Faith

Day 12 – Bathsheba

I’m a bit behind in my blogging but better late than never right? 🙂 Today, we are going to talk about Bathsheba. She is one woman in the Bible who gets a bad rap. Many Christians believe she was some kind of seductress. This is mostly because David saw her while she was taking her bath on her roof.

This idea is erroneous. It’s kind of like saying that some man decided to look in your bathroom window while you were taking a bath and seduced the guy staring through your window.

It was spring. All the men were supposed to be gone. David was supposed to be gone. In fact, kings were supposed to lead their armies – not stay behind spying down on the neighboring rooftops.

In this story, David sees Bathsheba. He had a choice at this point. He could have turned away, knowing that she thought she had privacy, but he continues to look and not just look, but lust. Yes, Bathsheba was beautiful, but that didn’t mean she deserved to be ogled.

Then David takes it a step further. He asks about the woman and finds out not only her name but some pretty significant details about her life. First of all, she was married. Not only was she married, but she was married to one of David’s most trusted generals. She was also the daughter of Eliam. Eliam had been one of David’s mighty men who had been with David while he ran from Saul all those years.

Again, David had a choice. He could have walked away then. Gone to see one of his multiple wives. But he didn’t.

Instead, he sent for her. Right about now, there are some of you who are probably saying, “Well, she could have said no!” The truth is – she couldn’t. In that time, if a king wanted a woman, he could have her. All the people were subject to the king’s will.

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In 2 Samuel 11:4, it says that David “took” her. The word took is the Hebrew word laqchah and it means, “to seize, to acquire, to snatch, to take away, lay hold of, buy.”

None of the Sciptures that describe what happened give us a clue about Bathsheba’s thoughts or feelings, but the next verse says that Bathsheba then discovers she is pregnant. She sends word to David. It doesn’t say what the message said, but it takes very little imagination to read between the lines.

In David’s defense, he could have left Bathsheba out to dry. If she was discovered pregnant and her husband gone so the baby couldn’t be his, she would have probably been stoned for adultery. While there were people who knew what happened, nobody was going to squeal on the king.

But David did respond. In fact, he comes up with a sure fire plan to fix the situation. David sends for Uriah and tries everything possible to get him to go home to his wife and have sex with her. Uriah, however, is more honorable than David and he refuses. In fact, Uriah tells David in verse 11, “Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life an the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”

I’m not sure if Uriah was purposefully trying to guilt David or if he was just very passionate about right and wrong, but either way, I’m sure David couldn’t miss the implied criticism because David WAS eating and drinking and having sex – just not with his own wife.

Then David tried to get Uriah drunk and he still couldn’t get Uriah to go home. So, David sends word to Joab to put Uriah in the front of the battle and then withdraw. The plan works and Uriah dies in battle.

We get a hint of Bathsheba’s feelings in verse 26 because it says that when she heard of her husband’s death, she mourned him. Once her time of mourning was done, David married her.

Time passes and Bathsheba gives birth to a son. More time passes, but it’s been over a year since all this took place. God has had enough and sends the prophet Nathan to David. Nathan tells David a story about a man who had one lamb and a rich man that had herds of sheep and lambs. However, when someone comes over for dinner, he takes the poor man’s one lamb and kills it and eats it.

David is incensed. That’s when Nathan points his long, bony finger at David and says, “That man is you!”

At this point, David knows the jig is up. Who knows? Maybe he is relieved not to carry his guilty, shameful secret around anymore. He repents.

It’s interesting to note that the victim in the story is the lamb. God sets the sin squarely on David’s shoulders. Nowhere does it say that Bathsheba was at fault. Bathsheba suffers again because the son she conceived with David dies as a punishment for David’s sin. I can’t explain why God chose to do that, but He did.

The interesting thing about this story is that it has a twist at the end. Under the circumstances, you would think that Bathsheba would despise David. First, he forced himself on her and then he killed her husband to cover up his sin. Now her child dies as punishment for what David did.

Yet, if you look through the rest of the story, it’s clear that Bathsheba was one of David’s favorite wives, and they went on to have four sons together. One of those sons was Solomon.

Even though everyone would have been counting the number of months between Bathsheba and David’s hasty marriage and the birth of the baby and come up short, Bathsheba commanded respect.

In I Kings 1, the prophet Nathan goes to her to get her help in preventing an overthrow. David grants her request that Solomon succeed him on the throne. Her son Solomon held her in high regard. It is Jewish tradition that Bathsheba recited Proverbs 31 to Solomon at his first marriage. Bathsheba is also part of the lineage of Jesus.

Despite their very rough start, it seems David and Bathsheba had a relationship. It says after their first child died, he comforted her – a far cry to the way he treated her in the beginning as nothing more than an object to satisfy his lust.

The story of Bathsheba is kind of a hard one for me to wrap my mind around. I mean, obviously, there are some important lessons we can learn from David on what NOT to do. There were clearly several key points he could have changed his mind.

But what can we learn from Bathsheba? I mean, in the whole story, we don’t really hear her speak at all. In fact, we now little of her feelings, except that she mourned when her husband died and she was distraught when her child died. What happened to Bathsheba was not only unfair, but also tragic.

Did she curse being beautiful? Did she hate David at all? These questions and more whirl around in my mind whenever I read this story.

But there are a couple of things I can take away from this story. First, you don’t have to act like a victim even if you are one. Bathsheba in many ways was a victim to the people around her, but despite the circumstances, she didn’t stay a victim. It’s rather obvious as we see the rest of her story unfold, that she was not only beautiful but strong and smart, as well. Living with the other wives had to be tricky at best, yet she did it successfully. And she commanded the respect of those around her, including the prophet Nathan who didn’t strike me as easy to impress.

The other thing I think we can learn from this is that God can take something ugly like rape and murder and bring something good out of. I don’t mean that David was justified at all, but God transformed Bathsheba and David’s relationship into something good. It could have been very ugly but it wasn’t. Only God can do that, but I hope this story gives women hope that nobody’s story is so damaged or broken or ugly that God can’t transform it too.

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 11 – Abigail

We find the story of Abigail in I Samuel 25:2. In verse 3, we meet Abigail and her husband Nabal. “Now the man’s name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was intelligent and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite.”

The first thing the Bible tells us about Abigail was not just that she was beautiful, but that she was intelligent. What we know about her husband was that he was very rich (vs. 2) and that he was harsh and evil in his dealings. It’s also interesting to note that Nabal’s name actually means fool. I’m not sure if he was given that name at birth, but it was an apt description of the man Abigail was saddled with for life.

The story opens during sheep shearing. This was always a time of celebration. David and his men had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds out in the fields, so when shearing time came, David sent several of his young men to ask for some of the feast. This was a well-known custom at the time. Most landowners would have graciously given David and his men food and wine, but not Nabal.

Instead, Nabal basically insults David. When the young men come back to tell David what Nabal said David tells his men to strap on their swords – they were going to avenge themselves against Nabal and his entire household.

