RACHEL’S TROUBLE – SEARCHING FOR FULFILLMENT

Rachels Trouble
Self-fulfillment comes from above (Image source: Crosswalk.com)

Millions of books have been sold about how we can find fulfillment. A popular teaching in psychology says that when a person has sufficient food and emotional support in their life, they start searching for self-fulfillment, which is partly a search for purpose. Rachel shows us how desperate that search can be.

We read about Rachel in Genesis 25 to 50. Jacob cheats his brother Esau and flees to go live with his Uncle Laban. Rachel is Laban’s daughter; she is gorgeous; Jacob falls in love with her. Jacob marries Rachel but pays a heavy price for this, including working for her father for 14 years, forced marriage to her older sister Leah, and forced husbandly responsibility for their servant girls Bilhah and Zilpah.

Genesis 30:1 (NIV) says: When Rachel saw that she was not bearing… she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 

Sadly, in many cultures, women without children suffer mockery. Leah, who Jacob did not love, was having sons for Jacob; Rachel who Jacob loved deeply, had no child and was miserable. Her husband’s wealth and love was not enough; Rachel was in a desperate search for self-fulfillment. Eventually, she had a son Joseph (Genesis 30), but tragically dies during the birth of the second son (Genesis 35).

Genesis 35:18-19 (NIV) says: “As she breathed her last… she named her son Ben-Oni [son of my trouble]. But his father named him Benjamin [son of my right hand]. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

Rachel’s consuming passion, her trouble, was to have children at any cost. Life can be so challenging in this way. We can have much good things around us, but lack one thing, and we become desperate to have it at any cost.

Lord, help us in our desperation; comfort us when our lack make us feel sad; give us joy when our lack leads to depression; show us the way to fulfillment that does not lead to death, in Jesus name, Amen!    

JACOB – “THE BLESSING” THAT MATTERS

Jacob Isaac Rebecca
Jacob and Rebecca deceive blind Isaac (Image source: SoulSpartan)

Reading the story of Jacob in Genesis Chapter 25 to 50, is like watching a sometimes sad, but great inspiring movie. He was the younger of twin boys; his mum Rebecca  loved him dearly for helping out at home; his father Isaac loved his hunter brother Esau who brought home delicious meat from his hunting adventures.

Before the boys were born, Rebecca got a message from God of heaven, that the younger will be greater than the older. Thus, Jacob grew up with a determination to be greater than his older brother Esau, by any means necessary.

In their culture, the firstborn Esau would inherit two-thirds of Isaac’s great wealth, and Jacob would get one-third. So Jacob deceived old blind Isaac to give him the blessing of the first born. Esau was furious and decided to kill Jacob.

Jacob ran away from home for 20 years; his mum died while he was away and Esau ended up with the father’s wealth. The one thing Jacob had and Esau did not, was a belief in the God of his father. When Jacob was forced to return home, he was terrified of Esau; in that totally hopeless situation in Genesis 32, he cried out to God.

Jacob was physically strong and respected physical strength; so God comes to him in form of a wrestler in Genesis 32. At some point, Jacob realizes that this is a divine wrestler, and desperately demands for the blessing that matters.

Jacob says to the wrestler in Genesis 32:26b: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob accepts that his greatness was not going to come from his father, or by his hard work alone, or his tricks, but through God’s blessing on his hard work. This is “THE BLESSING” that gave Jacob an everlasting Biblical legacy.

Great God, we need “THE BLESSING” too, hear our prayers, Amen!

LEAH – QUEEN OF THE HOUSE OF JACOB

Jacob Wrestling
Jacob the great warrior patriarch (Image source: TimKellerSermonSeries)

 

The story of Jacob is perhaps the most fascinating in the book of Genesis. It starts out with excitement and great expectations over his birth in Genesis 25, and ends with his majestic kingly burial in Genesis 50, attended by all the ministers of Egypt. In between, there is the story of Leah, the queen of the house of Jacob.

Leah, we hear was ugly, while her younger sister Rachel was stunningly beautiful. This is based on Genesis 29:17 (NIV), which says ‘Leah had weak eyes’ but Rachel was hot; the Easy-To-Read-Version (ERV) Bible says ‘Leah’s eyes were gentle’. Eyes say a lot about personality; Leah was calm, Rachel was aggressive.

Jacob loved Rachel, perhaps she reminded him of his mum Rebecca, another hot beautiful woman (Genesis 26). However, he ended up marrying both sisters; same father, yes, likely different mothers given their physical and personality differences. Genesis 30 and 31 shows that Rachel was cunning and aggressive.

Genesis 29:31-35 says: “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive… gave birth to…  Reuben… conceived again…  named him Simeon… conceived… he was named Levi… conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.”

Leah had two more boys, Issachar and Zebulun, and a girl Dinah. When she bore her first three sons, she gave them names intended to please her husband, names that would prove to him that she loved him with all her heart and soul. This changed from Judah, when she chose names that expressed gratitude to God.

Leah’s servant Zilpah also had two sons for Jacob, Gad and Asher; Leah’s household bore eight sons, while Rachel’s had four. Leah’s sons, Levi and Judah, became the chief tribes of Israel; Jesus, our Messiah came from Judah. Weak eyed Leah ended up the queen of the house of Jacob. God prospered the beautiful personality more than the troublemaker with a beautiful face and hot body.

Lord, if gentle eyes is what we need to win the blessings of heaven, then give us gentle eyes and all the blessings that follow, Amen! 

DANIEL’S SPECTACULAR TIME SPECIFIC PROPHECIES

Daniel 2
Daniel’s time specific prophecies (Image source: Pinterest)

 

King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England, is for me, the most beautiful Church building ever. To construct a beauty like that requires a design plan, skillful people, and a time plan to get it done. While some buildings take days and months to construct, others like King’s College Chapel have taken hundreds of years.

