A Biblical character who I think has always gotten a bit of a bum rap in Christianity is Rebekah. From my experience in Sunday School, church sermons and in conversation with others, she is usually portrayed as a conniving, deceitful woman. After all, she did instruct and help Jacob deceive his father Isaac and “steal” the blessing from Esau.
But if you look carefully at the Biblical accounts about Rebekah, it is easy to see she was a Godly woman. She was not a deceiver, but a prophetess. She was used by God to fulfill His plan. A vessel who chose to obey what she knew was right, even if it may not be understood by those who weren’t hearing the voice of God.
We first meet Rebekah in Genesis 24. Abraham needs to find a wife for Isaac, but God has said not to take a wife for his son from the nations amongst which he is dwelling. Abraham sends his trusted servant to journey to Abraham’s relatives in Haran and find a wife for his son. The servant swears that he will do this. It’s a teaching for a different day, but Rebekah had a Godly grandmother who raised her up, and taught her to follow the God of Abraham, and not the gods that her brother Laban (and probably her father) worshipped. When Rebekah heard the message from Abraham’s servant that he had come seeking a wife for his master’s son, she was ready. She knew this was her destiny, she knew this was the plan that God had for her life. She readily left behind all that she had known and journeyed into the unknown to become Isaac’s wife. It is a great story, and it clearly reveals Rebekah’s character. She knew the voice of God and was willing to follow it into the unknown.
After that, the next time that we read about Rebekah, we learn that she is barren. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer and Rebekah conceived. (Gen 25:20-21) But as the pregnancy progressed, Rebekah sensed that something was wrong. She could feel a great struggle taking place in her womb. What does the Bible say she does? Genesis 25:22 The children struggled together within her and she said, “if it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
She has a problem, she is worried about this pregnancy, so she turns to the Lord. She didn’t even talk to Isaac, and ask him to be her intermediary with the Lord. She went straight to the source, to find an answer to what she was feeling. And God answers her directly and gives her a prophetic word: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
I personally don’t believe in predestination. That some people are predestined to heaven and some to hell, and nothing you do matters good or bad. I believe that each human being is given a choice, we each choose every day, whether to follow God or whether to ignore Him. I also believe that God is calling every person to Himself, that He created mankind in His image and likeness, so that we would be a mirror image of Himself throughout the earth. But some choose not to reflect His characteristics and become human manifestations of evil and sin in this world.
We see that in Jacob and Esau. While I believe that Esau could have chosen to follow God, we know that he didn’t. The Bible tells us that. So when God gave the prophetic word to Rebekah that the younger son would be the heir to the promise, He knew the path that Esau would choose. When it came time for Isaac to give his blessing to a chosen son, Rebekah knew that he would be making a huge mistake if he were to give it to Esau. So she intervened. She knew the character of her older son, and she knew that Isaac was not making a wise judgement. And she had been given a word from God, that she was following. It wasn’t about deception and lying to get a blessing that didn’t rightfully belong to Jacob. Rebekah made a decision to follow God’s word and prevent her husband from making a mistake.
Malachi 1:2-3 confirms that Rebekah did the righteous thing. Thus declares the Lord, “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” Did God truly hate Esau? Even before he was born, and had done nothing to earn God’s hatred? I don’t believe that God hates any man, but I do believe that God hated Esau’s sinfulness. He hated the fact that Esau didn’t follow Him, didn’t listen to His voice. Esau chose to go his own way. He despised his birthright and sold it for a bowl of soup. He married Hittite wives who made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 26:34-35). The Bible gives us glimpses into the life of Esau and the choices that he made. And if we read them, we can see clearly that Esau made poor choices because he didn’t follow God.
This isn’t to say that Jacob was perfect, far from it. Jacob made his own share of mistakes. The Bible doesn’t gloss things over like Hollywood and to create perfect individuals. Jacob was human and he made mistakes. But what is God most interested in? He is interested in the heart of man. He is looking for people who listen to His voice and follow His direction. Who make choices every day to the best of their ability to follow Him, to bring light and life to those around them. We see this clearly in King David. The Bible tells of his many sins, and yet it calls David a “man after God’s own heart”. David didn’t blame his sin on his circumstances, or his situation, or those around him — he took full responsibility for his actions, repented and asked God for mercy. And God gave it freely.
We can all follow Rebekah’s example. She had a choice to make, and she did what she knew to be right, even though it might look wrong. As we make our own choices and decisions in the natural, we must also be sensitive to what God has in mind for us. God has a plan, God has a purpose and a destiny for everyone. Romans 9:10-13 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
When it comes to supporting the Jewish right to the land of Israel today, often it is portrayed as being “wrong”, an affront to Palestinian “rights”. But when I read my Bible, I see the promises that God made over and over that the Land of Israel is the eternal, everlasting, incontrovertible inheritance of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Jewish people today. For me, then, there is there is no controversy. As a Christian I support the Jews’ right to live in the land and fulfill their destiny, simply because I choose to follow God. I choose to believe that He keeps His promises. I hope that you too will choose to seek truth from God’s word. If you are unsure and you’ve been swayed by the media, or by some other argument against the Jewish right to the land of Israel, I challenge you to follow Rebekah’s lead, inquire of the Lord and ask Him what He has to say on the issue. Open your heart and your ears to hear His plan for the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.