The stories in the Old Testament that seem to go into great and often boring detail can often form a carefully woven pattern that would challenge computer programmers to replicate.
Before we continue, let us look briefly at something often not understood...faith.
We shall start with Fatther Abraham
God’s plan that I refer to started with Abraham. He told him that he would be the father of many nations and that we would be involved and so those chance encounters include and affect us. In the process, certain things develop that definitely are not nice. I for one would not like to have to go through some of the things that the heroes and heroines of our faith went through. That word faith raises many issues. What is it (faith that is)? Please try to describe it to me. We can measure it, because the bible does indicate that. Jesus spoke of great faith, little faith or even no faith, but even so...what is it?
Depending on one’s religious upbringing “faith” means different things.
Theology talks of faith in an almost abstract way, attempting to apply definitions of different kinds, but I still ask...”What is faith?” You tell me.
I am still trying to grasp it and I have been walking with the Lord for more than 50 years now.
Let me then touch briefly on this before continuing. It is important.
In Hebrews chapter eleven (the “faith chapter”) we see that faith is!
I was taught that faith Is! This poses a question, “Is what?” It is an intriguing little word that is best described as always being present right now! Close analysis revealed an obscure link to the term I am. When I saw that, it got my attention, thinking of the great I Am! We know that God, was, is and is to come and so faith must be something like that and it is a hard thing to comprehend. The first word in the sentence states, “Now” adding to the mystery, so faith Is and faith is Now.
This implies that it is not something to be put off into the future. I was also taught that it is substance and the word substance talks about many things, including something solid, in this light and something that is tangible or real. If we then are believing something or for something, faith is the hope that seems to make it real to us, when at that moment in time, it might not seem to be so. It could be a promise of some kind that God has made to us and we have been clinging hopefully to that promise until it comes into tangible reality. Faith is what makes it real.
Where most of us run into difficulties is in the area of waiting. We can be somewhere between “Amen” and “There it is” and in that span that seems to be an eternity, we go through all kinds of things. Some of them are great and wonderful whereas I would prefer not to even mention the others. In this chapter some of those people who have shaped our lives and destinies do not seem to have ever “got” what God promised them—but did they? We tend to measure everything by immediate or temporal results, but God deals with eternity and that is something we find difficult to comprehend.
It opens by saying that Abel produced a superior offering to God than Cain did, but Cain killed him!
It says that Enoch was translated because he pleased God, but we do not know how Enoch pleased God—or do we? It states-
The promise God made to all of them was for a future time. It is a bit of a mystery to us, but God saw into the future when He created everything and put His plan into motion.
We can now come to one of those Old Testament stories I mentioned before. God had cut a covenant with Abraham and we know that He spoke of making a covenant that would last for a thousand generations.
Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.
Without going into the politics of our day, God made an everlasting covenant with His people concerning the land of Israel. It is theirs! The Palestinian debate is really unwarranted. It is God’s covenant and so He will ensure that all of the land, including Jerusalem belongs to Israel. He told Abraham about it and kept the covenant alive through Isaac and Jacob which brings us now to something powerful.
Jacob found a wife called Rachel, but as you know, he was conned into marrying Leah, Rachel’s sister. He loved Rachel but treated Leah badly. Rachel however could not have children and that was a terrible predicament to be in as she could not produce an heir to keep the family line pure and maintain continuity. The right heir was vitally important.
If this blood line had been broken at any time, all of God’s promises and His ultimate purpose would be thwarted.
This is why so many baby boys were killed. The devil tried to take Moses out but failed. He tried to take Jesus out but failed. My friend, if you are a part of God’s plan and are working towards it, the devil may try to take you out too but he will fail. Stay close to God, keep yourself in right standing, keep the home-fires burning and do the right thing as far as your walk with Him goes and God will look after things.
