A Picture of Israel and the Church
Bible Teaching by Nicky (Smith) Eatalapaka
Genesis Chapters 29 and 30
Israel and The Church as seen in the two brides of Jacob - Rachel and Leah
'So often we forget that God will never cast off his people Israel. The Scripture shows us very clearly the relationship between Israel and the Church.
In Scripture, the Church is called the Bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11v2), but we find ourselves having to ask the question, that whilst the Church is the bride, how does Israel fit into the picture?
In the Old Testament, we find the relationship pictured in the two brides of Jacob. The one loved and the other hated. The word hated however in Hebrew has the meaning afflicted or treated as an enemy and not necessarily that of actual hatred.
In the relationship between the two woman, we see a picture of Israel (Rachel) and the Church (Leah). Rachel is chosen, but set aside for Leah. Interestingly, it is Leah who bears most of the sons, while Rachel struggles and bears only two, dying in childbirth with the second.
We may well ask why should God be so hard on Jacob and Rachel and allow Laban to trick him into marrying Leah. Why did God allow Rachel to be barren when he finally marries her. The answer becomes clear when we look at the fact that God laid aside Israel, because of idolatry and rebellion. We see interestingly in Rachel's life the same thing mirrored.
Rachel give Jacob her maid Bilhah, so that she can bear a son. No lesson is learned from the previous situation with Isaac and Ishmael, thus Rachel makes compromises to do things 'the world's' way, just as Israel do. When Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham she was doing what was perfectly acceptable in the social setting of the time. If the servant bore a son then the husband could not divorce his wife. The inability to bear a child was grounds for a divorce and, at the time, Sarah was probably worried about her marriage and therefore gave Hagar to Abraham to protect herself. Possibly Rachel does the same.
Israel, we find in Scripture, was very much caught up in 'the world' and lost their place of blessing due to their many compromises. Rachel seems to show the same attitude. Unlike Hannah or Elizabeth she does not pray and trust God for a solution, she does exactly what 'the world' allowed.
Rachel is also the one who steals the family gods, when they return to Canaan, thus demonstrating her connection with idolatry. Furthermore she is prepared to lie about it to Laban (Genesis 31v19). The household gods were really the equivalent of the deed to an inheritance, for whoever held them. Rachel may therefore have taken them as part of her dowry. Her motivation is unclear, but all we know is that she took Laban's false gods.
We also see that it is Rachael who desires Ruben's mandrakes to get Jacob to sleep with her. The mandrake plant was used in the East as a fertility drug and was called the Devil's Apple. Again we see a disregard for faith and a trust in other questionable religious practices.
The picture of the two woman is however clarified in the birth of the sons, to the wives and the servants.
Leah is the first to give birth and as she is a picture of the Church, it is worth noting that her first child is called:
Ruben - 'A Son'
The Church holds the place of 'sons of God' in a manner that is not really referred to with respect to Israel. We are called into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, which makes us sons (John 1v12).
Simeon - 'Heard'
Interestingly Leah sees that God has heard her cry and so she names her second son 'Simeon'. Galatians 4v6 says that we may cry 'abba Father' and he will hear us. The Church, with its special relationship, can call out to the Lord and he will hear and answer us.
Levi - 'Joined'
Leah desires to be closer to Jacob, as the Church desires a closeness with God. We see that this close relationship is given to us in Christ Jesus. She therefore calls her son 'Levi', meaning 'joined'. Levi had a closer relationship with God, in that his family became the priestly tribe. So too we see that the Church is joined to Christ in a unique way, being called 'his body'. Jesus prays that 'we may be one, as He is one with the Father' and we see in the illustration that Leah desires closeness with Jacob and therefore calls her son 'Joined'.
Judah - 'Praise'
Leah's fourth son is named 'Praise' and we too as the Church are called to 'show forth the praises of him who brought us out of darkness and into his marvellous light'. In fact the only sacrifice we are called to bring, is the sacrifice of praise. We ourselves are 'a living sacrifice', whilst giving ourselves to offering that praise to God.
At this point Rachel intervenes and in her jealousy she gives her handmaid to Jacob. Whilst legally acceptable in the sight of the laws of the land, it was at best a compromise to what God intended.
Dan - 'God has Judged'
The son born by Rachel's handmaid is called Dan meaning 'God has judged'. Rachel sees this as a victory, God justifying her case, but if we consider Israel we see that the compromise of laying aside the promises of God to gain our own victory is always short lived and often a disaster.
