Posts Tagged ‘Rachel’

Genesis 35:16-28 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 5  

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Ross, 

I have devastating news. Rachel, my beloved wife, has died in childbirth. I am grief-stricken 

On leaving Bethel, the clan and I moved on toward Ephraththe region around Bethlehem. But Rachel went into labor while we were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. (Genesis 35:16 NLT) 

As you know, after so many years of not being able to conceive, Rachel gave birth to Joseph before we left Laban. She asked that God would give her another son. That was 15 years ago, but she continued to pray and now finally God has answered her prayer but sent such grief to my soul.  

My twelfth son was premature. The birth was incredibly difficult. After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!”  

Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). Such a name would have been an unbearable burden for him and all of us to bear, so I called him Benjamin instead (which means “son of my right hand”).   

His name replaces the sorrow I feel at losing Rachel. No longer will he be associated with grief but with honour in our family. He is a blessing that issued forth from sadness.  

I buried Rachel on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). I set up a stone monument over her grave, a lasting tribute to her memory. (Genesis 35:17-20 NLT).  

Yours in grief once again, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

 Rachel has shared with you the destiny God has woven into your life. Fruit from hard ground, my friend. I am so sorry for your loss and yet amazed by the promises of God which will be fulfilled through your sons. 

For you, Bethlehem is a place of loss. A memory of someone gone. An acknowledgement of a life of sorrow and joy.  Your monument leaves a legacy for future generations to wonder.  

You renamed your son from Benoni (Son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (Son of my right hand). Perhaps you will find some consolation in that your monument will also mark the place where the Messiah will be born who will also be known as both a man of sorrows and One who sits at the Right Hand of God in heaven.  

The love of your life was buried in the place where the Savior will be born. When He will be born, angels will announce “Good news of great Joy”. Your descendants will be the ancestors of the Son of God. 

The prophet Micah in Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”  

I pray, Jacob, for you and for me, that with our last breath, let us not see the sorrow, but the grace of what the Lord has accomplished in our lives and the legacy He gives us to leave behind. 

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) says, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand. 

God’s strength, 

Ross. 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Thankyou for your words of encouragement and prophetic insight. At the moment however I am faced with yet a new challenge and great disappointment. 

After Rachel died, I travelled on to see my father. We camped beyond Migdal-eder, the watchtower of the shepherds near Jerusalem. While I was living there, I heard some disturbing reports. My eldest son, Reuben, had intercourse with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Genesis 35:21-22 NLT).  

You may not understand the significance of this in your culture, but in Canaan, this is seen as a way of showing disrespect for the leader of the tribe or family, a challenge to say that he is unfit. It is described as “making yourself strong”. I know I have not been there when my sons and daughter needed me the most, but I thought we had all made a new start. 

I deserve the scorn of my sons for my lack of leadership. I don’t really know what I will do, but Reuben will not be excused. He is my firstborn but he will never have the leadership of our family 

I have experienced more fear, grief, disappointment and heartache with my sons than ever before in my life. These ongoing attacks, however, have only served to strengthen my resolve to obey God.  

At present, I am taking no action against Reuben. I have twelve sons and God has promised that from my family will come the blessing given originally to Abraham, that through them all the nations of the world will be blessed. How He can use us to do that I really don’t know, but I trust Him. 

God alone can fulfil His promises to me. In the meantime, I am returning to my father, Isaac, in MamreIt is a place of rich historyIt is near Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac both lived. Abraham and Isaac lived there as foreigners but this land was promised to them and to us as their family forever.  

My father is blind but meeting his grandsons may give him some pleasure in seeing God’s promises being unfolded before he dies. 

Still trusting in God’s promises, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

Your letter reminds me that neither sin nor death can frustrate God’s purposes for His people. By faith, you have been blessed concerning things to come. 

Isaac must be well over 150 years old by now. He has lived an incredibly long life. (Genesis 35:28 NLT). I don’t want to live that long, but I do want my life to count for something. 

You have gone through so much of late, and you have overcome by your trust in God. You remind me that none of us are exempt from the trials of life; including the deaths of those we love, and the disappointments and stresses of family life.  

When the time comes for your father to die, you will be the great patriarch of the faith, the mantle of responsibility will be placed upon your shoulders to carry to the next generation. 

 Isaac will die in the faith, not having received the promises directlybut having seen it all from a distance and welcomed it. Abraham and Isaac were foreigners and nomads here on earth, looking forward to a country they could call their own. Like you, they have trusted in promises of God being fulfilled in generations to come. God is not ashamed to be called your God, and He has prepared you for a great purpose and blessing on the earth. You too, Jacob have received it by faith (Hebrews 11:13-20 NLT).  

