We have learned from our foundational bible studies that since Genesis chapter 3 humanity has been broken. It just is not what was initially planned. We have learned how people deceived others, lied, blamed and just slandered others for their own name sake. We have learned of a few guys over the past few weeks that were bad examples and we have identified many things for us to pay attention to. This week we take a little broader scoop into the bible and we actually get to review a family and how their interactions caused so much mess and that it was not just one person, but many bad decisions by many people. This week we review the family of Isaac and Rebekah.
Isaac was the spared offering to the Lord, the son of Abraham and Sarah. After God sparred Isaac on Mt. Moriah, Abraham had a marriage arranged with his niece, Rebekah. At the time they lived in Canaan and the Canaanites were a vile race, cursed by God and doomed to destruction. God would not be pleased for Isaac to marry one of them. Although Abraham’s relatives in northern Mesopotamia had their idols, they were at least a moral people who knew about God and respected him. And they were descendants of Shem who was blessed of God.
It was the only logical place to find a wife for Isaac. While we, in America, do not choose our children’s mates for them, we must teach them from their earliest days the importance of marrying believers (cf. 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14). It will help them find God’s choice of a life partner when the time comes for that important decision to be made.
It becomes obvious from the outset of this story that God is the real matchmaker in the marriage. When the servant related to Rebekah’s family the indications of God’s guidance, her brother and her father agreed. “The matter comes from the Lord,” they said (Gen. 24:50). No matter what kinds of problems a marriage may encounter, they will be easier to solve if both husband and wife have a settled assurance that God has brought them together. Difficulties can be overcome without it, and must be if God is to be glorified. But the nagging notion that they married out of the will of God will make them less than enthusiastic about working at their relationship with self-sacrificing diligence.
Do you have first-hand experience of how a unequally yoked relationships work out? This is in the context of marriage, but it can also be applied to friendly relationships. What makes unequally yoked relationships difficult?
But somewhere along the way, this marriage began to sour. We can see a tragic decline in their relationship. We are not absolutely certain what the problem was. It certainly was not lack of love, for Isaac truly loved Rebekah, and unlike some husbands, he openly showed it. About forty years after they were married he was seen tenderly caressing her in public (Gen. 26:8). That might lead us to believe that they had a good physical relationship. And that is important to a marriage. But a husband and wife cannot spend all their time in bed. They must also build a deep and intimate communion of soul and spirit. They must honestly share what is going on inside of them, what they are thinking and feeling. And there is not much evidence that Isaac and Rebekah did that.
Do you find it difficult to commune deeper with your soul and spirit with your relationships and friendships? What draws you closer? What environment and attitude set the field for such opportunities?
The reason we want to discuss this and to learn from Isaac and Rebekah is to prevent tragedy before we need to seek restoration. Whether it is a intimate relationship or a disciple relationship. We have to go beyond a simple “hi” and cup of coffee. As disciples of Jesus, we should be talking about the deep stuff, praying about the difficulties and sharing the joys of life together. Now we are not going to do that with everyone, but we should have the “inner circle” where the tough stuff can be shared and real life is exchanged.
In our day and age. When a young couple gets married it is quite typical that they have children in a rather quick fashion. It is actually odd in our culture to get married and not have any children, unless there is a physical limitation or hinderance. One of the problems that impacted Isaac and Rebekah were there lack of children.
Isaac could have resented that and yet not ever admitted it. Having children was far more important in that day than it is today, and they tried for about twenty years without success. Much bitterness can build inside of a person in twenty years. But Isaac finally turned to the right place with his problem. “And Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived
Rebecca gave birth to twin sons, Esau and Jacob. The boys had very different temperaments. The conflict between them became the basis for conflict between later generations and nations.
21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them. – Genesis 25:21-26 ESV
The observation that the children struggled together within her (v.22) introduces one of the main themes of chapters 25 through 36. The relationship between the twin boys will be largely hostile. Conflict between brothers is a recurring motif in Genesis, beginning with Cain and Able, and is a constant reminder of the negative impact of the fall of human existence. yet the divine revelation that the older shall serve the younger (v.23) prepares the reader to expect that Jacob will have a significant role to play in the development of the unique family line in Genesis. Normally, yonger bothers were subservient to the firstborn males, who enjoyed special privileges associated with the concept of inheritance.
Leading and Protecting
As husbands, fathers and men in the Kingdom of God, we have a responsibility. We are told to be good stewards of everything given to us and to manage our lives and families with the care of a shepherd. When we come together in marriage or have children, our domain to reign is expanded. Let’s see how Isaac did in this role of being a good husband.
1 A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.
2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. 3 Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants,a just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. 4 I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. 5 I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar. – Genesis 26:1-6 NLT
Isaac needed to provide for his family and he stepped forward to provide. When things were uncertain, he did the right thing, he went to God for guidance. Isaac followed through on what God instructed and it seemed like it was a good season for him and his family during some tough times.
