Whatever It Takes

Genesis 30:1-13

1When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

2Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

3Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” 4So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan. 7Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.

9When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. 12Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher

Notwithstanding Clause

What is the “Notwithstanding Clause” of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? “Notwithstanding” means “in spite of,” “prevented by.”

Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is commonly known as the notwithstanding clause or as the override power.

Under Section 33, parliament and provincial legislatures can override the fundamental freedoms, equality and legal rights that are entrenched in the Charter for a period of no more than five years.

Lately, Ontario Provincial government introduced Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act to reduce the number of Toronto City Council seats from 47 to 25. Oppositions to Bill 5 filed an appeal to prevent it, and the Ontario provincial government used the Notwithstanding Clause, and filed an appeal for stay. The Court of Appeal for Ontario granted the province’s request to implement Bill 5 which cancelled the previous ruling to set aside Bill 5.

Canadians differ in opinion of that case. How should we respond when our moral conviction disagrees with government laws and legislations?

It teaches us in Titus 3:1-2, 1Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

How can Christians obey the government when legislations and laws are meant to suppress or restrain our obedience to Christ? The law of the land provides guideline of thing we can do. Believers may appeal in a court of law, join the politics and run for legislative position, and file a bill favorable to believers.

In the political world, a government may plan for the betterment of the city and its citizen but the opposition party would not readily agree. In pursuit of their political agenda, politicians would do whatever it takes to win the game. There’s so much covetousness that apparently exhibited in politics.

God’s command “Do not to covet anything that belongs to others” reveals our sinful nature to covet, envy, or crave for things that others have acquired.

Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, but Rachel was jealous of Leah.

Should we interpret that covetousness has controlled Rachel?

1. Covetousness

1When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 2Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

It appears like Rachel have frequently grumbled about having no children, not just one time but several times, and Jacob was provoked and get angry. He may have been annoyed by Rachel’s insistence and demand to give her a child.

When Jacob said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children,” is it safe to interpret that Jacob has ultimately believed that God was in control of his life? The Lord caused Leah to have children and Rachel childless. Jacob may have believed eventually that it’s God’s will for him to marry Leah.

After Laban gave Leah to Jacob as his wife, Jacob insisted to marry Rachel, and God did not prevent him from pursuing his personal choice. When Jacob rebuked Rachel that only God can cause her childless, it suggests that Jacob was very observant of what the Lord was doing in his life.

Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. For sure, he spent much time with Rachel. Yet, the limited time Jacob had with Leah resulted to more children. So, it’s not about how much Jacob loved Rachel or how lesser love he had for Leah that decided the pregnancy of his wives. God decided who should be pregnant.

It says in Psalm 127:3, 3Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

So, if children come from the Lord, it must be proper to believe that God is the Giver of Life. God decides the mother who gets pregnant, and Jacob had to teach Rachel that reality. Rachel’s covetousness of having children made sour her relationship with Jacob, and Jacob got angry in his frustration perhaps.

Sometimes, because of the desire to acquire similar things that others have, it ignites friction between husband and wife, between parents and children, and possible between church leaders and church members.

Should scarcity or inadequacy drive us to do whatever it takes to acquire what we want? Whether we have or don’t have the things we want, shouldn’t we take it as God’s will for us? Should we accept only the things we want?

The tragic life of Job teaches us that material things must not dictate faith.

Job was tormented physically and emotionally. He lost his children and all his wealth but he continued to practice his faith in God even in agony. Rhetorically, he said in Job 2:10, 10Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

He declared about God in Job 10:12, 12You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.

Good and bad are part of life. God is gracious. He gave us life. It is not too much for him to provide our need so that we may live a lifestyle pleasing to Him.

Nonetheless, if we envy what others have, it only reveals that we are not satisfied with what we have. Jacob loved her more than Leah, but Rachel was not satisfied. There was struggle or contention between Leah and Rachel.

2. Contention

3Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” 4So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan. 7Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.

The struggle or contention between Leah and Rachel may have started when Leah felt neglected by Jacob. But, when she gave birth to Jacob’s children, Leah may have become proud and ridiculed Rachel who was childless.

When such contention between them became very personal, Rachel gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob and had children.

Rachel felt vindicated when her servant give birth to “Dan” and “Naphtali.” “Dan” means “he has vindicated” in Hebrew. “Naphtali” means “my struggle.” Giving names as reminder of her vindication and struggle suggests that Rachel may have endured ridicule as childless, and had struggled with her sister Leah.

Why did Rachel consider as her children the sons of her servant Bilhah?

The practice that children of servants born in the household of their master belong to their master was acceptable to Hebrew people.

