Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rebekah Plots on Jacob’s Behalf -- Genesis 27:5-10

Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 'Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.' "Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death."

It is most reasonable for Isaac’s wife to have heard what Isaac asked of Esau and of what her husband’s intention was with respect to the blessing he was about to give. They likely had not jointly discussed it in advance, for this was indeed a cultural tradition. And if they had, they likely did not agree as to whether or not Esau really deserved it, given that he had married out of the faith and that he and his wives had made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.

But what is not acceptable is for her to plot with her other son, Jacob, to go against her husband’s wishes. Rebekah not only informs Jacob of the situation and gives him advice as to what he should do, but she offers to actually prepare the dish on his behalf for Jacob to present to Isaac, all before Esau could get it done. You will notice that while Esau had to go out into the wild fields and catch wild game that takes longer, Jacob was being advised to simply go into the backyard so to speak, to the flock the family kept handy, and select two young goats. Jacob was to take a short-cut rather than play by the rules of his father’s request to Esau, in a game he should not have played at all. Isaac’s instructions were that he wanted ‘game’ hunted for him with a bow and arrow, not a goat from the backyard. Oftentimes, we try to get a blessing from God without being obedient to His requests. That’s what Rebekah wanted Jacob to do.

Deception was clearly involved. It reminds me of how the serpent deceived Eve in Genesis 3, and then how Abraham plotted to deceive others about who Sarah really was. In fact, even Isaac had lied about who Rebekah was (Genesis 26:7). God hates deception between Him and us and between others and us. He may tolerate it, allow it, or work with it as He did in the case of Abraham and Isaac, but He would much rather prefer to work on behalf of a person who is honest and totally dependent on Him rather than one who conjures up lies when he is afraid or is being thwarted in his/her desires or wishes as Rebekah was here.

Rebekah tells Jacob that he should then take the dish she made and quickly give it to his father so that he may gain the blessing. All of this she felt would work because Isaac was old and could not see clearly enough (see 27:1) to be able to distinguish between Esau and Jacob as to which one was the bearer of the savory dish placed before him.

Why Rebekah did this is open to conjecture at this point in the story. It may have been because she loved Jacob more than Esau or it may have been because she had more to gain from a blessed Jacob than a blessed Esau given the history of the parties. But in no way can it be said that it was to help God with His fulfillment of the covenant He had made with both Abraham and later Isaac. God could deliver on the covenant without the conniving assistance of Rebekah.

There are times in life when we need to be very careful not to pursue what may be seen as immoral or unethical behavior under the guise of “we did it to help bring God’s plan about.” Woe are we if that were the case. Having said that, however, I was today reminded at lunch with a Christian business associate that “missionaries actually smuggled Bibles into communist countries against the law” and “we all agree we are subject to the laws of the land.” How do we justify these two positions – not assisting God unethically and smuggling Bibles into a country?

The main argument or rationale in favor of such a program is that Christians need to be able to place a high priority on following God’s plan for saving the world and while doing so includes being obedient to the political authorities God has allowed to rule, we are excused from so doing where such obedience contradicts God’s laws. The problem arises with the definition of God’s laws. There is no law in scripture that specifically says “Thou shalt smuggle Bibles into Communist countries.” That simply is man’s selected way of “evangelizing Communist countries” which we would all agree is part of God’s commandment to us as given in the Great Commission. God may choose to allow us to employ such a method of our design, and may even protect us in so doing. And He certainly does not reject the fruit that such a method may ultimately yield (many came to know God personally through smuggled Bibles). However, there is no way that we can, with any certainty and assurance, say that smuggling Bibles was indeed God’s plan and His preferred way of doing things.

Let us return to our Jacob and Esau saga and see how that pans out in the section that follows.

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