Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. (Genesis 28:12)
Jacob fled from his brother, Esau, because Esau wanted to kill him. Why? Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, and stole the blessings set aside for the firstborn Esau. Grabbing the blessings was his life-long goal, but as soon as Jacob achieved the goal, he had to run for his life. Jacob was so cunning to deceive his father and stole the blessings reserved for Esau, but he did not know what would come next. Jacob was not so wise to know the fruit that his earthly greed bore. Indeed, a person like Jacob is the last person with whom we want to be friends. We don’t know when such a person will deceive us and steal the best from us.
Jacob’s first night was not easy. He laid his head on a rock in the middle of the wilderness while begging for sleep and hearing the howling noises of wild animals. It was the night that all things crumbled on him, and he was completely helpless. Who did want help Jacob? Nobody.
But God was with Jacob. Jacob did not at that time. God patiently watched over Jacob. After a long struggle, Jacob fell asleep. Then God came into his dream. Jacob saw a staircase reaching from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
At the top of the stairway stood God, and God said,
“I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
God gave His covenantal blessing to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, and then Jacob’s father, Isaac, and now Jacob. Most of all, the covenantal blessing was not of the world but of God. Jacob felt that he lost everything, but it was the moment that God renewed everything in Jacob as prepared by God. Of course. Of course, Jacob did not know this fact.
Jacob awoke from his sleep. He was afraid and also in awe. Jacob met God and heard the blessing that nobody could give except God. The next morning Jacob got up early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it as he saw at home what his father, Isaac, did to God.
Children learn from their parents. Although they don’t talk to us, our children carefully watch over us with their hawkish eyes. That is another reason why we need to be truly authentic to God and diligently worship Him while giving thanksgiving in all circumstances.
Then for the first time, Jacob prayed to God authentically with what he had in his heart and mind:
“If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
Jacob’s first prayer was not so good and quite selfish, but God loved to hear Jacob’s prayer. God loves our authentic prayer, and our prayer does not have to be refined or polished. What God wants is our broken and contrite heart, not anything else.
If God wants anything from us, God would have already said so. Indeed, God owns everything. Then why does God want anything from us? Let’s listen to what God says:
“O my people, listen as I speak.
Here are my charges against you, O Israel:
I am God, your God!
I have no complaint about your sacrifices
or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
But I do not need the bulls from your barns
or the goats from your pens.
For all the animals of the forest are mine,
and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird on the mountains,
and all the animals of the field are mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for all the world is mine and everything in it.
Do I eat the meat of bulls?
Do I drink the blood of goats?
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
Then call on me when you are in trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.” (Psalm 50:7-15)
All parents want to listen to our children’s saying from their hearts. Can our God, who is our Ever-Loving Father, be different? Our heartful prayer to God with thanksgiving is the most precious music in His ear.
One more: are there any parents who do want their children to continue suffering? No!
Then can our Heavenly Father, God, be different? No! God has the greatest concern about our pains in our lives. Jacob was in trouble and was suffering in the middle of the wilderness alone. Yes, God could not ignore Jacob, who was in pain alone in the middle of the wilderness. God came to Jacob in his dream.
Jacob was a strong-willed person. Jacob would never lose his grip on his own life. God waited till his strong will subsided as he fell asleep. Then God, full of mercy, touched Jacob with His merciful hand to comfort, and God blessed Jacob. Indeed, God had just initiated His glorious work on Jacob to transform Jacob into the Jacob whom God wanted. The first step was to make Jacob pray authentically. As God wanted, Jacob prayed while worshipping God the following morning.
Then Jacob hurried on the next journey to Harran, about 700 Km away (about 430 miles). Finally, Jacob arrived in the land of Harran, where his uncle, Laban, lived. God prepared Rachel ahead of Jacob, and Jacob met Rachel, Laban’s daughter, at the well. Rachel gladly brought Jacob to Laban, her father, as well as Jacob’s uncle. Laban welcomed Jacob by exclaiming,
“You really are my own flesh and blood!”
Jacob was greatly comforted, and he stayed with Laban. After a month later, Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.”
Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel, whom Jacob met at the well. There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
Jacob believed Laban, but Laban was a tricky person like Jacob.
On the wedding night, Laban gave Leah instead of Rachel. Jacob realized this following morning. Jacob was so mad, but he could do nothing. Laban asked to work another seven years, and Jacob had no choice but to accept the offer. Under this condition, Laban gave Rachel a week later to Jacob. Laban boxed in Jacob, and Jacob suffered.
It was what God did to teach Jacob, but Jacob never forgot his defeat. It was the first defeat throughout Jacob’s life. Jacob always outwitted others. Indeed, Jacob had to go through a lot with God to become the person God wanted — the true heir of God’s covenantal promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob.
