So many people today act as if God is just like their dog. He always loves you (no matter what) and misses you when you’re gone. He can be a bit of a bother since you must feed, water, and walk him. He’ll always lick you when you need it (and when you don’t). How much is God really like that, though? It’s true that His love never fails, but doesn’t He get angry when we abuse and/or ignore Him? Do we honestly think that, like my dog, the Lord needs something from me? In reality He needs nothing. He depends on me for nothing. Even if He had a need, He wouldn’t ask me to fill it. The God who created and owns everything will not sit on my lap and let me pet Him. He will, however, let me crawl up into His bosom while He holds me and gently reassures me of His love. I don’t whip Him for being bad, but at times He disciplines me. When He does it’s always from love and for my good. God and my dog are very different, but He gives me the ability to love both. I’m thankful for that.
God allows trials for a reason: to change us. Throughout the Scriptures we are told about trials. They are common to everyone. How do you react to them?
Trials Happen Along the Way (v. 16)
We should expect them. Rachel was pregnant and knew she would deliver soon. She had nine months to prepare herself for this day. Trials happen to everyone. Rachel and Jacob were godly people but still experienced trials. Trials many times prove you are close to God.
Trials can be a Curse or a Blessing (vv. 17, 18)
Rachel saw this as a curse. Even though she was blessed with a son, she only focused on the pain. She named her son after her pain (Ben-Oni means “son of my sorrow” or “son of my pain”). Jacob saw this as a blessing. This son would continue the promise of God. He renamed him according to his blessing (Benjamin means “son of my right hand,” the place of blessing and esteem).
Trials Always End (vv. 19, 20)
Rachel’s trial ended in death. She gave her life for her son. She was buried near the place Jesus would be born (Bethlehem). She immediately went into the Lord’s presence. Jacob memorialized the trial’s end. He “set up a pillar” to remind him and others of this trial. This site would eventually fall in the lot to the tribe of Benjamin, Jacob’s new son. A church stands there today. Always remember the lessons learned during trials.
How do you react to trials? Are they a curse or a blessing? God has allowed them for the purpose of change. Are you letting Him work in you?
The Lord tells here of a day coming “when the plowman will overtake the reaper.” He’s describing some amazing days of plenty coming. Before these days could come, though, His people would have to endure hardship, destruction, and famine. This is the same in the spiritual world. God allows, and sometimes even brings, hardship and a time of lack spiritually to His people. When we grow weary of it, we begin to long for God. This leads us to cry out to Him in repentance. Then God hears and acts. When God blesses, He blesses abundantly! I believe the days of plenty are just ahead. We have suffered hardship and lack for a long time. As we long for God instead of just His blessing, He is going to respond. First we need to cry out to Him for mercy and in true repentance seek the Lord. Once this has happened, we will see a harvest of so many souls that the one who is preparing the soil for the seed of God’s Word will overtake the one who is reaping the harvest. This means that God’s people will be overcome by a sense of urgency to spread the Gospel. As they do, souls will flood into the kingdom. Pray with me that this day will come soon!
As the Israelites returned from 70 years of exile, they came back to find their holy city of Jerusalem in ruins. The prophet Nehemiah was sent by God to encourage and direct them to rebuild their beloved home, especially its walls, so that it might once again bring glory to their God. In the long list of all those who did work on the walls, we come across one specific group who was highly esteemed although their normal work was very menial. “The temple servants living in Ophel made repairs as far as the front of the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower” (Neh. 3:26 NASB). The Hebrew for “temple servants” is Nethinims and is translated as such in many older versions of our Bibles. Who were these people? They were descendants of the temple servants that kings David and Solomon had put in place during their respective reigns. They were not priests or Levites, the ones who were specifically chosen by God to handle the holy things of the temple. These “temple servants” were not given that duty. No, their responsibilities included the everyday chores within the precincts of the temple. They did the cleaning, repairs, maintenance, wood-cutting, and cooking. So what, you may say. The fact is, the Church of God today needs more of these. Nethinims seem to be a dying breed. So few are willing to serve the Lord in the simplest of ways where there is no benefit or reward from man. But God sees this labor of love. He will reward it one day. The Nethinims were recorded in His Word because they were faithful in even the smallest tasks. Are you willing to follow their example?
Two painful surgeries in less than a month. That’s what I’ve endured. Fear led me into the first, though I knew God would sustain me. Extreme pain such as I have never known before led me out of the second. I’m not the man I once was. I am weak, empty, broken, humbled, and tired. I feel so useless at times. The inability to lift even small amounts of weights makes me feel like less than a man. I wonder at times just how long it will be until I am whole again. Just how long is this road back to completeness, to wholeness, to ME again? Daily I find myself wondering: “Will I ever truly be me again?” I know that God had this all in His master plan. The difficulty is making sense of it all. The hardest part of the long road back is not being able to see around the many curves in the road or over the hills ahead of me. My vision is so impaired. I thank my God that His vision is never blocked. He sees clearly what lies ahead because He has already planned out the course which I am to take. He has gone ahead of me, and even now walks beside me. His healing hand rests upon my shoulder to provide comfort and encouragement when I just can’t take one more step. My pain, though intense at times, is nothing in comparison to the agony He endured for me at Calvary I will gladly endure whatever He purposes for me if it will only bring Him greater glory. Thy will be done, O Lord!
So what if you’ve tried before and failed. Try it again! Failure is how you learn! So what if you don’t know how. Do it anyway and see what happens! So what if you don’t think you can. Do it and find out that you really can! So what if you’ve made a mess of your life. You still have a lot of life to live. You don’t have to make a mess of the rest. Turn it all over to Jesus now and see what He can do with it. So what if you’ve tried being a good person and it didn’t work for you. That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to make bad people like you and me into good people. We can’t be good on our own. So what if you don’t know how to start all over again. Jesus can. So what will you do with Jesus? Ignore Him like you have so many times in the past? So what will you do in the judgment?
O how easily we do the things we know will cost us so much heartache, so much pain later! O how thoughtless we are as we go about our daily routines, never considering how every choice we make has eternal consequences! How many of us pause and count the cost before we commit the sin? Do we truly know what each terrible decision cost our Lord? That lustful look was a strike to His pristine face. Those harsh words to a neighbor were the thorns on His kingly brow. The lies spoken in secret to our spouse were open scandal on Calvary’s cross. Every sin He felt as they drove the nails into His hands and feet. Every “mistake” He knew as the blood drops streamed from His head, His arms, His legs. Yes, He has paid the price, but do we truly know the price WE pay? In all our sin we drive ourselves further away from the One who took the stripes for us. Consider the awful price! Consider the great privilege we have to come into the presence of the King of kings! And we throw it all away for a mere pittance! A tiny moment of pleasure or a second of poor reasoning! He is worthy of so much more!