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Sunday, February 16, 2020

posted Feb 16, 2020, 7:03 PM by Site Administrator


Genesis 29:1-30:24

Key Verse 29:35


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. 


First, "This time I will praise the LORD(29:1-31:8). After having a personal encounter with God at Bethel, Jacob continued his journey and came to Haran. There, he met Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, and fell in love with her at the first sight. One month later, he said to his uncle Laban, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel." This is shocking! Nowadays you are lucky to find a guy who will wait seven months for a woman, let alone seven years! This shows that Jacob was not lustful nor were his hormones raging out of control. He was a man of noble character. Look at verse 20. It says: "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." This shows that his love for Rachel was genuineEvery day heworked diligently, happily taking care of flocks and herds,dreaming about married life with Rachel. He picked her flowersafter work and left love letters on her doorstep. He was completely dedicated to her that even seven years seemed like only a few days to him - he was a man of commitment. Once Jacob found something that was valuable, he pursued it wholeheartedly until he secured it; Rachel was what was valuable to him, so he pursued her wholeheartedly. Actually, during these 7 years he didn’t get one single paycheck, he didn’t make any money because marrying Rachel was his wages, but he didn’t care because in his eyes she was valuable.


When the seven years were up, they had a wedding ceremony. But on the night of their honeymoon, Laban cheated Jacob. He sent Leah into the room instead of Rachel… and Jacob slept with her. The next morning Jacob woke up to find Leah lying in bed next to him! "Oh no! What are you doing here?" "What's going on!?" He stormed out and went straight to Laban asking, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" Then, Laban said, "Don’t worry. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also… in return for another seven years of work." Laban's purpose in tricking him was to secure another seven years of service, because he saw that Jacob was a good employee. Jacob accepted this offer; at the end of the week he got to lay with Rachel, and he loved her more than Leah. 


How did Jacob's married life go with two wives? It was hard!There was a lot of conflict, heartache, and tears. Look at verse 31, it says: "When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren." It was obvious thatJacob loved Rachel. Leah knew it. Rachel was beautiful with a fit body, but Leah had weak eyes, she was average, or less than average. But thankfully for Leah, Rachel was barren. Quickly she began the pursuit for her husband's love, and her method was to produce many sons. 


When she had the first son, she named him, "Reuben," whichmeans, "see, a son." She felt triumphant that she proudly shouted, "See, a son!" At the same time, she expressed her thanks to God, saying, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now." Initially Leah sounds very spiritual, she gave credit to God for giving her herson and understood that God had personally seen her misery. This is a great thanks topic, how blessed she was! However, the second part of her testimony shows her real focus; what she really wanted and hoped for was her husband’s love. When her heart was set on her husband, then she couldn’t be comforted or touched by God’s grace; as a result nothing changed in her heart and she was still miserable.


The second son, she named, "Simeon," which means, "one who hears.She testified to God's grace, saying, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." She named her third son, "Levi," which means, "attached," saying, "Now at last my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." She thought that if she produced many sons, her husband would love her. So, she put a lot of hope in producingsons, but despite her great success in bearing sons, nothing changed; Jacob’s heart was unmoved. And Leah was stillsorrowful, depressed, lonely, and bitter. 


But when she had her fourth son, something changed. She named her son, "Judah," which means, "Praise," saying, “This time I will praise the LORD.” She was soo happy and thankful that her heart was filled with the desire to praise God. Praise was overflowing from her heart. What changed? When she could not secure her husband's love despite all her effort, when she reached her limit, she finally turned to God. Then, mysteriously, God's love filled her heart and she was satisfied. God solved her thirst problem for the husband's love, and she became soo happy and thankful that she wanted to praise God publicly throughnaming her son, Praise. Her husband made her sorrowful, bitter and miserable, but God made her happy, thankful, and satisfied. So she expressed her thanks to God by naming her son, "Praise." She came up with her heart's complete determination to praise God, saying, "This time I will praise the LORD." Her focus and desire shifted from acquiring her husband's love to praising and thanking God. 


When we check out her testimony at her sons' births, we see that she had faith in God. At her first son's birth, she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery." At her second son's birth, she said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." She believed in God and testified to God's grace upon her life. But it didn’t mean anything to her personally, it was more like head knowledge. As long as she was pursuing happiness and satisfaction in her husband's love God could not be the source of her happiness and satisfaction; instead, to her, God was the One who helped her in her difficulty, just like Superman. At that time, she was miserable, sorrowful, and bitter. She had this struggle for many years, and it was really painful. Then, finally, she turned to God and accepted His love, and she became happy and thankful, saying, "This time I will praise the LORD." 


