Ben-0ni to Benjamin

Pastor Josh Combs

“As [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” Genesis 35:18

Jacob loved Rachel. He had worked 14 years to marry her. She had given him Joseph, his favorite child. And here on the journey from Bethel, she went into labor. It would be the last journey Rachel and Israel (Jacob) would take together, because Rachel would die in childbirth. The truly miraculous birth of her second son would also be an unspeakable tragedy. As death approached, her final act was to call her newborn son Ben-oni, which means “son of my sorrow.” Rachel, in her death, had placed her grief upon her child. Forever, tragedy would define the name of this man. But, Israel, his father, intercedes. Rather than allowing his son to be defined by sorrow, grief, and the loss of his mother, he instead calls him Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand.” The right hand was a symbol of blessing. His father refused to allow brokenness to define his son and insisted that he was, in spite of circumstances, a blessing.

Have you ever considered what defines you? What triumphs and tragedies have formed who you are? In light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Rachel becomes symbolic of brokenness, sorrow, and death defining us. Israel, however, becomes symbolic of the Father defining us. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Apostle Paul writes about Jesus, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We were dead in trespasses and sin, defined as slaves to unrighteousness. Yet, the heavenly Father interceded on our behalf, reaching out to us (son of my right hand) in the person of Jesus Christ and calling us each Benjamin—sons and daughters of blessing.

Maybe an unspeakable tragedy has defined you throughout your life, or a catastrophic mistake haunts you. Whatever the case may be, in Christ we are redeemed and transformed. Someone may have called you a mistake, a bastard, a loser, or worthless, but in Christ, the God of the universe says, “You are My child. Sit here at My right hand. All that I have is yours.”

Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 35:16-21

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