In verse 14, one of the young shepherds goes to find Abigail and tells her what has happened. He tells her that David and his men had treated them well and had given them protection, but Nabal had basically insulted them. Now, David and his men were going to hold Nabal and the entire household accountable for Nabal’s words.

The shepherd’s words in verse 17 gives a good picture what the people in Nabal’s household thought of not only Nabal but also Abigail. “Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.”

Abigail, who is well-acquainted with her husband’s character, springs into action. She gathers up loaves of bread, prepared sheep and jugs of wine. She sends her men out in front and follows behind on a donkey. She intercepts David on the path. David is talking to his men and tells them they are going to kill every male on Nabal’s lands.

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Abigail, as soon as she sees David on the path in front of her, immediately throws herself at his feet and begs his forgiveness. She draws a word picture of her husband in verse 25, “Please do not let my lord, pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.”

Then she talks about how God has restrained David’s hand from revenge, and then she goes on to say how God is going to bless and protect David and that when God does make him ruler, David will be so glad he did not shed blood or take revenge. She lays it on pretty thick between verses 25 and 31.

Basically, she draws a sharp distinction between the two men with David coming out the better guy and Nabal being the fool. She presents him with her gifts and David accepts. I’m sure it helped that Abigail was beautiful.

When Abigail gets back, her husband is drunk and carousing, so she doesn’t tell him what happened until the next morning, where upon, he promptly has a stroke and goes into a coma for 10 days before the Lord takes his life.

David, hearing this, sends a proposal of marriage to Abigail. She accepts and rides right out and becomes his wife.

We can learn a lot from Abigail. For me, the words that come to mind when I think of Abigail are strong, wise, brave and gracious. It is obvious that she commands the respect of the servants in the household. They come to HER to solve the problem because they know Nabal is too foolish to listen.

She has obviously proved that she is good in a crisis, (let’s face it – there were probably quite a few with old Nabal around), because they are looking to her for a solution to the problem of imminent annihilation to all the male population in the household.

Abigail shows bravery because she acts even though, based on his past actions, there is no guarantee that Nabal isn’t going to make her regret it after the fact.

She also shows a lot of wisdom, not only in coming up with the solution, but how she confronts David. She doesn’t come out with guns blazing. Instead, she shows great humility and reminds him of God’s hand on David’s life. She gently commends him for clear thinking when it is obvious that anger is driving David’s actions.

Abigail’s quick thinking saved her household from destruction. Her graciousness gained her David for a husband in the end.

Her difficult marriage (how easy could it be to be married to a fool when that fool had complete control over your life?) did not grind Abigail down. Instead, it made her strong and capable.

While I’m sure there are some people out there who poo-poo the fact that Abigail acted against her husband’s wishes, she actually showed herself to be a true helpmate. The word helpmate is the word “ezer” which means to help or succor. This is the SAME name given to the Holy Spirit when He is called our helper. Abigail acted in the best interests of not only her husband but also her entire household.

David praises Abigail in verses 32-34, for her discernment and recognizes that her carefully chosen words kept David from shedding blood. He is grateful for her intervention.

I think Abigail is an interesting case study of how we can behave when dealing with difficult people. The first thing is do so in humility. Abigail literally prostrated herself at David’s feet. She did not storm up and tell him what was what. She didn’t whine or cry. She was humble.

The second thing Abigail did is that she pointed David back to God and His promises and she reminded David of the man he could be, not the angry, vengeful man he was at that moment. Likewise, we can point people back to God and remind them of who GOD says she or he is.

Finally, we can be brave. It takes courage to be proactive. It’s easier to just react rather than choose our actions and words wisely. Abigail didn’t panic and just react. She had a plan and put it into action quickly. She headed David off before he ever arrived at the house, panting for revenge. Often, if we are proactive, we can head off a conflict before it blows up into something bigger and uglier.

 

I don’t know about you, but when those difficult people and situations come into my life, I want to be more like Abigail!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Day 10 – Michal

The next group of women we are going to look at are a few of the women in David’s life. All three – Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba – were wives of David. David actually had quite a few wives, and while some people will point to men like David having multiple wives as evidence that God was okay with that, if you read these stories closely, they never end very well. While God allowed these men to make mistakes, the stories make it clear this was NOT God’s ideal.

Today we are going to talk about Michal. She was the youngest daughter of King Saul in the Bible. She was also David’s first wife.

As I’ve studied the women in the Bible, I marvel at how utterly helpless women were in Biblical times. They had absolutely NO control over their own lives and were often used as pawns by the men in their lives – even the men who were supposed to protect them.

Michal is a prime example of this. We always hear about Michal and how she despises David for worshiping with abandon in the streets of the city. She is portrayed as a bitter woman – too uptight and prudish for empathy.

But when you dig into her story a little more, it’s a wonder that the only thing she jabbed at David with was her words. (personally, I would have been using something a little more pointy that would cause a little more collateral damage.

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It all starts when David is still playing music for King Saul. This is right around the time that the popular little ditty “Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed ten thousands” gained in popularity. Saul was not tapping his foot to the latest hit song – instead, he was overcome with jealousy toward David.

He offered David his oldest daughter Merab, if David would go fight against the Philistines. Saul’s hope was that in all that fighting David would come to an untimely and messy end. However, that didn’t happen. God was with David and he was victorious.

When it came time to claim Merab, David refused because he felt like he didn’t deserve to be the king’s son-in-law (or maybe he just didn’t want to marry into the family of a crazy man).

Then came Michal. In I Samuel 18:20 it says, “Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David, When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him.” This is the only time in the Bible that it says that a woman loved a man. Obviously, she was in pretty deep -she was probably singing Israel’s version of the top 40 song dreamily around the palace.

Before you think that Saul was just an indulgent papa, the dowry he required of David was 100 Philistine foreskins. As you might imagine, the Philistines were not going to part with these willingly. (yuck!) Saul was using his daughter’s love for David in the hopes that in the process of obtaining these foreskins (I really, really don’t want to know how David pulled this off, btw), he would die, and Saul could be rid of him. Never mind that his daughter loved David and would have been crushed if he had died obtaining the dowry to marry her. That’s the kind of thing that could give you some serious baggage.

But, of course, David was successful. At this point, Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best bud and his daughter Michal loved David which made Saul afraid of David, What was the outcome of that fear? It says in verse 29, “Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually.”

So, Michal and David marry. David continued to go in and play his music for Saul, but one day, Saul threw his spear at David with the intention of nailing the young man to the wall (and this wasn’t the first time either!). Talk about a difficult father-in-law! Michal gets wind that Saul is sending men to kill David so she helps him escape.

Instead of running with him, she stays behind to buy him more time. She puts a house idol into the bed and covers it with goat hair so that the soldiers are fooled and believe her when she tells them David is in bed, sick. Saul sends the soldiers back to haul David out of bed, but when they find that David is gone, they drag Michal to the palace instead.

Saul is angry that his daughter has chosen David over him. Thinking quickly, Michal tells him that David threatened to kill her if she didn’t help him – getting herself off the hook.

Then, she waits. Surely, she thought, David would send for her. But he didn’t. Several years went by and still she waited. Then she got the bitter news that David had married not one wife, but two!

At this point, her father Saul gives her to another man – Paltiel. Just like that, she was no longer David’s wife but Paltiel’s. While this seemed rather arbitrary, after all that happened, it’s unclear at this point if Michal still loved David or not. At least two years had gone by since she had last seen him, and he had married two other women.

Whatever Michal’s thoughts were at the beginning of the marriage, Paltiel was happy with his new bride. We don’t hear anything more about Michal until much later. As many as ten years had passed (maybe more as the timeline is a little hard to pinpoint).

Now Saul has died and David is large and in charge. In II Samuel 3:13, David tells Abner (with whom he was making a covenant) that he wouldn’t talk to him unless Abner returned Michal to him.

Let’s get real here – nowhere does it say that David loved Michal. This was not sweethearts reuniting. This was about using Michal, who was the previous king’s daughter, to help establish his authority. It was also a little bit about throwing his newly acquired power around, too.

While David was a man after God’s own heart and he did a lot of great things, he was kind of a hound dog when it came to women. The man had a lot of wives, and then there was that whole thing with Bathsheba. Like his son after him, David’s Achilles’ heel was women.

Poor Michal. All the men in her life, including David, treated Michal pretty shamefully – all except Paltiel. And now she is losing him.

First, Saul tries to use her love to get David killed. Then, David leaves her hanging for years at the mercy of her father while he is on the run, marrying women left and right; then her father gives her to some other guy.

After she finally settles in and is presumably contentedly, and even happily, married, David comes along again and turns her life completely upside down.

We find a tender and sad description of what happened in 2 Samuel 3:15,16, “Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping as he went, and followed her as far Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, ‘Go return.’ So, he returned.”

Whether she loved him or not, Michal is not happy to be back with David. The last time we see Michal is in her confrontation with David.

David, in abandoned worship, was dancing wildly in the streets as the ark is returned. Michal confronts David afterwards and basically tells him he was making a big display of himself.

This sounds like Michal was being nit picky, but if you really understand what took place, Michal’s objections aren’t as bad as they seem at first glance.

David was wearing a linen ephod – this was a garment that resembled Tarzan’s loincloth. And like a kilt, men didn’t wear anything under this ephod. So, when David is dancing with all of his might in the street, he was also flashing the entire crowd – specifically the young servant girls.

Michal accuses David of doing this to gain the admiring attention of the servant girls. David shoots back that God chose him, NOT her father as king and he’d rather have the admiration of the servant girls than hers.

OUCH!

The last verse tells us the Michal had no children ever. Some have seen this as judgment from God for her harsh words to David. However, there is no phrase of God closing her womb. To me, it is a sad statement of fact on a life that is consumed by bitterness.

The thing is, in her final confrontation (that is recorded anyway) with David, you can almost hear Michal’s anger and bitterness spilling out of her mouth. David’s undignified behavior is the last straw for her. She’s had it!

And you know, Michal really had every right to be bitter.

The thing is, though, just because you have every right to be bitter, it doesn’t mean you have to be.

God calls us to forgive those to hurt us – even if they never acknowledge that hurt or ask for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is really not about the other person anyway – it’s about us. God knows that if we allow unforgiveness to fester, it turns into bitterness that eats away at us from the inside out.

Forgiveness does NOT mean we act like we have not been hurt or what the other person did was okay. In fact, you can’t really forgive until you acknowledge the hurt and grieve if you need to.

It’s only then that you can turn over the consequences of that to God – to relinquish your right to be right. It’s easy to say, but not always easy to do. However, it IS a choice. If we wait until we feel like being forgiving, it probably won’t happen. Instead, we need to make the choice and then drag our feelings (usually kicking and screaming) into line with that choice.

But we can trust God to take care of things. He IS the perfect judge – just the right blend of mercy and justice.

Once we do that, only then can God move in to heal our hurts and make us whole again. Sometimes, because the actions of others cause multiple consequences, we may have to choose to forgive every time we run up against one of those consequences. In some cases, this might mean you have to make the choice to forgive on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how Michal’s years on this earth ended. We don’t know if she died clutching her bitterness tightly to her or if she made the choice to forgive.

But we can learn from what we do read that while it’s hard and may not feel fair, forgiveness is the only cure for bitterness.

Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? Have you allowed bitterness to take root in your heart? God doesn’t expect you to do this all alone. He is just waiting to help you.

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 9 – Miriam

Since we are learning about the women in Moses’ life, the series would not be complete without a closer look at Miriam, Moses’ sister. I honestly didn’t know much about Miriam except the basics, but as I looked closely at her life, I not only learned a lot I didn’t know, but I was deeply convicted, as well.

The first time we meet Miriam, she is standing on the banks of the Nile, waiting to see what happens to her baby brother Moses after her mother had placed him in his little basket and floated him onto the river.

According to several places that I looked, Miriam would have been between 7 to 9 years old at this time. It appears, she took it upon herself to wait there on the banks of the river to see what her baby brother’s fate was that day.

It was her own quick thinking and courage that landed Moses his own mother as his nursemaid, too. You have to admire her ability to think on her feet and her bravery. It’s not often a young slave girl has the guts to approach the king’s daughter, but Miriam didn’t appear to hesitate.

The second time we see her, it’s many years later. Moses has just led the Israelites through the Red Sea. The Egyptians are nowhere to seen as the walls of water have washed down on them with deadly intent. Miriam, described here as a prophetess, leads the women in a song of worship.

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Throughout the time in the wilderness, it seems that Miriam is a spiritual leader – one of the inner circle of Moses.

Yet, in Numbers 12, a darker, uglier side of Miriam emerges. In the previous chapter, God tells Moses to pick out 70 elders to help him in the administrative aspects of leading Israel. After all, that was a lot of people for one man to deal with. God rightly advised Moses that he needed a little help from his friends. Apparently, Moses didn’t consult Miriam or Aaron in his choices and that really chapped Miriam’s hide.

In Numbers 12:1, we read, “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman).”

When I was growing up and heard this story, I was always taught that Moses’ first wife, Zipporah had died, and Moses had married a woman from Ethiopia. But, according to several commentaries I looked at, Miriam could actually be referring to Zipporah here, too. Whoever the Cushite woman was, the real problem wasn’t this woman.

No, the real reason for Miriam’s sharp and critical tongue is found in the next verse, “and they said, Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?”

This was the real problem – Miriam felt like Moses had monopolized things long enough. Wasn’t she as good as Moses? Didn’t God speak through her and Aaron too? Just who did Moses think he was – choosing those elders without a by-your-leave?

It’s clear from Miriam’s name being first and the consequences she suffered, that she was the instigator in this. She brought this up and dragged Aaron right along with her.

I don’t know if resentment and jealousy had been simmering for a long time or if she just had PMS. After all, Miriam had watched as first Moses was brought up in the luxury of the palace. Then, despite his inability to speak without stuttering and his hesitancy, he faced down Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Miriam had to wait at the foot of the mountain while Moses went up to get the Ten Commandments. Yes, she was used by God, but Moses always seemed to be one step ahead and one step closer to God’s inner circle.

