It fascinates me how the lessons, experiences, and interactions of our childhood affects our actions and decisions as we age. This is not a revolutionary thought necessarily, but it does captivate me from time to time. I’ll do or think something, question why, and be taken back to a memory. This happens with both good and bad situations.
Also interesting, is that our sense of smell can have the greatest impact on recalling memories. A certain type of deodorant scent takes me back to my Middle School locker room preparing for volleyball practice. This leads me down a rabbit trail of my whole volleyball career with the highlights and challenges.
Eventually, I sometimes wander to the feelings of self-doubt, never feeling good enough, and shame. I was young and impressionable then. There were many inner and outer influences and other factors involved in all of this too. It didn’t take much for me to question who I was or how I would ever contibrute to society at the time.
I’ve grown a lot since then and have overcome a lot of those feelings. But they still creep up. These feelings shaped how I have made certain decisions up until this point. Am I good enough or smart enough for this? Could I ever be? Why or how could God use me? There are so many better people out there. I’ll just settle here where it’s safe and comfortable.
It’s amazing how fast that scent can take me from zero to depressed in a matter of seconds. I forget anything and everything that God has done and is doing and could do. My choice is to wallow in self-doubt and shame for a bit. It takes work to snap out of it. Have you ever felt that way? Do you have weird triggers that take you back to a memory, good or bad?
In this part of the story we see two contrasting characters and how they handle life’s situations. We witness how one can use his past to bolster his trust in God and another that can’t let go and relies on her own strength to get by.
S – Scripture: Genesis 30-31
- 30:1-3 – “When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’ Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. ‘Am I God?’ he asked. ‘He’s the one who has kept you from having children!’ Then Rachel told him, ‘Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.'”
- 30:22 – “Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children.”
- 30:38-40 – “Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated. And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Jacob separated those lambs from Laban’s flock. And at mating time he turned the flock to face Laban’s animals that were streaked or black. This is how he built his own flock instead of increasing Laban’s.”
- 30:43 – “As a result, Jacob became very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, female and male servants, and many camels and donkeys.”
- 31:8-9 – “For if he said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the whole flock began to produce speckled young. And when he changed his mind and said, ‘The striped animals will be your wages,’ then the whole flock produced striped young. In this way, God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me.'”
- 31:19 – “At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her.”
- 31:27-29 – “‘Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you deceive me? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps. Why didn’t you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly! I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!'”
- 31:41-42 – “‘Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side–the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac–you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!'”
- 31:52 – “‘They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me.”‘
O – Observation:
- Similar issues, once again, to bear children. Rachel sends Bilhah to Jacob to have children through her. After a few more years of waiting (and everyone else having multiple babies), she finally has Joseph.
- Jacob starts building up his flock and wealth in order to set out on his own to the lad of his father. Whatever color Laban says Jacob can keep for himself, the flock only bears that color. Laban notices and keeps changing it so to keep Jacob from gaining more flock. The Lord is clearly in control here.
- Jacob becomes wealthy and sets out, taking his family, flock, and servants without telling Laban.
- Rachel shows some not so great qualities: anger, jealousy, impulsiveness, impatience, stealing, and lying.
- God protects Jacob by warning Laban not to hurt him. Jacob reiterates to Laban how he was treated unfairly for 20 years and how the only reason he prospered is because of the Lord.
- In the ESV translation of Genesis 31:42, it describes God as, “the Fear of Isaac.” I like this a lot!
- Jacob and Laban make a treaty to never harm each other.
A – Application:
At a young age (and I’m sure this is a common story), I learned that the oven was a magical place where delicious food cam from, but also a terrifying appliance that could burn me. Many a time I would set out to boil water or bake cookies, and walk away with a puffy red spot on my arm or finger. When I worked at the deli in college making rotisserie chickens, I’d get a burn a week! (I may be a tad clumsy or was working to hastily.)
Although I know an oven and stovetop can cause burns, I still have a great respect for them as I can create tasty food that nourishes me. I love baking bacon, roasting roasting brussel sprouts and chicken, and steaming veggies. Despite the fear of potentially burning myself, I use the oven everyday.
When I think of what the fear of the Lord means, it reminds me (maybe too simply) of an oven. God has immense power to move oceans, mountains, and wind. He sets the sun, moon, stars, and planets in motion. While the big things are beyond comprehension, so is the fact that God can control the smallest details of EVERYONE’S lives!
The Bible states in Proverbs 9:10 –
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
To “fear” in this case, is to revere, have great respect for, or stand in awe of. I know I’ve dabbled with this topic before, but it can be repeated. When I try to take in all that God is and all that he can do, I feel as though all circumstances, worries, fears, weaknesses, failures, pre-conceived notions, and expectations just fall away.
I picture me standing on a rock in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by water and air. The wind is blowing slightly and the sun is warm. I close my eyes and take it all in. With every exhale, all of my dark exotions shed off of me and into the water. Each exhale welcomes peace, hope, and life. I am empowered and filled with the Holy Spirit. I am able to stand, expectantly and hopeful for what the future holds. I am inspired to step forward because I have come to the realization that the BIGGEST, GREATEST, and STRONGEST God is on my side. The life that he offers when I do this is worth the risk of a few burns and cuts along the way. I can learn and grow from each.
Jacob understood this fear. He trusted that God would protect and provide for him every step of the way. That changes how one makes decisions, no matter our past. It allows you to be bold and not rely on your own means to achieve a desired outcome.
We see Rachel on the opposite side of this. She becomes angry and impatient, jealous of her sister in not being able to bear children. Like Sarah, she offers her servant to fulfill that duty. But it’s just a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. She then steals her father’s household gods (for whatever reason) and lies about it to Jacob and Laban.
If she grew up with her father worshiping these gods, maybe they were hers too. Maybe she didn’t know God like Jacob did. She may not have understood all that he could do, or trusted him with every part of her life (or only when good things happened, like when she could finally have children).
I can’t know for sure her motivations, but based on her actions, she seemed to not have the same fear of the Lord, as Jacob did. If this fear leads to wisdom, she does not portray that quality here.
The story (at least in these two chapters) of Jacob and Rachel shows us a contrast of what it looks like to fear and respect the Lord and to not.
Jacob: patiently persevered, took steps to allow God to work his purpose, and trusted God to provide and protect him in every step he took.
Rachel: acted in anger and jealousy, took steps to do things on her own, relied on the gods of her childhood (her beliefs, experiences, circumstances, etc) to protect and provide for them as they set out.
Who’s character do you fit into right now? There is no judgement for being more like Rachel in this scenario, only GRACE. Realization and conviction are the first steps towards forgiveness and redemption. God longs for you to choose that.
I admit, I fall into Rachel’s way of thinking often. I forget about all that God has done, is doing, and has the power to do in the future when I wait on his timing. When I go back to the rock and remember, I get back to that Jacob way of living. Grace, love, and peace overflow in me. I feel light and ready to move in the direction God has called me to.
A parting verse:
“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2
P – Prayer:
God, thank you for the contrasting characters of Jacob and Rachel. I want a Jacob-like perspective on life as often as possible. I long to trust you fully and take bold steps because I have full assurance of your grace and provision. I know that you can do great things and I want people to see your hand guiding every step of my life and draw closer to you because of it.
Forgive me for the times I act like Rachel – in anger, jealousy, and distrust. Refine me to be more like you daily. Teach me your ways and keep me close. Amen.