In days to come at Migdal-eder, where you now reside, I prophesy that shepherds will hear of the Saviour who will come directly through your line.  

Thanks for being a friend, Jacob. I have to admit, there have been times when I have not particularly liked you or the way you have done things, but who I am to judge. I have equally not liked myself or my actions at times in my life. Nevertheless, you have always given me an example, especially of late, of someone who holds onto the promises of God in certain hope of seeing His purposes fulfilled. Only the gracious purposes of God will ensure the survival of our families during the perilous times in which we live. 

I will catch up with you again soon, my friend, 

Inspired to trust in the promises of God and His Word, 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Much has happened since last I wrote to you and one day I will tell you about my son Joseph, but for now I am writing to let you know that my father, Isaac, breathed his last and died at a ripe old age, joining his ancestors in death. Esau and I buried him (Genesis 35:29 NLT). 

Once again Esau and I were reconciled, only this time in our grief. My grandfather, Abraham, bought the cave of Machpelah, near Mamrefrom Ephron the Hittite as a permanent burial site. Abraham buried his wife Sarah there and he was buried thereNow my father joins them. My mother, Rebekah, is also buried there. One day Leah and I will be buried there as well (Genesis 49:29-32 NLT). 

As you said in your last letter, I am now the patriarch of the family, heir of the promises and blessings of God, not only Isaac’s wealth. May the Lord help me to honour the heritage He has given me.  

May God be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:19, 30-37 – CLEARING AWAY THE OLD COBWEBS

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

A spider weaves it’s web, silk extruded from its spinnerets. For weeks I watch it sitting in the middle of it’s lair just outside our window and then suddenly it is gone. I often wonder what happened to that spider. Now over the weeks only the tangled architecture of an abandoned snare remains. The magnificent lines of aerial craftsmanship are now sagging, sticky filaments flailing in the wind. The tensile strength of mellifluous spider silk stretched in etched lines in space has become a confusion of snarls.

RECOGNISE MY OLD COBWEBS

  1. AM I TRUSTING IN FALSE SECURITY?

What was Rachel thinking? Was she trying to hedge her bets? Was she rejecting a relationship with God, trying to enrage her father, or does she see these idols as valuable items to sell as a forfeited dowry? (Genesis 31:19). Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and family blessing. Now Rachel steals to get what she wants. Theft and lying still plagues this family. In a world full of spiders, it seems stupid to risk getting caught in your own web.

You locate trust where you find your security. You know the common ones; health, wealth, intelligence. (All such are temporal. Believe me; I work in aged care. I see how temporal it can be, everyday). Trusting in an eternal God clears away the cobwebs of false security.

  1. AM I PLAYING THE BLAME GAME?

Laban’s sons and relatives already view Jacob with suspicion, and now once again Laban tries to discredit him – “Why have you stolen my gods?” (Genesis 31:30 NLT). Implying that this is another motive for leaving, Laban attacks Jacob’s integrity. Watch out for the fangs, Jacob. The web is a problem but how will you avoid the cruel venom of the spider?

But is the secret to success really found in knowing who to blame for your failures? Deny all, admit nothing, and blame someone else? Politicians, parents, wives, God? Blame is a cobweb in Laban’s window that blocks his ability to see his own reflection. When you blame others you give up the power to change.

  1. AM I ALLOWING FEAR TO RULE MY DECISIONS?

Jacob has no interest in idols. He explains honestly that fear was the basis of his deception in rushing away, not theft. “I was afraid … I thought you would take your daughters from me by force” (Genesis 31:31 NLT). 

The kind of fear that disturbs our trust in God. Fear that frantically seeks for methods to help God protect us rather than cooperate with His plans was the fear that justified Jacob’s decision to leave secretly. He was obeying God, but fear chooses the way of deception once again to escape harm. Arachnophobia. The vibration of panic pulling at the web has only attracted the malice of the spider. Trust uses the broom of faith to sweep away fear.

  1. AM I GIVING NEGATIVE WORDS POWER?

Jacob has nothing that belongs to Laban. Even his wives were sold to him for 14 years of labour. It all legally belongs to Jacob, except of course for the idols. Not aware that Rachel has stolen the household gods Jacob makes a rash statement of bravado. He says “But as for your gods, see if you can find them, and let the person who has taken them die! And if you find anything else that belongs to you, identify it before all these relatives of ours, and I will give it back!” (Genesis 31:32 NLT).

Negativity misuses our words; and turns words of life to words of death. It makes rash statements without thinking of the consequences. Jacob gives negative words power and says things he doesn’t really mean.

