July 11, 2021 Service
Building a People of God With Unusual Characters: Rebekah A Mother of Deceit
- Unusual Characters Used By GodIsaac Needs a WifeIt all started well and good. Abraham sent his servant to his brother Nahor’s town, Aram-naharaim in NW Mesopotamia, not so far from Haran, where Abraham had left his Father’s family. The mission was to find a wife for Isaac from among the relatives of Abraham. Now, Abraham had married his 1st cousin Sarah, who was his father’s niece. Now it turns out that the wife that the servant of Abraham would secure from Nahor’s town would be a second cousin of Isaac’s, Abraham’s great-niece Rebekah.It’s a nicely-told tale of God at work on behalf of the servant, on behalf of Abraham, and in the life of Isaac’s new wife from Nahor’s town. You can read that part of the story in Genesis 24 , the whole chapter. But in a nutshell, this is what happened.Keep It All In the FamilyAbraham did not want a Canaanite wife for Isaac. He already had a problem with the Egyptian Hagar that was Sarah’s handmaid who birthed Abraham’s eldest son, Ishmael. So Abraham sent his servant loaded with gifts to Nahor’s town, on the southern borders of the later Hittite empire. You could say that’s in northern Syria today.How do you find a suitable bride who is willing leave family and friends behind to marry someone she does not know? The servant prayed for a sign before he got there. His prayer was for the Lord to reveal to the servant the girl that he should approach about this proposal, with an offer at the town’s well to draw water for the servant’s 10 camels.As simple as it sounds in the story, in those days of hand-dug wells, that meant walking down a circular staircase cut out of the sides of the big pit that had been dug for a well, filling a jug that holds maybe 4 or 5 gallons by dipping it in the well, then carrying that water back up the steps, pouring it into a watering trough, and repeating that 10 or 20 times.I don’t know what you’ve witnessed, but I don’t find many 15-17-year-old girls willing to carry a 5 gallon water jug from the car to the house just once a week these days. So it was a pretty ambitious prayer by the servant.Water From the WellWell, the servant showed up at the town’s well, and this young woman came to the well in the middle of the day with her flock of sheep. In no time we find out that this is Rebekah, a granddaughter of Nahor.Rebekah saw this traveler with his caravan of camels and jockeys, and she offered to draw water for his camels. The servant dropped to his knees and praised God while she did all the work. He found out that she was indeed from Nahor’s household, the daughter of Nahor’s son Bethuel. It was just what he prayed for, and God put the answer right in front of him.By the way, the Bible says she was one hot young lady, so not just your average beautiful young woman. After all, you didn’t expect the promised son of Abraham would get a woman from back home who wasn’t the best of the batch, did you?Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. When Abraham’s servant, whatever his name was, because the Bible doesn’t tell me, when he was told this, he immediately hooked Rebekah up with a gold nose ring and some other bling. Sounds a little forward to me, but I guess that nose ring was how they knew a woman was spoken for in those days.She ran home and told her brother Laban, who went out to the well to meet the servant of his great uncle Abraham. He offered the kind of mid-eastern hospitality to the servant that brought him home to have dinner and stay at least for the night.The story moves along pretty quickly in Genesis 24, because this was to be a bride for a relative, and there were expensive gifts involved, and this was making not just Rebekah but also her brother Laban a small fortune.The servant told Laban and his elders what was up, and how God had been at work on behalf of Abraham’s orders in answer to the Servant’s prayers. When the men around the table heard the story, Nahor Abraham’s brother, and Bethuel Abraham’s nephew heard and knew this was from the Lord.They agreed they would release Rebekah to this servant of Abraham. And the servant said “Great, we’ll leave in the morning.”But Laban and Rebekah’s mother asked for 10 days to spend with Rebekah before she rode off into the sunset.>>>The servant of Abraham pleaded that it was best if he got back from his mission as soon as possible. Now, Rebekah had been listening to all of this from behind the tent flap, and the men asked if she was willing to leave in the morning, and. . .Rebekah Agreed to Go to Wed IsaacSo Nahor, Bethuel and Laban agreed to let her become Isaac’s wife, and Rebekah said yes. The camels were loaded, goodbyes were said, and the journey began.After a few days, when they got within sight of the place where Isaac was, and stopped for water, Isaac must have had eagle eyes and spotted her, and at the same time Rebekah found out that this hunk was Isaac. So she put on her face-covering, well, her veil, I guess. Isaac ran to see her, and got the news from the servant that she was the woman chosen from Abraham’s relatives to be his wife. Then Isaac took her home, brought here into his mother’s tent, and married her.>>>OK, so that’s how Rebekah enters the list of Unusual Characters that God Uses to Build a People of God. As a beautiful bride to Isaac, the son Abraham, the child of the promise God made.20 Isaac was forty years old when he took as his wife Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.All this was very good, and Isaac, who was broken-hearted at his mother Sarah’s death, was comforted by his bride. Yet all was not like they expected it to be.