At the moment, my small group and I are working our way through a series on twelve women of the Bible. Although they are stories of women who we might have heard and read about plenty of times, it still amazes me when something new can pop out of the text! This happened a few weeks ago when we were taking a look at the life of Rebekah.
Rebekah's journey leads us from her servant heart of drawing water to quench the thirst of others (and their camels too!) to travelling away to meet what was to be her future husband. At this stage in the text, she and her husband, Isaac are together and it is here that one little minor, but major, detail hit me in between the eyes. But first, let's read through the verses in Genesis 25 and see if you spot it too!
19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?”[b] So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you[c] shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob.[d] Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Perhaps, your attention to detail is much greater than mine. As I initially glossed over this, I observed some things but missed others entirely. When I had first glanced over the passage, I came to v21 where it says that Isaac prayed to the Lord and sure enough God granted his prayer. Easy peasy! I proudly and ignorantly thought how easy that some people have it- they ask and God gives. What about some of my requests and prayers with no answer on the horizon and silence in the background? Well it just doesn't seem fair really. Maybe, these Old Testament men and women of faith just have some kind of formula or good luck (if there was such a thing!) that I don't have! Ridiculous thought, I know. However, isn't it so easy to look back on someone else's journey and think 'wow, they just have it so good and got exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it!'. But oh how wrong I had it. I encourage you to read over the passage again and see what else we can pick up from when Isaac prayed to when God granted him his prayer?
That's it. That little detail that was separated by words and verses. We read in v20 that Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah. She was barren and this caused Isaac to seek God and ask that they would have children. The text then goes on to say that God answered that and that she was to have twins and all seems quite simple and quick really. BUT THEN. We come to v26, and its here that we can easily miss it. It says that Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. If we do the math, that means for twenty years they have been together and it is only now that she has given birth to offspring?? Wait, a minute, that means that yes Isaac prayed (at some stage in those twenty years) for God to provide and yet it was only when he was sixty that he would see the fruit of that prayer? And now, it just doesn't seem like it was so easy peasy for them. You can imagine with the promise that Abraham's seed will be as plentiful as the stars that they would have been thinking about babies from early on in their marriage. I can't say for fact from what I've read, but I don't think they were waiting till they had a house, secure income or whatever else to tick off their list before wanting to have some heirs. Could they possibly have waited twenty years to receive the thing that their hearts longed for? I'm so very thankful that God includes stories of people who wrestled, who messed up and who struggled. I'm (perhaps selfishly) glad that there are examples of people's journey included that were hard at times and confusing. If we only heard about the easy parts of their story, then we would walk away disheartened as it just wouldn't apply to us at times.
The Bible is filled with such great application to our lives here and now. Even if I cannot relate to a women's story of filling up some jars with water ( I wouldn't even understand the hours and the physical labour involved in this act of service ) and that she willingly went to marry some man that she hadn't even met ( that circumstance is just too difficult for me to fathom ). However, the life of Isaac and Rebekah can be relevant to our lives and our heart today, here and now, worlds and times a part. They sought the Lord and He granted them that very thing. We don't hear about those years of tears and heartache. Those twenty years that were perhaps confusing and made them question how God was at work. The times of silence when they yet had no child in their arms. I guess that is why Isaac and those who were before and after him are so mentioned in Hebrews 11 for their faith. They had faith in a bigger God then their circumstances. They had faith in a God that was more powerful than the emotions they may have felt. They had faith in a God that answers prayers, in His way and in His timing. And those twenty years just mean so much to me because they tell me to have faith in our very big, powerful and faithful God!
And remember that the details can be important sometimes!
Although, it is winter at the moment (and I'm ready for Spring!), this photo was taken at Mueller Hut during the middle of summer!