This was the cry of the heart of Rachel for she was without a child. Can you see her with eyes red from weeping through the days and nights? Can you hear her speak these words with a heartbreaking sob and a high-toned groan as a result of her being childless?
No children! There were judgmental women who shook their heads and men who whispered behind her back because of her sterile condition. “What?” they said, “No children!” She was humiliated!
So listen to the tearful plea to Jacob and God in Genesis 30:1, “Give me children or I’ll die.” But later on we are told, “Then God remembered about Rachel’s plight, and answered her prayers by giving her a child.” She rejoiced saying, “God has removed the dark slur against my name.” Rachel named the boy Joseph, which means in Hebrew “May Jehovah give me another son.” (verses 22-24) The American preacher John Henry Jowett said much the same thing, “Get one (or win one) and you will want a crowd.”
Now, if you will spiritualize this story and apply it to yourself, ask yourself, do you have spiritual children—yes or no? Do you ask God for them with the same intense passion and cry of Rachel? And also realize, especially in that day, that barrenness was a great cause for shame and grief.
Long ago Richard Baxter admitted what Rachel felt. In old English he said, “I remember no one sin that my conscience doth so accuse me and judge me as for doing so little for the saving of men’s souls and for dealing no more fervently and earnestly for their conversion.”
Before the child was born, Rachel lived in a world of tears and travail. And even when Jacob tried to tell her—“It’s not a problem, for I love you,” she would not be comforted! Spurgeon put emphasis on the same thing saying, “Winners of souls must first be weepers for souls.” And again, you and I should think and then ask—“Am I spiritually barren?” We must not allow any degree of religious activity to make up for the fact we are unable to spiritually produce—let there be sobs and silence! Face the fact if you are without spiritual children.
I have stood in the very room where it is said that John Knox regularly prayed in the sixteenth century, “Give me Scotland or I die!” It was in so many ways Rachel’s prayer. Possibly his heart was set on fire by Rachel’s example; his was transferred to Scotland and its spiritual awakening. George Whitefield prayed much the same prayer; he said, “Give me souls, Lord, or take away my soul.”
Again, let’s personalize it—how long have you lived spiritually barren and childless? How many years have you been in that sad condition? But then, surprisingly we are reminded there are several women in Scripture who appeared to be hopelessly barren—and yet they miraculously had children. Think of Sarah; she lived a long life without children, but then, Isaac was born. And, of course, Hannah, who after a time of barrenness had Samuel. And in the New Testament, Elizabeth, who later in life had John the Baptist. And there are others as well, but the point is made, barren women had children; they at last conceived. Which says, no matter how many years have passed, you too can yet have spiritual children!
Dawson Trotman, years ago, wrote a little booklet that left an indelible mark on the world. It was called Born To Reproduce. He makes a very strong call for spiritual reproduction on the part of all Christians. Spiritual reproduction, of course, could be called winning of souls or the explicit command to evangelize. We are all to “do the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5). Not all, by any means, are called to be evangelists, but all are commanded to do that work and produce others after our kind.
Today, I fear, there are few examples, but when a church is in a state of revival, spiritual births occur week after week. I know of a church that went about a year with people being converted and baptized every week. But, that only happens when we realize this is as it should be for healthy Christians, just as in marriages we expect births to occur and even in modern times childness marriages are considered abnormal. Often in evangelism I have met childless couples who came to me asking that I would pray for God to give them a child. Do you pray in that way? — We know Paul did! He had an evangelistic mindset; he desired and prayed for spiritual births.
I recall the famous Oswald Smith of the People’s Church in Toronto expressing a love for souls in these words he wrote, “Never will I be satisfied until God works in convicting power and men and women weep their way to the cross.” He then, with heart’s passion, wrote, “Souls! Souls! Souls! I am determined to be a winner of souls. God help me.”
Rachel wept! Hannah wept for a child. Thomas Collins, before he preached, followed their example; he confessed, “I have pleaded with God this day for hours, in the wood, for souls. He will give them. I know His sign. I shall have souls tonight.” I’ve mentioned David Brainerd; what was his spiritual secret? Two things: intercessory prayer and an overwhelming love for the lost Indians he evangelized. In time, as he preached Christ to them, many were so stricken with the sense of lostness that they could not stand or walk and fell to their faces or sank to their knees to cry for spiritual birth.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and he said that he wanted to come specifically “in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” (Romans 1:13) Paul said that he wanted “… to win as many as possible.” (I Corinthians 9:19, NIV) Let that be your desire also, and become a modern day Rachel. May God give you spiritual children.