“And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour….And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she (Rachel) called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.”
Genesis 35: 16-20
King James Version
“A Sovereign God”
Hope for Rachel’s Children
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’”
Minnie L. Haskins
What does it mean to me when I say, “God is sovereign in my life?”
“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.”
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”
The tears had barely dried from the eyes of Jacob’s family after the death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse who was a “mother” figure for the entire group, when another tragedy struck. Just a few miles down the road, Rachel, who was pregnant with her second child, went into labour. The Bible calls it, “hard labour.” In those days, without the medical care available in the 21st century, many mothers died giving birth to a new life. So it was with Rachel. As she took her last breath, she whispered the name of her precious baby boy, Benjamin.
I, like most women I know, find this a painful story. For nothing makes me sadder than to hear about a young mother leaving her children behind. My sister, who has worked in Labor and Delivery as a nurse for 30 years, has told me that the days that are the hardest for her are when something goes wrong or there is a medical crisis and a young mother dies.
You can’t help but think about the children who are left behind. Little ones who never get to meet the person who gave them life. In my own family I witnessed the silent sorrow of my father whose mother died when he was only six months old. Daddy confided to me that he would, when traveling near the town where his mother is buried, stop and leave flowers on her dusty grave. It was really the only connection he had with a wonderful woman he never knew.
Like Rachel’s unexpected death, I have often wondered what my father’s mother was thinking as she breathed her last, for she left behind 7 children who lost their mother and friend.
When extreme tragedy steps into our lives, leaving heartache in its wake, it is at these moments our faith is stretched – tested – even questioned. I know I have asked myself, is my God a sovereign God – a God I believe is ruler of my life in good times and bad.
It’s easy for us to say God is the sovereign ruler of our life when everything is going perfectly. When life is all peachy and the bills are all paid and the family gets along and I’m healthy as can be and no one dies and my job is great and my kids don’t have a problem in the world, sure, I can say, “My God reigns! He rules! He’s got everything under control.”
But what happens when a tornado comes through town and a house caves in killing the mother and father and leaving a little baby an orphan. Who is in control then? Or when a wonderful mother, like my sister-in-law, Irma, sees a bruise on her leg. And it gets bigger. She goes to the doctor. The verdict: “You have leukemia. You are going to die.” And as Irma tells me the news, I ask myself, “Is God still the ruler? Will I still trust Him? Is He the sovereign King of my life?”
There isn’t a person on this sin-infested planet we call earth who has not been confronted head-on with the question of God’s sovereignty in the face of calamity. And like so many before us, we sometimes wonder “If I were a better person, would fewer bad things have happened to me?”
Lest you ever get stuck in the pit of “If I do better, bad things won’t happen”, I want to share these words with you written by the great physician to Africa, Dr. David Livingstone. If good works could keep you out of trouble, Dr. Livingstone should have lived a life of smooth sailing. But if you read his biography, you’ll find his story filled with harrowing experiences, tragic events and major disappointments. Yet this was his testimony as to the sovereignty of the God he loved:
“He will keep His word – the gracious One, full of grace and truth, no doubt of it. He said, ‘Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out;’ and ‘whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, I will give it.’ He will keep His word; then I can come and humbly present my petition and it will be all right. Doubt is here inadmissible, surely.”
David Livingstone’s Journal
May 13, 1872
One of my favorite Bible heroes is Job who suffered loss that was unexplainable. Left with a nagging wife and three unsupportive friends, and in the midst of unfathomable heartache, these were Job’s words: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him….” (Job 13: 15, K.J.V.). That’s trust in God’s sovereign rulership even in the worst of times.
Today, you may be facing one of those dismal days of despair when, as Job’s friends noted, death seems preferable to life. And yet, our sovereign God has a plan for you. Just like He did for Dr. David Livingstone in Africa and just like He did for my dad, a little orphan boy who was left living in the home of a poor neighbor where he was given little love and affection. But one person in the home had a doctor in town. And the doctor’s wife met my dad and took this little ruffian, under her wing. Most importantly, she introduced this boy to His real Father – God the Father. And from the day my dad gave his life to Jesus until the day he died, he committed himself, heart and soul to service for God. A sovereign God overruled the hardships life threw at my dad, because God had a plan – God ruled!
The same God was watching when Rachel whispered the name of her boy as she died. And how did a sovereign God take care of Rachel’s children? Well, her first child, Joseph, ended up saving millions in Egypt from famine and from her child, Benjamin, we learn about God’s sovereign rule in his life. The apostle Paul, in Philippians 3: 5, writes that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Just think, the apostle to the Gentiles, the apostle whose writings have sustained Christians to this very day was from the lineage of a baby boy left orphaned at birth, but a baby who a sovereign God held in the palm of His hand, just like He holds you and me! WOW! Our God rules!!
“We often don’t always know why things happen to us and others in a given situation or circumstance but we know why we trust God who does know why.”
“O God, help us not to despise or oppose what we do not understand.”
“O Lord God,
who called Your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown:
Give us faith
to go out with a good courage,
not knowing where we are going,
but only that Your hand is leading us,
and Your love supporting us;
to the glory of Your name.”
Eric Milner-White and
G. W. Briggs
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus