Faith is a difficult thing to grasp and demonstrate. The Bible defines faith in a simple matter, but then describes faith in a variety of complex ways. The Book of Hebrews simply says that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). In this way, the Bible defines faith as substance and evidence. Faith is substance in that it is tangibly functional. Faith is evidence in that it is outwardly visible. Faith is substance in that it is not obscure, but definitively representative of God's own work. Faith is evidence in that it is observable testimony of an invisible God. This is why its impossible to please God without faith. The challenge is that the Bible describes a variety of ways to demonstrate "faith," none of which are easy.
For example, one of the illustrations of faith that Hebrews chapter 11 provides is the testimony of Isaac blessing Jacob rather than Esau in Genesis chapter 27. The Book of Hebrews classifies the words and actions of Isaac as "faith." However, when one examines the action that take place in Genesis chapter 27, it seems as if there is more deception than faith. Nonetheless, the scriptures reveal that the decision Isaac made to bless Jacob rather than Esau was an act of faith.
In Genesis chapter 27, Rebekah and Jacob devised a plan to deceive Isaac so that Jacob could receive the blessing that traditionally would have went to Esau. While Esau was out hunting food for his father, Jacob disguised himself as his brother, and being half blind, Isaac unknowingly blessed Jacob instead of Esau. In Genesis 27:30-40 the scriptures describe Esau's response to this situation and then the actions that the Book of Hebrews identifies as "faith." The Bible explains that not long after Jacob received his blessing, Esau came back with the food he had prepared for his father. The Bible explains that when Esau brought the food to Isaac, he began to tremble and shake, realizing that the first meal he ate was not from Esau, so the first blessing he gave was to another person. The Bible explains that Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably upon realizing that his blessing went to someone else.
Genesis 27:30-40 explains that it did not take long for Isaac to realize that Jacob had deceived him. The Bible explains that Isaac later came to understand that Jacob had stolen the blessing from his brother by deception. However, when Esau asked for another blessing, or for Isaac to make a correction to the problem that was made in deception, the scriptures explain that Isaac refused. The scriptures reveal that Esau began to weep bitterly because his blessing was given away to his younger brother. Esau then recounted the fact that Jacob had even taken his birthright when Esau sold it for a bowl of soup. Esau began to grow bitter with his brother and passionately sought for his father to correct the mistake that was made; but Isaac refused.
It is interesting to see the response of Isaac once he realizes that a mistake was made. The blessing that Isaac gave to Jacob could have been changed. Though Jacob was made the heir of Isaac, he could have called his son back into the room, and fixed the mistake to give the blessing to Esau. Isaac even acknowledged that Jacob had received the blessing by method of deception. Yet Isaac refused to do something that seemed so simple. Instead, Isaac seems to add salt to the wound of Esau by stating all of the opportunity that Esau missed out on. Genesis 27:30-40 explains that Isaac told Esau that Jacob would be a master over him, that all of the family was given over to Jacob as servants, that all of the food and resources was now the possession of Jacob, and that the promises of God were now the inheritance of Jacob. Isaac plainly told Esau that, though he was the older brother, he would serve his younger brother just as God determined before their birth.
This is a critical truth to examine. It is Isaac's statement that Esau would serve his brother Jacob that helps one to see how Isaac's actions were an act of faith. Though Isaac could have simply cleared up the mistake that was made, he chose not to. Though Isaac's "mistake" was against cultural tradition, it was in line with the will of God. Though Isaac's "mistake" was unpopular, it was in line with the will of God. Though Isaac's "mistake" presented great difficulty and a burden, it was in line with the will of God. Isaac's decision to allow Jacob to remain the heir demonstrated that he trusted that was what God wanted. Isaac endured the pain of doing the unpopular, and unconventional trusting that God's will was being done.
Isaac's decision to keep the blessing in the hands of Jacob served as substance that God would fulfill the eternal promises that He made to Abraham and Isaac. Isaac's decision to keep the blessing in the hands of Jacob served as evidence that an invisible God was correct in His prediction about the heir of His promises, and that He was working to fulfill them. Isaac's decision to keep the blessing in the hands of Jacob was proof that there is consequence for rejecting the blessings and provision of God in exchange for the desires of one's flesh. Though Isaac's actions may have not seemed like it at the time, scripture reveals that the nontraditional response of Isaac facilitated the plan and purpose of the living God, and that whether he understood God's plan or not, Isaac trusted that God's plan was good. Such is faith!