When we think about Leah's struggle, we see that this is what soo many Christians are doing. They believe in God and testify that God has helped them, but still, in their real life, what theypursue is not God, but something or someone else, thinking that their promising career or their prince-charming would make them truly happy. To them, God is just there to helthem in their pursuit of happiness in something or someone else, definitely not the one they pursue and love with all their heart and soul. As a result, they are still thirsty, bitter and miserable. We must turn to God decisively and accept God's love for us, which brings us real happiness and satisfaction. We must have our heart's complete determination that we will praise God, saying "This time I will praise the LORD." Let’s say this together…


Meanwhile, how was Rachel doing? Look at chapter 30, verses 1 and 2. She captured her husband's heart completely. Jacob's love for her was real and genuine, so she should be happy, but that wasn’t the case. Rachel was jealous of her sister who gave birth to many sons. She felt defeated and disgraced. So, one day, she yelled at Jacob, saying, "Give me children, or I'll die!" She was acting like a spoiled brat. Since Rachel could not have children of her own, she decided to build her family through her maidservant, Bilhah. Then Bilhah bore Jacob two sons and Rachel named them. She named the first one "Dan," which means, "God has vindicated me" and the second one, "Naphtali," which means, "my struggle." She said, I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won. Who names their kid "Vindicate" or "Struggle? The word "vindicate" is a judicial term, meaning, "justify.This shows that Rachel considered her sister like an opponent in a trial. Rachel’s heart was full of hatred and a sense of loss; she wanted to get back at her older sister who bore Jacob four sons. It was clear that Rachel was not happy or full of praise like Leah. She tried to solve her innerproblem by improving her situationhaving children, beating her sister, and being Jacob’s #1 wife. But her testimonies show that it never made her happy. What she needed was to turn to God and accept God's love for her - that would solve all of her problems. 


Second, "How happy I am" (30:9-24). When Leah saw that she stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpahand gave her to Jacob as a wife. Zilpah bore Jacob two sons, and Leah named the first one "Gad," which means, "Good fortune," saying, "What good fortune!" When something good happened, she considered it as "good fortune," being able to truly appreciate itHer heart was no longer twisted with bitterness andsorrows; instead, as she turned to God, she was growing as a sound person who could appreciate good fortune. She named the second son, "Asher," which means, "happy." She said, "How happy I am! The women will call me happy." Actually the word for happy here is the word blessed in Hebrew. She said, How happy I am! The women will call me blessed (KJV).Leah became a happy and blessed woman. Later, she gave birth to her own fifth son; she named him, "Issachar," meaning, "reward." She said, "God has rewarded me." Then she bore Jacob a sixth son, and named him "Zebulun," which means, "honor." She 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." She no longer saw herself as a woman begging for her husband's love, but as a respectable person, deserving his honor. 


When she had two sons by her maidservant, she expressed her joy and happiness; she was a happy and content woman. Now she named her last two sons - Issachar and Zebulun, meaning reward and honor. The kind of language she used here shows her view and understanding of herself and her life. This is not the language of a mere housewife in the countryside, but the language of a spiritual womanWhen she turned to God, solving her problems with God's love, she became a happy woman. But things did not end there. As she remained in God continually,she was growing up as a spiritual woman of God who was worthy of honor and respect. No longer did she have to hang her head low or be overcome with sorrow because of her husband, now she could confidently stand tall; she could see herself before God and know that she was worthy to receive honor from others.


This is what happens to everyone who turns to God and solves their problems in God. They become happy people. And as they continue in the fellowship with God, they come to develop spiritual value system and a spiritual view of their life, themselves, and of the world that their way of thinking, their words and behaviors all change - they become spiritual people, deserving people's honor and respect. They become oaks of righteousness, and God rebuilds the ancient ruins through them. Later, God honored Leah by choosing her fourth son, Judah, to be the covenant person, through whose line the Savior would come into the world. Also, she was buried in the cave of Machpelah together with the patriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob. 


Finally, the Lord remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She had a son and named him "Joseph," which means, "May he add." Her testimony was: "God has taken away my disgrace. May the LORD add to me another son." She was relieved from her sense of disgrace; but she was not satisfied at all and hoped for more sons. She was holding onto her own desire continuously. At that time, she could not truly appreciate what God had done for her, and thereby, she was still angry, bitter, and jealous, competing with her sister. Some people, when they experience God's help, are so thankful and turn to God, appreciating God's grace - they are full of thanks and happiness; they enjoy God's love for them and they love God dearly. But others, even with God's help and blessing, are not thankful; instead, they say, "May the LORD add to me another son." They ask God to give them more and more. When will they be truly satisfied with God? When will they stop their worldly pursuit and truly turn to God? What they need is not another son, but to turn to God decisively, truly appreciating what God has done for them. They must make their heart's firm decision, saying, 'This time I will praise the LORD." 


