HYMN Hear the call of the Kingdom (Getty & Townend)
1 Hear the call of the kingdom, lift your eyes to the King;
let his song rise within you as a fragrant offering
of how God, rich in mercy, came in Christ to redeem
all who trust in his unfailing grace.
2 Hear the call of the kingdom to be children of light,
with the mercy of heaven, the humility of Christ;
walking justly before him, loving all that is right,
that the life of Christ may shine through us.
King of heaven, we will answer the call.
We will follow, bringing hope to the world,
filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim
salvation in Jesus’ name.
3 Hear the call of the kingdom to reach out to the lost
with the Father’s compassion in the wonder of the cross,
bringing peace and forgiveness, and a hope yet to come:
let the nations put their trust in him.
READING – Genesis 29 : 31 – 30:24
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.
35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
30 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”
4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.
7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.
12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.
17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.
19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.
21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”
SERMON – The Birth of Jacob’s Children
One man – 4 women – you can imagine the tension, the jealousy, the scheming; but in the end it is the LORD Who opens each of the wombs.
Jacob is still prayerless – powerful, potent in various ways – but spiritually impotent (powerless).
Leah is unloved in the home, but gives birth first. Rachel is loved, but is barren. Leah wants what Rachel has – a husband’s love. Rachel wants what Leah has – children. Neither is happy with their lot!
Leah names 3 of her first 4 children with reference to the LORD – here is a woman who has left Laban’s God and now follows the God of Jacob.
30:1-13 – the reason for the four sons being born to the servant girls is that Jacob refused to pray to God about Rachel’s barren-ness.
The only recorded words of Jacob in this scene as vs 2 Am I in the place of God? Now, whereas that may be theologically a sound proposition – the clear answer is NO – nonetheless, Jacob does not mean it in the sense of leaving matters in God’s hands – he is simply wiping his own hands of responsibility ….
Vs 6 – when the man (Jacob) refuses to pray – the woman must take up this role (& Rachel is heard).
But, throughout this whole incident, we see faith and unbelief mingled at every stage.
The two sisters are constantly trying to bring about their own will, yet somehow God is acknowledged in the process.
What can we learn from such a mess as this?
God uses the most fallible people to bring about His purposes. Who would have have thought that the 12 tribes of Israel would be born in such rivalry and selfishness?
Secondly we here discover hope! The people involved here only have half-lives – only bearing children, or only experiencing love. And to those caught in a half-life – Jesus comes and says “I have come that you may have life to the FULL.”
Thirdly, let’s notice in all of this the mercy of God.
Leah finds God’s mercy in becoming the mother of 6 of the 12 tribes of Israel – including the priestly and Messianic lines. Rachel finally receives mercy in the birth of Joseph. We need to note that God’s Kingdom is built by GOD and not by human merit!
Finally, something about barren-ness. Only the childless can understand the pain. And even now, it is hard to understand the pain of women in Bible times.
The mandrake plant was thought to be an aphrodisiac, but human means will not bring blessing. God alone can do that, and He does after Rachel gives up her selfish access to Jacob. As a broken woman, now yielding to the will of God, the LORD takes away her barren-ness and disgrace.
Hymn In Christ Alone – (Getty & Townend)
1 In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
2 In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
the wrath of God was satisfied –
for every sin on Him was laid;
here in the death of Christ I live.
3 There in the ground His body lay,
light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
for I am His and He is mine –
bought with the precious blood of Christ.
4 No guilt in life, no fear in death,
this is the power of Christ in me;
from life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
can ever pluck me from His hand;
till He returns or calls me home,
here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!