Rachel: Companions in Exile

“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her”, Gen. 29. 20. A love affair appeals to all of us. It is woven into our nature. Since man was made in the image of God, we find that He is the same. God is love, and must find an object of His love. So it was with the Son. Christ loved the Church, finally to unite it to Himself, as Bridegroom to Bride — one flesh. In this Rachel foreshadowed a precious aspect of this relationship, with a very real bearing on our own relationship to Him. Her hope of home and rest was unfulfilled, as ours is also as we “follow his steps”. So thinking about her can be instructive.

In simple language, Jacob fell for the prettier of two sisters, a thing that is not unknown today. But it was through Leah that Judah was born, and so to the kingly line, to David, and to Bethlehem. Leah lies in the tomb of Machpelah to this day, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while Rachel is only remembered by the lonely pillar at Bethlehem. Moreover, she had her failings! She was jealous; she shared her father’s idolatry; and she could lie.

All this but faintly illustrates the love of the Bridegroom of our hearts, and the objects of His love. Love sees no blemish. “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee”, Song of Songs 4. 7. He who saw the end from the beginning sees us in the perfect work of the cross, and on the marriage day the long centuries of waiting will have been but a flash in time for the joy that will be His. But who are they whom He has loved so well? We find the answer mirrored in our own hearts, and written indelibly on the pages of the New Testament, and it is a marvel of redeeming love that the more we know of the plague within, the more we value the love that could break through every barrier to reach us — even of death and the grave.

Yet even in this we see the consequences of Jacob’s love. From 1 Chronicles 5. 1-2 we learn that the birthright was given to Rachel’s son Joseph, who thus became the spiritual head of the family of Israel, and “the saviour of the world”, John 4. 42. So the heavenly Joseph gave to a sinful, lonely and frustrated woman living water, and showed her the way to true worship “in spirit and in truth”, with the word which reveals the heart of God, “the Father seeketh such to worship him”.

Rachel shared Jacob’s life in exile, his toils, sufferings and dangers. She received but little in return apart from the gift of one son, and him but a boy when at last they turned their steps homeward. Finally she dies with only a glimpse of the promised land, even then before Jacob could make a home in it.

So it is with the disciple today, as it was in the days of His flesh. On the eve of the cross, He looked at the little band of His followers and said, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations”, and He was grateful to them, failing as they were. Inevitably they were to die not having received the promise. Countless thousands have followed, and by His grace we do so today. He is coming again, and whether we live or “sleep”, this will make no difference. The saints of God have always been men and women of vision. We see things that are invisible; we see “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God”. Best of all “we see Jesus … crowned with glory and honour”. How often in our simple gatherings we seem to be on the threshold of heaven, and we are reminded by Jacob himself that heaven is not far away, when at Bethel he said “this is the gate of heaven”. But may we never have to say, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not”.


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