Slideshow image

Year 1, Week 6, Day 1

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Genesis 30.

Today’s reading picks up with a matter begun at the end of our previous reading. At the end of Genesis 29, Jacob begins having children. By the end of today’s reading, most of the twelve tribes of Israel will be in place. To start the unit, a statement is made in regard to Jacob’s wife, Leah: “When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (Genesis 29:31). Then to complete this segment, a similar statement is made in reference to Jacob’s wife, Rachel: "Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” (Genesis 30:22). In between the two markers explaining that God opened the wombs of Rachel and Leah, eleven children are born to Jacob. The LORD has blessed Jacob with children. The remainder of today’s reading highlights the LORD’s blessing on Jacob’s herds and wealth.

What struck me in today’s reading is what it explicitly reveals about the LORD’s blessings upon those who are not deserving of His blessings: "He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.” (Psalm 111:4). The LORD is gracious to bless. Each aspect of Jacob’s blessings—the children, the herds, the wealth—is from the LORD. What today’s reading underscores is that each of these blessings is undeserved.

The family of Jacob is a mess. It will be a mess for some time. Jacob has two wives. That’s one more than God’s commanded will, but the LORD’s blessing comes to Jacob, nevertheless. Leah, who is unloved by Jacob, has four sons in a row. The infertility of Rachel provokes her to provide Jacob with her maid-servant, Bilhah (a move that she must have learned from her husband’s grandma, Sarah), who immediately has two sons. Not to be outdone, Leah, who temporarily stopped having children, provides Jacob with her maid-servant, Zilpah, who proceeds to have two sons. Rachel, desperate for her own children, works out an exchange with Leah involving some mandrakes, which, in those days. was probably thought to enhance fertility. Rachel gets the mandrakes while Leah gets Jacob and two more sons. Finally, after some time, Rachel has a son (she will have another in a later chapter).

How does a section of Scripture like this teach us how to live properly? There is no indication that this family is taking their needs before the LORD, even as they are resorting to superstition, as in the mandrakes, as well as their own devised strategies, as in providing maid-servants. The Scripture instructs us on how to live by positive instruction as well as negative. The Scripture instructs us on how to live by commands and through illustrations. The moral instruction from today’s reading is that of negative illustration. Today’s reading illustrates what not to do. As we keep reading the point of what not to do becomes clearer as the mess grows. Trace the consequences of life not lived according to God’s will; observe the unfolding tragedy for Jacob and family, and try to convince yourself this is a good way to live.

But also trace and notice the blessing of God upon Jacob and his family. Before we are expressly told, we should be picking up on some things about God: "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:8-10). The LORD will show Jacob the kind of God that He is by how He is patiently proving that He is faithful. Just like Abraham, Jacob’s learning curb that God can be trusted is a long one. The LORD has made some big promises to Jacob, just like He made to Abraham, but Jacob is still seeking to work life out on their own terms. The words of Laban ought to have awakened Jacob to turn to the LORD, when his father-in-law says: “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.” (Genesis 30:27). But the full implications of Laban’s words have not taken root in Jacob’s heart. But the LORD is at work, sowing words in Jacob’s heart concerning His faithfulness.

One of the challenges in reading these historical events in the Scripture is to grasp why it is that we should take seriously a kind of life that earnestly seeks to live out God’s moral instructions. Why bother? He seems to bless those who show little regard for His moral order. The Scripture is given for the purpose of providing God’s moral will for our lives. But the Scripture is given for another purpose as well—to explain the true basis for God’s blessings in our lives. We don’t earn God’s blessings, they are gifted to us. God’s blessings are provided in Christ and freely experienced by all who trust in Jesus: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). As we see that these blessings can come to us in spite of not earning them, we turn to the LORD, for, “God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe