Attentive to Misery

Genesis 29:31-35

31When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

33She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

34Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

35She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Storm

The Philippines and the US have been devastated by storms last week. No electricity, lack of food and clean water supply, death of love ones, damaged properties, flights and classes cancelled. There’s not enough word or phrase to describe the miserable and tragic disaster that typhoon victims have suffered.

In the midst of calamity, is it easy to thank or praise God? One exhibit of God’s compassionate love is His attentiveness to people in misery. The Lord looks after those who are deprived of basic human needs.

The Lord Jesus rhetorically stated in Matthew 6:26-27, 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

One distinguishing mark that Christ wants to see in the life of His disciples is confidence in Him and not to worry. Trusting in Christ is practically displayed when we don’t worry of what may happen but trust Him of our daily basic needs. Daily needs may include marriage concerns for those who are married people.

Someone could be puzzled why God allowed Laban to deceive Jacob and force to marry Leah. Jacob wanted Rachel to be his wife but Leah was given him, too. To accomplish His purposes, the Lord allows useful events which include those contradictory to our worldview or moral conviction.

Anyway, Jacob’s concern about his marriage illustrates possible concerns that could be encountered in ministry choices.

Can we agree that it was God’s will for Jacob to marry Leah? Did Jacob doubt about it? When the Lord caused Leah to conceive, it should have taken away doubts that Jacob’s marriage with Leah was really God’s will.

1. Cause

31When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

Leah felt miserable because she didn’t get similar affection that Jacob had for Rachel. Rachel was beautiful and had lovely figure. She was not scared to explore life outside their home. She took care of the flock of their father even before she married Jacob. And, Jacob loved her more than Leah.

Since Jacob had warm affection for Rachel but not for Leah, it implies that he had doubted that it was God’s will for him to marry Leah. Jacob preferred Rachel as his wife but she remained childless. When God observed that Leah was deprived of Jacob’s affection, God caused her to be pregnant.

What could be the spiritual implication of such case in Jacob’s life?

Jacob represents believers living under the grace of God but he insisted on pursuing personal preferences. Rachel represents personally preferred ministry. Leah represents the ministry that the Lord has prepared for us.

We personally prefer ministries that we are familiar with, ministries that we have been trained for. Normally, not a few may resist the idea of being elected because they have no experience in that position. But sometimes, God uses nomination or election processes to help us hear His calling more clearly.

BOT Nomination

Selected nominees will be elected members of our Board of Trustees. The Election Committee will inform you if you were nominated and qualified as BOT member. To accept your nomination opens an opportunity for you to respond to the calling of God and also to be involved in your preferred ministry.

To be nominated and eventually elected as member of the BOT may feel like you were forced to take a responsibility you don’t prefer. Such sentiment of being forced to respond is similar to Jacob’s feeling when he was forced to take Leah as wife. Jacob preferred Rachel to be his wife but Leah was added.

Well, as elected leader of this church, you can add or participate in your preferred ministry. Jacob may not have expected that Leah would conceive. He had not idea that God would make Leah to be more productive than Rachel.

Similarly, do you know which ministry God would cause to be productive?

It’s advisable to accept your nomination because you may not know which ministry God may cause to be productive during your ministry involvement.

Meanwhile, let us be reminded in Galatians 6:9-10, 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Involvement in the ministry is an opportunity for us to do good for those who belong to the church, the family of believers, and we certainly reap a harvest at the Lord’s proper time. It’s easy to give up. We need Christ’s help to be strong. God allows tough times because great is the reward for those who keep on.

Leah had tough times because Jacob deprived her of the affection he had for Rachel. Leah didn’t give up loving and serving Jacob. She may have cooked delicious food for Jacob, made sure she has taken a bath, and used nice clothes in contrast to sweaty smell clothes of Rachel. And God caused Leah to conceive.

2. Conceive

33She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 34Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

Leah gave birth not just to one son but more sons while Rachel had none.

Jacob must have been glad when his first son Reuben was born so that he accepted Leah as his wife eventually. With more sons born to Leah, it implies that Jacob had become more affectionate to Leah. Subsequently, Leah reminded herself of the attachment she had received from Jacob by naming her son Levi.

