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Praying Vs. Planning

March 10, 2021

Rebekah did something unique among all other women in Genesis. After 20 years of infertility, God had answered her husband Isaac’s prayer and granted them conception. But that joyful outcome caused stress a few months later. Due to an uncomfortable pregnancy, Rebekah “went to inquire of the Lord.” She seems to be the only woman in Genesis who asked God a question, expecting an answer. Notice her desperation: 

“If it be so, why am I thus?”

Genesis 25:22 KJV

Rebekah’s Prayer 

Wasn’t this pregnancy God’s will? Yes. Didn’t God want Isaac to have a son in fulfillment of His Covenant with Abraham? Yes. Had Rebekah done anything sinful, illegal, immoral, or foolish? Not that we know of. If she and Isaac had God’s blessing and were doing God’s will, why would Rebekah have such a difficult time? 

That is precisely the question I ask every time I suffer. If I’m following You, why am I thus? What did I do to deserve this? If something can make this pain/discomfort/inconvenience go away, tell me, and hurry! God has His reasons. He is not obliged to tell them to me, as Job learned (see Job 40:4-5; 42:2-6).

However, God did answer Rebekah. His explanation was that she was carrying twins, and their sibling rivalry “kicked” in even before they could breathe. But God’s redemptive plan regarding this struggle eventually turned Jacob, the heel-catcher, into Israel—prince with God.

Fast forward 40 years. Esau now had two wives who were outside of the Covenant and “were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:34-35 NKJV). Either family values were not communicated effectively to Esau or he ignored them. Likewise, Isaac, blind and supposedly dying, disregarded the directive God had given before the twins were born, that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). If his favored son Esau would satisfy Isaac’s belly, Isaac would bless him. Esau likewise seemed oblivious to the fact that he had previously despised the birthright and traded it to Jacob for a full stomach (25:33-34). Like father, like son. 

Rebekah’s Plan 

When Rebekah overheard her husband’s plan to give the Covenant blessing to the wrong son (Genesis 27:1-10), why didn’t she take this struggle to the Lord? Rebekah’s failure to “inquire of the Lord” in this situation tore apart her family.

Instead of trusting God to work things out, or even reasoning with Isaac, Rebekah devised her own plan to get what she wanted for her favored son Jacob. Rather than surrendering to God, she strategized. Jacob did receive the blessing, but his dishonesty and his mother’s deceit brought severe results. Like mother, like son.

This pattern of conniving would be purged out of Jacob during 20 years of Laban deceiving him (Genesis 31:7, 38-41). But the immediate consequence was severed relationships. Esau intended to kill Jacob. Rebekah, therefore, conceived another plan. She would send Jacob out of harm’s way until Esau cooled off in a little while (Genesis 27:42-44), but that turned into 20 years (Genesis 31:38-41). Rebekah never saw her beloved Jacob again. 

Neither Rebekah nor Isaac could thwart God’s plan. He incorporated their failures and overcame every obstacle to His promises, but they brought pain on themselves by trying to circumvent what God had said. The flawed people of Genesis remind me to never stop trusting God. He is not my last resort after other options fail, and He does not need my scheming, nor even my suggestions.

Lessons From Rebekah

When we plan things our own way instead of seeking God and waiting on Him, disastrous things result. Rebekah’s family ruptured over an inheritance issue. Sound familiar? Many times when a sibling persists in getting what he or she wants, that person afterward becomes estranged from the family. Galatians 5:15 paints a vivid word picture. When we fight and bite one another, both parties get devoured—the relationship suffers or dies.

Rebekah’s experience instructs us to take every problem to God as she did with her difficult pregnancy. God began to teach me that lesson when my first pregnancy resulted in a baby with a chronic blood condition. His need for continual monitoring, blood transfusions, and surgery five years later kept me dependent on God. No matter how old we are in the Christian life, we never outgrow basic spiritual disciplines like casting our burdens on the Lord. 

However, we don’t need to ask why when we know Who. If we wonder, “Why am I thus?” we have the answer from this passage:

because He desires to turn us earthen pots into vessels of honor, “sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work”

2 Timothy 2:21 NKJV

God’s plan for us includes physical and emotional anguish at times, but even that surpasses any agenda we may devise. Personally, I know God is in control, but I also need to let Him take control. Every struggle should be an opportunity to submit my needs and my will to Him. He knows what He’s doing in my life, and that means I don’t have to. By God’s grace, I can pray, “If it be so, Thy will be done.”  

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