Athlete, God's in Control

*This devotional series was written by the AIA staff team at the University of Virginia

Read Genesis 29:1-30:24

Jacob is in God's School of Hard Knocks.  Back home, Jacob deceived his father who could not see, breaking the custom of blessing in regard to the firstborn child. Now it is Jacob who cannot see in the dark, and Laban deceives him, preventing Jacob from breaking the custom of marriage in regard to the firstborn child. Genesis 29:25 has to be one of the funniest lines in Scripture. "When morning came, there was Leah!"  Yep, there she was!  And Jacob will have to serve seven additional years in return for his marriage to his beloved Rachel.

This far-from-ideal polygamous relationship turns out to be, as expected, a disaster. Jealousy for love and for children, the hiring out of Jacob (30:15), the use of maidservants for childbearing, and superstitions about aphrodisiacal mandrakes (30:13-15) - you name it, dysfunction abounds.  

Yet out of this dysfunction, God brings forth the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and, later, Benjamin.  They are the beginning of God's promise to make Abraham's offspring into a great nation.  Interestingly, the most significant of these tribes in God's work of redemption -- Levi, Judah, and Joseph -- come from Leah and Rachel, not their maidservants.

Whenever Leah and Rachel are blessed with children, they generally give credit to God, not to superstition. Rachel, like Sarah and Rebekah before her, experienced barrenness for many years, but God eventually opens her womb. Perhaps even Jacob is beginning to learn that he, too, is dependent upon God (30:2).

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

1. Do you have any subtle or not-so-subtle superstitions that keep you from fully trusting in God?

2. Today's passage is an especially poignant reminder of God's control. Humans are making real decisions, doing what they want to do, but God is somehow working even through sin and dysfunction, sometimes with comic relief, to accomplish his good purposes. How does God's power and goodness, and his ability to use you even in your weakness, speak to you today?

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