I spoke of Leah in another study, pointing out that she was the unloved one and that she went through all kinds of problems. I also said that you too could be a Leah. If you have been going through rejection and misuse, it may explain why and be a release to you, but now we have Rachel to look at. There are spiritual forces at play here—spiritual truths that we need to understand.
Rachel was loved by her husband. We can also be loved. God loves us. Your spouse loves you. Your children love you.
Do you love yourself? Sometimes we need to love ourselves. There are times when our own self image is out of balance.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Romans 12:3
The standards by which we measure ourselves is the standard of Jesus, so we should compare ourselves against Him.
One of the most powerful ways we can attain this level is found in the five ascension gift ministries that are still valid and more necessary than ever now Paul spoke of in Ephesians 4:11-16 (emphasis mine).
...these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
Rest assured that you are not alone in this. We are all part of a great big wonderful family and we all have much more prayer support and other support—more than you can imagine.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
Much of the revelation Paul gave us majors on our one-ness with Christ. We are bone of His bone and made as one flesh with Him. He lives with us and within us. We are part of the vine and our very life force, the “divine sap” of the vine flows through our lives provided we maintain our connection with Him. He is the root—our very source and we are His branches.
Arguably, most Christians do not fully understand who we are and what we have in Him. Most of us do not comprehend the depth of God’s love for us. We know little of the intensity and jealous possessive love God has for us. Only 2 or 3 times in my 50 years with Him, have I experienced a demonstration of what I just said. On one of those occasions, I had been going through a very difficult time and was given less than no support from the denomination I once ministered in. They blacklist anyone who dares ask questions and cast them aside like so much dung. When my father was dying, I asked for prayer support only to receive absolute silence, not even a condolence card afterwards. I planted many churches and other groups and was never invited to attend the opening ceremony of any one of them. The reason was that I did not bow and scrape to the authoritarian and dictatorial rule they had and discovered many lies and hidden agendas within the core leadership that still exist today. I was not being rebellious. There is more I could touch on but that paints the picture and after I left that denomination, I discovered how dominating and controlling they are. They and others like them have a reputation for it.
I only share that to illustrate that anyone can come under such a controlling spirit—and it is often a spirit like Jezebel and we need to discern what is happening. This may shock some, but witchcraft exists in the church. Check it out. If you are asked something like, “Whose covering are you under?” be careful. It could be better worded as, “Who is controlling you?” I am not suggesting that we all become rebels and unaccountable as “lone rangers” in the church can be deadly. People can be doing things alone without any relationships and get into real trouble. Jesus sent the disciples out two-by-two. Iron sharpens iron. A three-fold cord is not easily broken. Look. You can be called by God into a valid ministry and probably function alone, but please relate to someone who has a proven track record. I do. We run ideas past each other, comfort each other, advise each other. Other ministers around the world relate to me in one way or another like that.
There is safety in having what the bible calls a multitude of counselors. See Proverbs 11:14; 15:22 and 24:6.
We can run ideas past each other and have such a fellowship that the anointing oil can drip off us as David said-
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
Gettting back to my story, provided everyone jumped when the leader told them to, everything went well, but the things David spoke of in that Psalm did not exist and the whole city saw it. When I left that organization, I was accused of all kinds of things and rumors started circulating. Gossipers had a field day and it got so serious, I sought legal aid and was considering taking legal action until the Lord came into my house one night and started talking! He told me to drop it and allow Him to act and He did. Most of those ringleaders are gone! It was at a time when I was totally alone and I do mean alone. I spent 5 years in complete isolation and seeking God. Those 5 years were very lonely indeed, but I was not alone! The Lord started to visit and I do mean visit!
Now, before you think I am a loony tune, I suggest that you study up on the pioneers and fathers of our faith. They all went through similar things. It seems to be one way God prepares significant ministries. Check it out.
I shared all that to lead to this. One evening, the Lord visited me and started talking about people like John the Baptist and it was from there, I formed this present ministry with the motto of Preparing the way. I had been having a real pity party and He had to nip that in the bud. He spoke about the prophets of old and the fathers of our faith, just as recorded in Hebrews 11. I did not share all that chapter, but if you read it, you will see that many of them went through hell on earth to qualify and be listed in that hall of fame.
