February 16, 2014.
Daily Reading: Genesis 24-27.
Background: Genesis 20-23.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Choosing the right person to marry: As we come to this chapter in Genesis, we read a detailed story about how Rebekah is chosen as a wife for Isaac, the son of promise in Abraham’s old age. Abraham had been called by God out of the land where he lived in his earlier years to sojourn in the land of Canaan, which the Lord had promised to give to his decedents through Isaac. Though he had lived in the land of Canaan for many years and made good relations with the people there (see Genesis 23), when it came time for Isaac to get married, Abraham knew that it would not be a wise decision for Isaac to marry a daughter of the land in which they lived. He calls his servant in and makes him swear that he will go to the land in which Abraham was from, back to his own clan, and choose a wife for his son Isaac from there instead of the land in which they are sojourning. It was very important to Abraham that Isaac marry the right person. Though the world may see it as not that great of a deal whom we choose to marry, we can take lesson from this story that it indeed is a very important decision, one that will guide your life plan as time presses on. Since it is such a big decision, we should take it very seriously and spend much time in prayer and meditation to be sure we are taking a wise path. As we will see, both Abraham and his servant trusted in the Lord to guide their steps in this decision.
2. Trusting in the Lord’s decisions: Though this chapter is long, there is a recurring theme that runs throughout it, displayed in most, if not every, character. This motif is an unapologetic trust in the Lord’s decisions. We see this first when Abraham calls his servant to go find Isaac a wife among his kinsmen; when the servant asks about bringing Isaac to the land, Abraham is adamant that Isaac is not to go back to the land, for the Lord had called him out of the land and promised the land of Canaan, where they were dwelling, to his offspring. Then we see Abraham’s confidence in the Lord, that He would send an angel to go before the servant and make his journey prosperous. When the servant arrives at the place of Abraham’s kin, the first thing he does is prays to the Lord to give him a very specific sign about the girl that He had appointed for Isaac to marry (which is an interesting concept in and of itself). The Lord immediately gives this sign before the servant was even done speaking. When Rebekah fulfills the sign and hears the story of Abraham’s servant, she also seems to trust in the Lord’s decision. After the servant tells his story to her bother and father, they answer “The thing has come from the Lord.” They sent her away with the servant after asking if she would go. Then, even Isaac immediately trusts in the Lord’s decision after it has been told to him all that has been done (it is interesting to note that there is no courting process, just an acceptance of God’s choice). Through all of this, it is clear that the people of the story let God make the decisions. We too should learn to give our big decisions into the hand of the Lord, spending much time in prayer and meditation, asking Him to guide our steps into the place that He has appointed for us to go.
1. Two nations: A lot of time and attention is given to lineages and the bigger picture of nations in this chapter, as the narrative takes a short break from the story to give it a bit of perspective. Little, if anything, is known about the descendants of Abraham mentioned in this chapter besides Isaac, though the descendants of Ishmael would grow into man nations, as promised, that would later interact with the children of Israel (Jacob). However, the narrative then focuses back to Isaac and Rebekah as they have their first children, twins named Esau and Jacob, with Jacob grabbing on to the heal of Esau when Esau was born first. This is where Jacob gets his name (meaning “he takes by the heal” or “he cheats”), a name he would later grow into as he takes the blessing that was meant for Esau for himself (this will also be important later on when Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, see Genesis 32). The twins struggled together in the womb of Rebekah, and when she implored of God why this was so, there was a prophecy made about the two children that they would become two nations that would be divided, and the older (Esau, also known as Edom) would serve the younger (Jacob, later known as Israel). Paul makes reference to this passage in relation to showing the plan and special election of God, choosing to name His people through the offspring of Jacob and not Esau (see Romans 9:10-13). When the twins were born and started to take on different lifestyles, their parents picked favorites, which would later cause problems (see chapter 27).
