Abounding Grace

“Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 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: The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram. Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 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.”—Genesis 35:16-29 (NIV)

Yesterday, we observed two important themes in Jacob’s return to Bethel: God’s call to repentance and God’s reminder of our redeemed identity. You may have expected today’s passage to be slightly more hopeful and uplifting in light of yesterday’s message, but we find that it’s quite the opposite.

Just as Simba’s life doesn’t immediately become easy after Mufasa reminds him of who he is, Jacob’s life after God speaks to him at Bethel doesn’t become better either. In the midst of his return to Ephrath, his beloved wife Rachel gives birth to her second son and dies in the process. As Jacob and his family mourn, his eldest son, Reuben, commits the disrespectful sin of sleeping with his father’s concubine. If you’ve been keeping up with our series, or know anything about the family of Jacob, then you know that he and his family were clearly imperfect. Their hearts weren’t always in the right place and their actions didn’t always honor God. However, despite the sadness and sin filling today’s passage, we can still clearly see the beauty of God’s grace and love through it.

Despite Jacob’s faith, he still walked through many valleys, but so did Jesus. Christ endured much suffering, even before the cross, as He obeyed the commands of His Father in heaven. As Christ-followers, we should expect to endure the same as we take up our own cross and forsake the world like Jesus commanded in Matthew 16. The most important promise to remember, though, is that the victory already belongs to Christ! Therefore, through both the mountaintop and valley experiences of life, we have the assurance that our Father has won and will fulfill His promise of salvation to us on the day we enter His presence for the rest of eternity!

As we continue to struggle between our flesh and spirit, we know that Christ fights for us! The hope to be seen in Jacob’s dysfunctional family is that God worked through them in spite of their mistakes. Those who repented and returned to God after their mistakes have now been remembered for their faith and repentance instead of for all of their downfalls. This hope applies to us because we’re also imperfect people, but we know that God is in the business of forgiving and equipping His people to serve Him! He is faithful to help us when we endure suffering as a result of the evil in this world and faithful to forgive us when we face the consequences of our own mistakes. Praise be to our gracious, loving, and strong Father!

DIG: Where have you strayed from the grace and love of God recently?

DISCOVER: What does the Lord promise us when we trip up or walk through a valley? Check out 1 John 1:8-9 and Romans 8.

DO: After reading the additional Scripture in the Discover section, write a verse or two that stands out to you and keep it somewhere you can see it throughout your day as a visual reminder of God’s promises!