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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Genesis 32:7-12: Booked in to see the Surgeon

“7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group,the group that is left may escape.’Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, “Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,” 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”’NIV

In many ways Jacob utters a model prayer (9-12):

  • It is a prayer which acknowledges and appeals to God’s Word (9,12);
  • It is a humble prayer, full of gratitude for God’s goodness to him (10). He knew he was undeserving. He was not a ‘self-made’ man;
  • It is specific and definite (11). Jacob had a prayer ‘bull’s-eye’ in view.

Yet…this prayer is set in the context of a man wavering between faith and fear and doubt. But I find I cannot point the finger, for this is often true of me. How about you?

We note that fervent prayer is not opposed to strategic planning (7,8). ‘Pray to the Lord and keep your powder dry,’ counselled the general. It’s not bad advice to say, ‘Pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you.’ If there are certain thing crying out for action and attention we must not make prayer a substitute for doing them.

I wrote yesterday about how we can ‘jump at shadows.’ Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘I knew a man once who told me that in his life he had known many problems – most of which never happened!’ But while it is true that we can imagine many a scenario that is far from the truth of the situation, I guess it is possible that Esau was coming to attack Jacob and all those with him. Possibly Jacob’s prayer did change things. Prayer certainly does change many a situation; and it changes people.

We do well, however, to consider Warren Wiersbe’s comment that while Jacob prayed to be delivered from Esau, his real need was to be delivered from himself. Although he didn’t yet know it, Jacob had an up-coming appointment with the Divine Surgeon (22-31). He was going to have a painful operation which would leave him limping. But he would never think of suing the Doctor.

Daily Bible thoughts: Genesis 32: 1-8: ‘He thought…’

“Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, ‘This is the camp of God!’ So he named that place Mahanaim.Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: ‘This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: “Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favour in your eyes.”’When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, ‘If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.’”NIV

And you know what thought did…   But I can’t condemn Jacob. I have stood (and, sad to admit, I all too frequently do stand) in his shoes. I take what I know – or what I think I know – and I fill in the gaps. I allow my fears and anxieties to lie to me. I don’t have to believe them, but I do! I am capable of constructing all kinds of scenarios, imagining things that 99.9% of the time will never happen.

Of course, Jacob’s fears were logical; they were, to an extent, understandable. He had every reason to fear the brother he had wronged; this volcanic brother who had wanted to spew deadly lava all over him (27:42-44). But look at how this chapter begins (1,2). ‘’Mahanaim’’ means ‘double camp’. What a powerful manifestation of angels Jacob had to sustain him. Wiersbe also points out that if he had recalled his experience with God at Bethel (28:13-15) he would not have been afraid. Maybe so, but fear can overwhelm a person like a flood, and cause them to temporarily lose their grip on the promises of God.

F.B.Meyer notes that this world is full if angel help. There are more for us than there are against us.

PRAYER: Lord God, help us to increasingly live with this ‘double-camp’ understanding. Give us eyes to see things that naturally we are unable to perceive. Although we are prone to fears, help us to live without them, knowing you are with us.

Genesis 31:43-55: Conscious of God

“43 Laban answered Jacob, ‘The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.’45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, ‘Gather some stones.’ So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.48 Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me today.’ That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah,because he said, ‘May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you ill-treat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’51 Laban also said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.”NIV

‘’…even though no-one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me’’ (50).

It’s been observed that for all that Jacob and Laban were somewhat ‘bent’ (as, indeed, we all are), they were also conscious of living their lives in the presence and sight of God. That is no small thing. But it’s a shame that this awareness didn’t help them to amend their less than scrupulous ways. However, we are all strange mixtures. It’s just more apparent in some than in others.

Warren Wiersbe comments:

‘It is better to declare a truce than to wage a war, but the best decision of all is for brethren to ‘’dwell together in unity’’ (Ps.133:1). See Ephesians 4:25-32 for directions.’ ‘With the Word’, p.37.

