God’s People, part 15: Rachel

Read Genesis 30:1-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means ‘son of my sorrow’). The baby’s father, however, called him Benjamin (which means ‘son of my right hand’).” (Genesis‬ ‭35:18‬ ‭NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

img_0807Part 15, Rachel. While Leah was the unloved and the unwanted of the two sisters, Rachel was the one who was both “beautiful and favored.” We can assume that meant that all of the boys were swooning over her, and all of the men had her in mind as a potential bride. She was the younger of the two sisters, but clearly she was the one who drew most of the attention.

Modern readers of the Bible tend to look at Rachel as the girl who had everything. She was pretty, she had Jacob trying to woo her, and she is the one who ended up with the man who wanted her. It is presumed that she, unlike her sister, never had to feel lonely or unloved. She never had to feel the cold shoulder of a man who didn’t want her, but found out he was tricked into marrying her. Rachel, the Bible reveals, was favored and we presume that being “favored is always a good thing.

I would like us to pause here for a second and give Rachel a little more thought than we usually do. Does being “favored” really equal the best possible scenario? What does it mean for Rachel to be favored? And by whom is she favored? By God? By men? By her father? What was it like to be Rachel in that dysfunctional household of Laban’s?

We tend to take pity on the one who blatantly unwanted and unloved, and we tend to look upon those who seemingly have it all with contempt. We think, “it must be nice looking so pretty (or so handsome), with that rocking body and alluring charm. She’ll never know what it’s like to be someone like me.”

Well, that’s true, she won’t; however, “we’ll” never know what it is like to be her. Perhaps, Rachel was the loneliest and most unwanted of them all. What is important to note is that, if we take the Bible verbatim, the only thing that was Rachel’s quality was that she was “beautiful”. People didn’t know who she actually was, or what really made her tick, all they saw were her sexy looks and what magnificent, strapping young lads she’d produce.

Of course, we’ll never know for sure, but perhaps Rachel’s own identity came be formed on the perceptions and expectation of others. Perhaps she only came to know herself as “beautiful,” “desirable”, and other such labels. Perhaps that she felt the only way to a man’s heart was in his bed as his bride, and the only way to be of worth was to bear him the male heirs and/or children he long desires for.

One thing is for sure, Rachel felt the pressures of being a woman in the ancient Middle East. So much so that she grew bitterly jealous toward her sister, Leah, when she bore a child. That jealously led to an unhealthy competition of who could have the most children. Leah gave birth to a son. Rachel gave her handmaiden Bilhah to Jacob so that she could be a surrogate mother. From Bilhah came two children for Rachel to raise.. Leah then, in turn, gave Jacob her handmaiden who also produced two children. Eventually, despite the feud, Rachel was able to have children of her own and gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Of course, by the grace of God, Joseph grew up to be the savior of his people.

Have you ever found that you were defining your own identity by what other people thought of you? Have you ever discovered that who you actually are is not who others told you that you were? Have you ever found that your own self-image was causing you to not only grow bitter, but lash out at others you perceived had it better than you? Have you found yourself far away from who God created you to be as a result? The good news is that God hasn’t given up on you, just as God never gave up on Rachel.. God is calling you to rediscover who you are in God’s eyes.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Jealousy is the tie that binds, and binds, and binds.” – Helen Rowland

PRAYER

Lord, there are things in my life (people and circumstances) that have scarred me. Heal those wounds and steer me away from allowing them to make me bitter toward or envious of others. Amen.

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