What do you do with the things that feel like an ash-heap in your life? What do you do with all the disappointments? What do you do with all the things of sorrow? “God, is this all there is?” There is a proverb that says only one’s heart knows it’s own joy and only one’s heart knows it’s own sorrow.
I was reading along in the book of Genesis, when a particular passage really stood out. Do you ever read along and wonder, “What’s that doing there?” I’ve learned to pause when I come across something that seems unusual. Often times, Christ is concealed in those unusual passages. As I am learning, Christ is revealed in the New Testament and concealed in the Old Testament.
In context, Joseph is presenting his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh for a blessing by grandpa Jacob (Israel). Jacob is promising their inheritance shall be like the other sons of Israel even though Ephraim and Manasseh were born in Egypt. Then he makes this statement in Genesis 48:7:
“Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”
Huh, what is that doing there? Sure, Jacob misses his wife, but it just appears somewhat randomly and isn’t really acknowledged by Joseph or Jacob in the text.
The story behind the statement is that Rachel (whose name means Lamb of God), is coming from Beit-El (House of God), towards Ephrath. Rachel endures hard labor and names her son Ben-Oni (son of my sorrow) as she dies giving birth. This is certainly understandable, as she knows she won’t survive her labor and bears the heartache of not getting to see her son grow up. The father (Israel) renames him to Benjamin (son of my right hand).
The fascinating part of this is comes from understanding that the word Ephrath or Ephrata has two meanings according to Strong’s (H672). The first is an ash-heap coming from the original form of the word Ephrath. The second meaning is “fruitfulness” applied to the form of the word Ephrata. From there, this place would eventually be known as Bethlehem (Beit Lechem – House of Bread) from which the promised seed would be born.
Out of the ashes of sorrow from the death of the Lamb of God, comes a seed which bears much fruit (Ephrata) and offers the bread of life.
Out of the tribes of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin was considered least. Out of this tribe, Paul would go on to write a third of the New Testament and have some of the most profound insights into understanding Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
One of the most important prophecies regarding this divine seed is in Micah 5:2
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
While the tribe of Benjamin is not in the direct line to the throne, there are shadows and types that point to Christ. Being renamed by the Father from the son of my sorrow to the son of my right hand is what took place at the resurrection of Christ.
God is able to redeem that which is considered least. Although somewhat contested, Ruth is called a Moabite in scripture (Ruth 1:22). In context, Boaz, as her kinsman redeemer, publicly redeems Ruth. What ended in sorrow for Rachel becomes a blessing to the generations. The witnesses of this redemption proclaim the following blessing for Ruth [Ruth 4:11 (NLT)]:
Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the LORD make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.”
The word for prosper implies strength. I would interpret this as a need for strength to endure the ash-heaps of our lives and have our name proclaimed in the house of bread.
Fruitfulness is to be found in the house of bread (Beit Lechem). Jesus proclaimed the following about himself in John 6:47-48:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.”
How is He the House of Bread? Bread is a metaphor for spiritual food. This bread is without leaven as it is not puffed up, but rather humble.
I want to briefly list four ways that Jesus illustrates that he is bread of life:
- Himself as a means to eternal life
- The sacrificial offering for sin, transgressions, and iniquity.
1. Eternal Life
In communion, we partake of bread and wine, which are symbols of the new covenant offered to us. The point is partaking of that which is external and taking it inside of us. We acknowledge that we need divine help to be saved and are saved through faith.
Jesus offers Himself to us. He offers us eternal life.
When we believe in the Son, we receive his life in exchange for both his sacrifice and his offering (John 6:33).
“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
2. An offering
In John 6:51, Jesus extends the teaching of the house of bread as also being his flesh broken for us. An offering to end all offerings.
“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
The offering of the bread of His flesh is not palatable to some, and certainly not to the self-righteous. His offering was to be the final offering for sin.
The promises of this offering provide the way for healing (1 Peter 2:24):
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
By his stripes, we are healed. The beating that Christ took for my sins is the very thing that will usher in healing to my spirit, soul, and body.
Finally, the house of bread is often an application for teaching.
Jesus warned us to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is the teaching of those who are self-righteous, prideful, and puffed up.
In Matthew 4:4, Jesus reveals that the words that issue forth from the mouth of God are able to sustain us.
‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORDTHAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”
In context, the Greek word translated ‘word’ is ‘rhema’. The best explanation I’ve heard for the word ‘rhema’, is that which is living. It is able to save, it is able to deliver, and it has power to accomplish its purpose.
In context, in Luke 1:37, it reads no ‘rhema’ word will fail to accomplish it’s God-given purpose.
To wrap this up, what is the application of all of this? God knows the ash-heaps of my life and of yours. He knows all the things that result in sorrow and bitterness, where things don’t go the way we have desired. God understands what it is like for us to suffer long, as that is part of the expression of love.
None of us like the idea of delayed-gratification or hope deferred. None of us like the parts of our lives that feel like ash-heaps.
Yet, nothing is impossible for God. Good things come to those who wait it out and trust that God can redeem it.
What is the rhema word for your life? Is there a promise that will take you from the ash-heap to a place of fruitfulness?
God can take the ash-heaps of our lives and cause them to become places of fruitfulness in the house of bread.
In the house of bread, I will place my hope.