James 3:8-10 (NLT) says that “no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” 

  1. AM I RELYING ON LIES AND SECRETS?

Laban doesn’t take Jacob’s word. He is looking for any excuse to discredit and humiliate Jacob. He searches the web. Rachel is not about to let her sin find her out. She has hidden the gods in the camel’s saddle and she sits on the saddle. I love what Sherry Car writes about this. She talks about “Sitting on false security! … What kind of false securities do we have beneath us?” https://www.bible.com/

Will the spider find his prey? Laban doesn’t think of asking her to rise because she says she is having her menstrual period. There was an uncleanness associated with this and no-one comes near her. Laban doesn’t find the gods (Genesis 31:35).

Lies and secrets are cobwebs on the soul, hindering our ability to see the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

  1. AM I RULED BY SELF DECEPTION?

Rachel is no less guilty of the crime. She escapes facing up to what she has done but perhaps this opens the door to the curse of idolatry into the life of her family and to future Israel? “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23 NLT).

God changed Laban’s capacity for harming Jacob by warning him in a dream (Genesis 31:24), but that doesn’t change his heart. Even after having a direct encounter with God he is still looking for his household idols!

The scene is pathetic. Laban is more concerned to prove that Jacob is a thief and liar than admitting his own need to repent and give his heart to God. Rachel is more concerned with sitting on false security in idols than in trusting in God. Jacob just wants to get out from under Laban’s bullying influence and finds deceptive means to to try to help God. The angelic host must be killing themselves with laughter at the standoff but horrified by the human capacity for deceiving themselves. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”

GETTING RID OF THE OLD COBWEBS

Robert Zoellick says “All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them.” The Bible says that the wages of sin always leads to a spiritual death sentence without God’s grace (Romans 3:23,24).

Genesis 31 speaks of the tangled web of self-deceit. The invitation God gives us is to admit our ridiculous pretence. Jacob, Rachel and Laban all have the opportunity to trust in God. 

The nature of trust compels us to confront our self-deceit. It does not sneak away from problems, lay blame on others or trust in false security but declares God’s purposes, inviting us to come freely and choose to refuse being entrapped by our circumstances. It is being open and honest with God, allowing Him to clear away the cobwebs (Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:13). 

Security, responsibility, trust, words of life, and truth in life are found in a loving relationship with Christ (John 14:6). He died for my sin so that I could be clean and forgiven and live life to my full potential (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:19-21 – WHAT TO DO WHEN LOVE HURTS

What to do when love hurts

What to do when love hurts

As I greet him with a smile he looks at me with the confusion of dementia in his eyes and demands that I leave. “I don’t want to talk with you. I don’t know you?” I am a stranger to him, though we have talked as friends many times in the past. In the hall I meet a woman who is walking slowly with the help of a stick. I ask her if she is lost and she tells me that she has never been so insulted in all her life. “I wish all you nosy people would just leave me alone!” she says. I apologise and leave her to sit for a while in the foyer. Through the glass entrance door I see a woman sitting alone and crying. I talk with her about her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. “He doesn’t recognise who I am anymore and pushes me away” she says, deeply hurt.

I meet people in aged care who experience times when they feel unwanted, excluded, unloved, or even neglected. Times when they feel misjudged or overlooked and sometimes they can choose to let grazes fester and become deep wounds; times when they know an aching emptiness as they see those they care for or love withdraw, reject and ignore them.

The unintentional wounds caused by those with Alzheimer’s disease are felt by those who have known the joys of relationship; those who have loved. It is not really true that love hurts. It is not being loved that hurts. Love is what heals a broken heart.

Leah is not loved by her husband, Jacob, and is vulnerable to the weeping wounds of such loss as he all too often neglects her for her younger sister, Rachel.

God in His grace chooses to give Leah another son to Jacob after a time of barrenness (Genesis 30:19-20) and her broken heart finds expression in the name of her son. She names him Zebulun, which means “dwelling” and “honour.” She chooses this name in acknowledgement that God has not forsaken her and honours her with a sixth son. But in the naming of her son, she also declares her desperate hope that her husband will honour her and finally choose to dwell with her exclusively.

She names him with the tears of her hurt that becry the absence of love “…now my husband will DWELL with me, because I have borne him six sons” (Genesis 30:20 NASB). She is the mother of Jacob’s sons but not the wife of his heart. He will sleep with her but his affections are reserved for Rachel. In her loneliness God also gives a daughter to Leah (Genesis 30:21). Leah calls her Dinah.

Is the desire Rachel and Leah have for children based on the hope of having a share in the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)? It seems that they have disassociated with God’s promises for what has become a race of jealousy; vying for the love of Jacob and the approval of others.

