Reading through the Bible together

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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One of our greatest challenges in life is to recognize God at work in our ordinary circumstances and choose to trust Him and cooperate with Him rather than working against Him.  Often our own discontent and impatience blinds us from seeing God in our ordinary life circumstances.  The story of the birth of the twelve patriarchs is such a story.  Rachel and Leah are two very unhappy women.  Each desperately wants what the other has.  Rachel wants to bear children as Leah is doing.  Leah wants Jacob’s love as Rachel has.  Their mutual misery locks them into a personal struggle for power and recognition.  It also seems to lock them into lonely spots of alienation from God, their husband, and other family members.  Just as Adam & Eve’s alienation from God had immediate consequences in their marriage, so Rachel and Leah’s sins of jealousy and struggle for power had immediate consequences in their family.  The consequences were also far reaching.  This struggle gave birth to the murderous plots against Joseph and the later warring between the twelve tribes. This is the story of God’s people.  We are born and bred into a human family that pulls us away from loving connection and toward grasping for power and superiority. 


The good news is that God does not forget us in the midst of our mess.  In this story (vs. 22-24) He remembers Rachel’s suffering, takes action or her behalf, and allows her to bear a son whom she names Joseph.  As God came to Jacob years earlier with the ladder to connect an outcast man with his gracious God, so now, God comes to the downcast Rachel.  Little did she comprehend how her son, a prophetic symbol of Jesus, would save and reunite the family.


Jacob appears entirely passive in the struggles between Rachel and Leah.  Not so in his dealings with Laban.  This chapter and the next reveal a steady growth in Jacob’s ability to listen to God and take action in harmony with God’s direction rather than against it.  Jacob has not yet learned full trust in God, but he is moving toward it.


Douglas Tilstra

Director of Outdoor Leadership and Education, Southern Adventist University