” So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. Genesis 35: 19-21 ESV)
For the main plot of this story read Genesis 27 – 34.
So Rachel died. She was one of Jacob’s wives – in fact his favorite wife and she died in child-birth. As I was meditating on this passage I couldn’t help to reflect on the previous chapters in the book of Genesis going back to Abraham. Abraham’s calling and blessing and the blessings on his children that would ultimately bless the world through Jesus are well documented. And when we get to Jacob’s life we read about his encounters with God at Bethel and Jabbok. The Lord gave him instructions through an all night wrestling match with “a man” in which Jacob proclaimed as seeing God “face to face” and through dreams. Jacob was clearly being guided by God on his spiritual journey.
I also find the flaws in Jacob’s character and of his forefathers interesting. Doing character studies on these Old Testament saints can be counter-productive! But, what we do see is the all-knowing and caring covenant keeping God in action. The families of the Patriarchs of Israel were dysfunctional to say the least. But, least we be judgmental we must remember that we have the benefit of having the full canon of Scripture to reflect on and learn from. They were learning as they went – the hard way.
So, after Jacob is returning from his exile to the land of his mother Rebekah (as a result of his deception of Esau and his Father Issac over the birth right issue), his wife, Rachel dies while giving birth to his son. This death accrues even though Jacob is being obedient to the clear revelation of God to return back to his homeland. And, when he reunites with his Father, who had seemly been on his death-bed several years earlier, his Father dies. What struck me so profoundly during my reading is that Isaac must have suffered from blindness for many years (Jacob was gone for a long time) even though the blessing and favor of God was on Issac. And after Jacob who had powerful encounters with the living God and had his name changed to Israel, his favorite wife died.
I’m a strong believer in divine healing, we see it plainly in Scripture and sometimes in our own lives, and through the testimony of others. But, the blessing of God doesn’t exclude suffering in this life. I consider myself charismatic, I believe that all the spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are still operational today. But, if those who preach on the financial prosperity of these Patriarchs of the faith as normal to all believers (which is rarely the case) fail to teach on their sufferings, they are misleading their followers. May we all aggressively pray for the healing of others and ourselves, but remember in God’s sovereign purposes he doesn’t always give us what we want. Take courage – when our own spiritual journeys are over, if we belong to God he will show us the real meaning of our own personal stories and how they fit into the bigger picture of the Kingdom of God.