google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html

Archive for the 'Bible Study' Category

00:0000:00

ETB_logo.jpg

Exploring The Bible

24. New Testament

Gospel of Mark - AD50-60

 

G'day and welcome to our series, "Exploring the Bible" This is also the title of our latest book available on Amazon by clicking here or visiting PulpTheology.com

Key Verses:

  • Mark 8:34-36; Mark 10:45

 

Mark presents Jesus as the Servant of the Lord, coming in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. Jesus offers His miracles and his teaching as his credentials. He gathers His disciples, while proclaiming the Kingdom of God and its message.

Jesus teaches in short parables, which hide the truth from those hardened against Him, while at the same time preparing and instructing those responsive to Him. Jesus calls those who follow him to serve him by serving others and to deny themselves by taking up their own cross, just as He took up His. There is little about the resurrection in this Gospel, possibly because the end of the scroll has been lost.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books! Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!

Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Prayer of Trust

00:0000:00

sermon.jpg

A Prayer Of Trust - Psalm 62

Psalm 62

1 My soul rests in God alone. My salvation is from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress-- I will never be greatly shaken.
3 How long will you assault a man, would all of you throw him down, Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
4 They fully intend to throw him down from his lofty place. They delight in lies. They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.

Selah.

5 My soul, wait in silence for God alone, for my expectation is from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I will not be shaken.
7 With God is my salvation and my honor. The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us.

Selah.

9 Surely men of low degree are just a breath, and men of high degree are a lie. In the balances they will go up. They are together lighter than a breath.
10 Don't trust in oppression. Don't become vain in robbery. If riches increase, don't set your heart on them.
11 God has spoken once; twice I have heard this, that power belongs to God.
12 Also to you, Lord, belongs loving kindness, for you reward every man according to his work.

Introduction

I wonder what you trust in? We all know that you can't trust the London Underground, unless you are trusting them not to be on time. And you can trust the bus, but only to come in a group of twos or threes after you've waited for them for half an hour. You can't even trust modern technology! The latest computers used to do your work, more often than not will break down just when you need them most. Then you have to trust your computer manager to fix the problem for you. And you can't even trust him to fix the problem because some part is broken, so you have to call out the repair person to come and replace the part that is broken. And wouldn't you know it? He's had to go to the doctor, because he's got some problem with his knees and has had to go have emergency surgery, and all the other repair people are far too busy to fix your computer so that you can get the urgent report out to prove to your boss, that he can trust you!

Trust in the world today, is a missing ingredient. The one thing that most people today will say they trust in, is themselves. The world says to trust yourself, don't rely on anything else. The world says that all other things are totally unreliable and the only object you can trust is yourself, because you know what you can do, and you should only ask for help if your really desperate for it.

It is like a refreshing breath of clean air, that we come to Psalm 62. Living in a world which cynically says trust only yourself, Psalm 62 reflects like a mirror the thoughts of God to our minds and hearts. When God says "Trust me!" - he is totally trustworthy.
This man, King David knew that God was like that. Through out his life, except for when he sinned, he trusted in God. David trusted God when he hid in the mountains and caves from Saul, Absalom and all others that were after him. Psalm 62 tells us that David's only hope, honour, refuge, rest and salvation was in God. This Psalm contains phrases that can be found in other Psalms such as Psalm 18 or even in 2 Samuel 22:1-51 where David sung and prayed when he was in trouble and need rescuing. In these 12 verses of Psalm 62, we can see the things that David trusted in God for throughout his life.

David trusted in God for his salvation (both physically and spiritually) (vs. 1-2, 5-7). He did not trust in anything or anyone else (vs. 3-4, 9-10) and knew that God would show His justice and mercy to both himself and his enemies (vs. 11-12). We know from the book of 1 Chronicles that Jeduthun was one of the Chief musicians appointed by David to lead the music (1 Chronicles 16:41; 25:1-3). We don't know exactly when Psalm 62 was written, but it was probably written while he was under extreme pressure as indicated in v.3). However it seems to impress upon us that David is growing in confidence as he writes the thoughts of his heart, and the secret of finding rest and trust in God alone. It has the style of being written in a great hurry; of a prayer waiting for God to answer and of a conviction that grows renewed, firmer and ever deeper. David goes progressively from trusting God for his life; to trusting God to show mercy and justice to him and his enemies.

