As the morning sun woke Hannah from her slumber, the familiar feelings of disappointment and discouragement welled up deep inside of her. It was the day of the year she dreaded the most. When she would travel with her family to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. Oh it wasn’t that she didn’t love God. Instead, it was the harassment that Hannah would face from her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, that her heart couldn’t bare. For God had blessed Peninnah with many children. But for Hannah, the Lord has closed her womb.
The famine had taken many lives, and was growing more severe. And with the death of her husband, things for Ruth were going from bad to worse. All of the men in the family had passed, including her own husband, leaving only Ruth, her mother-in-law Naomi, and her sister-in-law, Orpah. …
When Rahab came back from the kitchen, she saw that the inn was brimming with patrons. It was a busy night, and between the full moon and the new wine, the crowd was getting rambunctious. But that was to be expected from the clientele that came to Rahab’s. For hers was a house of ill repute, and the men that frequented the inn weren’t exactly looking for a quiet evening.
As Rebekah hurried to bring the freshly prepared dishes to the dinner guests, she couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the servant and her father, Bethuel. The gold bracelets on her wrists the servant had given her, clinked together as she placed the plate of smoked fish on the table. Rebekah admired the way they glistened in the candle light. And she listened as the welcomed servant told her father of the marriage proposal. …
The childbirth was excruciating, and many thought she wouldn’t make it through. After all, at 91 years old, how many women would? But the delivery was a success, and as Sarah held dearly the son she so desperately wanted, she looked around the room at the admiring faces. Yet she couldn’t help but notice one missing.
It had been 14 years ago that Hagar had given birth. Sarah’s once handmaiden and dear friend had provided her husband with the one thing, until now, that Sarah couldn’t; a son. But that was before the Lord appeared to Abram, and in a time when Sarah and Hagar were as close as sisters.
Sarah remembered it well. As Abram’s wife, Sarah held a position of honor and respect within the community. But as the years passed and she remained barren, her inability to bear children brought shame. Not only was Sarah frustrated, she was also devastated. How could God withhold from her the one thing she wanted most? Especially after His promise to make Abram’s descendants as numerous as the stars?
Knowing it was wrong, yet unable to bear the sadness and shame any longer, Sarah took matters into her own hands. She gave Hagar to Abram in order that he would lie with her and conceive a child. It seemed like the perfect solution. Abram would get his heir, and Sarah and Hagar could embrace the joy of motherhood together. And she could trust Hagar right? For she was more than a maid, Hagar was one of Sarah’s dearest friends and closest confidants. Surely Hagar would never betray her.
Nine months later, Hagar bore Ishmael. But things were far from the paradise Sarah has envisioned. Abram’s attention had turned to Hagar and the baby, leaving Sarah feeling as an outcast and alone. And the people now looked at Hagar, a mere servant, with honor and respect, while looking at Sarah with eyes of pity. And worse yet, this once loyal friend now stood before Sarah haughty, superior, and reveling in her own blessing and Sarah’s misfortune.
Broken hearted, angry, and fed up, again Sarah took matters into her own hands. She treated Hagar so horribly, the maid took Ishmael and fled into the wilderness. So imagine Sarah’s distress when a short time later, back came Hagar with Ishmael in tow, plans to stay, and a fresh promise from God Himself.
Yet God remembered Sarah. And proving that with Him nothing is impossible, opened Sarah’s womb in her old age, blessing her with Isaac. This new beautiful baby boy so full of hope and possibilities. Yet Sarah’s joy came at a cost. If things had been different, Hagar would still be by her side celebrating this great miracle. Instead, things between them only grew worse and carried on through their sons. Friends became rivals, and both women learned the hard way that whatever we do outside of God’s will is costly, and often turns to ashes.
Rachel nibbled on a long piece of grass as she drove her father’s herd to drink. The animals knew the path, so only once or twice did the young shepherdess have to swat a wayward lamb back into line. As the flock neared the watering well, Rachel saw the figure of a strange man standing among the shepherds waiting to water their sheep. Upon getting close enough for his face to come into full view, their eyes locked, and it was love at first sight. And so began the tormented triangle between Rachel, her sister Leah, and Jacob, the man they both loved.
As Rachel adjusted her bridal veil, she could hardly wait for the ceremony. Finally after agreeing to work seven years for Laban, Rachel and Jacob were to be wed. Her father was holding a great feast, and after would bring her to her new husband so they could consummate their marriage. But as the time passed, and with no one coming to get her, Rachel began to worry. And when Laban finally did come to her tent, her expectant joy soon turned to sorrow. For her father broke the news that her beloved had instead married her older sister Leah. Feelings of confusion, devastation, and betrayal filled Rachel, and she crumpled to the ground in a pile of tears.