Notice some interesting things also about Dan, in the course of Israel's history. Dan was a ring leader in idolatry with Jereboam, setting up one of the idolatrous calves. We also notice that Dan is left out of the list of tribes in the book of Revelation (ch 7v5-7) as a result of their history of idolatry. We could say that God did judge Israel for their idolatry and compromise, substituting their ways for his law.
Naphtali - 'Wrestler'
Notice Rachel's expression,' I have wrestled with my sister'. How true that Israel has since the resurrection of Jesus Christ wrestled with the existence of the Church. Again we see Israel at odds with the plan of God. Persecuting the Church at first and still today at odds with her.
Just as Rachel did not like Leah's claim on her husband, Israel does not like the Church's claim on Jehovah, via the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the two sisters wrestle, but notice again that Leah takes a passive role, whilst Rachel is the aggressor, just as we see happen in the early Church. It was Israel in the flesh, compromising the ways of God, that sent out Saul with letters, to stir up trouble for Christians.
We then see that Leah turns to the same tactics as Rachel, giving her maidservant to Jacob in the hopes of furthering her cause.
Gad - 'Troop'
Sadly when the Church resorts to using worldly ways to advance itself and not to relying on the Spirit and the will of God, what we get is a troop - a multitude of denominations all seeking their own way. Paul speaks of the 'end times' and men 'falling away'. The Book of Revelation talks about the Church 'loosing her first love'. When we compromise, then the Church becomes riddled with divisions and strife, and confusion follows.
Asher - 'Happy'
Leah's happiness is an insecure state based upon her satisfaction at getting her own way. We must remember that 'happiness' is a carnal pleasure provided by circumstances going as we want them to, whilst 'joy' is a spiritual state not dependant upon circumstances, but upon God.
Today the Church worldwide is so often in search of happiness. The emphasis is on enjoyment, particularly in the Western world. If we can have a large gathering, have the right music and atmosphere and enjoy praise and worship, then we are happy. Unfortunately, that type happiness is so insecure and often short lived. After the large 'event' given to entertain, there is little real commitment and no long tern growth.
Interesting also, is the fact that the tribe of Asher had some of the richest and most fertile land in Israel and could claim to be really blessed. Just as in the Laodicean church the Lord said that, whilst they had everything materially, they were spiritually poor. It could be said that if we pursue our own way to happiness, then circumstances can only offer us an insecure joy and we can, just as easily, loose everything. Asher's blessed land did not prevent them being taken into captivity.
Leah then gives birth to another son:
Issachar - 'Hire'
Leah bears another son and calls his name 'Purchased Servant'. How true that the Lord has called us, not as objects, but as servants. The Church is both a son and a servant. The Hebrew word 'hire' also has another meaning, that of 'reward'. Again we see the comparison to the Church, for not only are we sons and servants, but the Lord is also our 'reward'. The Old Testament picture is that of the servant nailed to the door, who through choice remains with his master forever. The Lord is our reward.
Zebulon - 'Dwelling'
Leah makes the statement, 'now will Jacob dwell with me'. We also notice that it is a promise of Christ to his Church, that we will dwell with him forever. 'Where I am, there shall my servant be' and 'I go to prepare a place for you'.
It is also interesting to note that the word 'dwelling' in Hebrew has another meaning of 'an extended period of time'. This again points to the fact that we will dwell with the Lord for eternity.
Rachel then completes the picture of Israel with her two sons.
Joseph - 'Increase'
The Hebrew word actually means two things, 'God has taken' and 'God will increase'. To Rachel the meaning is also twofold in that God had taken away her reproach, but also that he had added another son. We see that it turns out to be a very prophetic word concerning Joseph's life and ministry. He was taken away and then given back to Jacob. We also see that it is a prophetic statement about Israel. Israel was removed from God's sight, divorced because of idolatry, but will be restored again. The Messiah was given and taken away, but will also be restored again and Israel was removed from their land, but will be restored again. A truly marvellous picture of Israel.
Benjamin - 'Son of Sorrow' and also 'Son of the Right Hand'
Jacob still has Benjamin when Joseph is taken into Egypt and he is the centre for the focus of his grief. We also notice that he is the son who is born as Rachel dies, so again he is acquainted with grief and loss. If we compare this to Israel throughout the ages, however we see another similarity. We see that since their rejection of Christ as Messiah, they have been the subject of war and persecution and will be so until the return of Jesus Christ.
We also see that Benjamin means 'son of the right hand'. Benjamin was a comfort to Jacob at the death of Rachel and after the removal of Joseph. In the same way, God will not forget Israel, but will return and will restore and fulfil all he has promised to them. Christ will sit on the throne of David and reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years. Israel are his beloved and he "will not cast them away forever". Amen.'
Reverend Nicky Smith