Mama’s Boy

 In Character, Duty, Faith, Family, Fred's Blog, Inheritance, Relationships, Scripture, Teaching, Uncategorized

Listen to “Mama’s Boy” by Fred Smith


If you visit Elk Lake, Minnesota and the headwaters of the Mississippi, you will see a stream that is about 20 feet across and 2 feet deep. Sometimes it is so obscured by reeds that people lose sight of the stream altogether. But if you keep going for 2,300 miles you will end up in New Orleans where the Mississippi is 200 feet deep and 7600 feet wide. The flow has increased from 6 cubic feet per second to 12,000 cubic feet per second. It’s one of the largest rivers in the world that begins from a very unremarkable source.

Stories about our origins are stories about ourselves and our unique characteristics. Most of those tales tend to highlight the good and pass over the flaws because they are stories about the values we celebrate. While they may not be altogether true, they are part of the ways we pass along what we prize to the next generation. But, in doing so we sometimes distort history and our ancestors. In our own origins as a country, we are likely to be taught stories of Washington’s honesty and throwing a dollar across the Potomac or Lincoln’s studying by candlelight in a log cabin. We don’t dwell much on their shortcomings until we start reading biographies. At least, that is the way it was years ago but not so much now.

Not the Jews. They do not embellish or glamorize. Their story begins with deceit, ambition, trickery, opportunism, favoritism, and rivalry. In the account of Rebekah, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob we are present at the actual headwaters of the people we know as Jews and their culture. This is their celebrated story about their own origins. This is the story they are taught as children about their beginnings and who they are.

Isaac favors the one who feeds him.  He loves the son who is easier to understand and less complicated. But Esau had no use for his obligations or responsibilities as the eldest. Having no interest in the future of the family or honoring what Abraham and Isaac had accomplished, he was counting on his entitlement and Isaac’s favoritism taking care of him for the rest of his life. His only concern was with the here and now. That is why the author of Hebrews calls him “godless.” It is not just his lack of respect for God but he was a fool toward his own responsibilities as a son and heir.

For other and far deeper reasons, Rebekah favors Jacob. He is not merely her favorite but her intentional choice for the future. She was wiser than Isaac about who should be the successor to leadership in the family and eventually the namesake of a nation. It was Jacob who was the quiet man – and that word means more than quiet. It means mature and thoughtful. While Esau was away in the fields, Jacob remained “among the tents” – or with the extended family. Esau paid attention to Isaac and Jacob paid attention to the family.

Seeing Esau’s godlessness and appetites up close, Rebekah knew he was unfit. There was no long-term worthy ambition in his life. But there was in hers and in Jacob’s. Even more important, she saw Jacob as the fulfillment of her own family blessing in Genesis 24:60. “Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.” It was not only Isaac’s blessing she thought about but her own family’s expectations as well. Esau was not the one to fulfill that blessing or to possess the gates of the enemy. He had proved that over and again.

We sell Rebekah short in thinking only of her as encouraging Jacob to deceive Isaac out of favoritism. It is far more than that. She is risking everything and breaking all tradition by what she does. Putting her own relationship with God in jeopardy by accepting a certain curse, she was accepting the likelihood of separation from her family and God. We skip over that and we shouldn’t. We should not miss the seriousness of her total commitment to the future line of the family. For Rebekah, this was not about favoring one child. It was about millions of future descendants.

Not everyone is called on to have the faith of Rebekah or to put themselves willfully at risk for the future of an entire race. However, it is important to understand what she did and what she risked for a future she could not see but in which she believed. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews says it was by faith that Isaac blessed Jacob but it was through the discernment, faith, and courage of Rebekah that the world was saved.



“A Hundred Familiar Objects Which No Longer Exist” by Mary McCleary



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