Rachel and Leah invite me to ask myself the difficult questions – “Are my motivations for a fruitful life based on God’s promises; His Word? Or am I involved in a power play for love and acceptance from others?”  

When you experience the absence of love, in whom will you place your trust? Jesus invites you to place your trust in Him, over and above all other relationships, and to find your identity as a person who is loved by God. 

Don’t misunderstand, close relationships with others are important on this journey we make with God, but my identity is shaped essentially by God’s intentions and not the expectations or neglect of others. The healing grace of God’s love gives me a perspective on all my other relationships in life and enables me to live as God intends. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:14 – LOVE POTION NOW BENIGN – FAITH AND SUPERSTITION

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Cross = Love. Jesus Loves Us. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Their words are as poisonous as the mandrakes over which they are arguing. Rachel’s anxiety and grief about not being able to conceive and her jealousy of her sister’s success reaches a culmination as she searches for solutions in superstition.

Rachel begs Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But Leah angrily replies, “Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?” (Genesis 30:14-15 NLT).

Obsessed and desperate, Rachel wants the mandrakes, the “love plants”, that Leah’s son Reuben has found in the field. Why is a toxic plant associated with love? Perhaps it aligns itself with Rachel’s love, poisonous with jealousy and delirious with desperation.

The Mandrake plant is toxic, causing hallucinations. It’s root system is bulbous and resembles a human figure. Although it has a pleasant smell, the only part of the mandrake that is not poisonous is it’s red fruit. It is called the “love apple” and is considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac (love potion) which could help a women in conception (Wikepedia).

Rachel answers, “I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes.” (Genesis 30:5 NLT). Steeped in superstitious zeal, Rachel is willing to make whatever sacrifices she needs for the mandrakes. She has already made her servant/slave a surrogate mother. Now she prostitutes her husband’s services. They both know that they can manipulate Jacob to do their bidding.

Jacob hasn’t been sleeping with Leah and Leah doesn’t trust Rachel to follow through with the sleeping arrangements that night for her own husband, so she meets Jacob coming in from the fields and demands that he sleeps with her. There is no romance in her words. She says “I have paid for you with some mandrakes.” Jacob obviously doesn’t care who he sleeps with. He is more interested at this stage in keeping the peace.

Jacob has eight sons now from 3 women. No doubt he realises he is being used by two jealous wives. Nevertheless he spends that night with Leah.

Despite Rachel’s superstitious zeal for the mandrakes in the following days it is not Rachel who conceives but Leah. Leah bears Jacob another son (Genesis 30:17-18). No doubt the guilt of giving her servant to her husband to bear children has played upon her mind because she names him Issachar, which means “reward” “… for she says, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife” (Genesis 30:18 NLT). Leah, like Rachel, seeks to justify rather than admit her sin. She falls into the snare of deceiving herself by trying to involve God in her selfishness. Do I really expect God to reward my plans when I violate His? Does God reward immorality/human trafficking? I don’t think so. God heard and answered Leah’s prayer, not to reward her immoral decisions concerning her servant/slave, but to fulfil his promise to Jacob.

Faith is not a good luck charm. Faith does not beg for a superstitious potion in the hope that something might happen. Reuben grows up with the example of his parents superstitious belief in love potions and Issachar has a constant reminder in his name of his Mother’s attempt at trying to justify her sin. What impression do we leave on the next generation by our blatant disregard of living our lives as God intended. God invites us to acknowledge our sin rather than justify ourselves? We can pray as David prayed – “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…” God’s love potion for forgiveness and fruitfulness in life is found in knowing Jesus.

Faith expects the best and enables me to endure the worst. It builds it’s perceptions on revealed truth, not on false hope. Superstition limits us to imaginary measures to solve our problems. Faith lives a life that points us to hope in the reality of God’s solutions. Christ continually calls us to be immersed in the truth of all that God has promised; Jesus said “I am the Way, the TRUTH and the Life” (John 14:6). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:4–8 – WHEN LIFE SEEMS BARREN, AVOID THE CIRQUE DE LA CULTURE! 

Roller Coaster Merry-go-round. Image created by Ross Cochrane using Morguefile photos and Paint.net

WELCOME TO THE CIRQUE DE LA CULTURE. Does Jacob have dementia? He’s in his 90’s, doesn’t seem to remember God’s promise of blessing and he seems to have given power of attorney to his wives. It seems he is running away from home to join the Cirque de la Culture (the Circus of Culture).

