Men & Women in the Word: Old Testament

Day 12: Rachel

Genesis 30:1-24, Genesis 35:16-20, Psalm 98:1-3, Hebrews 4:16

 

It doesn’t take a load of possessions in order for our hearts to become possessed by greed. We don’t need many gifts in order to convince ourselves that we are more blessed than others. This is so clear in Rachel’s disposition toward her sister, Leah. Both women, sisters bound to the same husband, lived in a constant state of competition with one another, each trying desperately to bear Jacob’s offspring.

In the race to bear children, Leah was clearly winning, having already brought forth sons for Jacob. Rachel, on the other hand, was in a state of discouragement and frustration because of her barrenness. Instead of trusting the Lord for children, she said to Jacob, “Give me children or I die” (Genesis 30:1). Like each of has at one time or another, Rachel was trusting in human strength for what God alone could give. Her complaint revealed the true condition of her heart.

Instead of crying out to God to give her children, Rachel turned to her husband. She gave her handmaiden, Bilhah, to her husband, hoping she would be able to bear children in her place. After Bilhah bore Jacob a second son, Rachel confessed, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son” (v.6). Rather than appealing to the covenant-keeping name of God, Yahweh, she employed God’s generic name. This, too, revealed a lack of trust in the covenant God of promise.

Again, Rachel gave Bilhah to her husband, and again, the servant bore a child. Afterward, Rachel declared, “In my wrestlings with God, I have wrestled with my sister and won” (v.8). This may sound like a cry of triumph, but in reality, it is a cry of vengeance and pride. Theologian John Calvin described Rachel’s false sense of victory this way: “In Rachel the pride of the human mind is depicted… But they who are puffed up with pride have also the habit of malignantly depreciating those gifts which the Lord has bestowed on others, in comparison with their own smaller gifts.”

Though most of us would insist that we would never say such a thing, we’ve all have made similar statements in one way or another. We’re all prone to trust in our own strength and plans rather than in the God of promise. When our chief desires are for success, status, satisfaction, or superiority, rather than God Himself, we’re tempted to boast in every small, weak, and inferior advancement we make in life. Rachel reveals the flaw in our thinking and the frailty of our sinful, human hearts. If left to ourselves, we so often settle for the lesser things in life when God offers so much more. He offers Himself to us through the Son of Jacob, Jesus Christ. May we to turn to Him, to the place where all our striving ceases and every longing is fulfilled.

Written by Nick Batzig