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Oct 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 13, 2013 – Genesis 30

God Bless Our Dysfunctional Home

Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” She said, “Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.” Genesis 30:1-3

INTRO: For awhile, my favorite fiction author was Douglas Coupland

I purchased and read each new book he wrote as it came out
– so though the title didn’t appeal to me, I bought and read All Families Are Psychotic
– for the last three weeks, this title frequently come to mind

In chapter 30 the glaring dysfunction within Jacob’s family is revealed

Our first good look at Rachel as a person

Until now, we only know statistics about her – the younger, beautiful sister
– we don’t know her from the inside
• for example, what she felt when she first met Jacob at the well
• or when her father switched her sister for her on her wedding night
• or the fact that she was barren, while her sister had already produced four sons
– now, for the first time we see inside her
“Rachel became jealous of her sister”• note, Leah is not mentioned by name, but she is “her sister”  naming Leah
• this emphasizes their sibling rivalry
○ Rachel was not jealous of Leah as a person, but as a competitor
○ she wanted what her sister had and that had been denied her

She sounds like a spoiled brat when she goes to Jacob, and demands “Give me sons”
– the irony: God gave her sons and she died after all — having “sons” is what killed her
• she died during the birth of her second son
– “knees” – newborn quickly placed on the knees of the mother

Why did the knees receive me,
And why the breasts, that I should suck? (Job 3:12)

• or the infant would be placed on the knees of a relative
• the point is the maid would act as a surrogate mother

Now begins the “Baby Wars”

The naming of each child reveals what its birth meant to the (adoptive) mother
– Rachel first feels vindicated and then victorious (Dan and Naphtali)
• her social stigma was resolved and she won a sibling contest
○ she saw herself in a competitive, rather than cooperative, relationship with Leah
– Leah, however, feels joyful and connected to God (Gad and Asher)

Two moments in these baby wars are highlighted
vv. 14-15, for the first time in the story, the sisters talk to each other
• mandrakes were thought to have an aphrodisiac effect and to enhance fertility
• the sisters negotiated for Jacob, as if it were a business transaction
○ to them, relationships required formal agreements
○ this reveals an underlying lack of trust or mutual concern (and these characteristics ran through the whole family)
• their “deal” indicates the kind of interaction that went on in their childhood home
vv. 22-24, the climax of this episode
• note how receiving this blessing has turned Rachel’s heart toward God
○ the name of her son reflects on God — not society or her sister
• and not just “God” as an impersonal “Supreme Being”
○ but here is a significant shift in the chapter, which until now has exclusively referred to Elohim
○ but now the personal name of God is used: Yahweh, and so, for the remainder of chapter

Two tricksters strike a deal

We know that this cannot end well

Jacob realized he had no future with Laban and it was time to go
– lots of people never get to this point
• they hang on too long and for the wrong reasons
– Laban, however, knew Jacob brought God’s blessing
• clearly, it is not for love of Jacob that Laban wants him to stay
• so they negotiate payment for Jacob’s service

In verses 31-34, Jacob laid out the first stage of his scam
– he “sweetens the deal” by asking only for the speckled, spotted, and black sheep and goats
• the percentage of sheep and goats with these markings was significant less than average
○ also, the markings would make it easy to identify which sheep belonged to Laban and which to Jacob
– Laban wasn’t able to refuse
• he immediately envisioned Jacob with a very small flock, while his flocks continued to increase

In verses 37-42, Jacob implemented the second stage of his scam
– at breeding time, he tried to influence the outcome of the next generation
• ancient belief: visual impressions during pregnancy affected physical attributes
– more significantly, Jacob bred his flock with the healthier specimens of both his and Laban’s flocks
• the feebler specimens, he bred with Laban’s flocks

So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys. (v. 43)

What are we supposed to do with this?

Nothing yet – the story isn’t over
– conservative commentators typically pause here
• some will moralize the story’s message and denounce Jacob’s actions
• others will congratulate Jacob for his cleverness in outwitting his pagan uncle
– something vital is missing in all the players and their actions
• we will see there’s no happy ending to this episode
• but the issue here is relational rather than moral
○ both condemnation and exoneration are unnecessary

But imagine living in a family situation like this

  • there’s a lot of sneaking around — someone is always doing something behind your back
  • you live in a constant state of distrust
  • there are frequent conflicts and squabbles
  • you have to always be guarded – who’s trying to trick or manipulate you now?
  • paranoia runs rampant among family members – there’s lots of suspicion and many accusations
  • it produces a state of endless frustration

These family dynamics breed unhappiness and a growing emptiness

So, what can we do

When the stressors in our circumstances are unavoidable and unrelenting?w
– when diet and exercise are not enough?
• the verse that I have been repeating to myself:

Return to your rest,
O my soul,

For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
(this is followed by a short list in the next verse) Psalm 116:7-8

I’m going to suggest some things I never thought I would
– I never received training in pastoral counseling before I entered ministry
• what I learned early on, was to tell people in need or in pain, “Read your Bible, pray, go to church, and share your faith”
• I soon learned that doing these things didn’t work
– nevertheless: Read your Bible
• we can treat the Bible as special book – as the most special book
○ a theological rule book that tells us what to believe and how to behave
○ there is certainly a lot of material in it that can be used in these ways
• or, we can treat the Bible as link to the transcendent
○ as a door that opens to the reality and presence of God
○ like the ladder in Jacob’s dream
– if we treat it as a theological rule book, we may never find the ladder, the bridge (e.g., the Pharisees and scribes)
• but if we approach it as a bridge, it already contains theology and rules
○ only now we experience them not as laws, but as life

Get in a Bible study
– some teachers preserve and communicate the historic Christian faith
• they are reliable guides of truth “once delivered to the saints”
– others have had a personal experience of that truth
• those are the once we want to have as our teachers and mentors


CONC: Imagine that you see a friend or relative sitting at a table enjoying a cup of tea

That person calls to you, “Come join me. Drop everything and savor this beautiful moment with me”
– perhaps you  think to yourself, “I wish I was on vacation so I could sit here for awhile”
• but you are too pressured and stressed by your to-do list
• you go your frenetic way, passing by life rather than entering and experiencing it

Now it is God who calls you, “Enter My rest”
– what will you do?
• if you pocket your to-do list and join him, you will find in that moment a life-enhancing, soul-restoring mini-vacation


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  1. Donnie / Oct 17 2013

    This is the first time I’ve swung into this page in a while. I’m so glad that I did. To sit and savor a real moment with the One who breathes His life into my body and mind of dust and decay…nothing else matters. The glory, the love, the joy, the peace, the hope… thank you.

  2. Patti S / Oct 21 2013

    Thank you so much for your courage. Thank you for standing up for truth. I have been on a spriritual journey moving away from fundamentalist christianity for the past 7 years. It started to become so difficult for me to reconcile the teachings of the fundamentalists (eg. Calvary Chapels) with the peace I was finding in a fellowship of recovering souls. God had begun to reveal to me my concept of Him was limiting, judgemental and hurtful not only to me but those around me. It was through meditation, prayer and fellowship at a Unity Church that I was able to find so much peace and grow so much spiritually. But, there was a small voice that said I was going in the wrong direction and thus would be punished for such a choice. I was so comforted from reading a little about your journey. (It is odd that my finding out about your journey was because I was interested in the story of Chuck Sr’s passing.) – Sorry for the loss of your father. May your family be comforted by those closest to you and by the Divine Healer. There is so much I wanted to tell you – let it be said that I honor your decisions and your path. I am more encouraged to continue on my own path. I believe in the work you are doing. Blessings, Patti S

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