MERRY-GO-ROUND. He is insecure, unable to make decisions for his own life and family. Jacob seems to listen to everyone else’s blueprint for his life, submissively complying with his wife’s plan, just as he had to his mother’s plan years before. He has already submitted to Laban’s proposal by working for another 7 years in exchange for marrying Rachel. He is obeying everyone but God, ignoring what God has established for a healthy marriage and conforming himself to the behaviour and customs of those around him.

ROLLER COASTER. Rachel’s plan, born of envy and jealousy, may have tempted him into immorality, but this could have been an opportunity for Jacob to do the right thing. Instead, sin is a roller coaster ride with this family, plunging them from soaring heights and turning their lives upside down. The Circus theme park they have entered has no safety standards and leaves behind a string of damaged lives.

CHAMBER OF HORRORS. Rachel’s plan is for Bilhah, her servant/slave, to become a surrogate mother. No choice. Just given. We are not told, but for Bilhah, the abuse must have been frightening, the loss of respect must have been humiliating, and when she becomes pregnant to Jacob and bears a son, the grief of losing him must have been traumatic. Bilhah presents him to Jacob because he legally belongs to Rachel and Jacob (at least she is able to remain with him as her son is raised by his adopted family). Rachel, not Bilhah, names him Dan. Bilhah has no rights even to name her own child.

HOUSE OF MIRRORS.Rachel names Bilhah’s child Dan, meaning “Vindication”. Rachel says, “God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son.” It seems, in Rachel’s distorted thinking, that God has judged her by not giving her children, but now He is vindicating her to be worthy of children through her surrogacy parenting plan? Do I really expect God to agree with my plans when I violate His? Is she praying or trying to manipulate God, Jacob and Bilhah? There has been no mention up until this time that Rachel has even acknowledged God’s part in her life. Now she dishonours Him by saying that He favours her sin. This mirror is totally distorted!

STRONG WOMAN. Few people have heard of Katie Brumbach.Katie was a circus performer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for many years and could easily lift her husband above her head with one hand. Katie’s father offered one hundred marks to any man in the audience who could defeat her in wrestling. No one ever succeeded.

Rachel is also a strong woman wrestler. Jacob submits to Rachel’s skill at manipulation concerning her plans for Bilhah. Bilhah has another son with Jacob. Again she must give him away to Rachel. Rachel names him Naphtali, which means “Wrestlings.” She says, “I have struggled hard with my sister, and I’m winning!” Here is the root of Rachel’s motivation; having children is a wrestling match with her sister. Is this about having children or winning at any cost?

God has already promised Jacob descendants. Perhaps what drives Rachel’s plan is that she wants to be included in God’s promise. Unfortunately it prompts her to act recklessly and attribute the results to God. It is our faith and trust in God that pleases Him, not ill-conceived presumption and certainly not trying to attach God’s name to our sin. Hebrews 11:6 “… it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.” 

Who is the Ringmaster of this circus? When my life seems barren, my circumstances present to me an opportunity for me to trust in God for fruitfulness. He is not a genie in a bottle giving us whatever we request. He is the Ringmaster, not of the cirque du soleil (the Circus of the Sun) but the Cirque du Fils (The Circus of the Son) and the Cirque de la Foi (the Circus of the faith). As Ring-master He co-ordinates the various events of my life with incredible skill. I need His help to juggle my time on earth successfully. 

Fortunately, God hasn’t finished with Jacob and Rachel yet. Or with me. He is able to turn cursing into blessing, to forgive sin and enable me to have eternal life with Him as I trust in Christ and a fulfilling life on earth as I serve Him (John 10:10). He is able to use your gifts, motivations, abilities, personality and experiences to the full, not to please the crowd, but because you were created for such a time as this. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:1-3- CHECK MATE

Jealousy's Pawn - Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

Jealousy’s Pawn – Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

She begins the game by attacking her husband, who is standing nearby. She is jealous of Leah, her sister, whom she now considers an opponent. She blames Jacob for not concentrating. She needs his support. She is running out of time and patience! The game will be lost! Rachel pleads with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1 NLT).

Rachel has chosen the black and God has made the first move, but she seems to think that she is playing against Leah. She is ready to make her first move, but her strategy is flawed and will serve only to achieve short-term advantage and place her emotions and marriage in danger.

Focused on more than simply achieving equality on the board, Rachel feels she must develop a counterplay to unbalance Leah’s position, to neutralise her gains. She does not know how to lose graciously and she feels that her sister has put her at a disadvantage by bearing children while she remains barren. She knows that she must manoeuvre her resources and bring into play some “interferences” and “underminings” to gain a tactical gain and she is willing to make whatever “sacrifices” are necessary to achieve “check mate”.