Psalm 62 can be divided into 3 topics, all based on trust, with 2 positives and 1 negative..
1. God's trustworthy salvation.
2. Not trusting in ungodly desires and objects.
3. God's trustworthy justice and mercy.

In each section, there are some questions for you to meditate upon and answer. Then you can share with your spouse or a close friend and pray over any issues together.

1. Gods trustworthy salvation. (vs. 1-2; 5-8)

Q1. From where does David's salvation, rest, refuge, hope and honour come from? Why do you think that David attributes these to God, and how can we be seen to be doing these same things?
Q2. Why do you think that David thought of God as his rock of salvation? Do you think that as David had hidden in rocks and caves from enemies that this would have been on his mind when he wrote these words? We know today that Jesus Christ is the rock of salvation, but why do you think that God can be described and trusted as a rock of salvation?


2. Dont trust in other things for hope, salvation, honour, refuge or rest (vs. 3-4, 9-10)


Q3. What do the ungodly take delight in and why? What is suggested that godly people do not desire?
Q4. Is it only the ungodly who are hypocrites (v. 4). How can Christians be hypocritical, and if so, is it because of lack of trust in God?

3. Trust in Gods justice and mercy (vs. 11-12).

Q5. At first glance, v. 12 suggests God's justice, but is it also about God's mercy? How can justice and mercy be combined like that? (Refer to Romans 2:6)Q6. How is God strong and loving towards you today?Finally, if you are not a Christian and after hearing this would like to become one, then it is very easy.If you want to turn to God there is no need for delay. He is ready and willing to take you as His own right now. You only have to ask Him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead. It is a partnership between God and yourself - a relationship. The act of deciding to change course in mid-life, is what is called conversion, or deciding to be a Christian. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon Him, you turn to God. You don't need to do or change anything to become a follower of Jesus!

However, once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against Him. As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You will stop doing those things that separated you from Him. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and develop your relationship with Him. How do you develop this relationship? Sin, or what alienates you from God, controls your rebellion against Him in your attitudes and your activities. God asks that you accept his guidance and management of your life. His point of view and His strength become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to Him for all you do.

If you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow: Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways. Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus Christ. Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done. Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.

Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, "to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3v18). Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and He has put His mark within you through His Spirit. Like King David and countless people today, you are trusting only in God for your salvation!


Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

You can now purchase our Partakers books! Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!



Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00

sermon.jpg

Rachel's Story

Right mouse click and save to download the MP3 file of this sermon.

Reading Genesis 29v14-30

Now that may be to some a long passage, but it helps set up the story of Rachel. Sounds like a modern day soap opera like Holby City, Eastenders or Coronation Street doesn't it? Rachel had a fairly complicated family structure as we have seen, so lets try to unravel it!

Rachel's sister Rebekah was Jacob's mother. Rebekah trained Jacob to scheme in order to gain his father's blessing and promised him that she would take the results of the deceitful act upon herself. Rachel became Jacob's wife, but only after Laban had tricked him into marrying Leah, the older daughter first. We can wonder if Rachel encouraged Jacob in his trickery, or if she was influenced by him to think first of herself at the expense of others. Whether his mother and/or his wife influenced Jacob, or indeed if he influenced them, both Rebekah and Rachel serve as examples of the outcome of sinful deceit and discontent.

Introducing Rachel's personal details

So, who was Rachel?

