Your Lot in Life

Not found in the Hallmark card section, “Darling, You Are My Lot In Life.”

On the inside, it could say, “Not my first choice, but the hand I was dealt.” 🎲🎰🃏

Maybe one of those musical cards with Elvis singing, or rolling dice graphics.

12.17.17

The idea for this post began yesterday when my pastor taught from a very familiar book of the Bible (to me)…the one of Ruth.

I’ve read it several times (it’s only four chapters), but there were a few verses that stood out to me Sunday morning. As always, God’s Word can bring new insights to a passage you could have read your whole life.

Plus, I’d recently written about Jonah, and had researched the whole “casting lots,” and had pondered someone’s lot in life, like when it doesn’t turn out like you want it to…

Even if you aren’t familiar with the story of Ruth, the first chapter tells of a wife, Naomi, who had a husband, Elimelech, and they were from Bethlehem of Judah.  There was famine in the land, so they took their two sons and went to the land of Moab.

In just the next few, brief sentences, we learn the sons took Moabite wives, the family remained there, but at some point later Elimelech dies, and so do the two sons.

Naomi, hearing the famine is over in her hometown, tells her daughters-in-law what she would like to do in verses 7-9:

So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.  And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 

May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 

The next passage tells us how Ruth refused to leave her mother-in-law.  It is actually Ruth’s promise to Naomi that is often quoted in marriage ceremonies, beginning in verse 16:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

I need to skip ahead and say my pastor’s sermon was amazing. His message focused on how this family was from Bethlehem, and how Ruth returned to Naomi’s home, and was led to Boaz, a kinsman redeemer (a close family member to Elimelech who could accept Ruth as his wife in order to redeem that family line).

The story is quite beautiful and their child was Obed, who fathered Jesse, who fathered David, who we know as King (a little Andrew Petersen melody there…buy it on itunes).

So, the line of King David, and the line of Jesus Christ, came through Ruth, from Moab, who lost her husband, followed her mother-in-law back to Judah, and found favor with Boaz, who made her his wife.

I know God was working out all of these threads of time and people to bring Ruth and Boaz together, but I can’t honestly say I understand why.  Why did it need to be Ruth? Maybe that’s another blog post.

Back to the verses that stood out yesterday.  Naomi was broken-hearted and says this in Ruth 1:19-21:

So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

Ouch. I almost titled this, “Call me Mara.” It means Bitter.

Naomi said the Almighty had dealt very bitterly with her and brought her home empty.  Can you honestly envision me sitting around with some of my friends at maybe a Bible study, and reflecting on the most horrible things that have happened to me and giving myself a new name?  How awkward would that be?

Someone would definitely remind me to “consider it all joy with trials and tribulations come my way,” and Jeremiah 29:11 might also come up, and I totally don’t mean to negate those verses, but ALL OF THIS made me think sometimes people don’t need just another cliche Bible verse. Sometimes, life sucks and they need to say it at that moment instead of feeling like they will get a Bible bookmark taken away if they show any emotion other than faith, hope and joy when all they really want to do is cry.

Now, there’s more…it’s about different people who had what I think was a bad lot in life (my personal feelings, not backed by any theological degree)…mentioned in the last chapter of Ruth.

That’s who I want to talk about next, but please know that Naomi seemed to be redeemed somewhat herself after she helps orchestrate Ruth capturing the eye of Boaz and playing a most excellent matchmaker role. The way she advised Ruth to act, dress and even smell could be a completely different blog post, filled with humor, married women sharing ideas about the “threshing floor,” and you wouldn’t even think twice about this sad stuff I’m throwing at you today.

Maybe Naomi realized it was all part of God’s plan that they end up here, with Boaz, but even if she didn’t, we know it was her who God ultimately used – in her great time of loss and depression – to bring about the family line that would give us Jesus.

Naomi’s lot in life? Was it fair to lose her husband and two sons, and be left only with a loyal daughter-in-law? Was it fair to go back home and be so bitter she doesn’t want to be referred to by her real name? Did she ever stop grieving her husband and children? Did she find joy in Ruth finding love and being like a grandmother to Obed?

I think the phrase, “Life isn’t fair,” can be wrong and misleading. When we live in a world where our perfect future is decided in our own minds before seeking the will of God, then we most assuredly will feel like things aren’t fair when the path takes a different turn.  If we can’t view life events with Spirit eyes, hoping to see how God can use this for His Kingdom, are we looking at it from the wrong perspective? And, if you takes you a little while to understand that – I think that’s okay, too. Those human emotions, the ones that caused Jesus to weep at the death a Lazarus, are real, raw and sometimes uncontrollable.

Here’s how the book of Ruth ends in chapter 4:

All the people who were in the court, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel; and may you achieve wealth in Ephrathah and become famous in Bethlehem. Moreover, may your house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, through the offspring which the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

I actually typed a “happily ever after,” ending for Ruth here at first, completely forgetting she was also a widow.

Ruth lost not only her husband, but a father-in-law, brother-in-law and even the sister-in-law that decided not to come with them. Yes, her marriage to her kinsman redeemer was precious, but it wasn’t without pain as well.

Maybe the enemy was working at picking off people throughout time trying to prevent the birth of King David, and eventually all those that followed leading to the birth of Christ. Maybe every time he was successful at “thinking” he thwarted God’s plans, God already was moving the pieces into place, “working all things to the good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

Perhaps he softened Ruth’s heart so she stayed with Naomi and that led to Boaz.  Either way, regardless of what I say in the already 1,849 words here, I always, always believe in God’s plan. Even when there’s death, depression and a broken heart.


