Dec. 14, 2014 Genesis Sermon # 9
Genesis 29:31-30:24 “Am I in the Place of God?” [Part Two]
Pastor Lou Prontnicki Maple Glen BFC
Review: Last Sunday we considered the question that Jacob asked Rachel, about being in the place of God. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing that we could be God, so that we could make everything happen the way we wanted it to, right? We saw that when…
Jacob knew he was not in God’s place, he became passive, and failed to pray for his wife.
Leah knew she was not in God’s place, she became active in prayer, looking to God for help, when her husband wasn’t loving her or supporting her. We saw that the Lord was the husband to Leah that Jacob should have been to her. Be encouraged by the truth that when others fail us, God especially steps in and cares for us.
Rachel knew that she was not in God’s place, she became controlling, and angry at everyone:
First, Rachel blamed her husband, as she looked to him for something that only God could do.
Second, Rachel battled her sister, because she was in a jealous competition with her.
Third, Rachel bluffed her relationship with God. She used religious language and claimed that God was on her side, but it wasn’t until she came to the end of herself that she really began relying on God for her needs.
Finally, we saw that, using this theme of being in the place of God, God came to us in the place of man, so that we could be in the place of God. God came to earth in the place of Man (both Incarnation and Atoning Substitute), so that we could be in the place where God dwells. (Eternal Glory.) God took our place so that we could be with Him in His place! Jesus came to us in order to suffer and die in our place, as our substitute, our penalty-bearer. Through His sacrifice for us, we are able to enter into the place where God lives in glory!
With Jacob we ask “Am I in the place of God?” and the answer is “No!”
In Jesus, we ask “Am I in the place of God?” and He tells us, “Yes, you are, because I was in your place at the cross!”
As a number in the congregation are struggling with various pains physical ailments, let me ask you three medical questions, about your heart, your sight, and your memory. These questions are designed to help you consider a few more truths from this passage that you can apply.
- Do you have trouble with your heart? Do you suffer from the “If Only I Had” syndrome? Both Leah and Rachel suffered with this condition. It’s when you want what someone else has. Leah had sons, but wanted Jacob’s love. Rachel had Jacob’s love, but wanted sons. Both Rachel and Leah were unhappy with what they felt that God had failed to give them. Rachel cried out: “If only I had sons like my sister does!” Leah cried out: “If only I had the love of Jacob like my sister does.”
Application: Do you suffer from the “If only I had” disorder? Do you find yourself thinking: “if only I had…”“If only I had a better husband or better wife.” “If only I had a better job and more money.” “If only I had a newer house and nicer furniture.” “If only I didn’t have these kids!” “If only I was married/ single/ younger/ healthier/ smarter/ better-looking” Does your heart say that?
Look at where this syndrome got Leah and Rachel. Look at the mess they created! We would do well to remember the words of the apostle Paul: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:12-13)
Therefore count your blessings and thank God for each one…repent of your complaining… and trust that His ways and His timing are always right and good and glorious.
- Do you have trouble with your eyes? Do you have a hard time seeing the dual focus of God’s control and your responsibility?
Leah might have had “weak eyes” (29:17), but Rachel had trouble with her spiritual eyesight. She lost sight of the truth that God alone can open the womb and give children. She thought she could control this area of her life through badgering her husband, bargaining with her sister, and bestowing her maidservant to Jacob, to become a surrogate mother!
But the Lord wanted her to see that fertility problems were a stark reminder, that not only is the Lord sovereign over the ability to have children, but that He also is sovereign over whether He will grant a new birth to anyone. He is in total control over the process of regeneration in people.
The focus of the entire narrative is the movement from barrenness (29:31) to birth (30:22). For all the maneuverings of the sisters, it is still God who opens the womb. These births were not accomplished by human actions, but by God’s sovereign control. Likewise, it is God the Holy Spirit who gives new birth to individuals (John 3).
As we look carefully at Gen. 29-30, we can see that God is faithful to accomplish His purposes, even through the deceitful actions of Laban and Jacob, and through the jealous hatred of Jacob’s two wives. Isn’t that amazing? God is a God of sovereign grace. God is a God of sovereign wisdom and power, and He even uses sinful/ dysfunctional people and families to accomplish His glorious purposes! And if God can work through these deceitful and impatient individuals and families, then He can work in and through you and me!
Application: God wants us to keep one eye on His sovereign power and grace, and the other eye on our sinful actions and hearts, and the wickedness of people in general. And as we maintain that dual focus, we will see God dealing with our messes, and even using our sin, to bring glory to Himself and to work His good pleasure in us.
- Do you have trouble with your memory? Do you have a hard time remembering what God did in times past? God wants us to remember what He did in the past, so that we can trust Him for the present and future. Let’s play the “Bible memory game”, and as we turn over some cards, think about what that action or phrase reminds you of, in the Bible:
Here’s an example: Last Sunday we saw that Jacob’s wife Rachel was unable to bear children. So what should Jacob have done, if he had remembered what God had done in the past? He would have done what his father, Isaac, did, right? He would have prayed for his wife!
So suppose someone says to you, “If I don’t get what I want, I’m going to die!” Would that phrase remind you of what some people said in Genesis? Rachel had told Jacob that she would die if she didn’t get what she wanted, namely, sons! And Jacob’s brother, Esau, said that he would die (25:29-43) if he didn’t get what he wanted, namely something to eat! So you remember these two adult temper tantrums, and you remember that it didn’t go well for either of them…so that might help you feel less pressured by such threats. It also might help you to lovingly expose the idols that have captured your friend’s heart, that are now controlling him.
Here’s another one: What if you or a friend is a woman who is either unloved or has a problem pregnancy or is struggling with infertility? What passages of the Bible would you remember that might help you counsel that person (or yourself)?
Well first you might think about Leah, and how she was unwanted and unloved, and how God looked upon her misery and had compassion on her, and opened her womb. You might think of Rachel, who had to come to the end of her rope before she finally cried out to God for help, when she couldn’t bear children. And you might remember how the NT (in Luke’s gospel) starts out with two problem pregnancies. Elizabeth is old and now she’s with child! Mary is a teenager and still a virgin, but she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit… and like Leah and Rachel, both of their husbands are more in the background, while God deals directly with both Elizabeth and Mary.
So remember that God does speak to the problems that we struggle with, and much of His answers are found in remembering what He has said and done already.
Okay, I have one more memory question: When Jacob said to Rachel, “Am I in the place of God?” can you think of another time in Genesis where that exact phrase is used?
It occurs in Genesis 50:19 (in the context of vv. 15-21)
“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Who utters these words? Joseph. And who was his mother? Rachel, the same woman who for many years couldn’t have any children. And now some 40 years later, who does this son, Joseph, speak these words of God’s sovereignty and grace to? Joseph speaks them to the sons of Leah and to the sons of the two maidservants, who easily bore children.
Think about that: God used the “miracle” son, Joseph, the son of a wife who had been unable to conceive, to save these other sons, his half-brothers, even after the other sons tried to kill him and then instead sold him into slavery! This is a picture of Christ, isn’t it? Christ was the miracle son of Mary, who was betrayed, abandoned, and put to death by his spiritual family, by his own people, and yet God the Father uses this son to save the others, through his death and resurrection.