IN THE BEGINNING…..A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY!
The term “dysfunctional” has been around for around 100 years and at first was mainly used in medical writing. In the 1980’s, talk show hosts began to use the term “dysfunctional families” to describe various problems within families. It was not long before almost everyone began to apply this term to various persons and situations. Long before this became a popular term, Chapters 24-28 of the Book of Genesis gave us a very clear picture of a dysfunctional family.
We are familiar with the story of Isaac and Rebekah but let’s do a quick review. Abraham sent his trusted servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant asked God to reveal His will to him through a specific set of circumstances that would show the servant God’s choice for a wife for Isaac. Rebekah fulfilled all of the requests the servant had made to God. She was also willing to leave everything behind (family, friends, and country), travel for a long time with a total stranger to a new place, and marry Isaac, a person she had never met.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah began as a beautiful love story but ended in tragedy. The couple did not have children for about 20 years so Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife Rebekah. God answered his prayer and as a result, Rebekah became pregnant with twins. As the babies jostled each other within her, she asked God to tell her why. God told her two nations were within her and the older child would serve the younger. At this point in their lives, both Isaac and Rebekah knew to go to God for all their needs and questions.
Then the twins were born—a very hairy Esau was born first followed by a smooth-skinned Jacob with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. The boys grew up and Esau became a skillful hunter who loved the outdoors while Jacob was quiet and preferred the tents. Esau was Isaac’s favorite and Jacob was loved by his mother.
One day Jacob was cooking a stew and Esau came in from the open country, very tired, really hungry, and the stew smelled so good. Esau asked Jacob for some of the stew, and Jacob recognized a perfect opportunity. Jacob asked Esau to sell him the birthright for the bowl of stew and Esau agreed. Esau’s focus was on satisfying his physical appetite—he was not concerned about his birthright. Jacob, however, had a strong desire for God’s blessings and had probably been told he would one day rule over Esau.
Time passes and the day came when Isaac was very old and blind. He plotted to give his favorite son Esau the blessing God said would go to Jacob. Isaac called for Esau and asked him to hunt some wild game, prepare tasty food for him, bring it to him to eat, and he would give Esau the blessing. Rebekah overheard the conversation, called Jacob, told him her own plan to fix tasty food, have Jacob pretend to be Esau and take it to Isaac, and receive the blessing. Jacob was reluctant because Esau was hairy and Jacob was not, his father might touch him, discover the truth, and deliver a curse rather than a blessing. Rebekah told him just to obey and any curse could fall on her. Jacob obeyed his mother, wore Esau’s clothes, covered his hands and neck with goatskins to appear hairy like Esau, lied to his father twice, and successfully deceived his father. Esau soon returned with his own tasty food for Isaac only to find that the blessing had already been given to Jacob. Esau then threatened to kill his brother Jacob, Rebekah was told about Esau’s plan, and she sent Jacob to her brother Laban. To our knowledge, Rebekah never saw her favorite son again.
What started out so well ended up as a four-part cacophony! Both Isaac and Rebekah had a favorite son, and both plotted to give the blessing to their favorite son. Both wanted their own plan, both acted independently and selfishly, and both went ahead of God rather than wait for God’s plan and God’s timing. Isaac quietly plotted to give Esau something God did not want him to have. Esau willingly agreed even though he had already sold his birthright to Jacob. Since God had told Rebekah His plan for Jacob and Esau, she knew what God wanted and made her own plans to make it happen. She also involved her favorite son Jacob—teaching Jacob that God could not be depended upon to keep His Word about the blessing, that it was up to them to “help” God, and that deceiving Isaac was okay because this was God’s plan. Jacob knew his mother’s plan was wrong, but he really wanted the blessing and he let himself be led by his mother. This family did not trust each other, they did not trust God, they did not communicate well with each other, and they ignored God and His plan for their family.
What can we learn from this family?
• Obedience to God never includes disobedience to His Word or compromise with sin.
• Don’t “fix” things God doesn’t want us to fix.
• Don’t “help” God work out His timetable. Learn to wait and trust God for His perfect timing, His perfect healing, and His perfect answer.
• Never underestimate the influence our choices have on others. (Jacob followed the example of his parents Isaac and Rebekah by choosing to have a favorite son Joseph in
Genesis 37). Don’t encourage, manipulate, persuade or involve our children, and younger person, or anyone else in our sin—strive to always set a good, godly example.
• Include God, His Word, and His standards of behavior as the solid base on which we build our lives and those of our families.
• We have all made mistakes. Repent! Don’t let past mistakes paralyze your life— remember Jesus died for all our sins, present, past and future. Pray, ask His forgiveness, accept His forgiveness and move on with God.
• Remember that despite our flaws and shortcomings, God still chooses to use us as His instruments in an unbelieving world.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.”
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.