PART II

This Is Your Life/Lot

There are two other young women mentioned in Ruth who didn’t get a love story song by Taylor Swift. Leah and Tamar. Yet, God made sure it was recorded in the tiny book of Ruth that these women both built the house of Israel.

That was pretty significant to me and not something in Ruth I had noticed before. This led to a whole other plate-of-spaghetti-thought-process about just how many women in the Bible may have questioned their lot in life, and what we can learn from their stories. The tough stories…the ones that don’t make the bedtime story book for kids.

Leah.

You may not have heard of her, but in Genesis 29 we learn she was the older sister to Rachel, and was also “weak-eyed.” Yikes! How awful to be known in the Bible as the not-as-pretty older sister, who in one commentary, suggests her “bleared eyes would have been regarded in the East as a great defect.” Ladies, can you imagine the stories between these two sisters? Can you feel what Leah probably felt most of her life?  I’m not guessing here…she says it. Keep reading.

Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Well, after Jacob lies to his father, steals Esau’s birthright by dressing in fur, dreams about a ladder to heaven, and renames a place Bethel – he runs away to a place called Haran. Here’s he meets his Uncle Laban.

Genesis 29

So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things. Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month.

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 

And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

That last part is better than a Hallmark movie. Oh, to have love like that where your man would say seven years felt like just a few days because of his love for you.

My heart breaks for what comes next, because on their wedding day, old Uncle Laban veils Leah and puts her before Jacob because the older sister should marry before the younger. This straight up could have been a reality tv show.  Where was Rachel during all this? Did she remain quiet or did they have her locked up somewhere? Who all was in on this treachery? This is definitely not the Father of the Bride movie.

And the Bible says, “So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah!” Did Jacob stay all night with a woman and didn’t even realize it wasn’t Rachel until he sobered up the next day?

Imagine Leah, sitting in the marriage tent, hearing Jacob, who had taken her virginity the night before, argue with her father about deceiving him and sending in Leah instead of her pretty sister, Rachel.

Verse 31…it gets worse for both sisters:

Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, and he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 

Was this Rachel’s fault? Should she have known Leah was first in line to get married? Jacob saw her and fell in love with her. Why is she barren? True, it’s terrible that Leah was unloved, but wasn’t that their father’s deception? Is this, their current lot in life during verse 31 also part of a bigger plan? I can’t address the whole sister wives issue because all of those biblical marriages will mutiple wives will just have to be in Heaven 101: Understanding the Old Testament.

So, Leah has children, and not just that, but SONS. Sons were important to carry on the family line, and they all may not have realized it at the time, but they were cooking up the actual Twelve Tribes of Israel. The nation of God’s people. From Leah and eventually Rachel, and I think a few handmaids.

Sadly, this is how Leah names her children with Jacob:

  • Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
  • Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon.
  • She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi.
  • And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

These words… “Surely now my husband will love me,” and “Now this time my husband will become attached to me.” Let’s not forget, “The Lord has heard that I am unloved.”

Leah didn’t get the wedding, romance, two kids and a dog, with a backyard in the country.

Her lot in life was to always be second to her beautiful sister, and live in this family, being one part of a greater goal to create descendants that were as numerous as the sands…to even be mentioned in the book of Ruth as someone who helped build God’s people. Was it worth it to her? Did she ever have peace in the end?

I don’t know, because the later episodes of Real Housewives of Israel continue to involve serious drama between the two sisters, and then they involve the maids (I know, I don’t understand. Same with Abraham, Sarah and Hagar).

Genesis, Chapter 30

Rachel’s jealous. Rachel wants to die. Jacob gets angry at Rachel. Jacob sleeps with Rachel’s maid after she tells him to (poor Jacob).

Leah ups the challenge and gives her maid to Jacob (clearly, Jacob is not the real loser here. Do you understand? Does this man need a blue pill?) These sisters are throwing themselves and their maids at him in the child race, and Leah even trades Rachel some mandrakes for a steamy night in his tent! I kid you not. I’ll be honest, I wonder if all the sex was worth living with four bickering women.  And all the men said, “amen.” 

More of chapter 30 below:

Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” She said, “Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.” So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan. Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. So Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed.” And she named him Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, How fortunate!” So she named him Gad. Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, “Happy am I! For women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?”

So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 

#iboughtyouwithmandrakes (added by me, not in the Bible)

Then Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.

Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” She named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord give me another son.”

Joseph. One of the last sons, and eventually part of another beautiful, but painful redemption story in the Bible. It’s one of my favorites because I feel like I’ve been in some of the same places of jealousy, betrayal, lies, prison, finding favor, and love. And, Joseph wouldn’t have been born without all that you just read about Jacob’s Tent City Therapy Club. He had some crazy family members, God-planned or not. Parents can’t always control their children, right?

Please, don’t think I’m being disrespectful to the Bible. I think God has constantly, since Adam and Eve, had to clean up the mess we make from our flesh and selfish desires. Along the way, we have to laugh about some of it…come on, mandrakes?? “You take my husband and my son’s mandrakes?” Really?

So, what is your lot in life? Did you end up where you thought you would? With who you wanted? Do you share anything in common with these families?

If you didn’t, then let’s pray to see God’s plan. There is surely a bigger picture and sometimes our pain brings about something so great, we can’t even fathom what it is.

What if someone could have sat down with Rachel and Leah and given them a preview of the generations that would leave Egypt, cross the Red Sea and enter the Promised Land? Could they have set aside their differences if they understood what God was going to do with their sons?

Love the lot you have, for you might be building for the Kingdom.

Keysha

To be continued.

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