First Mennonite Church
July 19, 2015
The Journey From Conflict to Forgiveness IV
Text: Genesis 27: 1-17; 30-35; 41. Luke 2:41-52
What a complicated family! Two Sundays ago, I talked about family conflict that arise either from children’s behaviors or those conditions of which children do not have control. Today I would like to talk about parents’ behaviors or decisions that can bring conflict in the family also. Yet, before I go into this passage, I would like us to go back to some verses I left out two Sundays ago, which I said I was going to engage today.
In Genesis 25, verses 27 and 28, we are told that Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. Jacob on the other hand was a “quiet” man who preferred to stay close to home. It is interesting that the Hebrew word “tam” translated “quiet” or “mild-mannered” normally means “innocent” or “upright” as is used to describe Job (Job 1, 2). Jacob was a “mommy boy” who learned some cooking skills. It is very interesting that the writer does not attempt to hide the parents’ preference for their twin boys. Verse 28 reads: Isaac, who had a good taste for wild game, loved Esau; Rebekah loved Jacob (NIV). Isaac’s love for Esau is stated, but there is no reason given for Rebekah’s love for Jacob. Was her preference for Jacob prompted by what she was told about the younger becoming master of the oldest? Was her preference and later her action done with the purpose to enhance God’s plan for the younger son?
There are obvious problems between Isaac and Rebekah: favoritism and lack of communication. There is only one reference given in Genesis where Rebekah addresses word to Isaac and it was to express her disgust of having to live around Hittite women (27:46). Although we can assume that they did speak to each other, there is no account given in which we can hear some of their conversation as is given between Abraham and Sarah and later between Jacob and his wives. Despite the beautiful way in which God provided a wife to Isaac and that Genesis 24, verse 67, tells us that “Isaac loved Rebekah,” there is no recorded conversation between them. Likewise, we are not told whether or not Rebekah revealed to Isaac what the Lord told her about the twins fighting in her womb or if she ever revealed it to her children.
When I do pre-marital counseling, one of the important topics of discussion is open communication between spouses. Lack of open communication lines in marriage is the perfect recipe for conflict between husband and wife. Most usually husbands are blamed for their lack of communication skills. It is not uncommon to hear complaint about the apparent lack of attentiveness of husbands. When their wives are talking the only response they get is “Uhmm!” “Okay!” “Yeah!” And again, yeah, okay, and uhmm! And the explosion happens. Communication requires engaging the partner wholeheartedly. For now, let me stop here. But let us be reminded that every effort at good communication will minimize the possibility of conflict between us and our spouse.
Let us see now the danger of favoritism. We can only imagine how dangerous, painful, and conflicting it could be for a family where a parent favors one child above another. Sometimes, although it is not the intention of a parent to communicate such attitude, certain actions or ways they show affection, or ways the talk to or about a child can be interpreted by the other siblings as favoritism toward a certain member in the family. In the case of Isaac, we are told that his good taste for wild game caused him to prefer Esau. It is indeed troubling for a parent to favor a child based on a simple reason such as food preference. How would your children or grandchildren feel if one of them is preferred simply because he or she likes to eat fish or for the way he or she cooks? Isaac’s good taste for wild game does not seem of little importance to him. In fact, Isaac considered a delicious wild game dinner was worthy enough or at least a good prelude to give Esau his “soul’s blessing.” A wild game dinner was good enough to discount Jacob from a blessing altogether. You see, the custom was that when a father is in his deathbed he would summons all his children and impart among them his last blessing. Isaac’s partiality toward his Esau for the simple reason that he liked good game delicacies made him to disregard Jacob from sharing in his final blessing. Therefore, what Isaac did in offering Esau his final blessing indicated that he broke away from the tradition and although indirectly, he also strayed away from God’s charge to his father Abraham to walk before the Lord “faithfully and blamelessly” (Gen. 17:1).
There might be all kinds of other “wild games” that can cause parents or grandparents to favor one child above another. Good behavior, studiousness, being or living nearby the parent or grandparent can be reasons to show signs of favoritism. In Belize, most parents favor either the oldest or the youngest child. (Unfortunately, I am neither of the two.) Regardless of the reasons or causes for favoritism in families, the result is the same: intra-family conflict.
Isaac was not the only one who stirred problems in the house. Rebekah also contributed fuel to the fire. She overheard the conversation between Isaac and Esau. And she brought out that lioness heart of a mother. If Isaac did not want to play by the rules, she was going to show him and Esau that she cannot be fool around. She wanted to exact an even greater pain both to Isaac and Esau. Jacob was the tool to carry out Rebekah’s wrath. And even when Jacob expressed hesitation about cheating and of taking advantage of his father’s blindness, he was more concerned to be caught red-handed than for the wickedness of their actions. In the end, the family was not only divided but splintered.
Let us do a brief comparison here with the way Mary and Joseph dealt with a family situation. When Joseph and Mary realized their child was not among friends or relatives, both of them set to find him. Upon finding Jesus in the Temple, Mary revealed their anguish and pain both she and Joseph went through. Joseph and Mary always acted in harmony. They worshipped together and they resolved their family troubles together. They found their child. What a beautiful example of husband and wife working together to solve their family crisis.
In the case of Isaac’s household, Rebekah reveals the seriousness of their loss after Isaac was cheated to bless Jacob. This is what Genesis 27, verses 41-45 say:
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
Why should I lose both of you in one day? But unfortunately Rebekah did lose everything. As family is concerned, Isaac lost everything too.
May the Lord help us to avoid showing even unintended signs of favoritism towards our children. May the Lord help us be parents in harmony working together to save our family. May the Lord give us wisdom to put in order our house before we depart from this world so that our children be blessed with peace and remain united. May the Lord bless our families. Amen!
 The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 1. Abington Press: Nashville, 1994, p. 521