By nature, most if not all women are emotional. Such reality should not be taken for granted. Emotion may affect behavior. The behavior of wives is very crucial to the success of marriage. A liberal thinking wife may resist the idea of submission to her husband but resistance actually exhibits rejection to the Lord.

It says in Ephesians 5:22-24, 22Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

The role of wives in marriage is a practical demonstration of relationship between Christ and the church. The church is the bride of the Lamb of God. Believers are part of the church, the Bride of Christ.

Listen: Although, Leah felt miserable, her submission to Jacob may have triggered the Lord’s compassion to enable her to conceive. Spiritually, even in the midst of persecution or struggles, we need to be submissive to the leading of our Lord Jesus for us to have productive ministry.

Leah did not stop loving despite of not getting warm affection from her husband. Leah gave birth to more children and she commended the Lord.

3. Commend

35She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.  Then she stopped having children.

It took Leah 4 children before Leah decided to commend and praise God.

The names of her sons were expressions of her personal convictions.

The name Reuben sounds like Hebrew term for “He has seen my misery.”

The name of her 2nd son Simeon probably means “One who hears.”

The name of the 3rd son Levi may be derived from Hebrew term for “attached,” and the 4th son Judah maybe evolved from the Hebrew term for “praise.”

Interestingly, all four children were given names by Leah. It was not mentioned if Jacob agreed or just let Leah gave names she preferred. It implies that Jacob may have found it hard to be affectionate to Leah. Nonetheless, Leah continued to do her duty as wife to Jacob and God caused her have sons.

Leah named her 4th son Judah because her heart was full of gratitude.

She acknowledged that because of deprived affection, her miserable life did not prevent her to be more productive than Rachel who had received more of Jacob’s affection. That marriage concern of Jacob could have affected the way he treated his wife so that he would have given them fair share of his affection.

No matter how one should feel, no command is given for husbands to stop loving their wives. Not giving love to wives is rejection of one’s self.

In Ephesians 5:25-33, 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 

28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 

32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

It is commendable for husbands to love their wives. Loving your wife is a command that requires godly effort. Human love is temporary and it can be stopped by difficult circumstances. For sure, there will always be confusion, quarrels and misunderstanding among married couples but love that comes from the Lord can outlast them all. God’s love is eternal.

Anger is one of the many causes of damaged relationship. Anger is one of the many struggles of married people in keeping affectionate relationship.

It says in Ephesians 4:26, In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

Many married couples advocate settling problems that cause anger before going to bed because they have proven it beneficial to their marriage. How many among married people could testify that they go to bed angry, wake up angry, or go to their routine activities angry? Why is it hard not to be angry?

Accept it that it is God’s command. And, God’s command requires godly empowerment to be accomplished or completed. So, when you sense anger, start praying and ask God to fill you with love, joy, peace—the fruit of His Spirit.

Have you observed that even praying is not readily acted upon? Why? Praying is also God’s command that requires godly effort. Many would feel good that there’s no written command to attend prayer meeting. If not, many will certainly feel guilty of not attending prayer meeting.

It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 17Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Is it easy to thank God when things are going against our preferences?

No! Why? It’s because giving thanks in all circumstances, bad or good, requires godly effort. So, how then can we remember to pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances when we need godly effort to be reminded about them?

How do you normally remind yourself to praise or thank God’s goodness?

Leah was wise enough to name her 4th son Judah or praise. It may have been her way of reminding herself to commend, praise, and celebrate the goodness of God to her in spite of the miserable life she had endured.

It is stated in Deuteronomy 6:5-9, 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Many people may find it uncomfortable about these commands of the Lord. Yet, they are very practical means for reminders. We accept that we are forgetful and we need reminders from time to time. Wear things as reminder to pray.

You go to the grocery store with your check list of grocery. You also have list of things to do. Hi-tech gadgets are often used to remind an appointment.

So, set in your cellphone a schedule to thank God, even for just a minute.

Name your pet Judah to remind you to praise God each time you see it.

Remember Leah who had miserable life when she was deprived of warm affection from Jacob. Do your work responsibly. God is attentive to your misery.

May praise of God be demonstrated in your life now and forever more!

<‘)))>< ltsii/2018 ><(((‘>

 

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