Introduction: Considering how ‘up and down’ our Christian life and profession can be, we ought not to be surprised at Jacob and his wives’ unreliability and sinful changeableness depicted for us this week in Genesis 30. Such tendencies to wander and doubt instead of trust should prompt us all to confess the truth of these words from verse 3 of Hymn #457 in our Red Trinity Hymnal: “Prone to wander – Lord, I feel it – prone to leave the God I love: here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
Monday: read Genesis 30:1-8. Jacob patiently labored for 14 years to win Rachel as his bride – but now his patience wears thin as she enviously complains about her barrenness compared to Leah. He explodes in Gen. 30:2 with the words: “Am I in the place of God who has kept you from having children?” Just as Jacob blames God for the unhappiness of his wife, so Rachel blames Jacob, demanding children from him and threatening death if she is not satisfied (Gen. 30:1). What a sad picture of impatience under God’s Providence – and how different than Isaac’s prayers for his wife’s barrenness in Gen. 25:20-21 & 26 when he waited 20 years for Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, to give birth. Instead of waiting on the Lord, Jacob bows to the immoral expedient of taking Rachel’s slave-girl as a surrogate mother in Gen. 30:4-6.
Meditate and Pray: Why does the Bible have so many pictures of sin and failure on the part of men like Jacob, who fail to live up to the standard of the faith of their fathers? One reason is to warn us against the idolatry that can creep into even the hearts of God’s called people – as Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:6: “Now these things occurred as examples, to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” Thank God that, in order to protect our walk with Him, He gives us page after page of the shipwrecked lives of saints so that we do not crash on the same rocks as they did. Let us take to heart the words of Hymn # 582: “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; each vict’ry will help you some other to win; fight manfully onward; dark passions subdue; look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through.”
Tuesday: read Genesis 30:2-13. Please note the revealing and sometimes troubling use of Divine Names on the lips of Jacob and his wives. When someone is acting by faith they often use the Personal Name ‘Lord’ (capitalized in our Bible translation as ‘LORD’) to express their close relationship with the Living God. For example, when Leah is full of praise to God for opening her womb and giving her miracle children, she repeatedly uses the Name ‘LORD’ in Gen. 29:32-35. On the other hand, when she is using her slave girl to have more children simply out of jealousy of Rachel, she doesn’t use the name of God at all but names her children simply to express her ‘good fortune’ and ‘happiness’ (Gen. 30:9-13). In this way Leah becomes de-sensitized to the LORD’s grace in her life and views the blessing of covenant children as simply for her happiness. Now she speaks of ‘good fortune’ (Gen. 30:11), instead of praising God for His mercy and grace.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to protect you from treating any of His good gifts as common. May He give us a high esteem for His daily provisions and especially for His miraculous gifts. Most important, when we by faith hold onto Jesus as Leah held ‘Judah’ in her arms in Gen. 29:35, may our resolve be the same as hers was then: “This time I will praise the LORD.” Jesus, born of the line of Judah, is far too wonderful a Savior for us ever to treat Him as a common blessing in our lives.
Wednesday: read Genesis 30:4-18. Leah is not the only one whose perspective of faith becomes clouded and whose view of God becomes earthy and degraded. Rachel views God as merely a referee who ‘vindicates’ her in her fight with her sister and who gives her a son, ‘Dan,’ whose name celebrates ‘judgment’ in her favor (Gen. 30:4-6). In Gen. 30:15-16 she sinks even lower as she purchases ‘mandrakes’ (some think because she thought they would grant her fertility) in exchange for selling a night with Jacob to Leah. Leah’s view of God also deteriorates in Gen. 30:17-18 as she foolishly imagines that God’s gift of a new son is to reward her for loaning Jacob her slave-girl!
Meditate and Pray: Can we sink any lower in the misuse of God’s Name than these two sisters? No longer is God called the ‘LORD,’ who comes to His people in their distress and hears their cries; no longer is marriage held in high esteem and children regarded as a gift from the LORD. Now Rachel and Leah demand that Jacob procreate with whomever they choose to give them children. Are we immune to such selfishness and immoral pragmatism? Let us confess our tendency as children of Jacob to twist God’s many good gifts for our own purposes. At the same time, let us be encouraged that God still loves us despite His painfully realistic assessment of our twisted characters. Let us cry out with Paul in Romans 7:24-25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ Lord – there is that precious Name again! The same ‘LORD’ who was forgotten by Leah and Rachel in the heat of conflict and jealousy…comes down to deliver us from our bodies of sin and death on the cross. Hallelujah!
Thursday: read Genesis 30:19-21 and Psalm 146:1-6. It is one of the great spiritual handicaps and causes of unhappiness in the believer to fruitlessly long for unchangeable security and love from changeable, sinful man. For years Leah hopes that the birth of her sons will bring about the lasting acceptance she so painfully lacks:
- “Surely my husband will love me now,” (Gen. 29:32);
- “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons,” (Gen. 29:34);
- “How happy I am! The women will call me happy,” (Gen. 30:13);
- “This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons,” (Gen. 30:20).
Jacob falls far short of being a kind and loving husband to Leah, and her loneliness expressed in the naming of her sons is proof of his failure, because compared to his love for Rachel, his affections for Leah could be characterized by God as anything but loving (Gen. 29:31). Only at the end of his life, after Leah is gone, do we find Jacob speaking with the kind of affectionate respect which Leah deserved: “Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite…There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah.” (Genesis 49:29-31)
Meditate and Pray: Let us learn to rely on the Lord alone as the Utterly Faithful One, whose love never fails. As Psalm 146:3-4 reminds us in Hymn # 57, verses 1&2:
“Put no confidence in princes, nor for help on man depend; he shall die, to dust returning, and his purposes shall end. Happy is the man that chooses Israel’s God to be his aid; he is blessed whose hope of blessing on the Lord his God is stayed.” (The 1912 Psalter)
Friday: read Genesis 30:17 & 30:22-24. Never let us lose sight of the undeserved nature of God’s gifts and graces to us. As John Owen says, “Even while his people are sinning, God can find something in their hearts, words, or ways, that pleaseth Him… (Vol. 6, pg. 603). We see such undeserved favor when God ‘listens’ to Leah in Gen. 30:17 and grants her a fifth son even though she has just bartered for the privilege of lying with her husband in Gen. 30:15. We also see God graciously ‘remember’ Rachel in Gen. 30:22 and grant her a son, even though her naming of him fails to express anything of the thankfulness she should have had at his birth. No sooner is he born than Rachel in Gen. 30:24 greedily names him Joseph, meaning, “May God add another…!” She couldn’t be satisfied with what God gave, and demands another child right away!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His willingness and ability to over-rule our sinful ways for His glory. As we look back at Genesis 30:1-24, we cannot help but be shocked at Jacob and his family in their contention, greed and ingratitude. Yet God sinlessly uses their competitive lust for sons and family power to build towards the full number of the sons of Israel. These names, “Levi, Judah, Joseph…,” along with their brothers, will become the mighty nation of God’s people and will one day be names engraved on the very gates of the heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation 21:12! Thank God that no human sin can stop Him from working out His mighty purpose of Redemption. As Hymn # 128 (verses 1-3) put it:
“God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill he treasures up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on hour head.” (William Cowper, 1774)