TODAY’S READING: Genesis 30–31
Out of envy Rachel cries out to the Lord: “Give me children, or else I die” (Gen. 30:1). Not coincidentally, it’s the same language John Knox prayed: “Give me Scotland, or I die!” Rachel, of course, wanted physical children for they gave honor, prestige, and security. In an age and location (not dissimilar from some places globally today) where there were no retirement provisions or planning, children were the promise for today and the security of tomorrow. In Rachel’s case, especially compared to Leah, she had no current honor and no long-term retirement provision. The names of the boys encapsulate the big picture struggle: Son, Heard, Attached, Praise, Judge, Troop/Fortune, Happy, Wages, Dwelling, and He Will Add.
We compare ourselves to others regarding physical accruements and security. We judge ourselves according to what others have and we do not—but we fixate on the physical treasure. God, too, looks at treasure, but His riches are souls, disciples from all nations. God is looking for mothers and daughters, fathers and sons who will cry out to Him in desperation: “Give me Germany, give me Somalia, give me an unreached people in northern India—or else I die.” God delights in children so focused on His passion for every tribe and people that they think of nothing else, that they don’t want to live unless His glory is revealed and embraced by the unreached.
There are, of course, right and wrong ways to pursue God’s glory among all nations. Rachel steals the household gods when Jacob steals away from Laban. This theft is not simple idolatry, but a power grab. “Information gathered from one ancient tablet found at the 2nd millennium B.C. city of Nuzi suggests that, at times, household gods were used as evidence of family leadership.” Rachel wanted her husband to have more than goats and sheep; she wanted him to be tribal chief. God, however, is not interested in mixing missions with the politics of power. God’s missionary example is to give up power, to avoid politics, to take up the towel, and to lay down our lives.
Inherent to God’s desire to bless all cultures, nations, languages, tribes, and peoples of earth is God’s delight in the redeemed aspect of them all. Laban was an Aramean, which is also translated “Syrian.” Aramean states never ascended politically to the power of Babylon or Assyria, but their language endured beyond those of other Mesopotamian kingdoms. Eighteen hundred years after Laban, Jesus spoke Laban’s language, Aramaic. Jesus does indeed want to redeem the daughters and sons of every people, yet in His affirmation of godly aspects of all cultures, He modeled and expects us to respectfully ransom in such a way that rejects false gods while retaining what is culturally distinct and beautiful. Let’s lay the power down and take the language up. Careful missionary contextualization can lead to the modern Labans who likewise kiss their sons and daughters, bless them (31:55), and send them on their gospel way.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 44.