Now the Lord told Isaac to stay among the Philistines and He would bless him. It was almost like God was putting him right in the middle of the enemies camp. To get a first hand view of life on the other side.
Have you ever been subjected to odd circumstances even though you know God was directing and leading you?
When we are in the difficult situations, it is vital that we know the truth and that we followthrough and do the things we know we are supposed to do. It is not always easy, and as Isaac’s story unfolds, he demonstrates his own futile humanity….
7 When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say, “my wife,” thinking, “the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.” 8 It came about, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out through a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, certainly she is your wife! How then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” And Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘I might die on account of her.’” 10 Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 11 So Abimelech charged all the people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” – Genesis 26:7-11 NASB
The man that was gifted with the wonderful wife abandons her in fear of his own humanity. He is more worried about what might happen to himself than what might happen to her. Not only is he selfish, he emotionally wounds his bride beyond belief. His wife, and our spouses seek our leadership. They seek the security that we can provide. That we will step in the gap when needed and that we will be there for them. But what does Isaac do? He steps back from her in this critical time.
Does this story sound familiar? Where do you think Isaac learned this behavior?
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” – Genesis 12:10-13 ESV
Isaac was fortunate that the King Abimelech had some integrity himself. It is no telling what might have happened to Rebekah.
This is not the first time Abimelech is faced with a lying husband. This behavior was common during these times. Let us fully understand, just because something is common does not mean it is right.
1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” – Genesis 20:1-7 ESV
In each of the cases of the lying husband, we learn that God is the one in control. We do not see where God says, “Hey Abe, I got a great idea, this is what you need to do to protect yourself and your wife”. We don’t see where Isaac is reminded of the great practice that his father did during a famine. What we do see is where God promises them men that He would be with them and that they would be blessed. Then, much like us, the men get in a touchy situation and they forget the promises of God and they act on their own behalf. Each time God intervened.
These tragic stories were costly. For the people involved, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Abimelech, they were all in a tough situation, but God used them for learning and teaching. Not only them, but us.
Lead by Example
As fathers, friends and family members of young boys and men we are to be examples for the generations to come. All of us have the opportunity to be an influence. Just as Abraham was protective of Isaac when it came time for marriage, Isaac did not seem to be involved in his son’s lives the same way. Isaac’s poor examples of family leader and husband was evident to his boys, as we will see over the many chapters to come. One of the first results of abandonment shown in his children was when Esau married a Philistine woman. If we remember, Abraham was passionate about not allowing Isaac to marry anyone from a family that was corrupt. In verse 34, we are told that Esau did just that and notice what interactions Isaac had in the situation as well as what the results were.
34 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah. – Genesis 25:34-35 NASB
I don’t know about you, but I know many couples that are burdened for years because of the decisions their children have made. Whether it was marrying into a certain family or making financial decisions or other life mistakes. Many times the couples carry the yoke of the burden out of love, but they never saw the cause of the burden, their own cooperation with the poor decisions. There are many times when the parents cannot impact the rebellious child, but we do know many that were never involved in their child’s life during the impactful years. They did not engage with passion and love. As the man of the family, it is a hard position to be in, but sometimes we need to stand for what is right. There may even be times when your own wife does not stand up with you. Our job and commitment to Christ is to do the right thing all the time.
Can you share a time when you had to stand up to for justice and protection in your families life? Where you had to take actions that were not popular?
Quite and Passive
One of the characteristics that develops with Isaac is that he is very quite. There is not really much leadership and stewardship emanated.
Marriage counselors estimate that fully half of all their cases involve a silent husband. In some instances, like Isaac’s, it may be genuinely difficult for the husband to talk. Maybe he does not think very deeply and does not have much to say. Maybe he has always been quiet and does not know how to communicate. In other instances, a normally communicative man may neglect sharing things with his wife because he gets preoccupied with other things and does not realize how important it is to talk to her. If she nags him about it, he may build a protective shroud of silence around himself and withdraw even more.
But whatever the cause of his quietness, he needs to work at communicating. His wife needs that verbal communion and companionship. God made her that way. And God can help a husband improve in this area if he wants to be helped and seeks that help from above. Whether or not he ever becomes a great talker, he can learn to be a good listener. His wife needs him to listen with undivided attention, not one ear on television and the other on her, but both ears aimed in her direction and wide open. That may be all she is really asking for. Men, love enough to listen!
Is verbal communion with your significant other a challenge for you? What are some immediate actions you can take or have been taking?
This is a very critical area of our character we need to seek our higher power for assistance. We definitely want to pray and be accountable in our action plans, but we also need to pray for God to improve and transform us in these areas.