Updates — And a Bible Study

A few quick updates:

Ha Na Mi La will be admitted to the hospital tomorrow and will have surgery Friday for his rectocele. Please pray for this sweet little boy.

Paul and Bro. Anond had a meeting today with some of the Bible school students. They discussed the schedule and the topics of study, etc.  Fifteen men came, but these are the ones who live nearby.  Several more are expected from more remote places.  The school will start on November 5.  Please pray that the Lord would send the ones He wants to be discipled, and that He would bless.

I had the first Bible study with the ladies on Saturday, with Bro. Anond taking time to translate for me after an extremely wearing week.  We saw from the schedule that every Saturday from now until December will be taken up with Thanksgiving services, so Anond suggested we meet Monday and Tuesday, and then postpone the studies until December. That’s what we did. We had a good group each time, between 15 and 20 ladies.  Ha Na Mi La’s grandmother came, as did a young lady dropped off by the police a few nights ago.  I have been struggling to discover her story.  She evidently ran away from home and was attacked and beaten by some guy.  The police brought her here and dropped her off. She is 18.  I can’t figure out if she went with the guy willingly, or why exactly she is here or how long she is staying, but I was happy to have her in the Bible study.  Maybe the police have figured out our mission here is a safe refuge and just brought her since they don’t know what else to do with her. Evidently she comes from near the Burma border.  I can’t wait until I can speak the language!  Very frustrating trying to figure out things and not being able to talk to people.

For those who are interested, here are my rather rough notes on the first study. We are continuing our character studies of the women of the Bible. We started out this round with Rachel and Leah.

Ladies’ Bible Study — Rachel and Leah

 Introduction

What happens if you marry the wrong person?  What if you find out the person you marry isn’t like you thought he would be?  This happens often.  When you are married you see the “real” person. You discover the flaws they have kept secret from you when you were dating.

So, when you make a mistake, does that mean you should say, “Let’s stop and try again.  Better luck next time.”  No, God says that marriage is for life.  It’s not His will to marry and divorce and marry again. There is only one exception to this — and we will talk about it later.

In our story today we see a man who found out he really did marry someone other than the he thought he did.  He tried to “fix” it his own way — and we see the heartache it caused. We will also see how bitterness destroys. It destroys, not the one who hurt us, but it hurts US. It also hurts those we love.

Rachel and Leah

 Rachel and Leah were sisters. We will tell their story together because they are joined together — too much so!

Perhaps as little girls they were close and loved each other.  However, things changed when they grew up.  Rachel was beautiful.  That’s the first thing everyone noticed about her.  Leah was “tender-eyed.”  That might have meant that her true beauty was on the inside and showed through her eyes.  Probably it means that she was “weak eyed” or even “cross-eyed.”  Some say it means that she had light colored eyes, like mine, instead of a pretty brown, like yours.  At any rate, we know that she was not as desirable as her sister.  We gather that her father, Laban, was afraid he would never her off.

That’s when Jacob comes in.  He was on the run for his life. He had tricked his brother Esau and had to stay away for awhile so his brother wouldn’t kill him.  He went to see his mother’s family in the land of Padanaram.  Right away he met his cousin Rachel and fell in love with her.  He asked her father, Laban, if he could marry her.

“If you serve me for seven years, I will give her to you as your wife,” Laban told him.

Jacob agreed and the years seemed short because he loved her so much.  She was worth the wait!

(Here is an important lesson to teach your children.  If you really love someone, you will wait for them.  You will wait to have sex until you are married, because if you love them you want them to have the best.  You will wait until they are ready for marriage.  If someone tells you, “I love you too much to wait.  We have to show our love right now,” you can know he doesn’t really love you.  He just wants to use you.  Mothers, warn your daughters about this!  Tell them that someone who loves them will wait for them. Tell your sons that if they really love, they will wait. A man who loves a woman will put aside his own desires and do what is best for her.)

Finally the day came when the wait was over.  Jacob and his bride were married.  In that culture the bride came to the wedding wearing a heavy veil, hiding her features. Later, in the night, Jacob couldn’t see that the woman he took as his wife was not his beloved Rachel, but her weak-eyed sister, Leah.  What an unhappy surprise he had in the morning!

He confronted his father-in-law about it.

“Well, in our country it is the custom for the oldest girl to get married first,” he said. “That’s why I gave you Leah.”

Do you think he didn’t know that Jacob was working those seven years for Rachel?  Do you think he didn’t know Jacob really wanted the younger daughter?  Of course he did!  He must have been afraid that he would never find a husband for Leah, or maybe he planned all along to get extra work from Jacob.

Remember that Jacob was tricky. He tricked his brother. Now his Uncle Laban tricked HIM.  Often when we sin, God allows someone to treat us the same way so we can see how it feels.  If you gossip about someone, God will allow someone to gossip about you. When you feel the hurt, you will know just how much you have hurt others.  If you are unkind, God will allow you to feel unkindness.  He doesn’t do that because He is unkind, but because He expects more from His children. He loves you and wants you to have a higher standard.  Sometimes I look at others and think, “They do all these things wrong, and THEY never get caught or have to be punished.”  But, my concern is how God is working in MY life.  I’m glad He loves me enough to correct me!

God allowed Jacob to be treated just as he treated his brother, Esau.

“If you work for me for seven more years,” Laban said. “I will give you Rachel, too.”

What a bad idea!  God’s plan is one man and one woman together for life.  To have two wives is not the plan and, as we see from Scripture, it causes much hardship.

Jacob accepted the offer. He took Rachel as his wife, too, and agreed to work seven more years to pay for her.  And the trouble started.  His wives were jealous of each other and bitter against each other. His home was miserable — not happy.

