaac’s squeaky little voice had asked his father ‘Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?’ [22.7] Isaac had known that the ways of God were inscrutable to him. Isaac was neither the garrulous hail-fellow-well-met that his father had been, nor the penetrating theologian he perhaps yearned to be. But when at the age of 180 years Isaac breathed his last and was laid to rest [35.28] he was ‘an old man who had enjoyed his full span of life’ [35.29] in every sense of the word. He had fulfilled his part in God’s plan, and through his sons, Esau and Jacob, who together buried him, that story would go forward.