A Strange Footnote – Genesis 35:8

In Genesis 35:8, there is a strange sentence in the midst of the story of Jacob and his sons I have a hard time shooting past…

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died,
and she was buried below Bethel under the oak;
it was named Allon-bacuth.

Talk about a minor character? And yet, for some reason, Rebekah’s nurse is mentioned by name and a location was named in honor or her. Allon-bacuth means “Oak of weeping.”

There are so many unanswered questions here. This was Rebekah’s nurse, Jacob’s mother’s nurse. She may have been with Rebekah when she left her family to marry Issac whom she had never seen. But why is it mentioned here, in the midst of Jacob and Rachel’s story? And why is it mentioned at all? What was special about this Deborah?

I don’t have answers, but can only assume that she was a faithful, committed servant who made her way into the hearts of others.

Nameless throughout her own life, she is named for eternity in God’s word.

Sometimes I feel nameless, serving as faithfully as I can, not making a huge splash on this world. I don’t have hopes or desires for a location to be named on my behalf. But I’m glad for this little footnote, this little fact that doesn’t seem to fit in the paragraph, honoring a servant. God saw Deborah in her faithfulness, in how she affected others,

…and he sees me in mine.

Death of Sara – Genesis 23

A whole chapter is given to the death of Sarah and her burial. In a culture where women are sometimes not even named, this is quite an honor. 

Honestly, we don’t know much about Sarah, although we know more about her than most women of the Bible. In many ways, she’s an average wife who for 127 years, made breakfast, fed the goats, mended the clothes, swept the tent floor. When Abraham said they were “moving on,” she packed up the tent and walked miles until they would settle again.

We do hear of her sin, like being jealous about Hagar, and not confronting Abraham when he asked her to lie about their relationship and be given to a ruler as his wife. What her feelings about that arrangement are not recorded.

And we don’t know her response when Abraham kept having crazy visions about someday being the father of a great nation while she continued to be barren. I’m sure she tried to get pregnant, doing whatever was the gossip of the day. And each month she was reminded of her failure until she was dried up with age. Even then, when visitors prophesied she would be pregnant, she laughed in unbelief. But she still went into her husband…and miraculously, conceived! 

She raised the child, probably telling him about all the promises, all the visions, all the provisions God had given them. After all, God had made it clear that Sarah was to be the “mother” of Abraham’s great nation, a nation which would bless the world. 

Isaac was not only Abraham’s son, but Sarah’s son.

One thing is clear, Abraham deeply loved Sarah. He mourned her death and wanted to make sure she was buried in what would be someday his nation’s land.

Sarah was more than beautiful; she was faithful. She was the daily kind of faithful, sharing hopes and dreams with Abraham. She didn’t doubt him, at least, not to his face. She kept his dream alive and shared her life with him.

If God were writing the Bible today, I don’t know if many of us would have our names mentioned, much less a chapter.. We’re like Sarah, trying to be faithful in daily life, believing God. We may never do anything spectacular. But God still sees us and knows of our daily faithfulness. We have our ups and downs, but he’s with us, sharing his promises.

Faithfulness counts.  

Sacrifice – Genesis 22

If Abraham thought giving sheep and oxen to Abimelech was a sacrifice, God had news for him! Just like money out of abundance is easy to give, time and affection are much harder.

God asked Abraham to sacrifice what was most dear to him, to demonstrate he believed God would be faithful to his promise “no matter what.”

Despite numerous visons and visits from God, Abraham had wandered in his faith so often, giving Sarah to rulers as a wife, taking a servant to bed with him, and so on. Now he had his son.

Was his faith in his son, or the God who gave him a son?

God wanted to know, although I’m sure he knew what the outcome would be. More importantly, he wanted Abraham to know where his faith lay. In order to do it, he asked for the ultimate sacrifice.

Most of us know the story, how Abraham took Isaac to the mountain, laid him on the altar, raised his hand to kill him when God provided an ox. Abraham proved to himself where his faith lay.

And Isaac also proved where his faith lay. He was the one on the altar, starring wide-eyed at his father as the knife was raised. I’m sure he never forgot that moment, his father was ready to kill him to demonstrate his faith.

Have you ever wondered about the conversation as they came down the mountain? Or do you think they walked in silence, each deep in their own soul, finding meaning in what just happened.

We know God was pleased. He reinforced his promise to Abraham through an angel. Abraham had been faithful.

“By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord,
because you have done this
and have not withheld your son, your only son,
I will surely bless you,
and I will surely multiply your offspring 
as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.
And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,
and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,
because you have obeyed my voice.”      

We are blessed because Abraham was faithful.

And God was and will be faithful in his promises.