>>>We read that things were running slow, so like his father Abraham, Isaac needed patience to see the promises of God fulfilled; there were. . .No Children in Isaac’s Home for DecadesThis was not the way you build a large progeny. And I’m thinking Abraham and Sarah were wondering when these two would have children, too, No pressure, really. Just get things going. Some of you who did not have children in your marriage for the first few years might have had the same observations coming to you from your parents.>>>Next we read that, since Isaac’s beautiful bride Rebekah hadn’t yet been in a family way, ...21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord was receptive to his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived.Isaac, the son of Abraham the Friend of God, prays for God to give Rebekah and him children. The Lord answered, she got pregnant, and it turns out they were twins, but right away these guys were beating up their mom from the inside and she didn’t know what was going on.>>>Rebekah didn’t know it yet, but her twins were struggling against one another even in the womb. So, . . .The Battle Begins For the BrothersAnd Rebekah, carrying these twins as her first (and only) pregnancy, was having enough kicking and wrestling within here to wear out any mother-to-be. She didn’t know if there was something wrong or just what.>>>So Rebekah asked the Lord why her babies were being so rough:22 But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.And this is the word that came to Rebekah from Yahweh God:23 And the Lord said to her: Two nations are in your womb; two peoples will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.Two boys. Two nations. One would serve the other, but in the wrong order; the eldest would serve the youngest. But we also have in this verse that Rebekah heard and believed God.Isaac and Rebekah’s Sons are BornAnd that is good news, but that is also the beginnings of her need to come A Mother of Deceit. We are coming to that.>>>First it was Esau’s turn to escape the womb,25 The first one came out red-looking, covered with hair like a fur coat, and they named him Esau.But these guys were twins, and they had already started to wrestle over who would be boss between them, which had worn out Rebekah in her pregnancy. s\So I’m pretty sure she was really ready to have these boys.We have some twins here in our church that are recorded as being born just one minute apart.>>>Well, it seems that one minute might have been a little generous to count the time between the birth of Esau and his twin brother, for now came Jacob’s time to be born.26 After this, his brother came out grasping Esau’s heel with his hand. So he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.Hanging on to his brothers heel meant that these guys were born pretty much connected, and it probably felt to Rebekah like a freight train passing through her.Of course we also read that even before they were nursing at their mother’s breast, Jacob had his brother in hand. While Esau’s name means Hairy and Red, Jacob’s means “heel-grabber” or deceiver.Isaac was 60 when they were born, so he had been married to Rebekah for 20 years.Rebekah wasn’t a young first-time mother, probably nearing 40 years old. But she had fulfilled her wedding blessing from her father Bethuel and begun her line of descendants.>>> Now, you could take the naming of Jacob, the heel-grabber or deceiver, to explain my title that Rebekah is a mother of deceit. Because, after all, she is the mother of Jacob. But of course there is more to her story.The Parents Have FavoritesEsau was Isaac’s favorite, because he liked the wild game that Esau brought in. But Rebekah’s eyes were for her son Jacob, who was a homebody. Part of the story here is that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew, a notoriously bad decision. You can read that for yourself in Genesis 25:28-34.My lesson today is about Rebekah, but you have to have the story of Isaac, Esau and Jacob to find out what is going on with how Rebekah behaves. The Bible pulls no punches about her favoritism to Jacob, so to take a line from the Smothers Brothers, Esau could say, “mom always liked you best.”Rebekah’s Plan to Deceive IsaacThe real reason for labeling Rebekah as A Mother of Deceit comes when her husband Isaac is old and blind. Isaac is getting weaker, and feels he won’t be in control of his choices if he waits any longer to give his blessing to his oldest son, who would be Esau. And here is where the plot really thickens.>>>We know Isaac was over 100 years old, because he was 60 when Esau and Jacob were born, and we read in34 When Esau was forty years old, he took as his wives Judith daughter of Beeri the Hethite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hethite. 35 They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.So 60 plus 40 plus a few years for Esau’s wives to give him grief, and Isaac was we don’t know how much over 100. Later we learn that Isaac lived until he was 180 years old, so we know he was somewhere on the way to becoming very old.>>>The Story ofThe Great Deception of Isaacis in Genesis 27.>>>It begins with Isaiah’s request of Esau to do something for him before he dies:1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could not see, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son.” And he answered, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Look, I am old and do not know the day of my death.3 So now take your hunting gear, your quiver and bow, and go out in the field to hunt some game for me. 4 Then make me a delicious meal that I love and bring it to me to eat, so that I can bless you before I die.”This is of course what should happen in the world of Isaac. When there is more than one son, the patriarch prepares a special blessing for the oldest. Even if the younger gets a blessing, the older is given a double inheritance.Esau is sent out on a quest for wild game before the blessing is given.