Year 1, Week 5, Day 4
I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Genesis 26-27.
Today’s reading begins with events from the life of Isaac and Rebekah, and concludes with Rebekah sending her son, Jacob away to her family. I would suggest that the events recorded in Genesis 26 most likely occurred sometime after the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, but before they had the twins. The twenty year period mentioned in Genesis 25 is probably when the things recorded in Genesis 26 unfolded. The incident that takes up most of Genesis 27 is set in the context of an aging Isaac, who requests that his son Esau prepare him a meal, which serves as the context of Isaac stating his intent to bless him as his first-born son. What actually unfolded was deceit on the part of Rebekah and Jacob, as Rebekah instigates and Jacob carries out a plan to obtain the blessing of the first-born. The plan succeeds, but the chapter ends with Jacob on the run from his brother, who wants to kill him.
What struck me from today’s reading is what it reveals about the LORD and the fears of His people. Isaac’s familiar strategy to protect himself from any harm from others, who may want to take his beautiful wife for themselves, was motivated by fear: “So Isaac settled in Gerar. When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife,” thinking, “lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance.” (Genesis 26:6-7). Famine had forced Isaac and Rebekah to leave their immediate area and go elsewhere. Isaac’s strategy of self-protection was modeled after his father, Abraham, who on two separate occasions chose to protect himself from harm by those who would want his beautiful wife. Isaac, driven by fear, turns to his own deceitful strategies instead of the LORD: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
Out of his motivations of self-protection, Isaac is concerned solely for himself. Ironically, Abimelech, who realizes that Rebekah was not Isaac’s sister and confronts the ruse, was concerned about the welfare of his people: “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.” (Genesis 26:10). Abimelech becomes the one who ensures the protection of Isaac: “So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” (Genesis 26:11).
At the beginning and then again at the end of Genesis 26, is the LORD reassuring Isaac of His presence. The LORD dispatched Isaac to Gerar with a clear promise: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.” (Genesis 26:3). Then the LORD reappears to Isaac after the initial incident with Abimelech: “And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.” (Genesis 26:24). These Words came to Isaac on the eve of another visit from Abimelech in reference to a dispute over some wells. But even Abimelech acknowledges what Isaac is struggling to believe: “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you.” (Genesis 26:28).
An inner strength against fear is not self-generated; the presence of the LORD must be the promise that shapes our reality and orders our perception of the world around us. In light of a scary, often unsafe, world, may we hear the Spirit say: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).
The plotting and scheming by Rebekah to secure the blessing of the first-born for her favorite, Jacob, seems to also evidence a life driven by fear and not reliance upon the LORD. The LORD has already declared that Jacob would be greater than Esau, but Rebekah does not seem to be at ease in leaving things alone. I would suggest that fear distorted her thinking, and the result is the implementation of her devious plans of deceit and disguise. Rebekah demonstrates a lack of what the LORD supplies His people: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7). Actually, Rebekah’s scheme gives rise to an even greater experience of fear as her foolish plans have exposed Jacob to greater danger: "Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” (Genesis 27:41). The LORD has not been sought; and now Jacob must flee.
What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?