Love And The Unloved

Jacob012Today I read the story of Jacob and family again. After tricking his dad into giving him the blessing that rightfully belonged to his older brother, Jacob took off under the pretense of finding a wife among his parents’ relatives.

And find a wife he did. Well, actually four of them. The thing is, he fell in love with the first girl he laid eyes on. Genuinely fell in love, it would appear, because he worked for seven years in the expectation that he’d get to marry her.

But the deceiver was deceived. His beloved’s dad did a switch on the honeymoon, which was apparently also the wedding. Instead of bedding the woman he loved, Jacob awoke the next morning beside her sister.

He was just a little upset. He’d worked for Rachel, loved Rachel, and now he was married to Leah.

I’ve always sided with Jacob in this situation, maybe because I knew he was a “patriarch” and for the longest time I didn’t see them as normal human beings. I mean, God chose them, made them promises, so they were special. I looked at everything they did and wondered, why are some of the things they did wrong for us but right for them? Well, duh. Those things—like Jacob lying to his dad—were just as wrong for them as for us.

At any rate, I grew up having a soft spot in my heart for poor Jacob, saddled to squint-eyed Leah who he’d never wanted to marry. But to my shock and incredulity, God doesn’t seem to be the romantic I am. He saw how Leah was unloved and enabled her to conceive a child:

Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”

True to my bent, I’ve always felt sorry for Rachel. I mean, she had to stand by while the man who wanted to marry her, married her sister. Then that same sister gave birth to son after son after son after son.

The rivalry, the jealousy is palpable in this story and the machinations of each woman and the lengths they were willing to go to in order to best the other one are twisted. Just when it seems like Leah has come out on top, God enables Rachel to conceive a child and give birth to a son.

How interesting that He seems to come to the rescue of the underdog, the least favored, then the one most in need.

So un-American. We like people who are self-made, who pull themselves up by their bootstraps, who go after all the good things they deserve.

Yes, we also like the Special Olympics and stories of overcomers, but that’s because they are striving and reaching and battling against all odds. We cheer for them. But squint-eyed Leah was just not as attractive as Rachel, and not loved, a third wheel at the party. So why pull for her?

Then, when Leah became supermom, and Rachel was alone and childless, God reached down to her and surprised her with joy.

When there is no reason to lift someone out of their misery, God reaches to take their hand. He is so much more loving than we can ever imagine. So much kinder, more thoughtful and caring, so gracious and giving.

Worthy is our God to receive praise and honor, glory and blessing, now and forevermore.

Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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Sex And The Bible

Samson004I’m not sure where the idea has come from that Christians are prudish as opposed to moral. I don’t see the two meaning the same thing, and neither does the New Oxford American Dictionary. But what about the Bible? Is it prudish?

Not quite. No sooner does the writer of Genesis recount the creation of Adam and Eve but he reports, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25).

Some people unfamiliar with the Bible have the strange idea that the first sin had to do with sex. I think that myth is reflective of a sex-crazed society, because it has nothing to do with reality.

Sex was part of creation which God declared to be good. In addition, His first command, even before “From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,” was “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Translated, that means, Have sex with your wife and have kids.

After Man sinned and God removed humans from the garden, sex remained as much a part of the historical record as any other human activity. In Genesis 4, for example, the Bible notes that Lamech took two wives—presumably the first to have bigamist relationships.

After the flood, when Noah and his family landed on dry land, the Bible notes that Ham, his youngest son, “saw the nakedness of his father” while Noah, drunk from wine, was passed out. Something happened, clearly, because when Ham’s brothers learned what he’d done, they “covered the nakedness of their father.” Noah awoke and “knew what his youngest son had done to him.”

Not a clear picture of what kinky thing happened in this family, but the event is not omitted either. Neither are the homosexual desires of the men in Sodom and Gomorrah who wanted to rape Lot and the two angels who had come to take him out of the city.

The Bible doesn’t shy away from revealing Sarah’s attempt to “help God out” with the son He’d promised Abraham by giving her husband Hagar, her servant, as a mistress, since she herself was beyond child-bearing years.

Then there’s Jacob and the trickery of Laban which put Leah in the wedding tent the night Jacob thought he was having sex with Rachel. A week later, after completing his sexual obligation to his first wife, he then married the woman he loved. But throughout the years, Jacob’s sex life is about as open as . . . oh, say, David’s.

First, though he loved Rachel, he continued to sleep with Leah, as evidenced by the four sons she birthed. Rachel, on the other hand, was barren, and demanded Jacob give her sons. He responded by saying, Am I God who has closed your womb? Notice, he didn’t say, OK, I’ll move back in with you. Apparently, Rachel’s barrenness was not due to a lack of sex between her and her husband.

Rachel’s jealousy led her to give Jacob her servant as a mistress. He didn’t object and had two sons by that woman. Leah didn’t want Rachel to get ahead of her, so she gave Jacob her servant as mistress. In the course of time she delivered two sons as well.

But Jacob still loved Rachel and apparently was now living with her exclusively. Except one day Rachel asked Leah to share the mandrakes one of her sons had found in the field. Leah ended up agreeing . . . if she could sleep with Jacob that night.

And Leah once more got pregnant. And again. And again.

But at some point Jacob went back to Rachel because God opened her womb, and she gave birth to a son named Joseph.

Joseph—this would be the boy whose jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt where he fended off the advances of his master’s wife and landed in jail because of it. Let me be clear. This was not some mild flirtation. The Bible says Potiphar’s wife approached Joseph day after day and said, Lie with me.

Then there’s Joseph’s brother Judah, whose daughter-in-law tricked him into sleeping with her (he thought she was a prostitute—so much more upright!)—and had twins by him.

Should I go on to the gang rape and murder Judges records or the mass kidnapping of women the Israelite leaders engineered so the men of Benjamin would have wives. Then there are Samson’s exploits with various women and David’s adultery.

I’m sorry. If someone thinks Christians are prudish it’s because a) they don’t know what’s in the Bible; or b) they’re talking about professing Christians who don’t read the Bible and are formulating their attitudes about sex from some other place.

Because, yes, many of the examples I mentioned above are not what we’d call ideal examples of a sexual relationship. But that’s part of the point. The Bible doesn’t pull any punches about sex or any other topic. Jesus Himself had some clear instruction about lust, and He didn’t shy away from telling the Samaritan woman precisely what her marital status was (You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t your husband).

He didn’t camp on her sexual failings, however. He didn’t tell her to marry the man she was living with and then come back to see Him. But He also didn’t hesitate to tell the woman caught in the act of adultery that she should sin no more.

Prudish? The Bible is not prudish. People who read the Bible will see the good, the beautiful, the disturbing, the vile within its pages. A Christian who pays attention to what God says about sex through the lives and decrees and admonitions in Scripture can hardly have a prudish attitude toward sex.

The Bible doesn’t shy away from the topic of sex, but it also never presents sex as mankind’s problem. But don’t take my word for it; read it yourself.

Published in: on May 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm  Comments (2)  
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