I have just finished reading a helpful little book by Andy Stanley entitled ‘Better decisions, fewer regrets – 5 questions to help you determine your next move.’ The fifth question he poses is ‘The relationship question. What does love require of me?’ No Christian will want to evade that challenge.

PRAYER: Lord please give me the strength, the desire and the ability to always look yo the interests of others before my own.

Genesis 31:22-42: Divine intervention

“22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so that I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?’31 Jacob answered Laban, ‘I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.’ Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.35 Rachel said to her father, ‘Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.’ So he searched but could not find the household gods.36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. ‘What is my crime?’ he asked Laban. ‘How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.38 ‘I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: the heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.’”NIV

‘Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘’Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” ‘ (24)

‘‘I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob either good or bad.’ “ (29)

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.” (42)

This is the God with whom we have to do. He intervenes in very real lives and very real circumstances. It may well be that not everyone has such a vivid and overtly powerful experience of the Lord’s intervention. As our faces, personalities and circumstances differ, so do our stories. One believer may have many miraculous moments, and another comparatively few. As John Stott once said, ‘We are not to imagine that we have all been mass-produced in some celestial factory.’ But let us not doubt for one minute that the God who intervened in Bible days still does so in our own times.

I recently heard prayer described as ‘expressed helplessness.’ We need this God, and if He is for us, who can be against us?

 

 

Genesis 31:1-21: Pay attention!

“Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude towards him was not what it had been.Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, ‘I see that your father’s attitude towards me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, “The speckled ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, “The streaked ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.10 ‘In the breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, “Jacob.” I answered, “Here I am.” 12 And he said, “Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.”’14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.’17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18 and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21 So he fled with all he had, crossed the River Euphrates, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.”NIV

Although the Bible was written thousands of years ago, and hundreds of miles away, the world it depicts is one we easily recognise. We are familiar with it. It is in some sense our own. We feel we know these characters. In truth, we repeatedly see ourselves in them. What J.B.Phillips said about the New Testament is true of the whole Bible. Namely, it has ‘the ring of truth’ about it. It resonates with reality as we experience it. Take this statement for example:

‘’And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude towards him was not what it had been’’ (2; see also 5).

Who of us has not stood in Jacob’s shoes? This person seemed so friendly for so long. At one time they were all over you with their appreciation or kindness. But now the sun has gone behind the cloud. There’s a chill wind blowing in your direction. You are not mistaken. Things have changed. You wrap your coat more tightly around you.

Maybe you and I have also been Laban in this story. We are ones who have ‘gone off’ someone, and we’ve let it show. We have caused others to feel hurt and pain.

I’m just pointing out that the Bible depicts the world as we find it. That’s how it seems to me anyway.

Warren Wiersbe wrote: ‘The seeking heart will always get a word from God when decisions have to be made.’ ‘With the Word’, p.37. What we find here is that this change in the relational weather (2) prepared Jacob to hear the word of the Lord (3). Often we will find similarly that there is some providential ordering of circumstances to prepare us for hearing God, or which will corroborate what we are hearing. So, as a famous author has counselled, ‘Pay attention!’ ‘Listen to your life’. Look for what God is doing, even on the most ordinary of days.

Genesis 30:25-43: The unmistakeable smell of blessing

“25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divinationthat the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.”34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks. 37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.”NIV

‘It was God’s blessing and not Jacob’s schemes that increased the flocks. God was keeping the promises He had made at Bethel (28:13-15). When we are in difficult situations, we can trust God to care for us.’ Warren W. Wierbe: ‘With the Word’, p.37.

I am intrigued at the thought of the blessing of God carried by certain of the great Biblical characters, and how this affected not only them, but also those around them.

‘’You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been’’ (29,30).