He said, “Welcome aboard son. They did it to me. They did it to John. They did it to the prophets and they will do it to you.” He was right! One thing that He revealed in those encounters was the depth and intensity of the love of God. We glibly talk about it of course, but when you see His eyes blazing like fire as He spoke as if through clenched teeth saying that no one touches you...no one touches Mine...no one touches the apple of His eye, there was a very intense jealousy factor there. He corrected me a little over a poor attitude I was starting to adopt and then it seemed as if He wanted a hug! It was like He invited me to come up and sit on Daddy’s lap! That was almost 30 years ago and it is still as fresh now as it was then.
I only shared that to point out two things. You may feel like a Leah as I said in that earlier study, but she came through, finishing up as a blessed woman. You can also.
I now come to the second point based on Rachel—the loved one; the favorite; the one Jacob picked. He did not choose Leah, but God knew Rachel also and had a plan that involved her.
If you are a Rachel, you could be feeling as if you are missing out. Sure, the “love factor” may be there, but something is lacking. Rachel was barren. She wanted children, but nothing worked. She tried all kinds of things, including the giving of her servant to Jacob to have a son by proxy, but she could not bear herself.
When I say that she could not bear herself, it may refer to childbearing, but what about bearing her own self—her own person, such as looking in a mirror to wonder if she even measured up. I mentioned poor self image before. She could have had real problems in that area. Wondering why; wondering if something was wrong with her; wondering if the other women in the group were laughing at her behind her back. Some people do not like themselves. I hope you do.
Despite what she may or may not have thought about herself, Rachel eventually had a son and called him Joseph.
God’s plan needed a Joseph, but the circumstances of his birth were difficult. The promise seemed as if it would never ever happen and as I have said many times before, sometimes that promise you and I have been waiting on seems as if it will never happen. In this waiting process we can fall prey to at least two things. One is impatience and we can try to force issues and make things happen. If we do that, the risk is creating another Ishmael. The second thing to be careful of is getting so disappointed that we allow bitterness and frustration to set in. That is a dangerous state of existence.
Bitterness can be expressed in such a way that it is destructive. David said in Psalm 64 that people can sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their bitter words like arrows. When we allow ourselves to become bitter, we can lash out verbally and say all kinds of things that can be deadly. Words can bless others, but words can also kill. In the heat of the moment we can say something that can devastate another. We can say something that will offend so much that the other person will walk away from God. Isaiah said-
What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! They even mock God and say, “Hurry up and do something! We want to see what you can do. Let the Holy One of Israel carry out his plan, for we want to know what it is.”
I asked my wife what women might think and she confirmed my suspicions with a kind of retort like “grrrrr. I think she would be annoyed to say the least.” What a smack in the face that would have been to Rachel.
Nevertheless, Jacob showered her with preferential treatment, but... there is that “but” we often come up with.
He felt cheated and said so, but what about her? How did she feel? Did she ever get over it?
I cannot imagine what she felt like. I can imagine what it might be like if I had arrived at the church on my wedding day to find Marjorie standing at the altar beside another man.
I really think that those bible stores we like so much and take for granted may be more real to life than we thought.
A simmering resentment inside her may possibly have been brewing over all those years. Her sibling rival Leah is fertile, producing heir after heir and she was not. One day menopause arrives and it is all too late. She may have wondered, “What is wrong with me?” I’ve asked similar questions when others seem to have had things happen for them whilst I was still waiting for that elusive promise to be fulfilled. I can identify as you can too, with such questions as, “Is there something wrong with me? Have I missed it?” If you are real, I think we can all think like that sometimes.
John the Baptist did and he sent some of his disciples to Jesus asking that same question.
If you ever think like that, go back to the time God spoke to you and verify it. Start dreaming of it. Imagine it happening.
Do what you can to be ready for it when it finally arrives. Above all, do not start shooting your mouth off.
I think that Rachel did things just that. To be sure, she finally had her long awaited child, but something happened.
Her second pregnancy came and instead of being joyful about it, her pregnancy took a turn for the worse. Why?
Is it possible that a negative attitude—bitterness, resentment, jealousy and the like took their toll on her? Perhaps.
Such things can not only affect us emotionally, but intellectually and physically and I shall explain more soon.
This is good reason to ensure that we “pick the right person” in life.
I am convinced that God has the perfect partner for each of us and when we marry that person it is a marriage made in heaven, but when we make wrong choices in life, such a relationship can tear us apart.
It can lead to a warped and twisted viewpoint on members of the opposite sex. It can lead us to becoming introverted, a recluse, a person who trusts no one else in a potential relationship and in essence wrecks us for life.
What we do not realize perhaps is that if God does have that perfect partner for us and we reject him or her and choose another, that other person may “miss out” completely.
When we are hurt and lost and vulnerable, it is easy to wallow in life’s problems and self pity and that place us in a precarious position. We could lose faith in God.
We are people with feelings. We have emotions.
We have the power of choice. We can choose to love or hate.
We can choose to forgive or to hold resentment against another person and not let it go.
I mentioned the adverse affects such attitudes can bring. If you doubt my assertions, think of a time when you had a real fright. Didn’t your heart start thumping? Didn’t the adrenaline suddenly kick in? Of course and that is a good thing. It is a natural reaction designed to give you that something extra for that occasion for the purposes of self preservation. On the other hand, if we start getting angry with someone else and not let it go the right way, our bodies releases the chemicals that we need for the right purposes at that instant in time, but there is no need to take flight as such. The adrenaline or chemicals are released, but are not needed or put to correct use and so have adverse affects. People worry and get ulcers. People get angry and things can happen just like that. Bitterness can cause physical issues as well as bitterness in spirit!
No wonder Paul spoke about such things in Ephesians chapter four-
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
I think that the text is self explanatory. Now, if anyone had cause to hold a grudge against another, Jesus did. When He was on the cross, he asked the Father to forgive... He could have yelled back at His tormentors, “I’ll get even with you when I come back”. You and I would have.
The more I think of this, I am wondering if Rachel had emotional issues that she never dealt with. Her second pregnancy ended in disaster. Please understand that this is pure conjecture on my part, but weigh it up against what I have just been saying. Jews took great care in naming their offspring and Rachel named her baby son Ben ʾônî.
This word is a blend of other words, one of which is Ben (the Hebrew pronunciation is “bane”). Its simplest meaning is “son of”. Putting it into Jewish context, because my father’s name was Fred, I am really Robert Ben Frederick.
Without getting hung up on it, perhaps she should have called him Ben Jacob.
Why would a woman give her longed for son a name like that, unless she had problems.
Names often had a prophetic nature, spelling out the man’s destiny, but she called him the son of her sorrow.
He would not have any future with such a name. It was almost as if she was placing a curse on the baby. She blamed him for causing her death. She in essence gave him a name that meant “This baby boy’s birth caused my death”. That’s no future!
That is not giving a baby a start in life. Something’s wrong here.
If my reasoning is correct, this woman’s whole attitude could have been wrong and it could have been the cause of her death. I merely put it to you to weigh up and assess what I say, but one thing I wanted to get across is that we all need to maintain a right attitude to life in all areas. Interestingly, when Jacob left Laban to return to the land of his fathers, Rachel stole her father’s gods. She was a thief! Laban caught up with them and when confronted, Jacob said that if he found his gods that the thief would die. He did not know what had happened. When Laban came into Rachel’s tent she hid the goods and lied about it. If our words carry any weight, Jacob’s words could have put something in motion, that when combined with Rachel’s attitudes, eventually bore fruit. This too is spiritual truth that we cannot ignore. Jesus said that we can know someone by the fruit (or lack thereof) that they bear and Paul told us that whatwe sow will produce a harvest, if we do not deal with it.
