Michael Youssef - The Blessing of Unity
About 20 years ago or so, the Lord began to teach my wife and I to study and practice what he said in Matthew chapter 18, verses 19 and 20, now, of course, known as the prayer of agreement. I have to tell you at the outset so you understand. I do not know everything to be known about this, so you know. To this day I still don't, so let me read it for you. "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven". In context, this promise comes after ensuring that we must come clean with God and with men. In other words, there has to be purity of motive before we can pray this prayer of agreement and claim the promises that are here. There has to be purity in the desire to pray according to the will of God for his honor and for his glory, not for our own vanity.
I began to learn that when a husband and wife unite in prayer regarding something that is consistent with the Word of God, consistent with the will of God, bringing honor to God and glory to God and become totally in agreement, I don't mean one says, "Well, can you pray with me, agree with some", I've seen that also, the manipulation take place. "Will you agree with me on this"? No. I'm talking about total agreement. I'm not just going to go along with you, but this is a total agreement that I am as committed to it as you are. That somehow, don't ask me how, that in the economy of God, God will answer that prayer. Turn to Genesis 27. I'm going to show you this biblical principle, what's missing between Isaac and Rebecca in their life together as husband and wife. Unity in prayer and unity in purpose was a nonexistent, and because of that lack of unity, lots of heartache, lots of pain followed.
Now, in the last message, we began a new series of messages on how fear deceives and brings deception but the grace of God frees. In the last message from Genesis 25, we saw Isaac and his wife, and I hinted at that, Rebecca in total disunity. Isaac and his wife Rebecca did not fully obey God's revelation, God's Word to them. Isaac and Rebecca had tension and dissension in their relationship, and that is why, because they did not trust in the promise of God. They did not anchor their unity in the promise of God. That marital tension exasperated the tension between the two boys. Turn to Genesis 27. Here we see this lack of unity between Isaac and Rebecca blown up in their faces. I mean, it's blown all over the place.
Now, let me remind you that God gave them a special revelation for that family. It doesn't mean every family will have to abide by that. No. It's the lessons we learn from them. And the special revelation was as follows. Listen carefully. God will fulfill his promise that he gave to Isaac's father Abraham, that the blessing and the birth of the Messiah, that's really what the blessing is all about. It's about the line of the birth of the Messiah Jesus. That the line of the Messiah will come through Jacob and not Esau; that the Messiah will be from the descendants of Jacob not Esau, which actually as I said, again, this is a reversal of the cultural norm. The cultural norm is the older is the one who gets the blessing and not the younger, but God reverses those norms. And then we saw Isaac and Rebecca operating on their own feelings, in their own emotions. One favored one, and one favored the other.
Isaac favored Esau, and Rebecca favored Jacob. We saw also that Esau had a very cavalier attitude toward his birthright that he decided for a moment of desire, a moment of hunger that he sold it for a bowl of soup to his brother Jacob, then he complains. This biblical saga is filled with very important lessons in every aspect of our lives. As Isaac gets old and he begins to lose his sight, unfortunately he was not losing his hardness of heart. "How come," you ask, "that he had this stubborn attitude"? Because he was determined to pass the blessing to the wrong son or against the very clear direction of God.
Now, beloved, here's the problem. Some of you are going to disagree, so I'm telling you upfront. In all of our dealings, and I'm including myself with everybody. In all of our dealings, we tend to be more like Isaac. We often act on our emotions instead of acting on the truth of the Word of God. Thank you. We often respond with our feelings, not, what did God say? We often allow our impulses to get the best of us instead of what God wants and his Word said. We often act in favor of our desire and our preferences rather than the truth of the Word of God. Isaac was doing his transactions in secret. Instead of being upfront with the whole family, Isaac makes a secret deal with Esau. Why? Because he knew that he was going against God's revelation, God's oracle to his wife Rebecca.
Listen, even the great patriarch Abraham, I mean, every writer in the New Testament talks about the faith of Abraham, the faith of Abraham. Even Abraham tried to convince God that Ishmael should be the son of promise. I mean, how many times did you try to twist the arm of God, convince God to go with your way? Abraham was doing that, and now his son of promise, Isaac, is trying to circumvent the promise of God and the revelation of God instead of submitting to the will of God. Again, thank God, thank God, thank God for his overruling grace. Let's say it again. We said it last Sunday. I don't know where I'd be without the overruling grace of God. Beloved, the grace of God can overrule even our worst failure.