The game has reached a critical level even at this early stage. She is flustered, not considering the consequences of her action. She refuses to see the big-picture. She is not aligning her actions with God’s strategy for her life. Her next move is too hasty and unexpected, unconventional, wild, crazy!

“Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.” (Genesis 30:3 NLT)Move the pawn! But Rachel, you can’t have Check Mate in one move!

When your thinking is distorted then nothing is learned from the failures of history. Instead, they are repeated. Like Sarah, Rachel tries to manipulate the hand of God by giving her maid to Jacob in order to obtain children. Like Hagar, Bilhah is the Pawn moved around the board by Rachel.

Afterall, surrogacy is an acceptable tactical custom of the day, like polygamy, or multiple sexual partners. I guess things haven’t changed. One commentary suggests that this is why Laban provides his daughters with maids; as a back-up in case his daughters had no children; pawns in a game of Chess! Bilhah will never have full rights as a wife and mother. She is owned and her children are owned.

Today, we would call it human slavery and trafficking. For Rachel it was a part of the strategy, an ill-considered move to gain short-term advantage over Leah. Jacob is also playing the part of a pawn. Why doesn’t Jacob object? No complaints from Jacob. He’s in his 90’s and sleeping with three and soon four young women. He’s suddenly not interested in asking God about it. For Jacob and Rachel, there is an erosion of faith and trust concerning God’s promises. Neither of them seem concerned enough to pray. Doesn’t Check come before Mate? 

Without God, life is lived like a game of chess where we try to remain in control and determine the moves we play, but ultimately we lose. Each move we make effects the lives of those around us and their moves influence ours, but our selfish choices can seriously damage relationships. 

Rachel does not accept responsibility for her actions nor does she consider the consequences of the moves she makes. The invitation is to stop treating life like a game of Chess and begin to look for God’s perspective, His strategies, His plans and take His purposes for our lives into consideration. 

The strategy was planned from the beginning of time; Jesus experiences the jealousy of the religious leaders of his day and just as they think they have defeated Him, He makes His move. They are astounded. Slaves of sin are set free. The pawns have become royalty. Death defeated, sin forgiven, sacrifice sufficient! Check mate! The white King wins! He invites us to share in His victory. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:1-2 – JEALOUSY IS A TERRIBLE COUNSELOR

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor - Image created by Ross Cochrane

Jealousy Is A Terrible Counselor – Image created by Ross Cochrane

Envy © by Ross Cochrane

Envy sees a world of better things
She vies against a sister with protracted claws
And leaves her grieving, graceless, loveless, insecure.
Self flaying tail of pain, flings it’s stings.
Hateful, harmful hooks take hold and cling. Her jaws
Will maul trust and make truth a prisoner.

Poor in counsel, jealousy lays blame,
Inciting Cain to kill, closing heavens doors,
Her sick soul still seeks a shameful cure.
Yet victory for her will still remain
Unsure.

Jealousy is a terrible counselor. She leaves you feeling isolated, insecure and grieving over your loss. You are incited to inflict damage on those you love. Jealousy turns you against Trust; a gracious and truthful friend who helps you understand your attitudes. Trust helps you to see your blessings and celebrate the success of others and helps you believe for the best. She is the mother of Patience.

 

Is she planning to commit suicide or is she simply expressing that her sole motivation in life is to have children? Rachel sees her sister and pleads with Jacob, “Give me children or I’ll die” (Genesis 30:1). She doesn’t plead with God and so far there is no mention that Rachel places any trust in the promises God has made to her husband. Is God providing her an opportunity to trust Him by keeping her childless?

Jacob has grown up in a competitive environment with his brother Esau, so he understands the dynamic of sibling rivalry. Now, through his bigamy, he creates an even greater environment for competition between his wives. Jealousy turns up because she is invited and Jacob acts as if she is an unexpected gate-crasher. Jealousy whispers lies about Leah and introduces Rachel to Blame. Jealousy and Blame test Jacob’s conflict management skills to the max.

Proverbs 14:30 (NLT) says “… jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” Proverbs 27:4 (NLT) says “Anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but jealousy is even more dangerous.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NLT) says “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” Far from being happy and proud for her sister and the blessing of children, she creates a catfight. Rachel’s motive for intimacy with Jacob is not intended to develop her love for him, but to feed her jealous battle with her sister.