Having said all that, I now turn to the positives; to something that will bless you and reveal that God is always working on a plan and that it is a good one.
God will not put anything on you that will cause harm or be detrimental to you. Even if problems come our way, difficulties arise, opposition comes or if other people will let you down, God is working on something for your life.
Rachel pronounced a curse on her son, but Jacob, who had a covenant promise from God stepped in and turned it all around despite his own shortcomings. What might be happening to you right now can be turned around you know.
Jacob broke the back of that thing right there and then and changed the boys’ name.
Listen carefully now. Your name is recorded in Heaven. If you are born again or saved you are able to call God your Father in real terms. The instant you said “Yes” to His overtures, He wrote your name down in His book! This is scriptural. It is as if God has a personal diary just about you. Isn’t that something?
My birth name is Robert. It means bright shining one, famous one and the like, but my family called me Bob. As far as I can recall, my childhood was good and I have many fond memories, but after I was born again in September 1968, the Lord told me to change my name . He said, “Your correct name is Robert, so start using it” and so I did. The instant I did that, my whole life turned around for the better. I was already saved; already blessed; already Spirit filled; already preaching and already creating a great and promising career (I became the National Administrator of a part of the process that computerized Australia’s telephone exchange network)—but something changed for the better and it revolved around my name. I am talking to someone here.
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. He changed Jacobs name to Israel who in turn changed his son’s name and that changed his destiny. Jacob called his son Binyāmîn (בנימין). This is where it gets really interesting. It affected our destiny.
Let us dig deeper. As we have already determined the first part of his name is Ben, or “son of”, so he is the son of someone or something. The second part of his name is Yāmîn that primarily means hand, or more specifically, right hand. This is very significant. If you read the account in Genesis 48:13-19, when Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, he deliberately crossed his hands to ensure that the blessing went to the correct boy. The idea of favor and strength being transmitted through the right hand of blessing begins to emerge. Calling his son Benjamin “son of (my) right hand” clearly showed that special favor and position was intended. Out of all that sorry state of affairs, something prophetic—something profound was being declared when Israel changed the baby’s name to Benjamin.
Another very powerful meaning to his name is Son of the South.
People then as people can still do today can face Eastward to look at the direction of the dawning sun. If we turn in the opposite direction we can travel West. If we turn to the right, we can go South. If Benjamin’s name referred to the right hand, there is the link. Benjamin was the only son born in the Southern land of Canaan, not in the North in Aran!
Benjamin’s name thus had two meanings. It links the Old Testament with the New. He was born in sorrow and Jesus was a descendant of Jacob his fathers. Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as a man of sorrows.
After His resurrection, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. See Hebrews 12:2.
When Peter preached that great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he said-
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.
Peter said that David was looking into the future when he wrote that psalm, but perhaps Jacob was also looking to the future when he renamed his son!
This story that could seem to have little significance like those other boring stories I mentioned in the beginning.
This story is profoundly important.
What happened to people like Benjamin was indeed woven into the tapestry of eternity for our benefit. It affects us and I am so glad that I took the time to pursue it further and dig deeper. It has blessed me and I want to pass it on to you, leaving you with one final reference-
When the Son of Man appears in his majestic glory, with all his angels by his side, he will take his seat on his throne of splendor, and all the nations will be gathered together before him. And like a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats, he will separate all the people. The ‘sheep’ he will put on his right side and the ‘goats’ on his left. Then the King will turn to those on his right and say, ‘You have a special place in my Father’s heart. Come and experience the full inheritance of the kingdom realm that has been destined for you from before the foundation of the world! Matthew 25:31-35
Additional references: Exodus 15:6; Jonah 4:11, Psalm 16:8-11; Isaiah 41:10: Matthew 26:64