A Scriptural Study Newsletter edited by Elder Vernon Johnson

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 

 

 

Rachel and Leah, Part II

           It would be good if the story ended with Genesis 30:13. Leah sounded victorious over her loveless marriage. She praised God for the blessings that she had, and didn't focus on what she lacked. It would be nice to think that she stayed that way for the rest of her life. But in life our battles seldom stay won. In the day-to-day rivalry of Rachel and Leah, a rivalry, which lasted their entire lifetime, and Leahs battle to live above her loveless marriage, had to be fought over and over, again and again.

           So once again we can gain some insights into the relationship between the two sisters in the story that follows: one day Leahs son Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. And so that you will know, a mandrake is not a male goose, but its a plant that bears a yellow fruit the size of a plum, and is shaped a little like a tomato. This fruit was called a love apple. And people believed that mandrakes helped a woman become fertile. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes. Apparently having your handmaid to bear a son for you is not the same as actually conceiving and giving birth yourself is it? And so she went to see her sister and do a little bargaining.  What can we see in these passages of scripture? We see the almost unbearable day-to-day tensions in Jacob's household.

            Rachel's continual crying to Jacob at the beginning of Genesis 30, Give me children, or else I die! Notice that she was not crying unto God for her help. This shows us the real and intense desire to bear children for her husband Jacob. But it also shows us that her focus was on man; her focus was on Jacob, and not on her Lord. Remember dear ones that Jesus said that ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13). So we can understand why, when Rachel saw Reuben with love apples, that these love apples were in her mind riches...mammon, that he had found, that she would go and ask her sister Leah to give some to her. And we can feel sympathy for her in her plight too. But we can also understand Leah's answer: Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my sons mandrakes also?

           The relationship between Leah and Rachel was still colored by rivalry. Rachel would do anything to give a child to Jacob. All Leah could see was that Rachel held her husband's heart in her seemingly careless hands. So the bargaining began. In the end Rachel agreed to let Jacob sleep with Leah that night in exchange for the mandrakes.

           And it was the woman who gives up the mandrakes who has the child. And the woman who believed in the magical qualities of those little yellow love apples remained barren.

When Leah's fifth son was born, she called him Issachar, meaning a reward. She explained his name by saying, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband. She believed that God had rewarded her for being able to go in unto her hired servant, who was her own husband. (v.18). No doubt Leah saw Issachars birth as a reward from God.

 

It appears that almost immediately Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son whom she named Zebulun, meaning great honor. Her explanation was, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons. (v.20). Now I wonder just how long it will take before Jacob gets the message? How many times does God have to open up Leahs womb and give him sons before he understands the blessings of Gods design for marriage? We will see.

Lets look again at the ways in which Leah's understanding of life had grown. After her first son was born, she believed that her husband would now love her. After her third son came along, she thought that at long last her husband would become attached to her. Now at the birth of her sixth son, she has scaled down her expectations. She simply sees that maybe now her husband will treat her with honor. She was becoming more realistic about what would or would not happen in her marriage.

Contentment in a loveless marriage will never come as long as we cling to the ideal of human romantic love and lose sight of the good gifts of His eternal unmerited love and grace that He gives us. Leah focused on her son Zebulun as her precious gift from God.

Many years had passed since that morning when Jacob awakened and discovered that the bride in his tent was Leah and not Rachel. During all those years Rachel wanted a child more than anything else in the world. After many years of waiting, and with the score standing at nine for Leah (including a daughter named Dinah), and only two for Rachel, and that through her maidservant. We see that God at last heard Rachels cry for a child and she gave birth to a son, which she named Joseph, whose name means may God add more children unto me. And what was Rachel's first response to Gods favor? She said,  the LORD shall add to me another son. (v.24).

God did hear and answered her prayer, but with consequences she couldn't have anticipated. By this time Jacob had worked for Laban for twenty years. One scoundrel was being fleeced by another scoundrel. So Jacob made the decision to return to Canaan with his large family of two wives, two concubines, ten sons and one daughter.

And as the family journeyed west, the unthinkable happened. Rachel, nearing the end of the journey to Jacobs home, and she was about to give birth to her second son, died in childbirth. What she wanted more than anything else in the world, and this was became she was about to experience her final separation from the man who loved her. The woman Rachel who had every reason to be happy died giving birth to a son, and with her dying breath of sorrow, she names him Ben-Oni, or Benjamin, which means the son of my sorrow. (35:18). And Jacob buried her along the roadside.

It's easy to look at a woman with breathtaking beauty and the undying love of her man and think that she must be the happiest woman in the whole world. But hear Rachel's sorrow. Hear her complaint. Beloved, things are not always what they appear to be.