Jealousy and Rage have an infamous history. Jealousy incited Cain to kill his brother Abel in Genesis 4. Jealousy embittered Sarai against her servant Hagar (Genesis 16) so much so that she sent her into the wilderness to die with her child. Jealousy encouraged Lot to move away from Abraham (Genesis 26) choosing the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot almost lost his life. Jealousy fed king Saul’s obsessions and insecurity against David. He tried to kill David (1 Samuel 18). Jealousy builds a gallows for Haman who attempts to use it to murder Mordecai (Esther 5:13). Government officials swayed by Jealousy throw Daniel into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Jewish leaders provoked by Jealousy (Acts 13 and 17) force Paul to leave town. The religious leaders prejudiced by Jealousy’s deceit crucify Jesus (Matthew 27:18). Jesus is well acquainted with Jealousy’s snares. Jealousy and Rage have an unpleasant association with Death rather than new life.

Rachel listens to the whispers of Jealousy. She wants the status of motherhood and Jealousy has told her that it is a stigma to have no children. Jealousy has made her more concerned with what others think of her than what God thinks of her. If Hannah, who lived many years hence, could have counselled Rachel perhaps the outcome may have been different (1 Samuel 1:11), but instead, a family of children, born in the midst of Jealousy and tension, grow up with distorted values? One day Jacob’s sons, intoxicated with Jealousy’s wine, will sell their brother Joseph into slavery. Jacob’s bigamous relationship was destined for such grief.

“Then Jacob becomes furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asks. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” (Genesis 30:2 NLT).  

This is their first recorded fight and Jacob is furious with Rachel, as if his fury can quench Jealousy’s influence. “Am I God?” he shouts. At least he realises his limitations. He realises that children are a gift from God. Does he also realise that God has deliberately withheld children from Rachel (Genesis 29:31)? He implies as much. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!” acknowledging God’s part in all this. Is he implying that God is judging her? Is it just that he wants to blame God when backed into a corner like so many people do?

Perhaps Jacob is seeking to bring Rachel abruptly to her senses, making her aware that God gives life and that she should stop associating with Jealousy and take counsel from Him. Is he furious because the wife he supposedly loves does not have faith in God? Not that he should talk. He doesn’t pray either, so is his faith also waning? Since Rachel has succumbed to Jealousy’s irrationality, a lecture on theology isn’t going to help. If only both of them got down on their knees and prayed, it might help quell Jealousy’s fire and assuage Jacob’s Rage.

The invitation that God gives to me is to take counsel from Trust, to make choices of life rather than death, to allow the Cross to deal with Rage and Jealousy. Lord, bring Your perspective to my attitudes. Trust invites me to see my blessings and celebrate the success of others. Trust helps me believe for the best and develop patience. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 29:21-35 – CAUGHT IN A TRAP! I CAN’T WALK OUT!

Caught in a Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Caught in a Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

“What have you done to me?” Jacob rages at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?” 

Treating Rachel as a commodity to be worked for, a mail order bride on lay-buy for 7 years, he is surprised when he receives the wrong package. Perhaps he had celebrated with just a little too much wine at the wedding feast but “that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her” (Genesis 29:23).

How do you confuse Leah for Rachel, even in the dark. They obviously don’t talk? Or is it that in 7 years Jacob really doesn’t get to know Rachel except for her “beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17).

Has her father forced Leah to say nothing? Surely Leah could talk, but to do so will lead to Laban being embarrassed by his guests and by the community. Retribution for her will be swift and perhaps brutal. Leah will never escape the life she lives with her greedy father unless she marries this man who will one day inherit a double portion of Isaac’s wealth and take her away. After 7 years she knows Jacob to be a hardworking man and it seems she has fallen in love with him. When she bears him children, she laments that he does not love her. Caught in a trap. She can’t walk out.

Jacob the deceiver is deceived. By pretending to be Rachel, Leah was inadvertently treating Jacob in the same way he had treated his father. As Jacob had pretended to be Esau to obtain his birthright and blessing, now Leah pretends to be Rachel to obtain freedom from Laban. He reaps what he sows. What he expected to be his dream life is rapidly becoming his nightmare. Caught in a trap. He can’t walk out.

Discovering he is married to the wrong woman makes him feel like an old fool, but there is nothing Jacob can do about it, … except to marry Rachel as well. It seems bigamy is an acceptable practice in Haran. He receives Rachel a week later after an agreement with Laban to work another 7 years for her.

Was Leah God’s choice for Jacob in marriage? We are not told. Jacob only sees that Rachel has a beautiful face and figure. Does God approve of this second marriage? No statement of judgment is given, but it is interesting that He gives children to Leah and not Rachel.

The Lord sees that Leah is unloved, but why does He decide to take sides in this matter? Jacob prefers Rachel. Is it that the Lord prefers Leah? Is it only because Leah is hated that He blesses her with children or is there more to it than that? (Genesis 29:31). Perhaps it is also that Leah is a woman of faith and Rachel is yet to believe in the Lord. Jesus would come through a line of believers.