  • Born in Aramea (Syria)
  • Daughter of Laban
  • Second wife of Jacob, her first cousin.
  • Mother of Joseph & Benjamin.
  • Ancestress of three tribes of Israel- Benjamin, Ephraim & Manasseh (Sons of Joseph).
  • Possessed great beauty (Genesis 29:17)
  • Devious (Genesis 31:19, 34-35)
  • Not single-minded in devotion to God.
  • Probably did not put away her idols until shortly before she died.
  • Her sorrow is depicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah. 31), to signify the sorrow of Israel's people at the exile of Israel to Assyria and Babylon.

Now let us look at some of the main people involved in the life of Rachel: her father, sister, husband and children.

1. Her Father

2. Her Sister

3. Her Husband

4, Her Children

The Story continues

Conclusion

Perhaps there are 3 kinds of people here tonight.

Firstly, if you are a Christian here tonight, how and in what way are you like Rachel? As you go through your day, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you ways in which you may well be deceitful, vengeful, dwelling on the past bitterly or engaged in constant self-pity. Are you like Rachel, headed downhill on a course of dissatisfaction that may end in dishonesty and deceit, or in disappointment and despair? Accept God's love. Believe that in every trial He desires us to draw closer to Him, so that we can be energized by Him and realize that He alone and only He is enough. Ask for forgiveness for dwelling on the past and any inappropriate behaviour where those things were involved. God is faithful and just and will forgive if you go to Him with a penitent heart. Then no long dwell on those things, for they are in the past, are forgotten and not to be remembered any more. So forgetting what is past, go into the future with a new outlook of service to God and others. That way your life will be a living prayer and a living witness to others about the great God you serve, love and worship.

Secondly, you may be a Christian but you are the victim of somebody else's deceit and dishonesty - then forgive them before God and as far as it is possible, ask that person for forgiveness. Bitterness, envy and pride can eat away and cause much misery, sin and depression.

Finally, if it happens that you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do see one of the leaders or myself and we would be glad to tell you how you can be free from a life of dissatisfaction, deceit and dishonesty - both as the victim and perpetrator of such things. Know that Jesus Christ is above deceit, never dissatisfies and is never dishonest - His word is true and He seeks you, to be in a relationship with you, where His love is always serving, always humble and always satisfies. As I said, come and see one of us after if that is you..

Thank you.

Right mouse click and save to download the MP3 file of this sermon.

Click on the appropriate link to subscribe to this website

add-to-itunes.gif Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

00:0000:00

l_s.jpg

Luke Looks Back

Chapter 1

Right mouse click here to download as a PDF

Right mouse click here to download as an audio mp3

Introduction

Luke 1: 1 - 80

Preparations for the Advent of the Messiah

This is the first of a set of studies of the life of Jesus written by a man called Luke. The studies are in the form of sets of questions for a group, or an individual, to think over and discuss.

In his first 4 verses written in different, better Greek than the rest of the book, Luke announces what he is going to do.

Luke makes it clear he is writing history by emphasising the way in which he has researched the life of Jesus and the surrounding events.  The other three Gospel writers write life stories more narrowly focused on Jesus. Luke was writing to a man called Theophilus who, judging by the formal way Luke addresses him, must have been someone rather important.

(more...)

Read Full Post »

Four Portraits of Jesus

00:0000:00

sermon.jpg

Four Portraits of Jesus

Right mouse click to save/download the audio MP3 file

In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are called Gospels. But what is a Gospel, how are the four accounts different or similar and what were the main points each writer sought to communicate.

What the Gospels are!

Firstly they are called Gospels, because they gave substance to the Gospel or Good News as described by Paul in Romans 1v16 (The Message): “this extraordinary Message of God's powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else!”

We know Jesus Christ during his time on earth wrote nothing yet the stories about him were preserved and passed on by Christian teachers and evangelists. For the first thirty years or so, these stories were possibly collated and stored together. That would explain the similarity in the four accounts of Jesus’ life. They are not an exhaustive biographical detail of all that Jesus did. Similarly they are also not diaries reflecting a daily account of Jesus’ life. Rather they are selective accounts of His life, and were probably factual illustrations used by His disciples when preaching about Him. Therefore they would represent the theology of the disciples, as each story about is Jesus is told. That is why they are trustworthy accounts as well as rooting Jesus’ life in first century Judaism and the Greco-Roman world.