Listen to me. It is tragic when a man is at odds with his family, it is even far more tragic when a man is at odds with the Word of God, but here's the good news. Here's the good news of how God overrules, how his grace overrules. You find that good news not in Genesis but in the New Testament, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 20. Here's the marvelous grace of God. This verse can give anyone a one-person revival. Look at it with me. Verse 20 of chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews calls Isaac a man of faith. We were just reading about this guy's shortcuts and double, deception and everything else, but Hebrews says Isaac was a man of faith.
You say, "How come? How come"? He was bent in disobeying God's revealed will and Word. There's a reason for this. If you look at verse 33 of Genesis 27, when Isaac got caught in that deception, you know what the Bible said? He trembled. He trembled. I think the trembling is not just because he got caught in disobeying God, but it's a trembling of repentance, that he knew he was going against the will of God and he came under conviction. At that moment, he was filled with good guilt. There is a bad guilt. There's a good guilt. This is the good guilt that led him to repentance, and that is why 2,000 years later it says he's a man of faith. And finally he does the right thing. He blessed Jacob again and he sent him on his way. Finally, finally. God is not looking for perfection, but he's looking for a heart that is broken and contrite. I'm going to say more about that in the next message.
Beloved, the grace of God not only overrule and overwhelms our worst failure, but when we repent he gives us the credit. He does here. When Isaac repented, 2,000 years later in the Bible called a man of faith. Isn't that amazing? What an amazing God we have. What an amazing God we have. Abraham failed so many times, and yet he's a model of faith. And that is why it's called amazing grace. What about Rebecca? Well, through the years people wanted to defend Rebecca. They really did. They said, "Well, you know, wasn't Rebecca using Jacob, deceiving of her husband? Isaac was really doing the will of God. After all, Rebecca is the one who received that oracle from God and therefore she was not merely looking out for her favorite son Jacob, but she was trying to save the day. I mean, she was trying to stop her husband from making a terrible mistake. After all, this disagreement between her and her husband was not a simple thing like buying living room furniture or what sports the kids play, or it's not a disagreement on money and finances. It's not a disagreement just on what school to send the kids to. This is a biggie".
Please understand that once the blessing regarding which line the Messiah will be born from, there is no going back. Time is short. What does a believing wife do under the circumstances? Don't the end justify the means? And in the end, what is a little fib, a little white lie? Just a little deception among family, right? Hello. Let me ask you this. Are you able to see Satan's deception, Satan's lie, and Satan's temptation here? Can you see it? If you didn't, that's okay. I'm going to show it to you. In fact, I'm going to blow it up so you can see it. It is exactly the same temptation that Satan uses over and over and over and over again with all of us, including your pastor. It's called doing the right thing the wrong way, and the reason I call it Satan's favorite temptation, it is one of his favorite temptations.
You know why? Because he used it on Jesus. He used it on Jesus, and it's called shortcuts; and he uses it with every one of us. He does. Satan comes to Jesus in the wilderness and says... now here's a Youssef translation. You're not going to find it in your Bible. Okay? I told you I'm going to blow it up so you can see it. "Jesus, you know and I know that you're going to be the sovereign King of the universe. Jesus, I know and you know you're going to be the great Judge of the universe. Now let me show you an easy way to your destination. Jesus, there is a simpler way to achieve your goal and it actually make you avoid the horrors of the cross. Let me take you there".
Isn't he sweet? Isn't Satan sweet? He's going to take you there. He's going to help you out. My beloved friends, always, always, always, always, always be leery of Satan's shortcuts. Be leery of Satan's shortcuts. Here's a good question you can ask yourself if you find yourself in that situation. Here's the question. You're ready for it? "Can God fulfill his purpose and his promises without me"? Oh, that gets to our pride, doesn't it? "Can he do it without me"? Yeah, sure. "Then why on earth would I do the right thing the wrong way"? Beloved, you cannot overcome one sin by committing another. That's never God's way. It's never God's way. It's never God's way.