Frederick Beuchener writes helpfully and (I think) beautifully about Jacob:

‘ ‘’See, the smell of my son is the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed,’’ old Isaac says as he lays his hands upon Jacob, and there it all is in a moment: Jacob betrays his brother, dupes his father, all but chokes on his own mendacity, yet the smell of him is the smell of blessing because God, no less than Isaac, has chosen to bless him in spite of everything. Jacob reeks of holiness. His life is as dark, fertile, and holy as the earth itself. He is himself a bush that burns with everything, both fair and foul, that a man burns with. Yet he is not consumed because God out of his grace will not consume him’ ‘Now and Then’, pp.19,20.

It is not a question of whether any of us deserve to be blessed. We manifestly do not. But God blesses in order to make us a blessing. If any of us ‘smell’ of God’s blessing, that aroma is for the sake of others also.

F.B. Meyer points out that there is little in this tale that is to Jacob’s credit, and there is not much to choose between him and Laban. The story is not recorded in Scripture to encourage us to resort to cunning and sharp practices. But it does show that when God chooses to bless someone (and make them a blessing) it is because of His sovereign purposes and not their inherent worthiness. Let’s face it: Jacob needed the Cross, and so do I.

PRAYER: Lord God, I thank you for your many blessings and I acknowledge I do not deserve anything good from your Hand. But as I am the recipient of your abundant blessings, I pray that I may be a blessing wherever you put me in this world.

Genesis 30:1-24: Don’t play God

“When 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!”Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”Then 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.”So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!”So she named him Gad.12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”

As a general introduction to and overview of chapter 30, consider these words from Warren Wiersbe’s little gem of a book, ‘With the Word’, p.36: ‘There are two major themes in this chapter:the building of Jacob’s family (vv.1-24), and the building of Jacob’s fortune (vv.25-43). Various people (including Jacob) thought they were in control of the situation, but all of it was in the hands of God.’

He also says:

‘The building of Jacob’s family was vitally important to God’s plan of salvation, for God would use the nation of Israel to give the world the Bible and the Redeemer.’

I think it helpful to hold on to this big picture. In addition I will make three other points:

  1. Even in the most loving and caring of marriages we cannot (and we must not) become each other’s ‘gods’ (1,2). Only God is God. Human beings cannot bear such a weight of expectation being placed on them. We will inevitably let each other down. The obvious truth is we are not God! We have to be crystal clear in our understanding of, and our submission to, Jesus as Lord. He is the only One who can meet our deepest needs; He is the only One who can stay with us forever; He is the only One who is worthy of our worship. We look to Him together;
  2. No good can come from such competition between siblings (7,8 and following verses). It is sad to see such in-fighting, but nothing has changed. Families are still tragically riven by petty squabbles and in-fighting;
  3. And yet…we see God graciously and mercifully overruling and answering prayer (e.g.22-24). We can take heart as we read this. God was working with the rawest of raw materials. These people were so flawed. They didn’t have to be perfect for God to bless them. In His sovereignty God was even, wonderfully and mysteriously, using their sins to further His own purposes. He was working out something far bigger than their personal wants and wishes.

PRAYER: Lord, I repeatedly find myself reading your Word and feeling so grateful that ‘’this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end’’ (Psalm 48:14). For if I examine myself honestly, I know I am as bad as many of these frail characters – if not worse. I count on your ‘’goodness and mercy’’ to ‘’follow me all the days of my life’’

Genesis 29:32b: Nourished by the first love

“32 Leah 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.’” NIV

‘’It is because the LORD has seem my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.’’

