Like Father, Like Son
“And when the men there asked him about Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to admit that she was his wife. He thought they would kill him to get her, because she was very beautiful.” – Genesis 16:7 NLT
Have you ever noticed how it is that our kids seem to pick up all our worst habits? In fact, the things I get most frustrated about with my kids are usually habits they picked up from me. Like sponges, they seem to absorb character traits they see in us. And sometimes they take them to a whole new level. My wife has a saying she likes to use whenever she sees one of our kids emulating a habit or attitude of mine that is not exactly flattering – it’s “what parents do in moderation, children do to excess.”
You see this statement lived out in these three chapters of the book of Genesis. Abraham passed down to his son, Isaac, a certain predisposition to deception. All the way back in chapters 12 and 20, Abraham had convinced his wife Sarah to lie about being married to him, in order to protect himself. Because of her beauty, he was afraid that they would kill him in order to get to her. So he had her lie and say that she was his sister. Neither time was this sanctioned by God. And both times it nearly ended in disaster. Now here we are years later, long after Abraham has dies, and we find his son, Isaac, following in his footsteps. He repeats the sin of his father Abraham by commanding his wife Rebekah to lie and say that she is his sister. This was deja vu all over again. Similar situation. Same results. There was a famine in the land and Isaac is forced to move to a new place in order to keep his flocks alive. He is even directed by God where to go. But in spite of the fact that God was directing his path, he panics and allows fear to get the best of him. Instead of trusting God for his safety, he comes up with his own plan, involving deception and lying. But his deceit is quickly exposed and he is confronted about it by the citizens of the land in which he has settled. He only confessed it when confronted about it. Otherwise he would have continued living the lie – leaving his wife exposed to potential harm the entire time.
Yet in spite of all this, Isaac, like his father before him, is blessed beyond belief. We are told that “That year Isaac’s crops were tremendous! He harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the LORD blessed him. He became a rich man, and his wealth only continued to grow” (Genesis 26:12-12 NLT). But the blessing of God was not a reward for his behavior, but a reflection of God’s faithfulness. He was going to keep the covenant promise He had made to Abraham.
And while he was blessed and prosperous, Isaac would find that his deception would have long-term consequences. First of all, his deception caused the people of the land to distrust him. He was an unwelcome guest in their land. And his increasing affluence caused them to be jealous of him. They resented him. So much so that they tried to ruin him by filling in all his wells so that his herds would have no water. This conflict finally resulted in Isaac leaving their land and settling elsewhere. But in spite of Isaac’s mistakes, God was still in charge and ordering his future. God even reconfirmed His covenant with Isaac and restated His intent to give he and his descendants a land, a seed, and a blessing (Genesis 26:24).
But the gene of deception was going to get passed down yet again. This time to Jacob, Isaac’s son. We see this sad story in chapters 27-28. Jacob had already deceived his brother Esau once, having convinced him to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew. Now Jacob and his mother conspire to deceive his father Isaac. They come up with a plan to deceive him into giving Jacob the blessing that was meant for Esau. The interesting thing is that God had already told Rebekah that Esau would serve Jacob. The younger son would rule over the elder son. But she decided God needed help in making this happen. And she chose to use deception to make it happen. Jacob was completely complicit in this whole affair. He played his part to the tee. He deceived his father and received the blessing. But once again, it was to result in less-than-perfect circumstances. Jacob would be forced to leave his father’s home and journey to his mother’s homeland, where he would live with her family. She intended this to be a brief stay, while Esau got over his anger for having been deceived. But it would actually be many years before Jacob returned, and she would never live long enough to see her son again. Their deception would prove incredibly costly. And Jacob the deceiver would find that a life of deception breeds deception. But that is a story for another day.
I guess the main message is the power that a life of deceit has over all those with whom it comes in contact. It is like a cancer, having a negative influence on the deceiver as well as the deceived. It produces discord, anger, resentment, jealousy, and results in disunity and further deception. Our intentions may be noble and our desires pure, but any time we choose deceit as our primary means of accomplishing our objectives, the results will always be negative. Deceit is antithetical to trust. We tend to deceive when we refuse to believe. We lie when we find it hard to rely on God. The Proverbs warn us, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (Proverbs 14:12 NLT). Our deceptions may look good in the planning stages, but the results are always disappointing. Trusting is always better than deceiving. Just ask Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.
Father, how easy it is to try and deceive those around us. We don’t intend to deceive. We don’t even see it as deception. We just think we are coming up with a good plan to get us through the circumstances we are in. But instead of trusting You, we rely on our own faulty reasoning to deliver us. Show me how to trust You more. A lie of deception is deadly. Not only to me, but to all those around me. Especially my children. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men