Moses wrote an instruction about servants as dictated by the Lord in Exodus 21:4, 4If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

One might ask, “Such instruction about servants was given during the Exodus, is it proper to use as Proof Text in Rachel’s case?” Exodus happened many years after but what Moses wrote comes from the Lord. God’s word existed even before Jacob got married. Right, even before the creation!

When Rachel took as her sons the children of her servant Bilhah, and Moses wrote the instruction about servants as dictated by the Lord, such similarity of practice was never coincidental. Instruction about servant in Exodus testifies that such practice had been acceptable among Hebrew people.

Moreover, such similarity of practice in the case of Rachel and the Exodus instruction solidified the proposition that Moses wrote Genesis and Exodus.

Anyway, our lesson is about the struggle of Leah and Rachel. They had contention. They ridiculed each other because they wanted more attention from Jacob. Jacob’s time management problem practically illustrates our concern of time management between our heart’s inclination and God’s will for us.

Listen: Jacob got offended when Rachel pestered him to give her children. Actually, Jacob spent much time with Rachel. He was with her all day long in the field while taking care of Laban’s sheep, and she was childless.

Spiritually, we are also bothered and hard to accept when we spend most of our time with something but don’t produce results we expect. Would you agree that ministry involvement would matter more to God than our personal agenda or things that matter to us? Which activity would you expect God to reward you for?

Think about this: Why is it that Jacob’s story did not mention things like: food he ate, vacation or day off, his clothing; if he was riding a donkey, camel or horse; if he slept in a cozy bed; if he joined sports competitions; if he played musical instrument; if he has taken a bath or cut his hair, etc.?

Those things that we considered important features of our daily life were not added in the story of Jacob. Are they not important to God? Of course, they are important but not significant to the practice of Jacob’s faith.  What do you think is significant to our practice of our faith for us to pay more attention to?

It says in Philippians 4:8-9, 8Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Jacob was upset of Rachel because she was so concerned about her struggle with Leah. She wanted to have children like Leah. She coveted much. And because of her complaints, Jacob got angry. Anger may have driven away the sweetness and cheerfulness of her relationship with Jacob.

3. Cheerfulness

9When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. 12Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

Leah continued to pester Rachel. She also did what Rachel did. She gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob because she stopped conceiving. As she expected Zilpah had children and Leah named them “Gad” and “Asher” respectively.

The name “Gad” means “good fortune or troop ready to attack” and “Asher” means “happy one” in Hebrew language.

When Leah said, “Women will call me happy,” it is properly translated, “Women will call blessed.” It was not just emotional gladness but blessed life. She also implied that she was really lonely before God blessed her with children.

To add the children of her servant Zilpah as her own, Leah cannot hide the gladness of her heart. She may have felt like she had been victorious in the struggle she had with her sister Rachel.

Truly, life is not defined by what we have or what we do not have. Both the rich and people who are deprived with material things are not exempted from depression. Everyone struggles with particular problem, and that situation should help us distinguish if we really have come to Christ as our Lord or not.

The Lord said in John 10:7-10, 7Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Sheep that belongs to the Lord listen and follow Him. They know that Christ is the good Shepherd who secures them and guides them to good pasture.

Christ contrasted His care for believers to the purpose of thief. A thief has no good intention. He steals, kills, and destroys. The “thief” that Christ mentioned is not ordinary thief. The definite article “the” before the word “thief” implies that Christ pertains to the specific thief which Bible scholars suggest as “the Devil.”

In Christ’s Parable of the Sower, a farmer planted seeds. Christ explained it in Mark 4:15-20, 15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Evaluate your spiritual status with the Parable of the Sower. Are you one good soil producing good results? It is a sad reality that some hear the gospel of Christ but cannot believe it. We should not take our chances. We need to be very sure that we really have believed and trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior.

It’s true that many are struggling with time management between personal concerns and ministry involvement. When Christ says that He came for us to have life to its fullness, it includes how we may spend time more productively. The Lord is watchful of our lifestyle and wants us to praise Him as a result of it.

Christ said to church of Smyrna in Revelation 2:9-10,  9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Can you agree that the church of Smyrna represents believers who are afflicted and deprived materially, believers who have needs? Christ promised a victor’s crown to those who are faithful, even to the point of death. Of course, we can only be faithful, even to the point of death when Christ Spirit produces joy, peace and faithfulness in our life. On our own effort, we cannot be faithful to Him.

Paul wrote a reality of our life in Titus 3:3-6, 3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Let’s have a moment of reflection. Let’s thank God for the assurance of eternal life. For those who have doubts, ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit.

When Christ’s Spirit is active in our heart, He also affirms us that we will live with Him in His heaven forever and ever.

><(((‘> o ><(((‘> tmec/2018 <‘)))>< o <‘)))><

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