In Genesis 35:17, we see Rachel giving birth to another son, but while she was in delivery, she had great pain and as she was dying, she named him, "Ben-Oni," which means, "Son of my trouble." Even at her deathbed, she was only thinking about herself; she was complaining that her son was a source of trouble to her. Her outward situation had changed a lot, but inwardly, nothing had changed - she was still bitter and angry, full of complaints. After she died, Jacob changed his son's name to Benjamin, which means, "son of my right hand."


The struggle between Leah and Rachel teaches us a lot aboutlife. All women want to be like Rachel - beautiful, and finding a good person who genuinely loves them; actually, that is what all romance movies are about - a pretty girl finding Mr. Perfect. But we must remember that even Jacob's genuine love was not enough for Rachel; it never works. Leah and Rachel's struggle shows that improving our condition through having someone’scomplete love, having children, or being beautiful cannot solve the real problem; it cannot bring us real happiness and satisfaction; it cannot be our Savior. Only when we accept this and finally stop pursing those other things, then we can turn our heart and focus to God. Only then we find what we are really looking for - true love and true fulfillment; we become happy and blessed people and praise for God bursts forth from our hearts.


What about brothersDo they have any problems? They also thirst for many things, mostly, a secure life. College students typically earn minimum wage, but their dream is to have a career job that pays more than $80,000 a year, or to have a beautiful wife who is lovely in form. But having a desirable career job or a beautiful wife does not mean happiness or satisfaction. All those who have successfully built their career and all those who make a lot of money still look for better jobs.Those who have beautiful wives eventually grow tired of their wife, her beauty fades and they long for a younger wife who will respect them more. Simply, there is no end; just like all sisters, brothers also live as endless wanderers. You don't want to live as an endless wanderer, right? You don't want to name your sons, "Son of my trouble," right? Then, what should you do? Turn to God and accept his love; make your heart's determination, saying, "This time I will praise the LORD." 


How was the atmosphere in Jacob's family? Every day was like being on an episode of Jerry Springer! The whole family wasdivided into four, and they were fighting and competing with each other. There was constant strife, jealousy, and hatred in Jacob’s house, and everyone was suffering. It was complete chaos. But behind the scenes, God was working diligently to lay down the foundation for the 12 tribes of Israel. God was also breaking down Jacob little by little so that Jacob might be changed into a spiritual man, a father of many nations.


In my old life, my identity was always wrapped up in boyfriends, sports, success, and extracurricular activities. In high school when my boyfriend broke up with me, I was really hurt, but also I was lost. My relationship with him brought me honor and recognition, everyone at school knew me because of him, and my family was happy with me that I had a great boyfriend with a promising futureBut when he broke up with me, it was a big loss and from there I jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend looking for the one who was worthy of my heart and future. In high school I was the captain of the track team and personally made it to CIF. I had planned to do track at CSULB, but there were no scholarships available and I had to work to pay my way through college, so I had to let track go. I liked the sense of belonging that I got from being part of a team, so in college I lived in the dorms, picked up school spirit and attended many sports games, including: basketball, hockey, volleyball, and baseball. Then I joined a sorority and was on my sorority’s powderpuff team and participated in many charity events. On top of all that I worked 6 days a week so that I could pay my way through college without getting any loans. From one perspective I too looked like I had a promising future, I had arranged and paid for myself to study abroad in Spain for 1 year, I was planning to join the Peace Corps upon graduation and enjoy traveling and finding adventure. I really was soo determined to find happiness and joy. I really wanted to have a good life and to be honored and admired by others. 


But my inner person was really suffering, I had a void in my heart that could not be filled, I thought that eventually finding Mr. Perfect and attaining an honorable career would make me happy. I thought having my family’s approval and to have them be proud of me would make me happy. At night I could almost always be found drinking and partying, sometimes I would go to parties at CSULB, sometimes at USC, or Cal Poly, or UC Santa Barbara, I would go back to my hometown and enjoy partiesthere, and even made many trips to Vegas. I typically drank until I passed out, and then somehow woke up in the morning and went to work or class. It looked like I was having fun, but actually it was really shameful, I woke up in strange places or with strangers in my bed; my friends would have to tell me all the things I did. I drank and drove all the time. One time, after drinking and leaving a frat party, I broke into a coffee shop on campus and stole some furniture because I thought it would look good in my room. Another time I was pulled over for drinking and driving because I made an illegal u-turn and drove on the wrong side of the road. 