However long things had been building, the elders pushed Miriam over the edge. She finally gave voice to the thoughts that had been in her mind.

Verse two and three says, “And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)”

You’ll notice there is nothing about Miriam being humble in those verses.

God ends up calling all three – Moses, Aaron and Miriam – into the tent of meeting. He makes it very clear that while they may be used by God, Moses was the one God talked to and showed Himself to – NOT them. When His presence left, Miriam was covered with leprosy.

It’s interesting that the comparison game that had eaten away at her inside, causing resentment, jealousy and anger to bloom, had been hidden; but the leprosy, the disease that caused her outward body to be eaten away, was visible to all.

Aaron is horrified, as is Moses. Aaron begs Moses to forgive them both (my guess is Miriam might have been speechless with horror at this point), and Moses immediately begs God to heal his sister. God says He will but only after she has been shut away for seven days. It couldn’t be kept a secret – all the camp would know that Miriam had been punished by God.

The thing is, we can point our fingers all we want, but how many of us have played the comparison game in some way or other? How many of us have felt that ugly twinge of jealousy or resentment when someone, even a friend or loved one, tells us of their good fortune? How many of us  have let ugly, critical words spill out about someone – maybe in the guise of a prayer request or “just being honest”?

When we compare ourselves to others, we hurt not only ourselves but our relationships, as well. You can’t truly rejoice with someone if you are secretly resentful that they got the blessing and you didn’t.

You can’t be in true community with others if your comparisons cause your insecurities to come flaring to life, making you defensive and critical of others.

Let’s face it, when we compare ourselves, our lives and our blessings with other people, it’s all too easy to start to feel jealous and resentful. That’s because we are comparing our insides with their outsides. What looks picture perfect from the outside often has a hidden story we know nothing about. This type of comparison leads us to look for the negative – because that just justifies our feelings doesn’t it?

But the only comparison God holds up to us is Jesus.

We cheat ourselves of community and fellowship when we engage in the old comparison game. Miriam reminded me that I need to be intentionally thankful for the blessings and opportunities God has given me.

It also reminded me that playing the comparison games shows a lack of trust in God’s plan for me. I don’t normally have issues with envying other people their stuff. I don’t want a bigger house because then I’d have to clean it, and the new and shiny doesn’t really hold a lot of allure for me.

BUT, I can find that little seed of envy or resentment start to poke its head up when people get opportunities or their work seems to be taking off while it feels like I’m still stuck or spinning my wheels.

This is when I need to stop looking around me and look up at God because He has a plan and that plan happens on HIS timetable – not mine.

There are not a limited number of opportunities available. If someone else gets an awesome opportunity, that doesn’t mean that that is one less for me. If someone has a great success and I still feel like I haven’t even started yet, that just means we are at different places on the path God has put us on. It means that God is working out His purpose in my life and the other person’s life.

The Bible tells us we have a storehouse of blessings God is waiting to give us. It tells us He has a plan and purpose for each of us. God has my back, so I do not need to keep looking over my shoulder at what others do and don’t have in any area of life.

Finally, and here is the rub, if I realize that God’s glory is the ultimate reason for my existence, it sort of takes the wind out of the sails of jealousy and envy. After all, those things are rooted in a selfishness that can’t share room with truly seeking after God’s glory and His name being proclaimed.

Miriam forgot that it wasn’t about her or even Moses being top dog. It was about God’s glory all along.

Are you playing the comparison game? Is there a seed of jealousy or resentment you need to root out of your life? God does have a plan for your life, but you’ll remain stuck until you stop looking around at everyone else and start looking up at God.

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 8 – Pharaoh’s Daughter

There are only six short verses that talk about Pharaoh’s daughter. It’s not clear how much time has gone by since Jochabed had put her tiny son afloat on the Nile, but Pharaoh’s daughter’s decision to come down on that day, at that time, to bathe, changed a lot of lives.

Since nobody is completely sure which Pharaoh was in power at the this time, it makes it hard to know what this woman’s name is. We don’t know if she was married or if she had any biological children of her own.

We do know that the little basket in the reeds caught her eye, and Exodus 2:5 says that she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to go get the basket.

We also know that Pharaoh’s daughter had not inherited her father’s hard heart because when she opened the basket and saw little Moses wailing, she had pity on him. She immediately recognized him as a Hebrew child. Although she lived in the palace, it is unclear if she knew that her father had passed a death sentence on all the baby boys.

While she is gazing at this tiny infant squalling in a homemade basket boat, Moses’ big sister Miriam ran up and made the Pharaoh’s daughter an offer she couldn’t refuse – I have just the nurse maid for you. Maybe Miriam saw the indecision on the Pharaoh’s daughter’s face and hurried to make an offer that forced the princess to make a decision.

Pebble stack

It’s unclear if the princess knew to whom she was entrusting this infant, but my guess is that she guessed Jochabed was really Moses’ mother. I”m not sure if Jochabed could have concealed her joy at not only her son being alive but having him back in her arms, even for a little while. The Pharaoh’s daughter gave no inclination if she did know. She just acted like Jochabed would be doing her a favor by nursing her adopted son, and she was going to pay Jochabed for performing that job.

When the child was weaned, which would have been between the ages of 3 and 4 years old, it says that after Jochabed brought Moses back, and he became Pharaoh’s daughter. He was brought up as a prince in the Pharaoh’s palace. It also says that the princess names Moses. In the very next verse, Moses is all grown up. This is one of those times I wish Scripture had given a few more details. What was it like to grow up in the palace? Did Moses get along with his siblings? Did he have siblings? Did he call Pharaoh Grandpa?

Despite the few verses where Pharaoh’s daughter appears, we can learn a lot from her. First, she was aware enough to see the basket, and when she saw it, she didn’t just shrug and go on her way wondering about it. She investigated further.

She was brave enough to open the basket to see what or who was in it. She didn’t just look inside the basket, but she felt pity for the baby inside. She let the fate of an unknown baby engage her emotions, and finally, she didn’t just feel pity but she did something about it. It would have been easier to just put the little basket back into the river. It would have been easier not to be bothered, not to arrange for a woman who was probably the baby’s mother to care for him, not to have to explain the baby to her father.

There are so many people in need in our world that it can become a buzz of voices that just sort of bounces off our consciousness. We squint our eyes to blur the faces so we don’t have to see them all. Even if one of those needs catch our eye, we often turn away because it seems overwhelming. I mean what can one person do, after all? It’s much easier to not let our hearts get involved because they might break.

And even if we do allow ourselves to feel for these needs – we may allow ourselves to cry but that is the end of any action we take. The Pharaoh’s daughter stepped out of the comfort and ease of palace living and got her hands dirty opening that basket. She may have been one of the only people who could truly make a difference in Moses’ life and his mother’s.