Leah expresses her belief in God through the names of her children, Reuben, Simeon, Levi. She is grateful for children because she is miserable in her marriage. Each time she has a child she expresses her desire to be loved and says, in effect “The Lord has noticed my misery. I am unloved, but now my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32-34 NLT). We all want to be loved. Many life-lessons unfold in the years to come.

When she names her fourth son Judah (“praise to Jehovah”) she seems to have come to a place where she is content to simply trust in Jehovah, God of the Covenant, to work out His purposes in her life. From Judah the Saviour will come and the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.

God is Leah’s marriage counsellor and she finds her strength in Him. When our heartaches collide with His purposes, soap operas are transformed into stories of salvation as we learn to trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Spider and Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table - Photograph by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table – Photograph by Ross Cochrane

 

Genesis 29:2-20 – LOVE STORY OR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOAP OPERA?

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

A beautiful shepherd woman runs to tell her father of the stranger, a distant relative, who has arrived in Haran. He has greeted her with a customary kiss at the well. It is an event that will alter the course of her life.

The covering stone on the well is too heavy to be moved by only one or two children, so when all the flocks have arrived, a number of shepherd boys, helping each other, will be able to move the stone on the well. It seems that Rachel is the young adult who guides proceedings here on her father’s behalf. Laban is an influential businessman in the district and her flocks are always watered first.

Because of his age, and especially because he knows Laban, the young shepherd boys treat Jacob with respect, and Jacob is able to help them by moving the stone himself just as Rachel’s flock arrives. He’s doing alright for a 75 year old who has just walked for over 700 km! (Genesis 29:2-11).

Is this the well where Rebekah’s life had been changed forever? Rachel and her sister Leah have heard the story of how Rebekah married a man she had never seen, a relative from far away. Laban has told them of the riches a servant had brought from Isaac for the hand of his sister (Genesis 24 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-aR ). Is it happening again?

Laban is more than happy to entertain his sister’s son, Jacob. And happier still to hear Jacob’s story because Jacob is also here to find a wife and will one day inherit Isaac’s fortune (Genesis 27-28 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-mi ). A lucrative plan of deceit is already forming in Laban’s mind. For now he will embrace Jacob as his own son (Genesis 29:13).

If he is to stay, Jacob knows he must broker a deal. Custom gives him the option of working as a slave would for 7 years, knowing that he will not leave empty handed when his service is completed (Deuteronomy 15:12-13), so after a month, when Laban offers Jacob to name his own wage, Jacob proposes to work for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Genesis 29:15).

There is no mention of Jacob asking the Lord about whom he should marry or for that matter of him asking Rachel. How does she feel about marrying a man who will be in his 80’s by that time (Yes, I know they lived longer in those days, but still..!). It seems Rachel is much younger than Leah. Leah is obviously more Jacob’s age, but all he sees is that “There is no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel has a beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17). Isn’t there more to choosing a wife than this? I wonder what Rachel thinks of him?

Without even asking Rachel, Laban agrees to paying Jacob’s “wages”, and two dysfunctional men broker a deal more akin to the trafficking of women than to marriage. They are treating Rachel like a commodity. It seems Jacob is still trying to manipulate God’s will for his life.

(Leah and Rachel know that they are being bought like slaves. Later, when they are considering running away from Laban, they say “Are we not considered by him as foreigners? For he has SOLD us,…” Genesis 31:15 NASB). 

Jacob is determined to get what he wants by trading his work for her. “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days” (Genesis 29:20 NLT). I wonder how long it seemed for Rachel and whether his “love” was reciprocated or whether her love for him was as strong? Is this a love story or dysfunctional soap opera? I can hear the Beatles song playing in the distance; “Money can’t buy me love” but Jacob is not listening. 

Jesus, the descendant of Jacob also paid a price for a bride with His work on the Cross, but unlike Jacob He paid the price for our sin. Dying for us was His ultimate expression of love for us, but rather than entrapping us or forcing us to respond, He opens the door to freedom by removing the barrier that separates us from Him. You are free to choose whether or not to respond to His love. 

Pastor Ross

PS I see this story through Western eyes and the customs of the East are a puzzle to me, especially this kind of arranged marriage, yet the story here which is so often presented as the great love story seems flawed to me. I love how the Bible makes no judgment but presents the story as it is and leaves us to find what God is saying to us. Much of the details are not given and as this is a devotional blog, I have added my own thoughts (conjecture) about the details of the story in an effort to understand it more clearly and would encourage the reader to explore Genesis 29 themselves.