Jacob was hardly changed. He only loved Rachel. Leah cried out to God. God heard Leah and opened Leah’s womb, but God closed Rachel’s womb. It was yet another message from God to Jacob, but he did not comprehend. He was exceptionally wise, but he was incredibly deaf to God’s voice.
God always hears our prayers of a cry out of our contrite and broken hearts. Leah was able to deliver four sons, but Rachel could not bear even one single child. God graciously answered to Leah! Yes, God answers Leah’s prayer.
After delivering four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Leah was greatly comforted and gave thanksgiving to God by saying,
“Now I will praise the LORD!” (Genesis 29:35b)
The thanksgiving prayer comes from the lips of Leah, who could not get her husband’s love. Her husband only loved Rachel, her sister. After delivering four sons, Leah thanked God, but she did not know the magnitude of God’s real blessing. Two of her sons, Levi and Judah, were not ordinary sons. Levi and his descendants became the priests of the entire people of Israel for all generations. That was not all. Jesus Christ, our Savior, came as the descendant of Judah, the most glorious blessing that one could have as a woman. God heard Leah’s prayer in cry out of her suffering of not being loved by her husband. God answered, and indeed, Leah got unfathomable love and blessings from God.
We should cry out to God with our authentic prayer with our contrite and broken hearts before God. Surely, God hears our prayer and answers as God answered to Leah. Thus, we should approach God in times of trouble, which God truly wants from us. Remember God does not want our sacrifices or offerings because God has all. What God truly desires is our contrite and broken heart.
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. (Psalm 91:15)
When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
Please see how Rachel responded. Rachel became jealous. As a human being, it is very difficult not to be jealous in such a situation. It is also true that she did not choose such a situation, but it came to Rachel. Rachel just encountered a situation that she did not want to meet. In other words, she just fell into the situation that made her jealous, and she became jealous as a normal human being would become.
However, the most important thing is how to respond when one gets into such a situation making the person truly jealous. How did Rachel respond? Did she go to God and cry out to God as Leah did? No. Rachel went to Jacob instead. Then Rachel blamed Jacob for not having a baby.
That was not all. Rachel also threatened Jacob. She knew how much Jacob loved Rachel. If anything happened to Rachel, it would hurt Jacob more than herself. What would be the most painful event to Jacob? Wouldn’t it be watching Rachel’s death with his own eyes?
Rachel presented two choices — giving me a baby or killing herself. Just stop here and please look back. Have we done similarly by blaming and threatening others? We all are guilty because we all have done once, twice, or even more by behaving just like Rachel. Bible reveals this ugly and sinful nature of ours. That is why we say the Bible is the mirror that reflects our hearts filled with sins and trespasses.
Let’s see how Jacob responded to Rachel’s blame and threat.
Jacob became furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!”
Jacob became furious, although Jacob, as her loving husband, should not be furious with Rachel. Surely, Jacob was not so much different from Rachel. It partially explains why Jacob only loved Rachel. However, Jacob’s love was only superficial and self-centered. True love is not just a superficial interaction between two persons but the bonding of two hearts by giving out self. God loves us. Regardless we love God or not, God keeps loving us, which is God’s love. What God wants is to come to Him and be in His love by loving Him by being oneness with God, which is the completion of the love between God and us. Jacob loved Rachel, but it was just superficial, not deep in heart as God loves us, who sacrificed Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, for us on the cross out because He loved us.
How many times have we offended God? Has God become furious with us? Never! God’s love never changes no matter how we respond to God. That is the reason why we say God is love, and this is the truth. The pinnacle of His love was manifested on the cross by Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son. People nailed Him on the cross, but He was not furious. He did not speak evil on those who mocked Him as hanging Him on the cross. People even tempted by saying,
“He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! (Matthew 27:42)
What was the response of Jesus? He just responded,
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34b)
Jacob met God in the middle of the wilderness and saw God’s blessing in his dream. After this event, Jacob authentically prayed to God, but that was about it. God richly blessed Jacob, and Jacob married and having his own family. Jacob was still the old Jacob.
Jacob was still far from the one whom God wanted to be. When Rachel blamed and threatened Jacob, Jacob responded by blaming God. Jacob could have told Rachel, “All things come from God. Let’s pray together to God authentically with our contrite and broken heart.”
God kept giving signs and opportunities to Jacob to understand God and to become the one whom God wanted to be — the true heir of the glorious God’s covenantal promise, becoming the father of the many nations and the source of the blessing of all nations. Jacob did not know how to listen to God’s voice in his life. God kept bringing opportunities, but Jacob always failed to recognize God behind the scene. Even so, God had never given up on Jacob because God loved Jacob. God kept loving Jacob, whether Jacob knew this fact or not. God was always with Jacob whether Jacob recognized Him or not. Jacob kept doing all things in his own hands. Even so, God kept loving Jacob. Why? God is love.
Then what should we do?
Seek the LORD while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near. (Isaiah 55:6)