While we can’t save the world or support every orphan or visit every widow or even pray for every need, we can do something. We can support one orphan or we can spend time with one widow or we can listen and pray for one person. We can risk our hearts by caring and then acting.

God doesn’t ask us to save everyone. He only asks us to care about those He brings in our path or to our attention. We all have a sphere of influence, one tht is unique to us. But we have to be willing to be aware and be looking. We have to be brave enough to get closer and really look at who He brings to our attention. And we need to be willing to not just feel badly for somebody but to actually inconvenience ourselves and do something about it.

Who or what has God been bringing to your attention lately? Are you willing to step out and act? Are you willing to be like Pharaoh’s daughter?

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 7 – Jochabed, Moses’ Mother

We stopped yesterday at the end of Exodus 1 which ends with this ominous verse, “The Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile and every daughter you are to keep alive.”

In chapter 2, we meet Jochabed, Moses’ mother, for the first time. She is only mentioned in a few verses, and every time I read this story, I am struck by not what WAS said, but what isn’t.

The first thing we find out about her is that she and her husband are both from the tribe of Levi which means Moses was a direct descendant of Leah.

I love verse 2. It says, “The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.”

Before I had children myself, I thought this meant that Moses was just a really beautiful baby. After having kids, though, I realized that it’s pretty normal for mothers to think their babies are gorgeous. I mean, my son Brock had a major cone head, was all wrinkled and smushed, but I thought he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Digital Visualization of a Moonset

Jochabed took one look at little Moses and couldn’t bear the thought of him being thrown in the Nile, so she did the only thing she could do – hide him.

Of course, the inevitable happened. After about 3 to 5 months, he got too big and made too much noise to be hidden anymore. Jochabed decided not to wait until someone heard the baby cry and rip him from her arms. In verse 3 it says, “But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.”

There is so much not said in these verses. What went into the basket with Moses? How hard was it for her to set that basket in the Nile and walk away? Did she look back or did she walk quickly away, blinded by the falling tears? Did she know that the Pharaoh’s daughter bathed near there? Did she walk away with any hope or did despair smother her?

The Nile River was a dangerous place full of large crocodiles, rushing water and a myriad of things that could be fatal to Moses, but Jochabed had no choice. She could either put her baby in the Nile with the little bit of protection she could provide or she risked someone else taking him from her and throwing him in with absolutely no chance of survival. It was a heartbreaking choice.

Yet, God used Pharaoh’s daughter to save Moses, and Jochabed did get to have Moses back serving as his “nurse” AND get wages as well. Of course, Jochabed had to say good-bye to Moses a second time when he was weaned and she had to return him to the palace. I’m sure that was terribly difficult, too. I’m sure she worried about what he would encounter in the palace and if he would even remember her.

I heard the story of Moses in the basket in the river a million times when I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I was older and studying the life of Moses that his mom’s story stood out to me.

There aren’t very many verses in the story of Jochabed and yet there is a world of emotions tied up in those few words. As she set that little basket in the river, Jochabed had to trust God completely with her son. She had to let him go and walk away.

From Jochabed, I think we learn that when we entrust things completely to God, He does take care of us. I’m sure when Jochabed put that basket in the river, she could not have foreseen the Princess asking her to be her own child’s nursemaid and getting paid to do it. God not only took care of Moses but He blessed Jochabed with more time with her son.

While I doubt I will ever need to put either of my sons in a basket and float them down a river (they’d be a bit large anyway), I AM asked to entrust them to God.

In fact, there is probably something God is asking you to trust Him with completely. What is He asking you to turn completely over to Him, to leave in His hands and walk away from?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Day 6 – Shiphrah and Puah

Today, we are leaving behind the Matriarchs and jumping forward several centuries and meeting some of the women in Moses life. We will be talking about some women with whom you are probably very familiar. Women like Moses mother Jochabed who made a little reed basket and placed him in the Nile or Pharaoh’s daughter who scooped him up out of the same river. But I bet you probably have never really met Shiphrah and Puah.

In Exodus 1:15, we are introduced to these two women who were midwives. To be honest, I’m rather glad these names aren’t still in vogue, especially Puah.

The name Shiphrah means “fair one,” and the name Puah means simply “girl.” (Apparently, Puah’s parents weren’t very creative) We can pull out two facts from this verse about these two women. The first fact is that they were Hebrew midwives, and the second is that they were on speaking terms with the Pharaoh.

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To really understand all this, we have to go back to the Egyptian culture of that time. Midwives, unlike today, were held in very high regard. Fertility and childbirth in that time were very important and large families were prized. Midwives had high standing in society which may explain why the Pharaoh talked to them personally, and why they felt comfortable responding back to him.

There were three levels of midwives with the most basic level having technical proficiency, the middle level having read texts on childbirth and the highest level being highly trained and considered medical specialists. These were women who had an important place in their society, and they needed to be strong, smart and skilled.

The level of medicinal practice in Egypt was quite advanced, especially compared to some other ancient cultures. Women gave birth on a birthing stool. The baby passed through the opening in the stool into the midwife’s hand. The midwife was the one who helped a woman give birth and then tended the baby once it was born before the mother saw her little one.

In verse 16, we find out why the Pharaoh called in Shiphrah and Puah. Scared by the population rate among the Hebrews, he came up with a plan. He told the midwives that if a Hebrew woman gave birth to a boy, they were to kill it. His plan was sinister in its simplicity – without boys, eventually the Hebrew population explosion would slow down and the Pharaoh wouldn’t be losing any of his adult workers now.

In Egyptian religion, infanticide or the killing of an infant was strictly forbidden. So how did the Pharaoh get around this not so minor complication in his devious plan? Well, while infanticide was forbidden, allowing a newborn to die wasn’t. The midwife was the one who made the crucial call of whether a newborn was healthy and fit. If the baby was deemed unhealthy or unfit for some reason, the midwife could “expose” the baby. This simply means the child was left out in the elements to die. The sad truth is the devaluation of life is not a new thing at all.

I’m not sure what the midwives replied to the Pharaoh after they were given this outrageous command, but in verse 17, we find out not only what they did but why they did it: “But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” The first five words of that verse tell the story here.  They feared God rather than man, even if that man was the Pharaoh.

It is so easy for us, in our democratic society where the worst that can happen to you for speaking out or doing the right thing is being ridiculed or perhaps being dismissed from a job, to miss the significance of what these women did. Not only did they defy the most powerful person in the known world, but they also did it with a subtle insult thrown in for good measure. You’ve gotta love these two women! The fact that they were skilled midwives helped their positions somewhat, but the hard truth was that the Pharaoh could have had them killed with a snap of his fingers and nobody would have blinked an eye.

Some time passes between verses 17 and 18, and the Pharaoh notices that baby boys were still being born right and left, so he calls in Shiphrah and Puah to find out what is going on. The Pharaoh doesn’t beat around the bush and directly asks them in verse 18 why they are allowing the baby boys to live instead of getting rid of them.

Their answer to him is priceless. It’s one of those places in Scripture where I always chuckle to myself. The midwives tell Pharaoh in verse 19, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.”

