Sermon: Children are a Gift From God (Genesis 29)

Children are a Gift from God

In the sermon today, we’re going to look at two women with some important similarities.  Both were married to loving husbands who provided well for them.  Both had rivals in their husband’s other wives.  Both were childless while their competition had children.  Both were looked down upon by their competition because of their barrenness.

There was also a big difference in their thinking on this matter and how they handled it.

1. Rachel…

Genesis 29:31-35 (ESV)

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. [32] And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” [33] She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. [34] Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. [35] And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.

Genesis 30:1-13 (ESV)

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” [2] Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” [3] Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” [4] So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. [5] And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. [6] Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan. [7] Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. [8] Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.

[9] When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. [10] Then Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. [11] And Leah said, “Good fortune has come!” so she called his name Gad. [12] Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. [13] And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher.

Genesis 29:17-20 (ESV)

Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. [18] Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” [19] Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” [20] So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Immediately, we see that Moses (the writer of Genesis) begins to make comparisons between these two sisters.  Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance, much more attractive than her sister Leah.  Moses also writes that Jacob loved Rachel and the time he spent working to gain her hand was like a few days.

Rachel had beauty and the love of her husband.  In this sibling rivalry, Rachel had been on top, hands down.  It seemed she had everything going for her and I’m sure she made sure her sister never forgot it.

Then the tide changed.  Leah also became Jacob’s wife and Leah could have children.  She became pregnant so easily and to make matters worse, she had boys.  In those days, it was important to have a son because it was through sons that the inheritance was passed down.  Now, Leah is prized and Rachel is playing second fiddle, because, as the text says, Rachel was barren.

2. Parenting for the Glory of the Parent

Children become an idol for Rachel.  She longs for them.  She covets them.  She would die in order to get them.  She is consumed with the thought of children, not so she can love them and care for them but so she can catch her sister.  As you read through Genesis, you find that this home is a mess, the competition is fierce.

She devised a plan, in order to get what she wanted

I’ll get children no matter what.  I’ll be the authority here.  God is not going to deprive me of my favored status any longer.  I’m in charge not Him.

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” [2] Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” [3] Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” [4] So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. [5] And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.

Do you see how Rachel’s idolatry has now gone down the road of no return?  She has coveted her sister’s children to the point that she’s willing to bring in a mistress for her husband.  I hope they have sex and I hope she gets pregnant because the child will be mine.

Her thinking is faulty-

In her mind, happiness comes from having what her sister has.  If only I could have children, then my life would have meaning and purpose.

She blamed her husband for something that was between her and God.  It was God who was keeping Rachel from having children.  For whatever purpose, for now, Rachel was to be childless.

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

What could she have done instead?

She could have loved God and loved her husband.  She could have been a loving sister and even help in the raising of Leah’s children.  She could have let her requests be known to God but not be obsessed with them.  In the end her idols were captivating all her thinking.

3. Rachel’s Idolatry Continues

After Jacob had worked for Rachel and Leah’s father for many years, it became apparent that the time to leave had come.  Jacob calls his family together to tell them what was going to happen.

Genesis 31:17-21 (ESV)

So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels. [18] He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. [19] Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. [20] And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee. [21] He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.

Rachel was a worshipper.  Problem was, she worshipped the wrong things.  She went from wanting a husband to wanting children to stealing her father’s household gods.  All this really points to an unbelieving heart.

Her husband was making her move to an unknown house in an unknown location.  Rachel didn’t like not being in control.  Since she couldn’t control the situation and sinse the unknown was coming, she took those familiar gods that she trusted so much to give her comfort and security.

Have you noticed something about Rachel?  She is never satisfied.  Anyone who trusts in themselves and in their ingenuity will never be satisfied.  God will not reward our sinful ingenuity.  When we begin to do things ourselves we will be forfeiting His blessing.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 (ESV)

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

[6] He is like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

This is a very good description of Rachel.  She was never happy, never satisfied.  She was always wanting more.

4. Hannah…

5. Parenting for the Glory of God

The OT tells another story about a woman who was childless.  She was mocked and ridiculed.  She desired children but for some reason God had withheld them from her much the same way He withheld them from Rachel.

1 Samuel 1:1-15 (ESV)

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite.  [2] He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

[3] Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.  [4] On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.  [5] But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.  [6] And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.  [7] So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  [8] And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

[9] After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.  [10] She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.  [11] And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

[12] As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  [13] Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.  [14] And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put away your wine from you.”  [15] But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.

We can see a clear cut difference here from that of Rachel.  Hannah’s thinking was different; She realized that it was God alone who could grant her a child.  So, she sought Him in prayer.  This child, if given to her, would not be the child who would get her back her proper standing in her family and with her husband, the child would be for God’s glory.

Her tactics were different; she didn’t take matters in her own hands but was relying on the mercy of God.  She no doubt remember in the Exodus when God saw the distress of His people and rescued them.  Her thinking was that if God saw the distress of a whole people then perhaps He would notice her in her distress.

[11] And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son,

God did bless Hannah with a son.  As soon as the child was old enough he was given back to the Lord and dedicated to His service.

Jeremiah 17:7-9 (ESV)

[7] “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

[8] He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

[9] The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

As we raise our families, it’s important that our children are set apart and dedicated to the service of the Lord.  He is the One who granted them to us, not for our glory but for His.

Ask yourself, for who’s glory am I raising my children?  Why do I desire my children to get good grades and behave properly, is it so that they will reflect well on me or reflect well on God?

Could I let them go if God called them into His service, say as a foreign missionary?

As Jeremiah states, Our hearts are very deceitful we cannot trust them.  Since that’s the case, we’re left with one person to trust and that is the Lord alone.

Thank Him for your children.  Trust Him with your children.  Raise your children for God’s glory and not yours.  These attitudes will guard your heart from make your children into idols.

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