Rebekah – The Conniving Mother

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Genesis 25:21-34; 27:1-17, 41-46

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing with our series on Famous Mothers in the Bible for Mothers Day. So far in this series we have looked at three mothers: 1) Eve – The Mother of All the Living; 2) Sarah – The Laughing Mother; and 3) Hagar – The Crying Mother. Today we come to our fourth mother: Rebekah – The Conniving Mother. You can find links to the previous messages on the back of your outline.

As with all these messages, even though the passages are mostly about mothers and the messages are mostly directed towards mothers, because they deal with basic Biblical principles, they are applicable to us all – whether mothers or father, sisters or brothers, daughters or sons. So this message is really for all of us this morning. (Read Genesis 27:6-13 and pray.)

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So, what does it mean to be a conniving mother – or a conniving husband or wife or son or daughter for that matter? Here are some synonyms for the word conniving: devious, scheming, sly, crafty, deceitful, plotting, manipulative. It sounds like something right out of a spy novel, but in reality it is something right out of our everyday lives.

Rebekah was Isaac’s wife. And Rebekah was so conniving that it really becomes her defining trait in Scripture. How would you like that on your gravestone? “Beloved wife, loyal friend, conniving mother.”

But we can’t be too hard on Rebekah because this is something we all struggle with. We are all conniving to a certain extent, and we need to repent of that. Some of us are more conniving than others, and so we have even more need to repent than others in this area.

We are going to look at three areas in Rebekah’s life where she was conniving, and the negative consequences that followed in her family as a result. We are going to look at favoritism, manipulation, and dishonesty – and the negative outcomes in Rebekah’s family and ours.

Favoritism leads to rivalries. Manipulation disrespects relationships. Dishonesty prevents people from working out best solutions together. These are all parts of conniving, and if we want God’s best for our families, we need to leave our conniving ways behind.

I. Favoritism leads to rivalries (Genesis 25:21-34)

So first of all, favoritism leads to rivalries. You might wonder how favoritism relates to conniving. People who play favorites rarely do so out in the open. Sometimes they do, but usually it’s more hidden; it takes place behind the scenes, under the surface.

If you grew up with favoritism in your family, you already know how painful that can be – unless you were the favorite, of course, in which case you may be blissfully unaware. But either way favoritism in families not only hurts us as children. It can continue to impact our relationships even as adults.

   A. Be careful to preserve marital unity
      – Genesis 25:21-28

The first place to stop favoritism towards our children is within the marriage relationship itself. Be careful to preserve marital unity. One of the best gifts you can give to your children is a strong marriage bond between husband and wife, because when husband and wife are not united, this creates other divisions in the family as well.

So, let’s turn to the book of Genesis and see what was going on in Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage. We read in Genesis 25:21-28:

Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:21-28)

And here we have the seeds of what went wrong with Isaac and Rebekah’s family. Mom and Dad were not united. They were both playing favorites, and they even chose different sons to favor. I’m not sure which is worse – for Mom and Dad to favor the same child together, or for Mom and Dad to square off and choose different favorites. But either way it’s wrong. It’s hurtful to your kids and damaging to your family.

Moms and Dads, you need to be united, especially when it comes to the kids. Kids pick up on this pretty fast, and they know how to divide and conquer as well as any general in the army. So that’s the first step to guard against favoritism. Be careful to preserve marital unity.

   B. Be careful not to provoke sibling rivalry
      – Genesis 25:29-34, 37:3-4; Ephesians 6:4

But then, you also need to be careful not to provoke sibling rivalry. Being united is great, but once again, if you are united in your favoritism towards a certain child, you will still provoke rivalries in your children. Isaac and Rebekah both played favorites, and the results were devastating to their family. Let’s pick up the story now in Genesis 25:29-34:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” … Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34)

Neither Jacob nor Esau come out very good in this account. Jacob cheats his brother, and Esau despises his birthright. But the real problem here is they are not working together. They are not looking out for each other. Instead of raising sons who cared for each other and watched each other’s backs, Isaac and Rebekah have created one huge mess between Jacob and Esau.

Now some kids are naturally competitive, and they may experience sibling rivalry even if you do not play favorites. But showing favoritism will certainly make things worse. And sadly, unless both children give it over to the Lord, that rivalry will likely continue into adulthood.

There may even be a ripple effect where your children will go on to play favorites with their kids, thus spreading the hurt to your grandchildren as well. That’s what happened with Jacob and his children. Jacob grew up in a house where his parents played favorites, and guess what happened when Jacob became a father himself? He played favorites, too. We read in Genesis 37:3-4: “Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” (Genesis 37:3-4)

Ephesians 6:4 tells us: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) This command is given especially to fathers in this verse, but it certainly applies to mothers as well.

The message is clear. Parents – don’t play favorites with your kids. Be careful to preserve marital unity. Be careful not to provoke sibling rivalry. That’s our first point on conniving this morning. Favoritism leads to rivalries.

II. Manipulation disrespects relationships (Genesis 27:1-17)
      – Ephesians 5:33

Secondly, manipulation disrespects relationships. Husbands and wives are called to a relationship of mutual love and respect. We read in Ephesians 5:33: “Each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) When we practice manipulation and deceit, we are no longer loving and respecting each other.

Unfortunately, Rebekah was a master manipulator. We read more of her story in Genesis 27:1-17:

When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your weapons – your quiver and bow – and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”

So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made. (Genesis 27:1-17)

Notice when Rebekah shares this plot with her son, Jacob doesn’t object, “But Mom, that would be wrong!” Rather he objects, “But Mom, what if I get caught!” But she basically says, don’t worry, I’ve thought of everything. And she really has. Hers is an elaborate scheme, a well-orchestrated plot.