The first three of our Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are what are called the synoptic Gospels. This is based on their great similarity and possibly use of a common source. Mark is probably the first Gospel as it is shorter in length than Matthew or Luke and it would appear that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a guide and elaborated where required. Mark wrote none of the great discourses of Matthew, such as the Sermon on the Mount nor does Mark show the great parables that Luke recorded, such as the Good Samaritan. Surely if Mark had used either the accounts of Matthew or Luke, he would have used those two examples! Matthew is closer in similarity to Mark than Luke. Luke does share large portions of Mark and quite often verbatim, and with a greater use of the Greek language.

John on the other hand, while still telling about Jesus’ ministry, has a vastly different story content. Whereas in the synoptic Gospels Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God frequently, in the Gospel of John, Jesus talks about Himself much more often, as in the seven I AM statements. For this reason, John was probably written later than the synoptic Gospels.

Four Different Portraits

Mark

Mark presents Jesus as the Suffering Servant of the Lord, coming in fulfilment of the Old Testament. Jesus offers His credentials, gathers His disciples, offers the Kingdom of God and its message. Jesus’ teaching is seen in short parables, which hide the truth from those hardened against Him, yet prepares and instructs those responsive to Him. Overall Jesus calls those who follow him to serve others and to deny themselves by taking up their own cross, just as He took. Early tradition states that Mark’s Gospel had a connection with the Apostle Peter, and was therefore written to preserve some of Peter’s memories before his death.

Mark 8v34 - "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 10v45 - For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Luke

Luke 1v3-4 -Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke 19v10 -For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Luke presents Jesus as the God-Man, as a saviour for the entire world, writing primarily to Gentiles. He does this from a broad vantage point that is compatible with the fact that he is a Greek. Luke traces the incarnation, Christ's introduction, ministry, rejection, subsequent teaching in view of His rejection, the cross, resurrection and ascension. Even though a Gentile, Luke emphasizes the kingdom program with Israel's place in the kingdom. This Gospel is not complete in itself, but is rather the first for two parts, with the Book of Acts being the second section. Both are addressed to Theophilus (Luke 1v1-4 & Acts 1v1). The author is probably the Luke as identified by Paul as a doctor, and was one of Paul’s travelling companions (Colossians 4v14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4v11). The style and language use is that of a native Greek speaker.

Matthew

Matthew 16v16 - Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Matthew 28v18 -Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. "

Matthew wrote primarily to Jews who knew the Old Testament. He wrote to present Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. He also records Israel’s attitude towards Him as Messiah. Throughout this Gospel, Matthew gives us the genealogy, presentation, and the authentification of Jesus as the Christ Messiah. Matthew then shows the nation of Israel's opposition to and rejection of Jesus as the Christ followed by Jesus' rejection of Israel due to her unbelief. He then records the death and resurrection of Christ. He concludes with Christ commissioning the disciples. Throughout this Gospel is a well ordered and balanced account

John

John 1v9 & 12: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world… Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God John 20v31 - These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John presents the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ so that mankind would believe in Him as the Son of God, Messiah, and Saviour of the world. His selective argument portrays Christ as the God-Man. John records miracles and messages that affirm the deity and humanity of Christ. John builds his record around the public ministry of Christ, the private ministry, the cross, and the resurrection.

Right mouse click to save/download the audio MP3 file

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. Thank you

Click on the appropriate link to subscribe to this website

Subscribe via iTunes

I heart FeedBurnerAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »

Sermon - Rachel

00:0000:00

sermon.jpg

Rachel's Story

Right mouse click and save to download the file of this sermon.

Genesis 29v14-30

Now that may be to some a long passage, but it helps set up the story of Rachel.  Sounds like a modern day soap opera like Holby City, Eastenders or Coronation Street doesn't it? Rachel had a fairly complicated family structure as we have seen, so lets try to unravel it!