On the surface, we can get a bit of a laugh from this verse because it basically sounds like the midwives were calling all the Egyptian women wimps. However, in Egyptian culture, fragility was prized, so the midwives response was wily. Yes, they had said the Hebrew women were stronger or more “vigorous,” but what could the Pharaoh take offense at when delicate, fragile women were prized? Still I’m sure the Pharaoh was left scratching his head and thinking that somehow, he hadn’t come out on top with his encounter with the midwives.

There is some argument as to whether the midwives lied to the Pharaoh or not, but it is just as plausible that the midwives may have truly encountered quick labors among the Hebrew women since God was blessing the women and children born to them.

It’s interesting that there is no more mention of the Pharaoh trying to make the midwives kill baby boys. Instead, in verse 22, he gives the order directly to the people. “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive’.”

Meanwhile, God took notice of the faithfulness of Shiphrah and Puah. In fact, God did two things for them. He increased their business and He established households for them. In verse 20, it says, “So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very mighty.” In other words, business was brisk.

In verse 21, God rewards the midwives and gives the reason for it. “Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.”

In the end, the midwives who had preserved the households of the Hebrews at great peril to themselves were rewarded by God establishing households for them.

There are several lessons in this passage that we need to look at. In the few verses that tell the story of Shiphrah and Puah, the words, “because they feared the Lord” are used two times and answer the question “why?” both times. The first time, the words explain why the midwives didn’t do as the Pharaoh commanded, and the second time they answer why God rewarded them. In our culture, the idea of truly “fearing” God doesn’t sit very well. Somehow, the idea that God could strike fear in anyone’s heart doesn’t line up with our warm, fuzzy idea of the God of love.

However, the Hebrew word used in these verses is yare which means “to fear, to revere, to be afraid.” In the Old Testament this word is used 402 times in 373 verses and in the vast majority, the word fear means just that – fear.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 1:7a, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Throughout Scripture over and over it says that wisdom and knowledge come from the fear of the Lord.

In fact, there is a whole list of benefits to fearing the Lord besides wisdom and knowledge. In Psalms 34:7, 9 it says God’s angels camp around those who fear Him and that they have no want. In Proverbs 1:7 it says fearing the Lord gives you strong confidence.

The second thing we can learn is that God uses people in all kinds of jobs and environments. So many times, it seems Christians look at those in “holy” work and those who aren’t. In other words, if you are in “full time ministry,” it can seem your job is more spiritual than someone who, say, teaches school or works in an office. But the truth is God can use you right where you are as the story of Shiphrah and Puah demonstrates.

Personally, I believe that we compartmentalize our relationship with God – He belongs at church but not the office; He shows up at prayer group, but not while sitting up with a sick child. The truth is the Holy Spirit dwells within us making us a portable temple. God’s presence should permeate our lives – not be designated to certain spaces.

Jean Fleming has this great quote in her book Focus in the Whirlwind. “To add Christ to an already busy life is to complicate living; to allow Christ to absorb all the elements of our life is to simplify it.”

How is God using you right where you are at? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 5 – Rachael, Never Enough

While Leah longed for her husband Jacob to love her, Rachel just longed for more. Throughout the account of her life, it seems that Rachel was never satisfied with what she had.

Numerous times in the Genesis account of Jacob and his wives, it states that Jacob loved Rachel.

It never says Rachel loved Jacob, though.

Rachel grew up as the beauty of the family. Jacob married her only a week after her older sister Leah and then worked seven MORE years for her.

So, Rachel had beauty. She had Jacob’s love, but it wasn’t enough for her. Leah was having baby after baby, but Rachel’s arms were empty.

While I am sympathetic to Rachel’s desire for children, her longing to be a mother wasn’t the only reason she wanted a baby. In Genesis 30:1 t says,”Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister.”

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In other words, Rachel wanted children, but her reason wasn’t just to have a baby of her own. Her purpose was to one up her sister – you know, her sister whose husband didn’t love her. The sister whose husband Rachel had married barely a week after Leah had gotten married.

She goes to Jacob and says, “Give me children, lest I die.” Dramatic much?

Jacob gets understandably angry. What she is asking is beyond his capability – I’m sure he was doing his part, but he rightly says that only GOD can give children. It’s the only time it states that Jacob was angry at Rachel.

In her desire to have children – and remember that children gave a woman status and Rachel was feeling her lack of status due to her barrenness rather keenly – she gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob.

We get a deeper glimpse of Rachel’s character in the names she gives the two sons that Bilhah bears. The first one she names Dan which means vindication, and the second son she names Naphatali which means wrestling. She says, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and I have indeed prevailed.”

There was a whole lot more going on than just longing for a baby. No, Leah had something that she didn’t have, and Rachel couldn’t rest until she had a few children of her own, too.

Then comes that bizarre mandrake story again. She trades sexual intimacy with her husband to Leah for mandrakes in the hopes of becoming pregnant. It’s fairly obvious that she holds her husbands love lightly. I can assure you, that if Rachel had truly loved Jacob, she would not have made that deal.

It’s not until Leah has two more children that Rachel finally has her first son, Joseph.

Even then, she is not content. Joseph means, “Jehovah has added.” In the verse, she says, “May the Lord give me another son.” She has one son, but that still isn’t enough. She wants more. She wants to compete with Leah who by this time has had 6 sons and a daughter.

As I’ve said before, how many children a woman had, especially the number of sons, gave a woman status. Not only did Rachel have no children, but she was also the second wife. It seems Rachel felt that lack of status keenly. It made her very insecure, so despite Jacob’s love, that insecurity drove Rachel’s actions.

As Beth Moore said in a recent conference I attended, “You can’t love away someone’s insecurity because insecurity pokes a hole in a person’s heart.”

Despite the love Jacob poured into Rachel’s heart, that hole of insecurity ensured that it ran out and her heart was never satisfied.

Rachel looked at having more children as the Holy Grail of finally feeling secure, as the way of achieving the same status as her sister Leah; however, her words at the beginning of Genesis 30 proved to be prophetic. She died giving birth to her second son, whom she called Ben-oni which means son of sorrow, but Jacob renamed him Benjamin which means son of my right hand (a little better handle than son of my sorrow).

While God did great things through Joseph, Rachel never saw it.

Rachel had many blessings in her life, but she was never happy with what she had. She spent of her life wanting what she didn’t have. It affected her relationship with her husband, with her sister and ended up literally being the death of her because eventually, Rachel did die. In childbirth. Her drive to even the score between herself and her sister Leah by having more children killed her.

It wasn’t enough for her that she held her husband’s heart; it appears she didn’t want Leah to have any advantages over her.

While it’s easy for me to point my finger and shake my head in disapproval, how many times do I want what I don’t have? How many times do I allow discontent to creep into my life? Discontent can become such a habit, it can color my whole world if I’m not careful. I’ll not even be aware of how negative I’ve become until suddenly, I’ll really hear what’s coming out of my mouth and wince.