   A. Don’t try to manipulate people or situations around you
      – 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5

Moms, Dads, everyone – don’t try to manipulate people or situations around you. That was Rebekah’s problem. When Rebekah hears that Isaac is ready to give Esau his blessing, she leaps into action. She tells Jacob to bring her some goats. She prepares a meal for Isaac, just the way he likes it. Now, is she preparing Isaac’s favorite meal for him because she loves him and respects him? No, she’s doing it because she wants something from him. She wants to manipulate him into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. How many times do we do something nice for someone not because we love them but because we want something? That is not love or respect. That is manipulation and deceit.

The apostle Paul in the New Testament refused to use manipulation even for a good cause, even for the very best cause, the cause of sharing the gospel. He wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4:2: “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

Or again, he wrote to the church in 1 Thessalonians: “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you…. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness.” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5)

   B. Trust God to fulfill his plans in his way and in his time
      – Proverbs 3:5-6

Don’t try to manipulate people or situations around you. Rather, trust God to fulfill his plans in his way and in his time. Proverbs 3:5-6 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God had already told Rebekah that he was going to bless Jacob. He told her that before the twins were even born. Rebekah didn’t need to do anything for God’s plan to take place. If she had simply trusted God, Jacob would still have received his blessing, and she would not have ended up disrespecting her husband.

It’s the difference between playing God and trusting God. When you try to manipulate people or situations, you are basically playing God. You are trying to create an alternate reality where you get your way over someone else. The problem is you are not the Creator. God is. It’s exhausting to try and play God and control everything going on around you. Only God can be God without getting tired! And so, you need to trust God to fulfill his plans in his way and in his time.

Time for a heart check. Are you a manipulator like Rebekah? Do you work behind the scenes to make things go your way? Do you plot and plan and disrespect others in the process? Don’t try to manipulate people or situations around you. Trust God to fulfill his plans in his way and in his time. That’s our second point this morning. Manipulation disrespects relationships.

III. Dishonesty prevents people from working out best solutions together (Genesis 27:41-46; Proverbs 15:22)

1) Favoritism leads to rivalries. 2) Manipulation disrespects relationships. And 3) Dishonesty prevents people from working out best solutions together. The Bible says with many counselors comes wisdom (Proverbs 15:22), but when you are dishonest or misleading or you withhold information from another, then you forfeit the benefit of their wisdom. And that is not wise.

There’s a funny scene in the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” where the mother is trying to manipulate the father into a certain decision. Her daughter, Toula, is worried that the father won’t agree with the decision, and the mother tells her: “Let me tell you something Toula; the man is the head … but the woman is the neck … and she can turn the head any way she wants.” It’s a funny line, and it all works out in the movie, but it doesn’t always work out that way in real life. In real life dishonesty prevents people from working out best solutions together.

That’s exactly what happens with Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 27. We read in Genesis 27:41-46:

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 consoling himself with the thought of killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. 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?” Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (Genesis 27:41-46)

What does Rebekah do here? Instead of sharing the problem directly with Isaac, she sidetracks, she misdirects, she deflects. She says, “I’m disgusted because of these Hittite women.” No, she’s not! She just wants Isaac’s permission to send Jacob away. She is withholding information from Isaac and being dishonest about her feelings in order to lead him to her preconceived solution – instead of sharing fully with Isaac so that they can work out the best solution together. And the results will be devastating to both Rebekah and her family.

   A. Deception is just as bad as lying
      – Proverbs 12:22; Acts 5:1-4

But apart from the negative results, what Rebekah is doing is just wrong. The Bible tells us that deception is just as bad as lying, that it really is a form of lying in itself. We read in Proverbs 12:22: “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” (Proverbs 12:22) The word translated “lying” in this verse is a word that can mean either lying or deceitful. In other words, they’re the same thing. Deception is just as bad as lying, because it is lying.

We find a striking example of this in the New Testament book of Acts. We read in Acts 5:

Now a man named Ananias … sold a piece of property…. He kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? … What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:1-4)

Notice Ananias didn’t directly tell a lie. He just made it look like he had brought all the money to the apostles. He was what we would call being deceptive, yet Peter said that in reality, he had lied to God and the Holy Spirit.

   B. Commit to speaking the truth at all times
      – Ephesians 4:25; Galatians 6:7

And so, as Christians we need to commit to speaking the truth at all times. Ephesians 4:25 says: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25) Galatians 6:7 says: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

As Sir Walter Scott once said, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.” Galatians 6:7 tells us that those who deceive others are really deceiving themselves, because God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Honesty is the best policy, not just because it is right, but because it leads to the best solutions.

Rebekah withheld information from Isaac, and as a result, she and Isaac were never able to approach the problem of Jacob and Esau together. Jacob went to Rebekah’s brother in Haran, and it was decades before he returned. But by then it was too late. Rebekah had already died. She never saw her son again.

CONCLUSION: Sometimes we learn from good examples in the Bible – what we should do; and other times we learn from bad examples – what to avoid. Unfortunately, Rebekah’s story is an example of the latter. Are you a conniving mother or father or daughter or son? Are you given to favoritism, manipulation or dishonesty?

Then you need to repent of your sin and ask God to help you, ask him to forgive you, ask him to change you, and ask him to heal the broken situations around you. Conniving hurts, not helps. When we connive and manipulate, we circumvent authority, we damage relationships, and we forego God’s best. We need to learn to trust God instead of play God.

Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Here is the cure for conniving:

Jesus is the way, so follow his way, not your way.

Jesus is the truth, so commit to speaking the truth at all times.

Jesus is the life, and he offers you true, abundant life instead of the damage and hurt that come from conniving.

© Ray Fowler

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