This morning I preached on the “second” Jacob and Esau story — the deception by Rebekah and Jacob which ultimately resulted in Jacob, and not Esau, receiving their father Isaac’s blessing. There were two points from the message that I’ve been asked to share. The first comes from an article I read recently by a psychologist about being miserable, and the second is from a beautiful Renaissance painting that brings Rebekah front and center in the story of Jacob and Esau and Isaac’s blessing (Genesis 27).
“HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF MISERABLE: DISCOVERING THE SECRETS TO UNHAPPINESS”
Recently I came across a very well-researched and well-written article by a psychologist from GA named William Doverspike, which is entitled – “How To Make Yourself Miserable: Discovering the Secrets to Unhappiness.” Read the full article here.
Throughout the article he offers several “prescriptions for misery,” and I’ve chosen a few to share with you:
- To make yourself miserable, increase your negative thoughts by focusing on daily hassles, cultivating an attitude of resentment, and developing a sense of pessimism.
- To make yourself miserable, focus on changing the things you cannot change (others) rather than focusing on changing the things you can change (yourself).
- To make yourself miserable, surround yourself with people who bring out the worst in you, and avoid people who inspire the best.
- To make yourself miserable, ignore gratitude. Expect more from others, and focus on resentment when your expectations are not met.
- To make yourself miserable, spend your life waiting to win the jackpot while ignoring the simple pleasures of life. Learn to say to yourself, “I would be happy if only ….”
- To make yourself miserable, look for the quick fix and expect instant gratification.
- To make yourself miserable, develop a sense of urgency and impatience.
- To make yourself miserable, spend more time thinking about YOU.
- To make yourself miserable, blame others for your problems.
- To make yourself miserable, take what you want from others, while giving nothing in return.
- To make yourself miserable, hold on to resentments & never forgive.
- To make yourself miserable, develop a disdain for organized religion.
REBEKAH’S ROLE IN ANCIENT ART (GENESIS 27)
This story of the blessing of Isaac being manipulated out of him is most often told from the perspective of the two brothers — Jacob and Esau. But I am convinced it is Rebekah, their mother, who is really the one holding the strings for this little plan. Rebekah is savvy and makes a quick decision to take matters into her own hands. She enacts some manipulation, or you might say maneuvering, by moving the chess pieces around herself.
Interestingly, in ancient art depicting the scene in Genesis 27, artists painted or crafted Rebekah into the scene of the actual blessing. This was true during the Renaissance and even as far back as the Middle Ages. We know Rebekah was present for the initial conversations that took place, but these artists took the time to make her appear when the actual blessing was given — so it might be clear that she was the one who was instigating this whole scenario. Sometimes she is even seen with her hand on Jacob’s shoulder, as she silently observes the blessing of Isaac being placed on her favorite son. One of the best examples is below:
If you are not yet convinced that Rebekah was the driving force of the manipulation and deception of Isaac, read for yourself:
Genesis 27:5-17: Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ 8 Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9 Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”
11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”
13 His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”
14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.
Rebekah was eavesdropping on the conversation between Isaac and Esau. You get the sense she knew something was up. When she hears Isaac’s offer of blessing to Esau, she immediately springs into action and involves Jacob. She took matters into her own hands and used a bit of deception, which ended up working to the benefit of her favorite son and his descendants.
Jacob, of course, is hesitant at first. In fact it takes no time for him at all to expose the most glaring weakness of the plan – Genesis 27:11-12: “My brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” (Um…Mom…Dad is going to be expecting a sheepdog but ending up with a Mexican hairless!)
But Rebekah said (v. 13), “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” She comes off as a loving mother who is willing to accept any consequence for her son’s own good. She prepared the fallacious meal, and then she moved on to the garment deception (v. 14-17).
- She retrieved Esau’s favorite clothes to wear that really smelled like him.
- She covered Jacob’s hands and the smooth part of his neck with goatskins so that he would “feel” like Esau — This gives you even more indication as to HOW hairy Esau really was!
- She hands Jacob the food and tells him to go see his father.
And Jacob was a good boy — he did what his mother said. But don’t miss the significance of the handing over. Rebekah hands Jacob the food and bread, and by doing so she also handed Jacob his share of the responsibility for this little ruse and the manipulation of Isaac. Jacob chose to join in the deception, and the first words out of his mouth to his father were a lie (v. 18).
Now in her defense, Rebekah knew the promise that God had made regarding Jacob – The Lord said to her in Genesis 25:23: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
Rebekah believed, in this case, the ends justified the means for her deception, so for her any means were allowable. (This is in the vein of lying and saying your wife is your sister, or using your servant to have babies for you instead of trusting God, and so on, in Genesis). Knowing this, therefore, perhaps she was acting out of a good conscience, making sure that Isaac, whose health and awareness were fading, did not unintentionally thwart God’s plans.
BUT that, I think, is where things went wrong. Since when does God need our help to make His plans work? Sometimes God chooses to involves us in His plans, but we are never necessary. We too often try to take things into our own hands. We are impatient, we lack faith, and we make it a habit of seeking God as a second or third option to ourselves. We might convince ourselves that we are cooperating with God, but many times we are usurping His authority and getting way ahead of Him.