And let’s be honest, sometimes, circumstances in our lives are hard and we have to be very intentionally grateful. We have to make it a point to praise the Lord and to be thankful.

Think how different Rachel’s life could have been, if she had been thankful for Joseph, if she had been thankful for her husband’s love, if she had been thankful she had a sister right next to her to walk through life with. Instead, she spent her life longing for what she didn’t have.

Are you thankful or are you allowing discontent to rob you of your daily joy?

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 4 – Leah the Third Wheel

Anyone who says that the Bible is bland and boring has not read it lately – particularly the Old Testament. One story that would have made it onto Jerry Springer is the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah – the original love triangle. Throw in a couple concubines and things really get interesting.

In my previous post, I wrote about Rebekah who was the mother of Jacob, and if you remember, she sent him to her brother Laban under the pretext of finding a wife – although really, it was to let Esau cool down from his murderous rage.

When Jacob arrived at his Uncle Laban’s, one of the first people he saw was Rachel. She is described as being beautiful in face and form, and when Jacob saw her, he fell hard for his cousin.

He also had another cousin, Rachel’s older sister Leah. Leah is described as having weak eyes. There are a variety of explanations of what that means – anything from her being cross-eyes or near-sighted, to her having light eyes which were not considered beautiful in that culture. Whatever it means, her sister Rachel was considered the beauty in the family, and Jacob didn’t look twice at Leah.

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After he had been staying with Laban about a month, Laban offered him wages because Jacob had been working for free up to this point. Jacob offers to work 7 years to marry Rachel. The Bible says that he loved her so much, it only seemed like a few days to him.

When the seven years were up, Jacob immediately went to Laban. I imagine that Jacob had been marking off the days, and on the very one that his agreement was completed he sought out his uncle and demanded his wages – in other words Rachel.

Laban says “Sure thing,” and organizes a wedding feast. In those days, a wedding would go on for a week – full of food, wine and song. It was also the custom in those days to heavily veil the bride. So, Jacob weds his bride. They attend the feast where much wine was probably flowing – perhaps Jacob imbibed a little more than he should have.

In the morning, imagine Jacob’s shock when he realizes he spent his wedding night, not with Rachel, but with her older sister Leah. To say he was furious is a massive understatement. He demands of dear old Uncle Laban why he has tricked him. Laban answers quite calmly that the custom is to marry the older daughter first – probably shrugging his shoulders as if to say, what can you do?

As a side note – anybody else find the irony here interesting? Jacob tricks his dad that he’s Esau, and then Laban tricks Jacob by passing off his older daughter as the younger. While I feel sorry for Leah, I’m not quite as sympathetic toward Jacob. He sort of had it coming, kwim.

Laban tells Jacob to give Leah her marriage week and then he can marry Rachel – for which he has to work another seven years. So, within an eight day period, Jacob has two wives – one he had wanted and one he didn’t.

In Genesis 29, which records the whole story, it says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. It also says that God saw that Leah was unloved. In the Hebrew, the word unloved is sane and it actually means “to be hated.”

Apparently, Jacob didn’t hate Leah too much because she has four sons in quick succession. Each one reflects her desire to be loved by her husband. Their names and her thoughts on each occasion breaks my heart a little each time.

Her first son she named Reuben which means “behold a son.” In ancient culture, giving birth to a son conveyed a lot of status. For Leah, though, she hoped that by giving her husband a son, she could earn his love.

Her second son was named Simeon which means “heard.” She states that God saw that she was unloved and gave her a second son because of it.

Her third son is named Levi which means “joined to.” She has sort of given up on the idea of being loved, but she is hoping that having a third son will at least bond her husband to her.

By her fourth son – Judah meaning “praised” – her focus has shifted from trying to gain her husband’s love to praising God for the blessing of having four sons.

At this point, Leah stops bearing. In the original Hebrew, “stopped bearing” has an interesting translation. It means “to take one’s stand.” I have no idea what this means in the context of the story, but it seems to point to more than her body just simply stopped conceiving.

In Genesis 30, Leah gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob. She did this mostly because her sister Rachel had given HER maid to Jacob. There was a definite rivalry between the sisters. Leah was not the favored wife, even though she was the first wife and she gave Jacob six sons and one daughter.

Leah was very aware of her non-favored status. In chapter 30, there is the bizarre story of the mandrakes. Mandrakes were used in ancient culture as both an aphrodisiac and for fertility. In reality, they have narcotic properties – something similar to ecstasy from what I read. Leah’s son Reuben found some in a field that had been harvested for wheat. The root had probably been pulled up during the harvesting process.

He runs to give them to his mother. Rachel sees them and pleads to have them since she is still barren. Leah’s words to her say volumes. She basically says, It’s no small thing that you’ve married or snatched away my husband, but now you want the mandrakes too? In other words, now you want to take away the only advantage that I have – bearing children.

Rachel makes a deal with Leah (which says a lot about her too) – she tells Leah she can sleep with Jacob tonight in exchange for the mandrakes. Leah agrees to this deal. She runs out to Jacob as he’s coming in from the field to inform him that she has paid for his, um, services. (again this story makes me question the meaning of stopped bearing – could Leah have put a stop to Jacob’s marital visits because it hurt to know you were unloved yet used physically?)

Leah conceives and has a fifth son whom she names Issachar which means recompense. She feels she has been repaid by God.

She has a sixth son soon after, who she names Zebulun or “exalted.” She says surely my husband will dwell with me – but dwell in this case actually means honor or exalt.

Throughout her life, Leah felt unloved. The circumstances of her marriage soured things from the beginning. Whether she had a choice or not, I’m sure Jacob felt deceived by her actions that night. I can’t imagine how Leah felt the next morning when Jacob drags her to her father and demands to know what he’s done. How humiliated and unwanted she must have felt.

Then, only a week later and as soon as Jacob could manage it, her husband marries her younger sister. It is obvious from day one that Jacob loves Rachel. He may sleep with Leah, but she knows his heart is with her sister.

Yet, she is Jacob’s first wife and God honors her for that and has compassion on her because she is unloved. God sees her unhappiness and blesses her with many sons. She is really the only matriarch that was fertile. Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel certainly weren’t.

It is through Leah’s son Judah’s lineage that Jesus is born. It is through her son Levi that the priesthood is established.

In the end, it is Leah who is buried beside Jacob in the family tomb. Rachel is buried along the roadside between Bethel and Ephrath.

God honored Leah, even when her husband did not. I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned from Leah’s life. Like Sarah and Rebekah before her, God protected her when her husband didn’t treat her the way he should have.

God saw Leah’s plight and had compassion on her. God cared about Leah and her heartache. It mattered to God, just as He cares about our sorrows and difficulties.

We can also learn that we can’t make someone love us by our behavior. In this story, Leah has child after child in the hopes of gaining her husband’s love. While this is an old story, it also applies to today, too. I do some Bible teaching with a group of women, some of whom are unwed teen moms with no place to go, some who are serving time in a low security prison, and some who are just troubled and struggling. I can tell you, that for many of them, the root of the problem started with a guy – specifically, turning themselves inside out to get that guy to love them.

