For the week of November 26, 2005 / 24 Heshvan 5766
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 1:1-31
Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. (Bereshit / Genesis 24:67)
I have heard it said that the Bible is not a history book. Even though it contains accounts of historical importance, that statement is true. If the Bible were a history book, it would contain far more detail of its characters and the events it records. Instead we have a collection of a variety of literature (stories, rules, poetry, etc.), whose purpose is to reveal God and his requirements for people.
Abraham's son Isaac is a good example of what I am referring to. Isaac plays a most important role in the Scriptures. His miraculous birth is an essential ingredient in the outworking of God's plan of restoration. But as for his personal history, we are given only glimpses. While the amount of detail, whether a little or a lot, given to certain people and events may not always make sense to us, the more I study the Bible, the more impressed I am with how effective it is in accomplishing its purpose.
With regard to Isaac we are told nothing of his reaction to his father's willingness to offer him to God. The next time we hear of him has to do with the story contained in this week's Torah portion. While much detail is given to how Abraham's servant was led by God to find a wife for Isaac, Isaac himself doesn't come into the story until the end, when Rebekah is brought to him.
Yet the description of Isaac's experience at the very end of this story is very powerful. I will read it again:
Isaac loved Rebekah. Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.
This is a glimpse into Isaac's heart. It might seem strange that we would have this when nothing is stated about his emotional or mental state over his near death experience at the hand of his own father. What we do know is that he grieved over the loss of his mother and that Rebekah was a comfort to him. We also know that he loved Rebekah. It is possible that it was her becoming the focus of his heart that soothed his grief.
What strikes me is the intense humanness of this story. Isaac missed his mother - a normal human reaction to the loss of a loved one. He didn't deny the emotion; he felt the pain of it. He felt it until a new love came into his life.
This story tells us that it is alright to grieve. It hurts to lose a loved one. It is so destructive when people are encouraged to harden their hearts against grief. Loss is a part of life, and it hurts. When we don't allow ourselves the time to grieve, it will fester, possibly causing us far more physical and emotional damage later on.
We also see that human comfort is a good thing. God's provision for Isaac was Rebekah. While it is possible to find comfort in God alone - and there are times when that is necessary - God desires to use people to comfort us when we go through painful circumstances. We were not made to live life in seclusion. By and large we thrive when we are in healthy relationship to others.
Of course relationships can be abused. One of the many ways that happens is when we ourselves decide the kinds of relationships we must have. I could see someone reading the story of Isaac and Rebekah and insisting that only if they too would have a husband or a wife, then they would be truly happy. This is an example of how the Bible is more concerned with teaching us about life, than to provide us with history. While we might want to focus on the love story of Isaac and Rebekah, the Bible spends far more time on how God led Abraham's servant to find Rebekah. While Isaac's grief was relieved by a human instrument, it was God who was the true comforter through the provision of Rebekah.
God cares about our real human needs, but it is to God that we must look for those needs. Otherwise we will idolize people and what they can do for us. It is as we look to God and trust him, that our needs can be truly met, while not using and abusing others.
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