2. Selling out: Though Esau had become a skilled hunter, sometimes the hunt did not turn out prosperous. One time when this happened, Esau was both very tired and very hungry. These two states can often lead to heightened emotion and poor judgement, as it did for Esau. He saw his brother Jacob cooking stew and longed to have some. Taking advantage of the situation, as his name implies, Jacob told Esau that he would have to sell him his birthright, to which Esau decides would be no good to him if he were dead. So Esau sells out. The problem, however, is that Esau likely sold out too quickly. Though he was undoubtedly hungry and tired, it is unlikely that he was actually to the point of death, nor is it likley that he couldn’t have gone somewhere else to get food instead of swearing away his birthright. The immediate text says that Esau despised his birthright in this manner, and the Hebrew writer implies that it was a poor decision on the part of Esau to sell it for a single meal, calling Esau unholy (see Hebrews 12:12-17). Biblical writers never seem to vindicate Esau in this decision, agreeing that he should not have made it. We too have a tendency to make bad decision, or even sell out, when our emotions take the upper hand of our decision making process. Before we do anything drastic, let us carefully consider what we are doing or saying, especially if we know we are tired or hungry, before we make decision that we will later regret. We cannot let our emotions fully be our guide, but rather we must trust in God and let Him be our guide, going to His word and prayer when a big decision has to be made (see Proverbs 3:5 and Jeremiah 17:9-10).
1. The faithful promise and the blessing of the Lord: On multiple occasions Abraham was given the promise by God that his offspring would become a great nation, though which all the nations of the world would be blessed. He was also promised that his children would inherit the land that he had been called to sojourn in. Now that he had passed from this life, the Lord comes to Isaac to give him the same promise, for He was continuing to be faithful in His word to Abraham. God had chosen Isaac to carry on the promise because he was the child of promise, as opposed to Ishmael who was the child of the bondwoman. The Lord is faithful concerning His promise and He will see them through to the end. We can take confidence in this matter.
2. Like father, like son: If you carefully read through this chapter, you can see a lot of similarities between this story and the stories of Isaac’s father. The chapter begins with God coming to Isaac to give him the same promise that He had given his father Abraham, and he is told to sojourn in the land that he is in just like Abraham was told. Then he settles in the land of the Philistines and runs into a character that had interacted with Abraham, Abimelech, King of Gerar. Even further, Isaac told the people of the land that Rebekah was his sister instead of his wife, for he feared the people would kill him because Rebekah was a beautiful woman. It would seem that he did not learn the lesson from his father, though Abimelech certainly had, for when he found out that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife, he strictly charged the men of the land that no one should touch her. Then, after Isaac leaves, Abimelech comes to find him and make a pact with him because he sees that he has been blessed by the Lord, just like he did with Abraham. Compare this chapter with chapters 17, 20 and 21 too see the similarities. This would lend to the idea that we are often much like our parents, even down to some of the choices we make. Though this can be a good thing, it can also be a bad thing. We should be wise when it comes to the things we learn though our environment and be sure that they are good things for us to continue to do.
Playing favorites: In chapter 25, we get the implication that both Isaac and Rebekah picked favorites of their two children. The text says that Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Though we might look at this and immediately think that this is a bad idea, it is interesting to see it play out in the lives of Isaac and Rebekah, as it shows that favoritism causes big problems in the family. When it came time for Isaac to bless Esau, he sent him out to hunt and prepare food. It is interesting to note that Esau’s blessing and his birthright seemed to be two separate things, according to the end of this chapter, at least in some sense. Regardless, Rebekah tells Isaac to go in to his father and pretend to be Esau and receive his blessing, pressuring him to do so even when he objects at first. Eventually the deed is done, and when Esau finds out about it, he is very upset and plans to kill his brother after his father dies. Fortunately for Jacob, Rebekah again hears of this and works out a plan to send Jacob away so that Esau won’t kill him. Though there are many choices that went into this outcome, it is still interesting to note that the prophecy about the two twins found in chapter 25 was in the process of being fulfilled here. God can use whatever or whoever He will to work His plan. This does not excuse the players of any transgression they commit on the way, but rather shows the omnipotence of God. Though Jacob and Esau’s relationship seems to have worked out in the end (see chapter 33), we should learn from this story that playing favorites with your children is not a wise decision.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Judges 6-10.
Let your life give praise to God.