Thinking and writing about Leah yesterday, and her understandable sadness about coming second in her husband’s affections (and possibly a very poor second at that), coincided with something I read in a book by Henri Nouwen:

‘…very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits. This unconditional and unlimited love is what the evangelist John calls God’s first love. ‘’Let us love,’’ he says, ‘’because God loved us first’’ (1 John 4:19). The love that often leaves us doubtful, frustrated, angry, and resentful is the second love, that is to say, the affirmation, affection, sympathy, encouragement, and support that we receive from our parents, teachers, spouses and friends. We all know how limited, broken, and very fragile that love is. Behind the many expressions of this second love there is always the chance of rejection, withdrawal, punishment, blackmail, violence, and even hatred. Many contemporary movies and plays portray the ambiguities and ambivalences of human relationships, and there are no friendships, marriages, or communities in which the strains and stresses of second love are not keenly felt. Often it seems that beneath the pleasantries of daily life there are many gaping wounds that carry such names as: abandonment, betrayal, rejection, rupture, and loss. These are all the shadow side of the second love and reveal the darkness that never completely leaves the human heart.’ (‘In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership’, pp.25,26)

In this book Nouwen argues that the Christian leader of the future must be anchored in the knowledge of God’s first love. Their identity must be deeply rooted in God’s first love,

This, of course, applies to every Christian. Like Jesus Himself, we must be sure of who we are as beloved children of God (Luke 3:22). Yes, we may be tempted at times to doubt this (see Luke 4:3/9: ‘’If you are the Son of God…’’). But what we all need, leaders and led alike, is to be so aware that we are loved by God that our essential security in Him is unshaken, no matter what anyone else may say or do. This will not mean that we vwill go unscarred by the bad behaviour of others, but we need not be defined by it. When we know we are deeply and unconditionally loved by God, we don’t need anyone else’s approval.

But we must learn to root our lives deeply in His love.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that my worth is not dependent upon the value-judgments of others. I am of great value because of who I am in your eyes. O Lord, I admit it’s often a struggle to see and feel this. So please help me in my weakness and need.

Genesis 29:31-35: ‘The love of God is greater far…’

“31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah 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.’33 She 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.34 Again 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.35 She 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.”NIV

We may not always understand the negative experiences we have to go through, but we can be certain that the Lord sees (and hears, v33) what is happening. He sees ‘’my misery’’ (32), and he sees me in it. I venture to suggest that we often find there are divine ‘compensations’ amidst life’s troubles. Sometimes surprisingly so.

But Leah had to learn (and so do we) that she could never earn Jacob’s love. Love is freely given. It can’t ever be a salary

That said, what the passage shows movingly is that although Leah felt the deficit where Jacob’s love was concerned, she was the recipient of God’s tender loving care in tangible and sensible ways – ways she could comprehend, could make sense of.

None of this actually changed the sad situation with Jacob. But even amidst pain and disappointment, may we learn to ‘’praise the LORD’’ (32). Indeed, may it be our determined choice to do so: ‘’…I will praise the LORD.’’

 ‘The names of Leah’s sons suggest the blessings that accrue through heartbreak. For the Leah’s of the world there are great compensations. God remembers and hears them. Broken-hearted and forsaken, they live again in the lives of those whom they have borne either naturally or spiritually.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.26.

‘Each wife had what the other wanted. Rachel had love but wanted children (Genesis 30:1). Leah had children but wanted love. Indeed, Leah expressed her longing for Jacob’s love in the names she gave her first three sons: Reuben, which sounds in Hebrew like ‘’he has seen my misery’’; Simeon which means “one who hears”; and Levi, which means “attached” – an intimation of Leah’s hope that Jacob would become more “attached’ to her after the birth of her third son. Levi became the ancestor of the Levites, the priestly line of Israel.

After the birth of her fourth son, Leah seems to have become more content and thankful, for she named him Judah, which means “praise.” Judah became the ancestor of the royal line of Judah, from which would come King David and eventually the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:3)’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’,p.175

Considering this short passage reminded me of these beautiful song lyrics:

‘The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell

It goes beyond the highest star

And reaches to the lowest hell…’

I once heard the profoundly touching story that the words of the second stanza, were found written on the wall of a mental asylum somewhere behind the iron curtain:

‘Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made

We’re every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Though stretched from sky to sky.’

PRAYER: I thank you Lord that nothing can separate your people from your love

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