Introduction: This week in the second half of Genesis 25 we see how the Almighty God who created the vast universe and for whom all the nations of the world are just a drop in a bucket is at the same time willing to condescend and work on the lowest level in the lives of those whom the world accounts as the most insignificant. Let us learn this week an increased appreciation for our God who is not only ‘the Maker of heaven and earth,’ but also ‘upholds the cause of the oppressed,’ (Psalm 146:6-7).
Monday: read Genesis 25:19-21 and Psalm 113:5-9. In the many-branched family trees of unbelieving Ishmael and Esau, (see Gen. 25:12-18 and Gen. 36), there is no mention of barrenness or infertility. These men in the pride of life and by their own will are able to populate whole nations and kingdoms with numerous offspring. But for women of faith like Sarah, Rebekah and many others in the Old Testament, there is an inability to give birth to the promised children of the covenant. Because of this ‘barrenness’ Abraham’s descendants – even after 100’s of years of trying – go down to Egypt under Joseph with a paltry 75 souls in their clan as Acts 7:14 tells us.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to help you not to despise the day of small things or the days of apparently sparse fruitfulness in your life. We often begin to doubt that God will ever do anything significant through our meager lives and weak efforts of faith. But God is content with the pace and the fruit which He is producing in your life: shouldn’t you be as well? As we shall see tomorrow, Isaac, who had waited for the right wife until age 40, had to wait yet again for 20 years before the miracle birth of Jacob and Esau!
Tuesday: read Genesis 25:19-21. Just as through the prayers of Abraham’s faithful servant in Genesis 24:12-14 God finds the right wife for Isaac, so in answer to the prayers of Isaac himself God brings children into the barren womb of Rebekah. We do not mean to say that by prayer we somehow ‘twist God’s arm’ to do what we want Him to do. Prayer rather means a giving up of our own designs and depending for the outcome on God alone. All prayer in the end ultimately reduces itself to the humble petition: ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.’
Meditate and Pray: Isaac had his own human expectations that he would have children in the natural way when he married Rebekah at 40 years of age (Gen. 25:20). After 20 years (Gen. 25:26) of disappointment and waiting – enough time to make any hypocrite or unbeliever give up on prayer as useless – Isaac learned that God’s timetable and plan alone held sway. As Proverbs 19:21 says: ‘Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ Thank God right now for the submissive nature of faith, and that we can rest in the Lord’s will even when no answer is forthcoming. Ask Him to give you that patience to ‘keep praying and not give up,’ (Luke 18:1).
Wednesday: read Genesis 25:19-21 and Psalm 124. God makes clear that our deliverance from sin and Satan has nothing to do with ambitious self-effort or proud family connections of flesh and blood. As John 1:13 says, the right to be called ‘children of God’ comes… ‘not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but only of God.’ Isaac recognized this as he went to prayer on behalf of his barren wife. He knew only the Lord could preserve and multiply his family in a hostile world.
What a contrast with Ishmael and Esau: carnal men busy with multiple wives and concubines building kingdoms and nations while Abraham’s descendants languish in slavery for 400 years in Egypt. Why, things get so bad for those ‘born of God’ that they must resort to saving their babies from death by hiding them in arks or other secret places (see Exodus 1:22-2:3) like Moses parents hid him!
Meditate and Pray: Let us humbly confess the miraculous Providence of God by which alone the church is preserved in this hostile world. It is indeed true as Psalm 124:1-3 say: ‘If the Lord had not been on our side – they would have swallowed us up alive.’ From how many snares and deadly pitfalls has the Lord delivered you? Well then, praise Him with the concluding words of our Psalm: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped… Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’
Thursday: read Genesis 25:21-23 and Romans 8:26. How do you cope when your prayers and the prayers of your loved ones, like Isaac’s prayers for Rebekah, seem to bring troubling answers? Because of the conflict in her womb between her two sons, Rebekah is driven in her perplexity to ask God, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ (Gen. 25:22). Had Rebekah known then the acute grief which the conflict in her womb foreshadowed, perhaps she would have been tempted to ask Isaac to stop praying. Often God’s answers to prayer can be painful reminders that His agenda in prayer will prevail – not ours. It is no surprise, therefore, that prayer is often described as an area of great weakness for us. Not only do we find it difficult to know how to pray; we also find it hard to accept the kinds of answers which God sends! No wonder we need the Holy Spirit’s help and intercession to accompany our groans! (Romans 8:26)
Meditate and Pray: Thank God today that even when His answers to our prayers go contrary to what we expect there is still great comfort in prayer for us because of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Though God may not give us the answers which we seek, He promises to come to us Himself even when His answer is ‘no.’ So, in the end, we find comfort in fellowship with Him even as we ask ‘Why?’ Rebekah inquired and took her grief to the Lord at the end of Gen. 25:22, and found comfort with Him though much about the conflict between her sons would remain a mystery to her.
Friday: read Genesis 25:21-23 and James 5:16. May God give us grace when we like Rebekah in Gen. 25:22 find ourselves questioning God’s answers to our prayers. Charles Spurgeon’s comments on prayer from Psalm 65:5 help us greatly right here:
‘We do not always know what we are asking for when we pray; when the answer comes, the veritable answer, it is possible that we may be terrified by it. We seek sanctification, and trial will be the reply: we ask for more faith, and more affliction is the result: we pray for the spread of the gospel, and persecution scatters us. Nevertheless, it is good to ask on, for nothing which the Lord grants in his love can do us any harm. Terrible things will turn out to be blessed things after all, where they come in answer to prayer.’ Amen.