How could her father do this? How could her sister betray her? And how could the man who had pledged his love for her marry another? The next morning, with Laban’s deception revealed, Jacob agreed to work yet another seven years for the hand of Rachel. But the wedding wouldn’t happen for another week. And each day that passed, Rachel watched the celebrations held in Leah’s bridal tent. And each day that passed, the heart of Rachel seethed with jealousy.
The wedding came and went without much fanfare. There was no feast, or celebration, yet at least Jacob and Rachel were married. But instead of beaming with honeymoon happiness, Rachel was sullen. Yes it was true that she was able to marry for love. But she had waited 14 years. And yes she was beautiful, and cherished by Jacob. But she had to share her beloved husband. And yes she didn’t need to worry about her sister, because she too was well taken care of. But that came about as a result of her father’s deception. Because of her bitterness and jealousy, Rachel was blind to all of her many blessings.
Rachel spent the rest of her life bitterly competing with her sister. And even though she knew the pain deception can cause, she too many times, practiced the art. God had blessed Rachel with much, but all she could see was what she didn’t have. And it was that blindness which eventually cost Rachel her life. Being barren, God had opened her womb and blessed her with her precious son Joseph. But Rachel wasn’t satisfied, for her sister Leah had more sons. And so her first words after the birth of her baby were, “May the Lord give me another son.” The Lord did give her another son, Benjamin. But Rachel died giving birth, leaving her beloved Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob behind and broken-hearted.
Jealousy made Rachel blind to her blessings, and it can do the same to us. Sin, an ungrateful heart, and bitterness, all cloud our vision to the blessings God so generously gives. But when we start each day with gratitude, praise, and rejoicing, not only are our eyes opened, but so is our heart. And we can joyfully sing to the Lord, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.”
The sun was just beginning to rise as Eve strolled through the garden looking for something to eat. The morning dew glistened off the flower petals as the birds sang their good morning tune. Drinking in the fragrance of the air Eve thought, “What a perfectly glorious day!” Then, from the corner of her eye, she spied a very ripe and ruby colored pomegranate. And as she reached out to grab it, there was a rustle in the grass beside her.
Eve looked down and saw a serpent who had positioned himself on a rock to bask in the sunshine. Eyeing the fruit in her hand, with a low hiss the serpent asked, “Isn’t it true that God doesn’t want you eating from the trees of the garden?” “Not true at all!”, exclaimed Eve. “God allows us to eat freely of every fruit! Well…. except the fruit from that one,” she said pointing to a large tree in the middle of the garden. “But that’s God’s special tree. And not only can’t we eat from it, we can’t even touch it. Because if we do, we shall surely die!”
“Ha!”, cried the serpent. “You won’t die! God only tells you that to keep you away. Because He knows if you eat its fruit you’ll become like God Himself, knowing good and evil.” Eve rolled his wicked words around in her mind, and for the first time, she began to doubt the goodness of God. The fruit it so temptingly dangled truly was beautiful to behold, and Eve could almost taste its sweetness. Why would God withhold such a delight? Surely it must be good to eat, and wouldn’t her Father be pleased at her desire for wisdom? So Eve pulled the fruit from its branch, and ran back to her husband.
Finding Adam, she broke off a two pieces of the forbidden fruit. Handing one to her husband, Eve quickly gobbled up the other. The taste was like nothing she had experienced. But instead of the glorious sweetness she expected, the fruit filled her with the bitterness of shame and guilt. She felt dizzy, nauseous, and threw the remaining fruit on the ground. She looked at her husband in desperation and was horrified to see him staring back her with the same bewildered look. Both of them truly seeing each other’s nakedness for the first time, ran and hid amongst the trees. And gathering together a few fig leaves, they fashioned themselves some coverings.
While they were trying to process what was happening to them, they heard God walking in the garden. But instead of joyfully rushing into the arms of their Father as they usually did, they continued hiding. It was only when they heard God shout out, “Adam where are you?”, that her husband, afraid and ashamed, came, with Eve in tow, to face God and confess what they had done.
With her head hung in shame, Eve couldn’t bring herself to look at God. She knew the disappointment and sadness in His eyes were more than she could bear. Her Father had given her everything, and this was how she repaid Him. Oh how she wished she could turn back time and undo her great mistake. The sorrow in her heart filled her eyes with tears. And as they ran down her cheeks, Eve tasted for the first time, the salty bitterness of regret.
God’s punishment was swift and severe. They were banished from the garden. Forever banned from its life of ease, beauty, and perfect peace. There would be no more walks with God in the cool of the morning, nor shielding from the sting of death.
As Eve walked out the garden towards her new life of toil, she took one look back at the paradise lost to her forever. Even though there was pain and remorse in her heart, there was also hope. She turned and smiled gently at Adam. “What is there to smile about?” he asked his wife. Taking his hand and placing it on her belly where a new life was growing inside her Eve replied, “Because even though God has punished us, He hasn’t forsaken us.”