Jacob did what many people do.  He found he had not married the person he intended to marry.  Often — in fact, usually — people marry someone they think is beautiful and wonderful. Then, after they are married, they find out the person is very different than they thought!  They see them with sticking out hair in the morning. They see them being crabby on a bad day.  They think, “This isn ‘t the wonderful person I married.”  Every married person finds all the secret faults of their spouse.Should they say, “Well, I made a mistake. I married the wrong person.  I will just go and get the right one?”

No.  That way leads to heartache for everyone.  The best way is to say, “Yes, he has faults, but I married him for life. I will accept him and love him anyway.  I will trust God to change him in His time.  If he never changes, I will be a good wife to him, anyway.”

Some wives have said to me, “But he isn’t worth all that trouble. I just want him to go away.”

There are some that I would agree — they are not worth the effort to forgive and love. But God is ALWAYS worth the effort. If you can’t be a faithful, loving wife for the sake of your husband, do it for the Lord who commands you to do it!

What if Jacob did that?  What if he had said, “This was not my plan, but it happened. I’m married to this woman. It’s God’s will for me to stick with her.  I’ll assume that she is the one for me, whether I like it or not.”No doubt he would have been happier. Leah, though not as beautiful as Rachel, loved Jacob.  The rest of the time Leah is mentioned as one who is trying to gain he husband’s love.

She had the first son.   She named him, Reuben, which means, “See, a son.” Leah said, “The Lord has seen my troubles and has given me a son. Now my husband will love me.”

How sad!  She knew she wasn’t loved. Her sister was mean to her. She hoped that having the first son would earn Jacob’s love.

Next she had Simeon, which means “hearing.”“The Lord has heard that I was hated and has given me another son.”  Who hated Leah?  Rachel.  Do you think a household where there is jealousy and hatred is ever happy?  No.  Do you think Jacob was happy?  No.

Next came Levi — “joined.”  Now my husband will be joined with me.”

But then something happened with baby #4.  Judah-  “praise.”  Now I will praise the Lord,” she said.  Leah was in a terrible, unhappy position, yet she came to a place where she could say, “Praise the Lord.”

That is an encouragement to us.  Sometimes our situation doesn’t change, but if our attitude changes toward it, we can say, “Praise the Lord!” from our hearts.  Can a woman be happy and serve the Lord in a marriage where the husband is wrong?  Yes, she can!  She must look at Jesus and serve Him first.  If our hearts are on Jesus, we can be happy, no matter what.

Rachel was beautiful and beloved, but her character was not so lovely.  She hated her sister.We might consider that natural, under the circumstances.  She had a cause for bitterness.  It wasn’t her fault that her father had done this to her. But bitterness always destroys the hater and the ones the hater loves best.

God saw that she hated Leah and He withheld children from her.  She had her husband’s love, but she wasn’t satisfied.  She turned in anger and bitterness to her husband and said, “Give me children or I will die.”

That made him angry.  “Am I God?” he said. “I’m not keeping children from you.”

Rachel was determined to have a child, one way or another.  She gave her maid, Bilhah, to Jacob as a surrogate mother, of sorts.  Just as Sarah had planned to adopt Ishmael, Rachel planned to claim Bilhah’s son as her own.

Bilhah had a child, and Rachel displayed her petty, mean spirit by calling him Dan, meaning “judging.” She said, “God has judged between me and my sister and I’m winning.”

Next Bilhah bore Naphtali, which means “wrestling.”

“I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.”  What could be more illustrative of the strife that was in that home?

Not to be outdone, and seeing her only advantage sliopping from her, Leah also went to “Plan B.”  She gave Jacob her handmaid, Zilpah.  Zilpah bore him Gad, “a troop cometh” or “this is only the beginning” and “Asher” which means “blessed.”

No doubt, this was a troubled home.

Meanwhile, Jacob worked for many years for Laban.  Laban said, “I have learned from experience that God has blessed me for your sake.”

Laban was blessed, and God also blessed Jacob. He became very wealthy. Laban’s sons and Laban himself began to reret giving Jacob any of the sheep and cattle, because God kept blessing until Jacob had the most.  Laban kept changing his wages, but God kept on seeing that Jacob had the best.

People can’t keep God’s people from prospering.  Some may try, but God always prevails.

God directed Jacob to go back to Canaan. (That is often the result of the Labans in our lives. God puts people in our way to make us uncomfortable enough to follow His directions.)  Jacob asked Rachel and Leah for their opinion, (a point in his favor!).  For once Rachel and Leah wee in agreement. “Our father has stolen from us and doesn’t care about us. Let’s go.”

Rachel, by then, had one son, Joseph.  She was expecting another child as they began the journey back.

Jacob received word that Esau was coming. Would he still be angry?  Was he coming to kill Jacob?

Jacob arranged his wives and children in ascending order of importance. He put his handmaids and their children out in front where was the most danger, then Leah and her children, and then Rachel and Joseph where it was safest. Do you think the women noticed this arrangement?  Do you think the children noticed it?  Did it make for a happier home?

Before the journey ended, Rachel went into labor and died in childbirth.

Leah at last had her husband to herself. Sort of. Always he favored Rachel’s children  The dissention that began with the mothers went on to the chldren. I don’t believe she was ever free from Rachel’s shadow.

One final point concerning which wife was the right one — the Messiah came through the line of Judah, Leah’s child.

 Conclusion

We see in Jacob’s family a picture of a family gone wrong.  God’s plan is one man and one woman together for life.  We see the destruction that violating that plan causes.  Bitterness and unhappiness ruled the home. The anger and jealous that started with the sisters was carried on to the children.  The brothers hated Joseph so much that they were ready to murder him — and did sell him into slavery.

How much better to do things God’s way, according to His plan!