Strongholds

Strongholds2What do you do when faced with a crisis or a difficult situation? Do you try different strategies, talk it over with friends, search online, or seek the advice of experts? Do you take it to YHVH in prayer? Going to YHVH in prayer should be our first reaction, but often it isn’t. If we aren’t turning to YHVH first, we need to ask ourselves if we have developed a false stronghold. In truth, YHVH is our only true stronghold. [YHVH] is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Ps. 18:2 NLT).

The story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel provides some important lessons on the importance of turning to YHVH first. Let us closely examine Genesis 29:16-30:24. Jacob desires Rachel from the start. When Laban offers him wages for his work, Jacob strikes a bargain to work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage.   There is no mention at any time that Jacob sought YHVH’s guidance as to his marriage partner. Rachel was attractive and that was enough for Jacob.

Leah is pawned off onto Jacob through Laban’s dishonesty. Jacob confronts Laban, but does not take the matter to YHVH. Leah, on the other hand, is in a most awkward and painful position. She is married to a man who is disgusted with her and with being tricked into marrying her. A week later, Jacob gets his beloved Rachel as his wife and Leah is pushed into the background.

YHVH sees Leah’s distress and comforts her with four sons. Each time she is grateful to YHVH and names her sons to reflect her gratitude and praise. Leah wants to be loved by Jacob, as is evidenced by her comments on each successive son’s birth.

Rachel sees that Leah is bearing and she is not. Rachel does not go to YHVH, but confronts Jacob. Jacob tells her that he is not God. He does not offer to pray for her. Rachel ignores the possibility of going to YHVH and seeking help. She comes up with her own solution. She will give her maid to Jacob and have sons through her maid. The firstborn, Dan, will father a tribe of Israel, but in the end this tribe will no longer be recognized as part of Israel (Rev 7). The tribe of Dan was the first of the twelve tribes to fall into idolatry (Judges 18:1-31).

When Dan is born, Rachel says that YHVH has judged her case and heard her voice. It is unclear whether she sought YHVH or she came to that conclusion on her own. When Naphtali is born through her maid, Rachel is concerned about competition with her sister and that she is gaining on Leah.

Leah now sinks to Rachel’s competitive level. She gives her maid to Jacob and has two sons through her maid. She does not mention YHVH when Gad is born, but instead says that “fortune has come”. When Asher is born, Lean talks of her happiness, but once again does not credit YHVH. Had Leah stopped bearing because she had fallen away from YHVH?

There is no mention of Jacob ever praying to YHVH for his wives, that the sisters might be reconciled or that either or both of them would bear children. Ignoring a problem or living in denial is a powerful stronghold. What would have happened if Jacob had sought YHVH concerning his wives?

Later, the two sisters bargain over some mandrakes (another false stronghold) that Reuben has gathered for his mother. Leah apparently was eager to bear more children. Rachel bargains for the mandrakes and says Leah can sleep with Jacob that night. Leah gets pregnant again and credits YHVH with rewarding her for sharing her maid. I believe that YHVH is clearly demonstrating that this is a matter He controls, and mandrakes have no power. If Rachel used the mandrakes and slept with Jacob, it did not avail, for she did not become pregnant.

We see that after Leah has borne six sons and a daughter, Rachel finally decides to cry out to YHVH (Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. (Gen 30:22 NKJV). Rachel names her son Joseph, hoping that YHVH will add to the number of sons she bears. She correctly prophesies that she will bear another son (Benjamin).

It is clear from this story, that when we cry out to YHVH and trust in Him, He hears and responds with love because we have opened ourselves to receive His blessing. When we turn to others means (false gods or false strongholds), YHVH does help us because we have closed the door to Him. How is YHVH teaching you to look to Him alone and trust Him? If we are looking to anything or anyone else, we are building a false stronghold. YHVH is our only true and ever faithful stronghold.

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