A few weeks ago, I was working on this Sunday’s sermon. I had lunch scheduled with a friend; he has been a pastor for many years. I spent the morning doing research and studying the passage. When I broke for lunch, my friend and I spent some time talking about this story. One verse puzzled me, or at least caused me to doubt my memory. I did not remember it being in the Bible. When I asked my friend about it, he confessed the same lack of memory. A few weeks later, I was asked to lead a devotion at a denominational gathering. In a room with about ten other pastors, I shared the same verse. Following the devotional, several of the pastors admitted the same failure to recall this detail. So here it is.
There are many stories of barren women in the Bible. The more famous include Hannah and Sarah. Their heartache and sense of failure cannot be overemphasized. A woman’s value was strongly connected with her ability to reproduce. We all remember these powerful stories of God providing for these women. What I did not recall was that Rebekah was also barren. Do you remember last week’s story? Abraham’s servant traveled to a distant land (Abraham’s home country) and finds Rebekah. She is a beautiful virgin seemingly picked by God as Isaac’s wife. Miraculously her family agrees to release her to Isaac. It seemed that the promise of Abraham’s great nation would be fulfilled. But here is the kicker.
(Genesis 25:21 NIV) Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren.
It’s just one sentence; the author of Genesis does not dwell on her suffering. In the same verse, we are quickly told,
(Genesis 25:21 NIV) The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
Perhaps this is why we did not recollect this detail; it happens so fast in the text. But if you look a bit deeper, you realize that Isaac was 40 years old when he marries Rebekah; he is 60 when the twins are born. Twenty years of praying; twenty years of questioning God. How could we have missed this?
Have you ever felt like God was oblivious to your suffering? Have you ever wondered if God hears your prayers? Have you felt like you misread God’s direction in a given decision? Isaac must have questioned if Rebekah was the right choice. Rebekah must have doubted her decision to leave her family. For twenty years, they prayed for God to move, to act.
As we prepare for Sunday’s text, it is worth noting that God’s timetable is not always the same as ours. God may seem to be silent, inactive or insensitive; yet we can be assured that He is not. We are not sure why He allowed Isaac and Rebekah to wait for so long. Yet Isaac continued to exhibit faith in God’s plan; he prayed for a child. May we remember this detail and not lose sight of this truth as we wait on God.