Rachel's sister Rebekah was Jacob's mother. Rebekah trained Jacob to scheme in order to gain his father's blessing and promised him that she would take the results of the deceitful act upon herself. Rachel became Jacob's wife, but only after Laban had tricked him into marrying Leah, the older daughter first. We can wonder if Rachel encouraged Jacob in his trickery, or if she was influenced by him to think first of herself at the expense of others. Whether his mother and/or his wife influenced Jacob, or indeed if he influenced them, both Rebekah and Rachel serve as examples of the outcome of sinful deceit and discontent.

Some personal details about Rachel

So, who was Rachel?

  • Born in Aramea (Syria)
  • Daughter of Laban
  • Second wife of Jacob, her first cousin.
  • Mother of Joseph & Benjamin.
  • Ancestress of three tribes of Israel- Benjamin, Ephraim & Manasseh (Sons of Joseph).
  • Possessed great beauty (Genesis 29:17)
  • Devious (Genesis 31:19, 34-35)
  • Not single-minded in devotion to God.
  • Probably did not put away her idols until shortly before she died.
  • Her sorrow is depicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah. 31), to signify the sorrow of Israel's people at the exile of Israel to Assyria and Babylon.

Now let us look at some of the main people involved in the life of Rachel: her father, sister, husband and children.

Her Father

Firstly, here is Laban - her dad!  Laban was a crafty sort of character. Over the course of 20 years he switched Jacob's wives, wages and livestock for his own advantage. He was devious and deceitful. It was probably his philosophy that Rachel imitated in her long search for fulfilment, for she too, was always looking to protect or enhance her own position be means of cheating and deceit. Although she resembled her father in this way, Rachel had little respect for him. The only subject about whom she seemed to agree with Leah about was that their father had cheated them. Jacob told his wives that he had noticed that Laban's attitude toward him had changed (Genesis 31:2), and that God had directed him to return to the land of his fathers (Genesis 31:14-16). But Rachel went one further step than her sister. She stole her father's household gods, the inheritance, and Jacob did not know either. When Laban found out, and caught up with Jacob, Jacob angrily insisted that Laban search among his goods, and he promised to put to death anyone found to have taken them (Genesis 31:33-35).

Her Sister

Secondly, lets look at Rachel's sister Leah.  To a certain point, Rachel's relationship with her sister affected her marriage with Jacob since Leah also happened to be married to Jacob (Genesis 30:11). There began a fierce competition between the Leah and Rachel over their rights to Jacob's sexual attention. Rachel insisted that Jacob sleep with her maid Bilhah so that she could build a family through her servant. Two sons were born, Dan & Naphtali (Genesis 30:1-8). When Leah stopped bearing children of her own, she gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob. Two more sons were added. Rachel was far from satisfied her jealousy was not eased.

(Genesis 30:14-16) During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes."

But she said to her, "Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?"

"Very well," Rachel said, "he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes."

So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. "You must sleep with me," she said. "I have hired you with my son's mandrakes." So he slept with her that night.

We may be surprised to see in this passage Jacob's abdication of his own authority over the household in the face of these fighting sisters!!! We see Leah's readiness to drive a hard but petty bargain when she had the opportunity. But we also see the extent to which Rachel jealously guarded her territorial claim to Jacob against her sister. Rachel was not the older sister, nor the first wife, but she was clearly the more dominant woman. Though she granted her a night with Jacob in exchange for mandrakes, Rachel would have had to answer no the Leah's question, "Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband?" No, she would have to respond! Discontent continued to smoulder within her, as not one thing was ever enough for Rachel.

Her Husband

Thirdly here is her husband, Jacob! When Jacob fled from the wrath of his brother Esau, he obeyed his mother's advice and went to Haran in search of his uncle Laban. First he found Rachel, a shepherdess, and daughter of Laban. Jacob identified himself as her cousin, kissed her, and wept aloud. Rachel was a very beautiful woman, and Jacob was soon falling head over heels in love with her. He offered to work for Laban to earn Rachel as his bride. (Genesis 29:20). On the wedding night, however, the crafty Laban put his daughter Leah into the marriage bed. Jacob was angry, but there was nothing to be done but to fulfil Leah's bridal week and then marry Rachel. (Genesis 29:30).

