Rachel: God Hears Me
Rachel: God Hears Me
Are you holding onto a dream in your heart? Have you experienced deferred hope and disappointments? Do you long to be married? To have a family? To see the unfulfilled dreams in your heart come to pass?
Rachel’s story is a messy, complicated, and beautiful story from scripture. This story encompasses God’s ability to redeem brokenheartedness, meet us in our imperfections, show up in our dysfunctional families, and fulfill the delayed dreams in our hearts. If you’re feeling the pain of a delayed dream or pain in your family relationships, allow God to speak to you through her story.
In the beginning, Rachel’s story looks like it’s going to be a beautiful fairytale.
Jacob’s father, Isaac–the promised son of Abraham–sent him to his brother-in-law, Laban’s, home. He instructed Jacob to marry one of Laban’s daughters, instead of one of the Canaanite women who didn’t follow God. Jacob journeyed to Haran, where he met Rachel. He quickly learned that this beautiful woman was one of Laban’s daughters. Jacob immediately found himself captivated with Rachel and asked for her hand in marriage. Laban agreed, but stated he must work for him for seven years. Jacob was committed to Rachel and agreed to serve Laban for seven years in order to win his bride.
Betrayal, Jealousy & Competition
However, on their wedding day, Laban switched out his older daughter, Leah, instead. Tradition says that Leah was veiled, so Jacob was unable to see her face. Additionally, we have no idea how well Jacob actually knew Rachel before they were married and how much interaction they had before marriage. We also don’t know if Laban got Jacob drunk before his wedding night so he wouldn’t have recognized Rachel vs. Leah. In addition, scholars are unsure if Rachel and Leah were aware of Jacob’s intentions towards Rachel or if Laban hid this from both of them. Either way, Laban tricked Jacob and betrayed both of his daughters.
When Jacob woke up, he made the shocking realization that he hadn’t married Rachel, but Leah. He was outraged. Jacob confronted Laban about the deceit and Laban said that it was tradition that the older daughter married first. Laban then agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel as well if he committed to work another seven years for him. Jacob agreed, willing to sacrifice to win the one whom he loved. However, as you can imagine, having two sisters married to the same man made things complicated–especially when one was loved and the other was not. The sisters battled with comparison, jealousy, and rivalry of one another. Leah was jealous of Jacob’s love for Rachel, and Rachel was jealous of the many children Leah birthed. Betrayal, heartache, deception, and jealousy…where is God in all of this?
First off, this story reminds us that God isn’t looking for perfection or ideal family dynamics to show up and meet us. In fact, He shows up in the middle of our dysfunction with His love and kindness. He showed up on behalf of both Rachel and Leah in the middle of their heartache.
Pursued and Loved
Rachel experienced being deeply and profoundly loved, pursued, and fought for. This is a desire of so many women around the world–to know what it’s like to be pursued and chosen. If you’ve experienced heartache around relationships and the longing to be pursued, allow God to show up to you as your Pursuer. In Ephesians, Paul compares the love of a husband and wife to the love of God towards His people. Jacob was willing to work for fourteen years for Rachel and God was willing to sacrifice His own Son to experience intimacy with you. God is pursuing your heart more passionately than Jacob ever pursued Rachel. And He loves you with an even greater depth and passion.
God Heard Her Heart’s Cries
There are many things scripture doesn’t tell us that cause us to speculate about the family dynamics. First, what was the relationship between Rachel and Leah before and after they married Jacob? God had compassion on Leah, when He saw that she was unloved. She gave birth to six children, while Rachel remained barren. In a culture where a woman’s worth depended on her ability to have children, God showed love and kindness to Leah, the unloved wife.
Rachel, however, couldn’t have children for many years. This caused Rachel incredible agony to watch her sister have multiple children while she had none. And while it might sound like God was turning his back on Rachel, I wonder…was God shaping Rachel’s character in her place of pain? Perhaps Rachel mistreated Leah because Jacob loved her. Perhaps she was arrogant instead of compassionate towards her sister. We don’t know, but we do know that God intentionally gave Leah children to show compassion to her when she experienced the heartache and rejection of being lesser loved than Rachel. However, God is a God of kindness and He didn’t only have compassion on Leah. He also had compassion on Rachel.
Rachel experienced many years of heartache, unable to have children. In a moment of desperation she cried out to her husband, “Give me children or I’ll die!” Jacob replied to her, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Have you ever been in a place of deep pain, believing God for a dream or desire that’s unfulfilled? Scripture says that, “God listened to her heart's cry and had compassion" on her. Likewise, take courage that God hears your heart’s cry and will meet you in your place of pain.
In scripture and the culture of the time, children often represented success, God’s favor, and longevity. Children were a person’s tangible legacy on the earth. God showed favor to both Rachel and Leah through their children. While Rachel only had two of Jacob’s thirteen children, her son, Joseph, became one of the most influential men in Israel’s history. Joseph was born in Jacob’s old age and through his beloved wife, Rachel. Therefore, Joseph’s life was marked by favor. Although Joseph’s life was marked with favor, it was anything but easy–he was betrayed by his brothers who were jealous of him, sold into slavery, falsely accused of sexual assault, and wrongly imprisoned. In spite of all these setbacks, Joseph eventually ascended to second in command of the whole land of Egypt. Many biblical scholars believe that the trials Joseph endured equipped him to be the leader Egypt needed in a time of great famine.
Likewise, what if the pain and agony of waiting for her fulfilled promise actually equipped Rachel to be the mother Joseph needed? What if she was able to pass on a value for faithfulness and believing in God against all hope because she endured the pain of an unfulfilled dream for so long? Just as there was delay in Rachel's life and the fulfillment of her dreams coming to pass, so there was massive delay in Joseph's life and his dreams coming to pass. And somehow, he held onto faith in God above all in the middle of a pagan culture. Eventually, when the tribes of Israel were made–one tribe for each son of Jacob–Joseph had two tribes. These tribes were named after his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Even though the waiting was costly, Rachel’s legacy was multiplied through Joseph and his sons and her other son, Benjamin. God can do so much more with your life than you realize or could manage on your own.
Rachel’s life was messy and complicated. And yet, God showed up to her and her family. He brought about beauty and legacy and family from her life, including a son who would save all of Egypt and Israel. If you’re feeling the weight of deferred dreams or messy family relationships, invite God into your story. You are known and loved by God and pursued by His goodness. Surrender to His nature, and trust that God can bring about favor and multiplication. He is after all, the God who hears and has compassion on His children.
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Written by Anne E. Ballard and Katelyn Alexander
Jewelry Inspired by Rachel's Story