Wednesday, March 12, 2014

ISAAC AND REBEKAH...infertility in a covenant marriage

Brian Kershisnek
Fertility in a covenant marriage; you could say that the obvious evidence of fertility in any marriage is children. But I would raise that bar and say that the evidence of fertility is also spiritual “off spring”.
In Genesis 25:21 {And} Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived
Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40 years old, there was no age given of Rebekah, so it is always assumed that she was at least 20 years younger. For the first 20 years of their marriage, Rebekah was unable to conceive. The scriptures seem to designate this condition as “barren”. It is such a harsh word, and the connotations imply an unfillable emptiness or a void-like a black hole, something that can’t be filled up without divine intervention.  (What does it mean to be entreated? It means to be kind and just and reasonable and self-sacrificing in one's attitude toward others.)

I don’t think that Rebekah was initially infertile, this was her blessing as she left her home to marry Isaac: Genesis24:60 And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.

Sarah and Abraham also struggled with “temporal” infertility in their marriage, in the context of their respective biology. There is an emphasis on how old they were, and specifically in a post menopausal Sarah.  And in light of Abraham and Sarah’s promises of “posterity” that would equal the stars in the sky, and the grains of sand. Their faith was stretched to the breaking point. Abraham complained to God that “he wasn’t getting any younger, and if he had to wait any longer, he would have to legally adopt his most senior servant “Elieazer of Damascus”. Sarah had to take matters into her own hand, and had enacted or acted on a Hammurabi law:  “Throughout the Ancient World childlessness was considered to be a serious problem.  If a wife failed to bear children she might give her maidservant to her husband.  If the maidservant produced a baby it counted as the wife’s child.  If such a maidservant started to take on airs and act the equal of the wife she could not be sold but she would be kept strictly as a slave.  If neither wife nor maidservant produced a child a man was permitted a second wife but again she was not allowed to be equal in status to the first wife.  If his wife acquired a long-term illness he could take a second wife but he must continue to look after his first wife for as long as she lives.  She could take her dowry and return to her father’s house if she wanted to do so: the choice was hers. (144-149). 

Sarah gave her slave Hagar to her husband Abraham, to act as surrogate for her. And the theory was to raise the child as her own; sounds like a soap opera. Abraham’s response was conspicuously ambiguous. When he was confronted by a desperate Sarah concerning the behavior of Hagar; (it seem s that Hagar was aware of her rights in the law also), his response at first seem’s flip, but in accordance with the “temporal” law of procreation they had invoked, his reaction was according to that law: He said, “She is your hand maid, do with her what you will.” This caused a delay of about 25 more years before Sarah would become pregnant. Where is the infertility? It is not so much in her body or in Abraham’s body; because the Lord promised that “nothing is impossible for Him”. But the infertility represented here is that barren seed of faith, and the “stony unfertilized” ground of the heart, where the sower can’t sow the seed of faith.   

In this infertile moment; Abraham and Sarah decided to “fall back” to a different time and place and in their life, and utilize it to bring about a wished for event.  Many years before, Abraham and Sarah made a brave decision to serve the Lord at all cost. They were told to “leave their fathers house because he was an idolater”, and they were told to leave their “kinfolk” because they too were idolaters and would only hinder their goals. And last, the Lord “entreated” them to come to an unknown land, and live there, and start a family, and become a people; and they were entreated. They were to leave the prescribed laws of the land, and follow the law of God, no shadow of turning.

So, back to Isaac and Rebekah, who seemed to be going down that same road of barrenness. But their approach was one of faith. The Bible does not mention any sister wives, or concubines. Genesis 25:21 {And} Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  I think that Isaac’s prayer, a husband’s blessing; where they both knelt together; gave Rebekah a spiritual boost to her faith. More than babies were conceived, the faith that with God all things are possible, was born also.
 Psalms 113:9 Amplified version: mentions this concerning the “barren” woman:  He makes the barren woman to be a homemaker and a joyful mother of [spiritual] children. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)
For me, I want to step back and look at my very own covenant marriage with my very own sweet husband. Where are we infertile? How can we stop the “barrenness” in our lives?

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