CHANGE AND DECAY
Lord Jesus, You are the source of truth and the Lord of life. I acknowledge that You are the Lord of my life today and every day. I bless Your holy name.
Read GENESIS 35:16-29
The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac
16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni.[a] But his father named him Benjamin.[b]
19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.
Jacob had twelve sons:
23 The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
24 The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.
25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.
26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
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Genesis 35:18 Ben-Oni means son of my trouble.
Genesis 35:18 Benjamin means son of my right hand.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’1 Death causes huge upheaval and loss. Perhaps through tears, give thanks for Christ’s victory.
As we come to the final section of Genesis in which Jacob is the central character, the themes are familiar to us. The whole of life in all its joys and sorrows, frustration, and fulfillment is represented. Jacob faces the shattering blow of losing the love of his life, yet has the fulfillment of another son being born. What his new son means to him is captured well in the name he chooses for him: ‘Benjamin’, meaning ‘son of my right hand’. We don’t really know how Jacob has reacted to Reuben’s sexual misdemeanor (22), but it must have brought huge disappointment and raised fears for the future conduct of his sons. The listing of the 12 takes us back to chapters 29 and 30 and the mixture there of jealousy and unhealthy competitiveness over against the expressions of gratitude to God for his gift of children. This is all part of life in a world in which sin is powerful, but where people like Isaac witness to the possibility of a long and fulfilling life.
‘There is … a time to be born and a time to die’.2 Our experience in this fragile and sometimes harsh world is not random or meaningless. The cycle of birth and death could leave us feeling helpless, but Jacob’s topsy-turvy existence teaches us that life is going somewhere. There is meaning to history; God has called Abraham, then Isaac, and now Jacob. There are promises that this family line is going somewhere. There are indications that, despite all the interruptions and many byways, God’s plan is being worked out. We have the advantage of knowing that there is a bigger story that does make sense.
As you meet people frustrated by life and questioning its meaning, what’s the most helpful thing you can say to them? How do you articulate your own hope?
Loving Father, through all the ups and downs of my life, I rest in the truth that You are working Your purposes out for me. I love You Lord.
1 1 Cor 15:55 2 Eccl 3:1,2
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