This week's study has shown us a desperate woman, who was perfectly willing to scheme and manipulate in order to get what she wanted. Rachel is definitely a flawed person, a sinful person, no?
(Next week, we'll focus on one incident with Rachel that cried out for more study . . . but that's for another day.)
Does it make you wonder sometimes, when we read the Bible and study, why some of these stories are here? Sometimes people will say, wow, that's what I don't like about the Bible, and especially all this stuff in the Old Testament: all these people who are practicing polygamy, who are abusive, who murder, who steal . . . it's just terrible!
Well, in actuality, the Bible condemns polygamy, murder, stealing, etc. In fact, this passage is showing us the absolute misery that comes from one man marrying several women -- it's as good a parable against that practice as you could want to read! Years of misery, jealous kids, and more. But it's really not as confusing as we might think, that all these stories are in our Bible. We may think that the Bible should really be a book of virtues, a book of high morals. It should contain stories of heroes and heroines. It should be a book of inspirational stories with awesome role models for our own lives.
Well, it does have some of that, but it has this "clutter" too. And here's why: God works with flawed, sinful people.
Just let that sink in a minute.
What the Bible does give us is story after story about men and women whom God continues to work with, even though they don't deserve His help and grace. They don't seek His mercy. They resist it. They don't even appreciate it after blessings come. But God continues to work with these flawed people. He keeps loving, chastening, and yes, blessing them.
If we look at every other religion in our world, we see a god at the top of a ladder. He's put that ladder down and then he tells the people to perform to his requirements. Do good deeds. Live a virtuous life. Try really hard to live like these heroes here. Maybe if you perform well you can come up the ladder.
The difference is that our Father sent His Son to BE the ladder. To live the life we should live, and then to die the death that we deserve.
Then he said, "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth." (John 1:51)The people in our Bible have revelations from God; they have miracles in their lives; all kinds of wonderful things happen that should point them to God. Do they look? Do they listen? Do they get inspired and live for God? Eh, sometimes. But over and over again we see people who DON'T. These are stories of flawed people that God works with. Sinful people that God had to come down and die on the cross to save.
Here's another wonderful truth from these passages: God not only works with sinful people, He can work through sinful people. Here is Rachel, a truly desperate wife; she is floundering around, accusing her husband of being the problem, scheming to get mandrakes that she thinks might help her conceive, handing over her maid to Jacob so that they can have a child that way . . . but look how it all changes when she drops to her knees, and raises her hands to heaven in prayer.
This is indeed a radical change for Rachel.
And God sees the change.
He listens to her, and allows her to conceive.
He works through a sinful woman who turns to Him, and the son who is born will save his family when the famines come. The jealousy of his brothers will cause him to be in Egypt, to be a slave, to be jailed, and more. Then God will work through Joseph to interpret Pharoah's dreams, and manage his kingdom, so that Joseph's entire family can avoid starvation.
Can God use sinful people to accomplish His purposes? You bet He can! Only He knows His plans, and it's He Who will make them happen:
Look among the nations, and see;wonder and be astounded.For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. (Habakkuk 1:5)
That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:6-7)What a comfort to know that we can count on our Father. In spite of our sins, He will work in our lives, and through our lives! And He will never forget or forsake us:
Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
You understand, O Lord; remember me and care for me. (Jeremiah 15:15)
This should be our testimony to others:
The Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is His name. (Luke 1:49)