The Bible tells us that Yahweh is building a Kingdom in the world; while Biblical prophets like Isaiah spoke about how beautiful this Kingdom will be, others like Daniel provide time specific details about the Kingdom. Daniel’s prophecies makes it clear that this is a very long term plan with many stages of construction.

In Daniel Chapter 2, the prophet explains to King Nebuchadnezzar, that though Babylon is the first great world empire, there will be three more; and during the rule of the fourth empire, Yahweh, God of heaven, will intervene in a spectacular way. Daniel 2:44 (NIV) says: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”

Since Daniel spoke, we have had the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. During Roman rule, Jesus was born, and went on to declare that the Kingdom of God has arrived. Jesus taught his followers that though the Kingdom starts out like a small mustard seed, it will eventually be the greatest ever.

Daniel’s visions in Chapters 7 to 12 provide more details of the animal brutal nature of the four empires; their wicked efforts to destroy Israel; and how during the Roman period, God will plant the seed of his kingdom, which will continue to grow larger and stronger, even after these four empires are no more around.

According to Daniel, in this era, God has set up and is growing his kingdom. There are great nations today like the US, Britain, Russia, China, but they don’t have the same unquestioned brutal power over the world like the empires of the past.

Lord, give us Bible teachers, and an interest that will not fade away, so that we can have clear understanding of Daniel’s prophecies, Amen!     

DANIEL – “CHARACTER IS DESTINY”

Daniel Lions Den
Daniel in the lions’ den. Thomas Agnew and Sons, 1892, after Briton Rivière’s picture (Source: www.nwcatholic.org)

 

“Character is destiny” says the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus. Heraclitus meant that how our lives turn out is determined more by our inner character than by outside influences. In today’s world with internet, social media, and fake news, we are allowed to wonder if it is still true that character is destiny.

The book of Daniel has many lessons including that character is destiny, when it comes to effective work for the most high God. How does it do this? Chapters 1 to 6 show how Daniel responds to events including threats to his life in Babylon; even in the Lions den (Chapter 6) we see his calm, faithful, solid as a rock response.

In Chapters 7 to 12, the focus of the book of Daniel, shifts from character lessons, to the great and mighty visions that Daniel receives from God. Think about this for a minute – the most high God was pleased to share complete revelations of the history of humanity with a person. No other prophet was honored so highly.

Hope it now begins to make sense, why half of the book of Daniel is dedicated to character lessons. In Chapter 6, the law said everybody must pray to the king, if not, they will be thrown into the Lions den. Daniel still chose to pray to the most high God; he made up his mind to give up his life rather than give up his faith.

Thanks be to God for the amazing rescue as we read Daniel 6:21-22 (NIV): Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

Daniel did not get to this place of strong faith in a day, or a year – it takes years, and years, and years of quiet commitment. The result is a fruitful life of service that continues to bless God’s people even after we are long dead. Our work for God, is not about houses, cars, clothes – it starts with character.

Lord, we have freedom to live for pleasures, but teach us how we can live to be a blessing today and for many generations to come, Amen!       

 

DANIEL – HOW TO RESPOND TO PAIN

Daniel
Daniel teaches us Christian integrity (Image source: WalkThroughTimeMinistries)

 

Where have the good times gone? Who should I blame for the terrible things that have happened in my life, my family, my city, my country? These kinds of thoughts are common to all of us. The answers we arrive at, have the power to trap us in bitterness and hate, or to move us forward into a better place.

Daniel, a prince from Judah, surely had these thoughts, when he and his three friends were captured and taken to Babylon. Daniel was between the age of 16 and 20; he and his friends were in pain, after losing family, losing their country, and forced to serve the man who conquered them, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

It is amazing that Daniel 1:19-21 (God’s Word Translation) says: “The king… found no one like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah… Whenever the king asked them about things that required wisdom and insight, he found that they knew ten times more than all the magicians and psychics in his whole kingdom. Daniel served the royal palace until the first year of King Cyrus of Persia.”   

Daniel rendered excellent service to King Nebuchadnezzar for 40 years. His life was threatened many times but he survived and excelled. How was this possible? What was his anchor that kept him grounded during troubled times? Over and over, the book of Daniel shows us that it was his unshakable trust in Yahweh.

As Christians, we respond to pain, by holding on closer to Yahweh; not by hitting back with hate at the people we blame for our pain. God of Heaven, teach us how to be Daniels in the world today, Amen!    

BOOK OF HEBREWS – FAITH IS ENDURANCE

Endurance
We must endure to make it to the end (Image source: QuotesPictures)  

 

We live in a turbulent problematic world and this is not news. We sometimes wish to go back to the past, in the belief that the past was better. As children we were often protected from seeing the problems of the world, so we overlook the fact that people, including our parents, have always faced tough times.

Almost 2000 years ago, Jewish Christians faced hard times, some were killed for their faith. So, they had good reasons to return to Judaism. Yes, they would have escaped hard times for being Christians, but another type of challenge will be waiting. Whoever we are, whatever we believe and worship, life will test us.

The book of Hebrews tells the Jewish Christians that Jesus is the promised savior. Jesus is greater than angels, Moses, the priests, and the Temple sacrifices; so they should not lose faith. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG) says: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”

Christian faith calls us to believe that a new world, ruled by Jesus, is coming. There will be justice, love, healing, and joy. The ancestors like Abel, Abraham, Moses, believed this message even when they were dying and the new world had not come. They believed what they could not see, and died in hope. This belief, this faith in Jesus, is the Christian foundation for hope, and strength, to endure life.

Lord, help us to understand Christian faith and hope; strengthen our faith and hope, so we can endure the challenges of life, Amen!