>>>But this runs into a problem, from what the Lord had told Rebekah, that the older would serve the younger. And the younger son, Jacob, was her favorite. So when Esau took off to hunt the game for Isaac,Rebekah Begins the Great Deceitin order to help along the plan of God she heard in her answer about the boys before they were born.Now, she puts in motion the plot to put Jacob first in line for the blessing of Isaac:6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Listen! I heard your father talking with your brother Esau. He said, 7 ‘Bring me game and make a delicious meal for me to eat so that I can bless you in the Lord’s presence before I die.’Now, it’s best just to hear this story straight from the scripture:8 Now, my son, listen to me and do what I tell you. 9 Go to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, and I will make them into a delicious meal for your father—the kind he loves. 10 Then take it to your father to eat so that he may bless you before he dies.”Jacob Worries About the Deceit11 Jacob answered Rebekah his mother, “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, but I am a man with smooth skin. 12 Suppose my father touches me. Then I will be revealed to him as a deceiver and bring a curse rather than a blessing on myself.”Rebekah Says It’s on Her13 His mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son. Just obey me and go get them for me.” 14 So he went and got the goats and brought them to his mother, and his mother made the delicious food his father loved.And the Deceit Continues15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of her older son Esau, which were in the house, and had her younger son Jacob wear them. 16 She put the skins of the young goats on his hands and the smooth part of his neck. 17 Then she handed the delicious food and the bread she had made to her son Jacob.Jacob Lies to Isaac18 When he came to his father, he said, “My father.” And he answered, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob replied to his father, “I am Esau, your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How did you ever find it so quickly, my son?” He replied, “Because the Lord your God made it happen for me.”Isaac is Suspicious21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come closer so I can touch you, my son. Are you really my son Esau or not?” 22 So Jacob came closer to his father Isaac. When he touched him, he said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. 24 Again he asked, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he replied, “I am.”The Blessing is Given to Jacob25 Then he said, “Bring it closer to me, and let me eat some of my son’s game so that I can bless you.” Jacob brought it closer to him, and he ate; he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come closer and kiss me, my son.”27 So he came closer and kissed him. When Isaac smelled his clothes, he blessed him and said: Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.28 May God give to you— from the dew of the sky and from the richness of the land— an abundance of grain and new wine. 29 May peoples serve you and nations bow in worship to you. Be master over your relatives; may your mother’s sons bow in worship to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed.The Deception is Discovered30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob and Jacob had left the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau arrived from his hunting. 31 He had also made some delicious food and brought it to his father. He said to his father, “Let my father get up and eat some of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.”32 But his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am Esau your firstborn son.” 33 Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably. “Who was it then,” he said, “who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it all before you came in, and I blessed him. Indeed, he will be blessed!”34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me too, my father!” 35 But he replied, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”Esau’s Anger and Vow Against Jacob36 So he said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me twice now. He took my birthright, and look, now he has taken my blessing.” Then he asked, “Haven’t you saved a blessing for me?”37 But Isaac answered Esau, “Look, I have made him a master over you, have given him all of his relatives as his servants, and have sustained him with grain and new wine. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” And Esau wept loudly.41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. And Esau determined in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”Rebekah Plots to Protect Jacob42 When the words of her older son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she summoned her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Listen, your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. 43 So now, my son, listen to me. Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran,44 and stay with him for a few days until your brother’s anger subsides—45 until your brother’s rage turns away from you and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send for you and bring you back from there. Why should I lose you both in one day?”Rebekah, A Mother of DeceitIt’s easy for us to look at the story today and get a little disgusted at the lies that Rebekah told her husband Isaac on behalf of her favorite son Jacob, to the detriment of Esau.But remember that God had the first word in telling Rebekah that the younger would serve the older.Rebekah had to work through Isaacs love of Esau in order to move along God’s plan.And so we have to say that Rebekah’s deceit fulfilled God’s purposes.And Jacobs story is coming to us later.Rebekah’s time of death is not recorded in the Bible, but we do read in Genesis 49:31 that she is buried with Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac, in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre. Jacob also buried his first wife Leah there.
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