And what of Leah? God had sovereignly removed her rival from the family circle. Rachel was gone. Leah was now the number one wife. We do not know whether Jacob learned to love her any more than he had at the time of that first deception. But we do know that they had many more years together. And we do know that when Leah died, Jacob buried her in the ancestral burial ground, the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah were buried. In the end he honored her in her death.

And we find that at the end of the book of Ruth, after Boaz had bested the nearer kinsman and had won Ruth as his bride, the elders of the city of Bethlehem prayed, and all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel. (4:11).

Leah the unloved was Leah the foremother who helped build up the house of Israel. Of the twelve sons of Jacob who became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel, six were born to Leah. Out of Leah's personal sadness came rich blessing for Israel. It was Leah who gave birth to Judah, from whom came Israel's greatest natural king, David, and from whom came the Lion of the tribe of Judah, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Leah, the plain older sister of beautiful Rachel, lived in a very difficult situation and survived. Like her, we too as Gods elect people are living in a fallen world. We are people scarred by alienation from each other and from ourselves. Life seldom, if ever, comes to us in a way that is fully satisfying. Most of the time it comes with an edge of dissatisfaction, we find that we dont have quite enough love, quite enough care, we dont have quite enough honor, nor quite enough esteem. We never seem to have as much as we'd like.

Little child of God, we are like Leah, we must not put our focus on what we lack and be miserable. We need to follow after the example of our sister Leah in her later life, and focus on what we do have from God, what we have in His blessings and make up our minds that we will praise the Lord!

How do you live with a husband or a wife that shows little or no love toward you? You do it by changing your focus. Change it from the curses of this world and placing it on the Church Kingdom of God, and upon His righteousness! In so doing, you will not only end up exclaiming with Leah, Happy am I! but you will someday find that God has worked His miracle through your sadness, touching your world with real and lasting blessings of which only He can give.

God bless you and keep you. The next time we will try to take a look at the difficult marriage Abigail the wife of Nabal in 1 Samuel chapter 25.

                                                                        Elder Thomas McDonald


The Four Beasts  

Rev. 4:6-8, And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty which was, and is, and is to come.

In Revelation chapter four we see four beasts round about the throne of God and giving glory and praise to God.  These four beasts were looking both to the future and to the past as they were full of eyes both before and behind.  They were also unlocking and revealing some great mystery as they were full of eyes within.  Furthermore, these four beasts are continually vigilant in their testimony as they rest not day and night.  Furthermore, they declare unto us the characteristics of the triune God as they say, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.  They declare the holiness of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  They also declare him to be the master, the creator, and the omnipotent one or Lord God Almighty.  In addition they declare him to be the eternal one who never changes as they said, which was, and is, and is to come.

While these four beasts are in harmony with their testimony, yet they are different as they have  different appearances.  The appearance of these four beasts match the appearance of the four gospels.  The first beast had the appearance of a lion, which in the scriptures is used to denote kings and kingdoms.  The book of Matthew shows Christ as the king, who is over the kingdom of God.  The lineage of Matthew chapter 1 shows Christ as the lawful heir of the throne of David of which the old testament prophesied that he would live and reign forever.  Also there are more references to the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God in Matthew than in the other three gospels.  Also in Matt. 21 we see his marvelous ascent up to Jerusalem according to the prophecy of the coming King.  Furthermore in Matthew we see him as the triumphant King as he conquers sin, death, hell, and the grave on behalf of his people.

The gospel of Mark is like the ox or calf in its depiction of Jesus Christ.  Mark gives us a picture of Christ in his labor or work even as an ox is a beast of burden.  The key word in Mark is the word, and, as most verses begin with this word.  Marks testimony is of Christ continually in his work.  Mark begins with Christ being baptized and going immediately into his High Priestly work.  Mark ends with Christ giving commandment to the apostles and laying out their work for them.

The gospel of Luke gives us a picture of the man Jesus Christ.  Luke has much more detail of the humanity of Christ than the other three gospels.  Luke begins by telling us of the conception of Christ, then of the birth of Christ, and then of the ceremonial fulfillment of the Christ child as he was brought into the temple to do for him after the custom of the law.  Next we see Jesus at twelve years of age tarrying behind in Jerusalem and both hearing the doctors and asking them questions astonishing them with his understanding and answers.  More details of the character of Jesus, the man, are given to us in Luke than the other gospels including the agony of Jesus in the garden and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 

The fourth beast had the face of a flying eagle and the gospel of John gives us an eagles eye view of Christ and his deity.  John begins unlike the other gospels, declaring Christ to be the Word who was the creator of all things and the eternal God.  In John we read clearly of the great doctrines of Gods sovereignty in the new birth and of his choice or election of a people to be his.  We read of him being the great I AM and of his declaration of being the seven I ams (light; door; way, truth, and life, true vine; good shepherd; the bread of life; the resurrection and the life.  We also read of the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. 

