The End of Glory
The Birth of Benjamin and the Death of Rachel
Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor. When she was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid; for now you will have another son.” As her soul was departing (for she died), she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it.
Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
The Death of Isaac
Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had resided as aliens. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred eighty years. And Isaac breathed his last; he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
God’s Chosen Servant
When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
If we begin with the end in mind we can find a better path to achieve those goals and experience real success in our life. However, life is generally not just one goal, but rather a series of goals, some bigger and some smaller. We do not often think about this until we experience it firsthand, but the very fact that goals have beginnings and ends means that there will come a high point in our lives, a moment of achieving success by our own standards (hopefully), and somewhere shortly after that moment, everything will begin to fall away and our end will approach. I have heard of preachers actually dying in the middle of preaching or leading worship services – perhaps most notably Archbishop Romero, who was killed while serving mass.
Others set a goal to live to be a certain age and often pass away shortly afterwards. Still others seek to finish a particular task or work before they die. The one thing that draws us all together though, is that we all have an end, and for the most part, do not have control over when it will be. Even someone like Terry Pratchett who sought to end his own life through physician-assisted suicide, died before he had planned… and some might say that his glory, his moments of success had since passed as he had fallen victim to the devastation of Alzheimer’s Disease. The fact is, we never know what moment may be our last great moment in this lifetime.
I wonder when Jacob’s last truly great moment was. Was it when he wrestled God? Was it when he was reconciled with Esau? Was it when his first child was born by Rachel, his beloved wife? Perhaps it was later, when he was reunited with his estranged son Joseph… we won’t know until we get to ask him. Regardless, we need to recognize up-front, that this life we live has to be about more than success and achieving goals, or else, once all is accomplished, there is nothing left to do but lay down and die.
How many people did Jesus meet who had passed their prime and were ready to cash in the few chips they had left? Those who were old, sick, paralyzed, filled with leprosy, cast out as demon-possessed, sinners despised by their neighbors? What was His response to them?
He loved them. He reminded them that life is about more than what we can accomplish. He showed them that they were loved because God created them, not because of what they had done with that creation. Jesus saw an immense value in us, below the surface, that we never be able to understand, the way we cannot comprehend a mother’s love for her own child. We only come close in knowing love for our own children. Yet it was here, at the end, not at the moment of conquest, that these people truly saw God for Who He is.
What moments in your life have you been most proud of?
What moments in your life have you most experienced God’s grace?
Do you know someone who is experiencing the end of their glory and needs a reminder of God’s love that transcends this lifet?