November 15, 2010

Gad: Child of Good Fortune

We return, in these lines, to a familiar theme. Not just the theme of studying each of Jacob’s twelve sons; but the theme of having very little information to go on in reviewing the lives of these last few! The book of Genesis tells us very little about fifth child Dan, and sixth child Napthali. And there is perhaps even less to go on when thinking about number seven. Perhaps we could think of Gad, along with the couple of brothers born just before and after him, as the classic middle children. As in many families, so in Jacob’s – the first and last few children are the ones everyone remembers. And then in the middle are the what’s-his-name’s. It’s a sad but true fact in many families. And it seems to have been somewhat the case in Jacob’s.

But what can we say about Jacob’s seventh boy? Well, Gad was born into a mess of a family. His father had two wives – sisters, but in many ways rivals. Rachel was loved, and Leah was … well … not so much. The rivalry intensified when it became obvious that Leah could have children, while Rachel was having problems. So distraught was Rachel that she sent her washer woman (Bilhah) into her husband bedroom to sleep with him, and to become a kind of surrogate mother on her behalf. Two sons were born that way. Meanwhile, Leah stopped bearing. So, taking a page out of her sister’s sordid book, she sent her own washer woman (Zilpah) on the same kind of errand! And somehow Jacob went along with it all!

Well, the first of two children born to Leah’s maid was named Gad, which means “fortune”. Leah was evidently quite pleased. We’re not entirely sure if she was thankful to God … but somehow she was thankful, at least in a nebulous way, for the good fortune of having, now, a fifth little boy to call her own. And there is a lesson in that, it seems to me. In the midst of all their dysfunction, and selfishness, and foolishness, and lack of faith in God … these women still had sense enough to see a child as a blessing! And that’s good to remember in these days where human life is so often cheapened and cut short because children are seen as obstacles and trials, rather than as “fortune”.

Even when a child is born into an absolute mess of a family; or even when he or she is born into no family at all (and perhaps dropped in a dumpster or left on the front steps of a church or hospital) … we should recognize that child as “fortune”; as a blessing from the hand of God. And we should defend and cherish that life – both before and after it is born (insert admonitions about adoption and crisis pregnancy care here!). Children are a gift from the Lord, not a burden! And, as believers, we ought to lead the way in demonstrating, in very practical ways, how much we believe that!

And let me point out one other thing about Gad’s birth. In the midst of all the dysfunction, and selfishness, and foolishness, and lack of faith in God in God … God gave Leah a gift she did not deserve! He was gracious to her in sending a son. And as Christmas rapidly approaches, what a parable the birth of Gad can be for us! This world – with you and me as part of the problem – has, for 6,000 years been groaning under the weight of sin. Words like ‘dysfunction, and selfishness, and foolishness, and lack of faith in God’ describe planet earth to the ‘T’, do they not? And yet, in the midst of it all, “a child [has been] born to us” (Isaiah 9.6); “a son [has been] given to us.” And, of course, His name does not simply mean “fortune”; it means “Savior” (Matthew 1.21)!

So, the next time you see a baby born; or the next time you read in the paper about some poor little Gad, born into a mess of a family; into a family which, you may think to yourself, doesn’t deserve such a precious little gift … remember that a child has been born to us, who don’t deserve Him either!

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