Even among my friends and acquaintances I had a bad reputation, at first I didn’t mind, I was even proud of my party and promiscuous life. But eventually I was sick and tired of my immorality, I could see that I was getting worse and worse, I was lying, stealing, and even did other shameful things in order to pay my bills. That was not the person I wanted to be, but I was stuck with no way out. I tried not to drink, but I drank anyway. I tried not to be promiscuous, but I gave in over and over. I wanted to be an honorable person, but I was not; I was dying inside from disappointment and shame. And still I had a void in my heart that always left me unsatisfied. Later I got a serious boyfriend who worked in the movie industry and found more honorable ways of making money. But still, even though the outward conditions of my life improved, I was still seeking love and approval from others.


Then in the Spring of 2008 I started studying the Bible. I had always believed in God, but I stopped going to church in junior high because I thought I was too sinful for God to help me, and by the end of high school I stopped calling myself Christian because I didn’t agree with the Bible. But when I started studying with my teacher I really enjoyed each Bible study, the Bible seemed soo clear and obvious and through each passage God was becoming more and more real. I felt like a little kid learning about God for the first time and it was really exciting! I had no intention to become Christian, I was just enjoying Bible study. God taught me about eternal life and the kingdom of God, soo many fascinating things; before studying the Bible I never knew that living for God was soo valuable and that everything I did for God counted for all eternity. I never knew that I could actually know God personally, I thought others could meet God, but not me. But through Bible study God sparked hope in my heart that I too could know Him. It sounded good! But there was one big problem, I was supposed to leave for Spain for 1 year at the end of the summer, I had already paid thousands of dollars including $1,600 for my non-refundable plane tickets. This was a real dilemma: I could go and pursue adventure and honor in Spain; or I could pursue God. God helped me by giving me John 12:35 which says, “Walk while you have the light before darkness overtakes you.” At first I was really struggling and debating if I should live for God or not.


I knew living for God would be an all or nothing deal, if I let go of my dreams and future, then I was going to give my whole heart and life to God. I secretly cried everyday for a month, I didn’t even tell my Bible teacher or mother what I was thinking about, it was a lonely and difficult struggle. But one day in Bible study my teacher asked me what God wanted me to do. I was cornered! And finally had to confess out loud what I knew in my heart. I squeezed out the words, God doesn’t want me to go to Spain, but to stay here.” When I finally confessed out loud what God wanted me to do, it was like all of my burdens were lifted from my shoulders and I was free to choose God. From that moment on I was like Leah saying, “this time I will praise the Lord!” All at once it seemed that joy and faith were planted in my heart, I went to my boyfriend’s house that day and told him my decision to live for God. He tried to deter me, but nothing he said mattered because I was finally going to have life together with my God. God had been paying attention to me and blessing me for some time, he sent me a Bible teacher, he had revealed many truths to me, and protected me from bad decisions, but I was soo focused on romance, partying, and having fun that I could not really give thanks to God or give him my whole heart. But once I reached my limit and finally confessed what God wanted me to do, then I could fully open my heart to Him and give Him everything. That is why my life of faith was soo precious those first couple of years, I was soo happy and satisfied with God, praise just kept pouring out of my heart like a well. 


Through preparing the message, this is what God showed me over and over, that he wants to fully restore my joy so that I might be bursting with praise for my God who has blessed me so much! I left my old life, not for any tangible blessing that God offered me, but because of one thing, that if I stayed in California and left my life, then I would finally come to know my God. That one thing is why I started my new life.


Now I have been living in God for 11 years, God has blessed me with a good husband, 2 children, a flexible job, I have mission, Ihave sheep. But my real happiness does not come from outward conditions. My real happiness and satisfaction comes from God himself, He is my best blessing, he is the reason I have meaning and purpose, he is the reason I can smile and have hope, he is the reason I have peace and confidence despite my characters flaws. I can praise God, not for tangible blessings, but I can praise God because he has revealed himself to me and called me out of my old life to himself. God wants to renew my spirit of praise, so no more wasting my time watching movies, shopping online or going on the internet. No more relaxing and doing what I want. No more focusing on how I look or trying to build up my life in this world. Now is the time to praise the Lord! Now is the time to pour out my heart on God’s sheep so that they too can come to meet God as the one worthy of their praise. May I be a source of blessing to others, like an oak of righteousness through which God uses to rebuild the ancient ruins.


One Word: This Time I Will Praise The Lord!