In conclusion, while the four gospels are in perfect harmony and testify of our glorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, yet they give us four different views of Jesus  the King, the burden-bearer, the man, and the eternal God.                                                                                       

                                                                            Elder Vernon Johnson


 The Four Living Creatures   

The prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 wrote of four living creatures who were also called four cherubims.  In our previous study we looked at the four beasts in Revelation chapter 4.  While there are similarities between the four beasts and the four living creatures, there are also major differences.  For instance, the four beasts each had a different face, whereas the four living creatures each had four faces.  In our last article we noted the parallels between the four beasts and the four gospels.  Similarly the four living creatures parallel the gospel ministry.  As we look at the word description of the four living creatures we will note the parallels with what the scriptures tell us of the gospel ministry.

First, there were four living creatures.  The word creature means that which is created.  Only God can create anything.  In natural creation God created the heavens and the earth and all things therein.  God created Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he become a living soul.  In addition, God created the spiritual inner man of the elect.  We do not create ourselves.  God alone is the creator.  There would be no true gospel ministry today except God established it.  God calls men to be preachers, he established the offices, he establishes their service and their qualifications.  He directs their labors.  Thus it can be easily seen that the true ministry of God has their ministry created of God and therefore they are living creatures of God.

Next in their appearance they had the likeness of a man.  In Phil. 2:7 Jesus is said to be made in the likeness of men.  Since Jesus Christ was a man as well as God the statement that he was made in the likeness of men serves to show that he was a man.  Thus the living creatures are men, having all the attributes and characteristics, frailties, temptations, and problems of men.  Being a gospel minister does not make one any more or less a man.

Furthermore, their feet were straight feet.  The feet of a man are for walking.  We are to walk thru the straight gate and the narrow path.  The gospel ministry is to set an example for others to follow.  Thus the gospel ministry are to walk straight forward in paths of uprightness and holiness.  Also the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calfs foot. 

The sole of a calfs foot is hard enough to withstand the rocks and thorns, but soft enough to have feeling.  The gospel minsters in their walk must have enough hardness to withstand the trials, troubles, slanders, and persecutions that come their way and at the same time not become cynical, but have a feeling for the conditions of those they serve.  Furthermore, their feet sparkled like the color of burnished brass.  Brass is often associated with suffering and affliction in the scriptures.  Gospel ministers have many trials and afflictions in life, but this is not to derail them, but to burnish their faith so that it sparkles or shines forth as an example of how to walk in the midst of trials and afflictions.

And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides.  A mans hands are for working.  A gospel minister must work to provide for his family as Paul taught the elders by action and by precept in Acts 20:34, 35, Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.  I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 

Besides providing for ones own, the gospel ministers have a gospel work given them of God whereby they are to feed the lambs and sheep, be overseers over the flock, perfect or mature the saints, encourage the work of each member, edify the church, preach the gospel, etc.  There is no room for laziness in the ministry of the gospel.

They each one had four wings.  Now a gospel minister cannot fly except he is lifted up spiritually by the Holy Spirit.  John was told to come up hither and so the gospel minister is sometimes lifted up in meditations of the glorious truths and wonders of an Almighty God.  Furthermore, the wings of the living creatures were joined one to another.  Oh how it should be in the mind of every true God called minister that we share a common calling and a common purpose and how we should strive to be of one mind working together for the furtherance of the gospel kingdom.  They turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.  Unfortunately, in our day there are those who started out on the right tract, but have become sidetracked by their own ambitions and have turned from the pathway of true doctrine and practice.  We are to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and since the scriptures are a thorough furnisher, there is no need to try to change or improve the church.  Our pathway has been laid out for us in the scriptures and it is a straight pathway.  And two covered their body.  The labor or work of the gospel ministers is not for their glory, but for the glory of God.  He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.  Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory.  Let you light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  This gift of the gospel ministry is not for mans praise, but for Gods glory.

And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went.  It is not up to the church to appoint the labors of gospel ministers or to send them to their labor.  The Holy Spirit directs the labor of the gospel minister, giving him his messages and empowering him to preach in demonstration of Spirit and of power.  Furthermore, it is not up to the preacher to decide his own course but to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.  Jeremiah once said in Jere. 20:9, Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.  But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.  A preacher filled with the Spirit and not preaching will become weary with forbearing and like fire shut up will seek to vent.  I dont understand how a God called preacher could not become emotional about preaching the gospel.  An unemotional preacher calls in question his very calling.

And like the appearance of lamps.  A lamp gives light.  Ps. 109:105, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  When the gospel minister preaches the word he is like a lamp giving light unto the ones he preaches to.  Often we receive direction for our lives and instruction and understanding thru the preached word.

In our next article we will consider the four faces of the four living creatures.

Elder Vernon Johnson

Primitive Baptist