Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Poor Rachel! Our heart must go out to her. The story of her life is filled with disappointment and sorrow. Looking back with today’s eyes, it seems like a soap opera.
That’s not to say she wasn’t blessed. After all, she was married to a famous man. She was part of a rich family. Some call it a royal family. Some say that the Savior of the world was one of her direct descendants. But that description could be misleading. It is true only in a general sense. Jesus descended directly from her family, but not directly from her bloodline.
And that is one of the reasons why we feel sorry for her.
There is no doubt that her husband loved her to her dying day. He brought joy into her life. But the joy was mixed with sorrow and disappointment. Some would say her life was a mess. It would be hard to argue with that.
Her husband, Jacob, was the father of at least thirteen children, twelve of them were boys. Famous boys. From them came the 12 tribes of Israel. Israel was another name for their father.
At the same time, Jacob was also the husband of Rachel’s sister, Leah. Six of the boys were born to her. While married to these sisters, Jacob became the father of four other boys by the two servants of the sisters. Both sisters encouraged this.
What a mess!
How could any wife be happy in a situation like that? What’s worse, for a long time while these babies were being born, Rachel was barren. It was years before she became a mother. She named the baby, Joseph.
She gave birth to just one more child, but lost her life in childbirth. Moments before she died, she named this son Ben-Oni, which means “son of my sorrow.”
Her husband renamed the boy, Benjamin—”son of my strength.” Then he buried his beloved wife in a tomb next to a town called Ephrathah. We know it better as Bethlehem.
Poor Rachel! Disappointment in life. Sorrow in death. Centuries later, she became a symbol of great weeping when the boy babies of Bethlehem were slaughtered in the search for the Christ-child.
Not just a sad story! It is a picture of life in a sin-soaked world. It is a picture of God’s grace.
Even the people of God can have messy lives.
There is no excuse for what Jacob did. Nor what Rachel did. Nor what Leah and the servant-girls did. Unlike the people of Sodom or the sons of Korah who received swift judgment, these people lived on. Yet, that does not mean that payment for the sins was never demanded.
The thunderclap of divine judgment was heard centuries later when soldiers drove nails into the flesh of Jacob’s divine descendant. The one called Jesus.
The psalmist had cried out, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3,4).
Jacob and his family knew of this forgiveness. He died as a forgiven one. Of him, it is written, “…he breathed his last and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33).
We expect that Rachel was one of those forgiven people already in heaven.
Her husband’s love had been far from perfect. Her Savior’s love was absolutely perfect.
She is poor Rachel no longer.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, your Word shows us the horrors of sin and the wonders of your grace. When we look in at the accounts of the heroes of faith, you show us their failures, too. Bring home the warning to our hearts lest we think that we are too strong to fall. Drive home to heart and soul the assurance of forgiveness in Jesus, lest we fumble our faith. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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