Last week in our look at the life of Jacob (through the book "Escaping with Jacob" by David Ramos), we read about Jacob's return to Bethel and the building of an altar at that place where he had an experience with God. It was a time for Jacob to reassess his commitment to God and begin again, and a reminder for us that we need times of remembrance and rebeginning
Week 18: Read Genesis 35:16-29 (Life's Acid Tests)
"An incredible number of important events occur in these few verses. First, Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel, passes away during childbirth. In her agony, she names her baby "son of sorrow" but Jacob, wanting to honor his wife's last moments, changes the child's name to "son of good fortune."
As Jacob's convoy continues to move, a second disaster hits. Reuben, his oldest son, commits incest by sleeping with one of his father's concubines. It was a sin punishable by death, yet we see no reaction from Jacob. After a brief genealogy of Jacob's descendants, the third tragedy strikes. Jacob has finally made it home and his first duty is to bury his father. It is a sad homecoming, with the silver lining only found in the fact that he was able to do so peacefully alongside his brother Esau, confirming their reconciliation.
The previous section in Jacob's story represented a half-time and this is why. A horde of painful events met Jacob as he returned to his homeland. Like me, you are probably asking the question why? Why did Rachel have to die in childbirth? Why did Reuben disgrace his father? And why did his father, Isaac, have to die so soon after all of the other difficulties? Again, we have to look at much of what is not said as what is said in Jacob's story. How does Jacob react to each difficulty?
To his wife's death he renames his child - turning what was a reminder of sorrow into a reminder of joy. To Reuben's rebellion, Jacob remains calm. We do not see him chase his son off or abandon his concubine. Perhaps we are seeing the old Jacob who avoids conflict, or maybe we are seeing the maturing Israel who does not rush to react. And finally, as his father dies, Jacob upholds his duties as a son and buries him honorably.
There are a few ways to test to see if gold is real. You can inspect it, use a magnet, or measure its density. A preferred way is called the Nitric Acid Test. The way you perform this check is by dropping a small amount of acid onto the jewelry. The different reactions will tell you what kind of metal you are dealing with: green means it is plated with a base metal, milk-colored indicates plated silver, and a gold reaction usually means there is brass underneath. Only if there is no reaction is the gold completely authentic.
I believe the difficulties Jacob faced, and many of the ones we face as well, are acid tests. They will hurt when they come into our lives but their real purpose is to show us what is underneath. Are we just faith-plated, claiming to trust and love Go but really our hearts are focused elsewhere; or are we completely new creations through and through? Jacob endured these difficult times not because God was mad at him or because God was done with his story but precisely the opposite! God knew He had so much more planned for Jacob and needed to test his gold standard.
The same is often true for us. When difficult, painful times arise our thoughts immediately turn toward questions like, What did I do? Why is God angry at me? But instead we should be wondering - How great is my future that God would allow me to be tested with this?"
Takeaway from today's lesson: The trials God allows in our live are not always punishments. Sometimes they are the foundation of a promise.
Prayer: God, I do not enjoy these difficult times, but I know you allow them for a reason. Please give me the endurance to be not just faith-plated but faith-filled. Amen.