God has a way of turning the tables on us.
No doubt, Rachel grew up the favored daughter. She was the beautiful one, the one who got the attention from the boys in their town. She probably got more attention from her father than Leah did.
Leah was the unwanted one whose father tricked Jacob into marrying. Maybe she wouldn’t have gotten married at all without her father’s treachery.
But then God looks favorably upon broken, downcast Leah. She has four sons, a clear sign of God’s blessing. And now, Rachel, the one who always got what she wanted, is the unfortunate one. She is barren, unable to have children. The tables have turned on Rachel.
And Rachel freaks out in response. “Give me children, or I shall die!” (30:1). That bitterness and jealousy is poison in Rachel’s heart, and it makes Jacob angry (30:2). So rather than be bested by her sister, Rachel gives her servant to Jacob as a wife so that she can “have children through her” (30:4).
The lengths to which Rachel will go to skirt God’s will are impressive. She already has to share her husband with her sister; now she splits him three ways just to have a child and not have the cultural baggage of being barren (which was seen as a sign of divine displeasure in that day). The two sisters are already jockeying for who gets to sleep with Jacob (30:14-18), but Rachel introduces a third “wife” into the mix, quickly followed by Leah’s servant (30:9).
To what lengths are we willing to go to change our situation? How quick are we to grow jealous of those who have what we want?
The text doesn’t explicitly say this, but I wonder if God wasn’t taking Rachel through a process of stripping away the exalted view of herself and what she deserved through barrenness. Leah had already gone through her whole life being the “ugly sister,” and found herself praising the Lord at the birth of Judah (29:35). Now Rachel is going through something difficult, and, rather than submit to the Lord, she is yelling at her husband, pimping out her servant, vying for her husband’s affections. She is attempting to take control of a situation over which she has none.
It was only after Rachel had gone through all this difficulty, the text says, that “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb” (30:22). God knew what he was doing with Rachel all along, but it was only after the tables had been turned on her, only after she had been humbled by circumstance, that God answered her prayer and opened her womb.
I don’t know what the Lord is bringing you through right now. But he has all the time in the world; we’re the ones with a supposedly tight schedule. We want life to follow our timeline; the Lord frequently thwarts our timelines to teach us dependence upon him.
The gospel has made us children of God. In Christ, we have everything. But having God as Father means he will want to teach us a lesson or two. He will discipline us to help us learn how to be good and perfect and holy, just as he is. As the author of Hebrews says, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:7, 11).
May we all yield that peaceful fruit of righteousness as our Father is leading us to by his Spirit.