Later, in the wake of the sisters' competition over children, two maidservants were elevated to wife status as well, but Rachel was always the most loved. We see this in the care with which Jacob protected her by placing her with Joseph at the end of the caravan when he met Esau again after 20 years (Genesis 33:1-3). Years later, Jacob's preference for Rachel's children Joseph and Benjamin was painfully obvious to his other ten sons (Genesis 37:3, 45:18-19). Unfortunately, the only person who failed to recognize this supreme love and to rest in it, was Rachel herself.

God's gifts of love, beauty, or intelligence, can only reach their full potential for His glory when they are acknowledged and received by the individual who has received them. The extent to which these gifts are developed depends largely on the person's attitude and response to them. In the same way, a woman may be loved by a man, but she will only radiate that love the degree that she chooses to receive and rest in it. Rachel was more beautiful and beloved than her sister Leah, yet Leah learned to find peace through focusing on God's care in the midst of her difficult circumstances. Neither God's blessing of physical beauty nor the love of Jacob was enough for Rachel.

Her Children

Now finally: her children. For 13 years Rachel was childless. The social problems for women with no children were terrible. Rachel must have suffered a lot whenever Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah became pregnant, while she remained childless. She took out her frustration on her poor husband Jacob, even though it was not his fault and he would not have it put upon him (Genesis 30:2). God's participation in the miracle of life is evident in these chapters, especially Genesis 29:31; 30:17 when God remembered Leah, and also when Rachel finally becomes pregnant Genesis 30:22-24. Rachel had waited a long time for God to bless her in this way. Perhaps He was waiting to see whether her attitude might improve. It did not. Rachel stubbornly refused to be satisfied with her circumstances. She persisted in looking at the negative side of her situation. When Rachel's maid Bilhah bore Jacob a son in her name, she named him Dan (Genesis 30:6) which means "God has vindicated.". While recognizing God had heard her prayers, she regarded the child as her right to make up for her past suffering, rather than a free gift to her out of His love. When Bilhah's second son was born she named him Naphtali, which means "my struggle". Again she considered the child a sign of victory over her sister in reward for her unhappiness. Even the birth of Rachel's own son Joseph did not satisfy her (Genesis 30:23-24). One son was not enough. Nothing was enough.

Many years passed. Jacob built up his herds and left Laban (Genesis 31). He was reconciled with his brother Esau (Genesis 32 & 33). He settled in Shechem, where his elder sons killed all the men and plundered the city in revenge for the violation of their sister (Genesis 34). God told Jacob to move his family to Bethel, where he renewed his covenant.

(Genesis 35:16-18). Here Rachel aptly expressed her perception of her whole life and revealed her capacity for self-pity when as she died giving birth, named her baby Ben-Oni "son of her trouble." Her devoted husband over-ruled her choice and gave him the name that means "son of my right hand", Benjamin, suggesting that perhaps not only that he would treasure this son in a special way, but also that Rachel had been like a right hand to him. Rachel was probably a very positive supportive wife for Jacob, but this cannot be proved from what the Bible says. When Rachel died, Jacob honoured her tomb with a pillar, and to this day the site apparently remains an important landmark for Jews in Bethlehem. In her lifetime, however, it seems that all Rachel constructed - was a monument to her own misery.

The Story continues

There we have the pen portraits of Rachel's father Laban, Rachel's sister Leah, Rachel's husband and Rachel's children - with an gleaning idea of her relationship with all of them.

Here it is perhaps helpful to discuss 2 points about culture at that time. First, the household gods represented tokens of inheritance more than just symbols of idolatry. Whoever had them, could lay claim to a man's property after his death. Second, as God later spelled out for the Israelites, it was considered an act of uncleanness to touch a woman during her period of menstruation or anything on which she sat (Leviticus 14:19-23). God intended it as a health precaution, but Rachel used it to hide her theft. As she expected, Laban did not bother searching any further.