I don’t mean that men are all horrible – this isn’t a man bash. What I do mean is, in these women’s efforts to gain love, many of them made really bad choices. Their desire to be loved and cherished trumped their reason, their common sense and often their very conscience.

The idea of trying to get someone to love you isn’t limited to troubled women. It happens all the time. Maybe you think if you give your boyfriend sex, he’ll love you more or he’ll stay with you. Or maybe you think, if you just put the perfect meal on the table every night and make sure the house is spotless, your husband will love you again and he’ll not let his eyes wander anymore.

The truth is, sex outside marriage may keep your boyfriend around a little longer, but in the process, you are giving away a piece of your soul that you can’t get back. And if he does leave, it is only that much more painful because having gone against your moral conscience, you are left not only hurting but feeling guilty and used.

It isn’t wrong to take care of your husband – cooking a nice meal and cleaning the house are good things. If you do them lovingly, it’s even better. But if you do them to try to earn your husband’s love, when that doesn’t happen, you are left resentful, bitter and hurt.

The thing is, desperation is never a place where love flourishes. 

Wanting to be loved is a pretty basic human need, but even if you have a wonderful, loving husband, he can’t meet all of that need. The only one who can truly fill that need is God – because He IS perfect love. When we are filled up with God’s love and know our identity in Him, we are able to love freely – not desperately. We don’t need someone else to validate who we are because we already have an identity in Christ and a place to belong.

Despite Leah’s efforts, Jacob didn’t love her, but her focus changed. As she had son after son, you can see her working through her need to be loved, reaching a place of peace.

I have no idea what Jacob and Leah’s relationship was like after Rachel died in childbirth, but I do know that Jacob’s last request was that his sons bury him beside Leah in the family grave plot. Maybe, in the end, Leah was no longer unloved but cherished. I like to think so anyway.

Blessings, Rosanne

Day 3 – Rebekah

As we continue with the matriarchs of the Bible – those women who are part of the forming of the Nation of Israel – Rebekah is next on our list.

We first meet Rebekah in Genesis 24. When Abraham was up there in years, he decided he needed to find Isaac a wife. This was pretty common in ancient culture – the parents picking out or strongly shoving, er, nudging their children in a certain direction. So, Abraham sent out his trusted servant back to the land his family was from, to seek out a wife for Isaac among his family. Marrying a relative was also a cultural norm back then.

The servant, realizing the great trust he had been given, prayed that God would make it really clear to him which girl was the one for Isaac. He asked that when he asked her for a drink, not only would she give it to him, but offer to water all his camels as well.

When he arrives in Nahor, he heads to the nearest well – which was pretty much a great place to gather information and find the person you were looking for – and here comes Rebekah. The Bible describes her as both beautiful and a virgin.

When the servant asks her for a drink, she gives it to him and then offers to water all his camels. He starts praising the Lord and loads her down with gold and jewels. She runs back to show her family, and the deal is pretty much done. Not only was the this stranger offering Rebekah marriage to her cousin, but the cousin was apparently very rich. This was really a no-brainer for the family as far as marriage matches went.

Forest road. Landscape.

We see the first glimpse of Rebekah’s character here. Her family asks her if she would like to wait a few days before setting off with a complete stranger to marry another complete stranger. She says, “No, I’ll go with him.” Then she jumps on her camel and sets off. We can definitely see that Rebekah, whatever other shortcomings she might have had, was adventurous and strong.

Although they seemed to have very different personalities, Rebekah and Sarah also had a few things in common, too. Not only were both extremely beautiful, but neither was very fertile. Rebekah and Isaac were married 20 years before she became pregnant with twins.

The twins fought in her womb so she sought the Lord herself to see what the deal was, and God told her that the younger would be over the elder. Here is another clue to her character – she had her own relationship with God and felt comfortable going to Him.

The time for the birth came, and if you are familiar with the story at all, you know that Jacob came out holding onto Esau’s heel. Their rivalry began, quite literally, at birth.

Over the years, Esau became Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was his mother’s favorite. This favoritism proved to be a really bad idea. It divided not just Jacob and Esau, but also Isaac and Rebekah, and each parent with the other parent’s favorite child, as well.

When it came time to pass on the blessing to the oldest son, Rebekah decided she needed to step in and “help” God. I can criticize her for this, but honestly, how many times do I feel the need to help God when circumstances seem impossible? Way more than I’d like to admit.

Rebekah, like Sarah, waited until it seemed impossible that God was going to intervene and then she stepped in to fix the problem. It wasn’t until the circumstances seemed impossible – in this case, the blessing of Esau was imminent – that Rebekah stepped in to help out.

Not only did God NOT need Rebekah’s help to fulfill His plan, though, but the way Rebekah went about it was problematic – she lied and deceived Isaac by passing Jacob off as Esau.

It’s interesting that Jacob protested – not because he thought it was wrong, but because he was afraid he’d get caught. When Jacob voices his concern that if Isaac finds out he could curse Jacob, Rebekah reassures her son that she’ll take the curse for him.

Again, Rebekah wants to help her son but does it in the wrong way – by deception and hurting the relationship not just between father and son but between brothers. Not to mention, her actions couldn’t have been very good for her marriage either.

Jacob is successful in fooling Isaac, and receives the blessing. BUT, there are heavy consequences to this “success” for Rebekah. While she wasn’t officially cursed, things don’t turn out the way she had envisioned either.

Esau is outraged and starts immediately plotting Jacob’s demise as soon as Isaac is dead. Rebekah convinces Isaac to send Jacob to her brother Laban under the guise of finding a wife, but really to let Esau cool down. She thinks it will be for only a short time, but she never sees her son again, dying before he returns some 20 years later.

Rebekah was sincere in her desire to help, but by jumping in without God’s direction, she never saw her favored son again. She never knew his wives or helped in the birth of his children. She never held her grandchildren or saw them grow. Not only that, she hurt her relationship with her husband and her remaining son. Nothing is mentioned about those relationships after the fact, but it does make you wonder if she spent the rest of her days living in loneliness because of the strained relationships with her husband and son.

This is kind of theme we see in the women early in the Bible – wresting control from God and doing what they think is best. Unfortunately, even though they mean well, the results of their “fixing” things always brings about more problems and heartache than the original problem.

There are several lessons from Rebekah – both good and bad. First, she was adventurous and fearless. Those are good qualities to have. They allowed her to leave her home and head into the unknown with confidence. She also sought God out when she had a problem – at least in the beginning. She obviously believed what God told her.

However, we can also learn from her penchant for favoritism among her sons and her desire to “fix” things when circumstances seemed to indicate God’s plans just weren’t going to work out. If she would have just waited and trusted, the last half of her life would have been much different – certainly much happier – but she didn’t and she died without ever seeing Jacob again.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5

What is God asking you to trust Him with, that you just don’t understand? Are you trying to fix it or are you willing to wait on God’s perfect timing?

Blessings, Rosanne

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