So what should Rebecca have done? Listen carefully, please. I'm going to put it in modern context. She should have gone to her husband Isaac and she should have said to him, "Zeke, my buttercup; Zeke, my sweetie pie; Zeke, my darling, I overheard you talk about what you're about to do. Have you forgotten God's revelation? Have you forgotten what God said? Have you forgotten the special oracle that I received from the Lord? Have you forgotten how God supernaturally answered your prayers on my behalf and gave us those two boys? Have you forgotten how God kept his promises to your father and your mother and gave them you at a very old age, even they waited for 25 years"? She would have been like the man who said, "Last night I had words with my wife. I didn't get to use mine and I will be fine". Isaac didn't have to use his.
Now, whether Isaac would have repented or not, that's not the issue. Rebecca most likely convinced herself that Isaac had not only has hardening of the arteries in his eyesight but he's having hardness of the heart, and he would not listen. I personally believe there's more than that. I think Isaac and Rebecca have stopped communicating with each other long time ago. Years earlier they had stopped communication. Beloved, hear me right on this one. This is very important. It's a very sensitive subject. I know that. When meaningful communication between husband and wife ceases to exist, sin is always and constantly readily available. When good, healthy unity of purpose and prayer between husband and wife fail, Satan is always waiting at the wings with a shortcut.
When unity in prayer and intercession breaks down, it is replaced with power struggle, deception, and self-will. Not only that, but Rebecca went about it the wrong way, but they both, Isaac and Rebecca, set a terrible example for the boys. Beloved, I learned long ago that children are not listening to our words as much as they are watching our action. Oh, what a missed opportunity for Isaac and Rebecca. What a missed opportunity to instructing the children in God's way. What a missed opportunity to teach the children to trust in the promises of God.
What a missed opportunity to use this as a lesson to remember the faithfulness of God to Abraham and how he waited for 25 years, and yet God kept his Word. But instead, Jacob learned the art of deception, which he actually uses later on again and again and again, and Esau learned the hardness of the heart and rebellion. But let me stop here and say something really important. Adult children, you cannot live the rest of your life blaming your parents. It does not mean that we continuously say, "Well, it's because they did this, this is where I am". Adult children who blame their parents' failure for their own failure will never get to first base in their Christian walk and in their relationships. They are like someone who's tied to chains.
Beloved friends, listen to me. I have no doubt that many parents, most parents made terrible mistakes, including myself, but it is never an excuse for our failure as adult children. Blaming of the parents, continuous anger with parents, unforgiveness of parents, all of that will not wash and will not pull you forward. It will keep you running in place. You have to let go. Start looking inside and look up. You have to let go. Say it with me. You have to... Many years ago I knew a man who's died now, but back then he was in his 80s. He inherited a prosperous business from his father, yet every time I'll talk with him he just talks with anger and with bitterness about all the things that his father did, who's been dead for a long time ago.
Beloved, whatever mistakes and failures our parents made in the past when we were growing up, whatever pain they caused you growing up, whatever heartache they brought about in those early days, you need to forgive them and determine to be a better parent. Amen? Because God's grace rules and overrules, because God's grace washes and cleanses, because God's grace heals and restores, because God's grace is ready to bless you afresh. Are you ready to be blessed? Well, you can do that today. And so I finish where I started, the power and the blessing of unity in prayer and purpose between husband and wife. Had Isaac and Rebecca become united in prayer, had Isaac and Rebecca been united in purpose, had Isaac and Rebecca been united in obedience to God, the story would have been written differently; the heartache, the pain would have been avoided. But remember this. They did not have a Bible. They did not have 2,000 years of Christianity. They did not have a church on every corner.
So before we start pointing the finger... I'm talking about myself. That's why the Bible is not sanitized and given to us, so it's said, "Here, here, perfect people. Imitate them". No. The Bible is revealing to us the incredible overruling grace of God. Thank God for... (The overruling grace of God.) This table should remind you of the cost of our sin that he carried on that cross, and he continues to invite us. Come to this table and purpose in your heart that you're going to unite with your spouse, unite with your parents, unite with your siblings, unite with whomever you have broken a relationship with; and that's the good news of the gospel. No matter how far you're wandered off, no matter how much hardness of heart you are in right now, no matter how frustrated you might be feeling at this moment, no matter how much guilt and shame you're carrying from your past, come to the table of the Lord. Dump all of that at the cross of Christ.