Because she had an older sister and several brothers, Rachel must have realized that she had no real claim to her father's property, regardless of who had the idols. Her act was spontaneous, motivated by a desire to retaliate against her family rather than for self gain. The combination of stealing and lying was simply another expression of the dissatisfaction. The household gods were buried after Jacob commanded them to be (Genesis 35).

What alternative did Rachel have? How can people resolve their feelings of resentment in productive, permanent ways? Leah's life demonstrates a determination to face facts, confess her feelings and focus on the Lord as a reliable source of fulfilment in every circumstance. Jacob also learned to accept his difficult situation by finding evidence of God's blessing even in the midst of hardship (Genesis 31:5, 7, 9). But Rachel consistently refused to be comforted by the blessings God had faithfully provided. She chose instead to brood over her father's treachery, her sister's fertility, her husband's conflicting duties and her own failure to have children. Rather than making the best of her current circumstances, she was haunted be the past and her unfulfilled dream of what could have been; and consistently entered into self-pity parties. She insisted on trying to twist the future into what she wanted.

To be lovely and much loved is what so many people want to be and have. Yet it wasn't enough for Rachel: she wanted more.

So why is Rachel in the Bible? Firstly she is mentioned in Jeremiah 31, where she signifies the sorrow of Israel's people at the exile to Assyria and Babylon.  Then there is Matthew 2, where she symbolizes the sorrow of the women of Israel weeping at the loss of the babies during Herod's killing of children in the early years of Jesus. But thirdly and perhaps the most important reason is found in Ruth 4v11, where she is honoured with Leah by later generations as those "who together built up the house of Israel". This would seem to suggest that despite her obvious and many faults, Rachel with Leah, were well respected by the Jews as the "mothers" of Israel. There were 12 tribes of Israel, all sons or grandsons of Jacob, and heard his prophecies concerning them & their future (Genesis 49). The names of the twelve tribes were Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Benjamin and the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. Levi, the third son was not included amongst the tribes given land. Moses instead set the Levites apart to be priests (Numbers 3:1-4, 49).

Conclusion

Perhaps there are 3 kinds of people here tonight.

Firstly, if you are a Christian here tonight, how and in what way are you like Rachel?  As you go through your day, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you ways in which you may well be deceitful, vengeful, dwelling on the past bitterly or engaged in constant self-pity.  Are you like Rachel, headed downhill on a course of dissatisfaction that may end in dishonesty and deceit, or in disappointment and despair? Accept God's love. Believe that in every trial He desires us to draw closer to Him, so that we can be energized by Him and realize that He alone and only He is enough.

Ask for forgiveness for dwelling on the past and any inappropriate behaviour where those things were involved.  God is faithful and just and will forgive if you go to Him with a penitent heart.  Then no long dwell on those things, for they are in the past, are forgotten and not to be remembered any more.  So forgetting what is past, go into the future with a new outlook of service to God and others.  That way your life will be a living prayer and a living witness to others about the great God you serve, love and worship.

Secondly, you may be a Christian but you are the victim of somebody else's deceit and dishonesty - then forgive them before God and as far as it is possible, ask that person for forgiveness.  Bitterness, envy and pride can eat away and cause much misery, sin and depression.

Finally, if it happens that you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do see one of the leaders or myself and we would be glad to tell you how you can be free from a life of dissatisfaction, deceit and dishonesty - both as the victim and perpetrator of such things.  Know that Jesus Christ is above deceit, never dissatisfies and is never dishonest - His word is true and He seeks you, to be in  a relationship with you, where His love is always serving, always humble and always satisfies.  As I said, come and see one of us after if that is you..

Thank you.

Right mouse click and save to download the MP3 file of this sermon.

Paypal Donate If you find these resources helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation.

Thank you

Click on the appropriate link to subscribe to this website

Subscribe via iTunes Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Read Full Post »