When they were still some distance from Bethlehem, Rachel began to give birth, and her labor was difficult…With her last breath — for she was dying — she named him Ben-oni, but his father called him Benjamin.
~ Genesis 35:16-18 (CSB)
The sorrow which now grieves you will someday be turned into glorious joy.
Bethlehem has always been a famous place of sorts but it is much more famous now than in the past. It is a tiny mountain top village which is flooded these days by millions of tourist. The first mention of Bethlehem is found in Genesis 35 and our scripture above. Bethlehem is the place where Benjamin was born and Rachel died. Jacob buried her there and for centuries, Rachel’s tomb made the town famous. An interesting thing about the scripture today. Rachel named her child Benoni “Son of my sorrows,” and she did it with her last breath. Upon her death, Jacob changed the name to Benjamin, “Son of my right hand.” There is prophetic significance here: Jesus was both a “Man of Sorrows” and of course is His Father’s Right Hand and is at His Father’s right hand. Rachel however was remembered for her weeping, her sorrow and travail. She became a symbol of MOTHERHOOD in Israel. Jeremiah said, “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children. Refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Then Matthew said in his gospel, chapter two, Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” I’m afraid he would say the same thing about the brutal murder of the unborn today. BUT just as Jacob changed his son’s name so Jesus has changed forever the little town of Bethlehem. For so many centuries, it was know as a burial place but now it is known as a “Birth Place.” Folks, only Jesus can do such a thing. In the old covenant, the focus is on death but in the new covenant, the focus is on life. Just as the sin of Adam brought death, the righteousness of Christ brought life. Hallelujah, what a Savior.
The Lamentations of Jeremiah and the symbol of Rachel weeping over her children has to do with the future of Jacob’s descendants. When Israel went into exile in Babylon, Rachel’s weeping was emblematic of mothers weeping over the future of their sons because at that time, it appeared that their sons had no future. It is as if Rachel had said, “I gave my life to bear a son and now his descendants are no more.” Again, we have a prophetic message of hope. Whereas sin brought death and with death sorrow, Jesus has brought us life and hope. In Christ we have life and not just life but abundant life. A life that is full and meaningful. In Christ we have a very bright future and that is very important to people who are going through a deep valley of grief or sorrow. I am certain that the LORD is speaking to me and encouraging you to reach out to these people this Christmas. I had one such person tell me this week, “I don’t enjoy Christmas anymore.” Well our job is to change that and we can if we want to. What if every shut-in, every nursing home resident were bombarded by visitors during the Christmas holidays? Do you think it would change how they feel about Christmas? Do you think they would start looking forward to Christmas instead of dreading it. There is sorrow in this world but we can make that better by thinking of others. Please visit a live-a-lone or a shut-in this CHRISTMAS. I know all about the CHRISTMAS RUSH but you can make time if you have a desire to do so.
Speaking of the Christmas rush, the traffic yesterday was horrible. I come to the conclusion that the average woman does not need to drive during the month of December. Women are great a multi-tasking with one exception–they cannot drive and do anything else, especially talk on their phone. I sat behind one yesterday and she sat there for 10 minutes. She waited until both lanes were clear for a half mile and all she was doing was turning right. I almost blew my top. When she finally pulled out, I was on her rear and passed her immediately: she was on her phone. Vehicles are intended to get us places: if you want to talk on your phone, stay at home or pull over and park. For the record, traffic is bad even in Hartselle but I-565 is a nightmare. It is worse than I-65 and 65 is bad.