Reading 1 - Gen 35:18
"As she [Rachel] breathed her last -- for she was dying -- she named her son Ben-Oni. [Ben-Oni means son of my trouble.] But his father named him Benjamin [Benjamin means son of my right hand.]" (Gen 35:18).
In similar fashion, Adam named his wife "Eve" -- "Life!" -- although by natural appearances "Death" might have been more appropriate. This demonstrates an appreciation of the importance of God's promises, even in the midst of suffering. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:17,18).
FOR SHE WAS DYING: Rachel symbolizes the nation of Israel -- which dies politically at the coming of her "son" Jesus Christ: Isa 53:3; Luk 2:34,35; Rom 11:15.
BEN-ONI: "Son of my trouble, or my sorrow" (cp Mat 2:18). Jesus, at first coming, was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.
BENJAMIN: "Son of my right hand". Jesus, the only son of his Father, after suffering in sorrow, was then elevated to power at God's right hand: see Psa 80:17; 110:1,2; Mat 22:44; Phi 2:5-7.
"To every matter there is a bright as well as a dark side. Rachel was overwhelmed with the sorrow of her own travail and death; Jacob, though weeping the mother's loss, could see the mercy of the child's birth. It is well for us if, while the flesh mourns over trials, our faith triumphs in divine faithfulness. Samson's lion yielded honey, and so will our adversities, if rightly considered.
"The stormy sea feeds multitudes with its fishes; the wild wood blooms with beauteous flowers; the stormy wind sweeps away the pestilence, and the biting frost loosens the soil. Dark clouds distil bright drops, and black earth grows gay flowers. A vein of good is to be found in every mine of evil. Sad hearts have peculiar skill in discovering the most disadvantageous point of view from which to gaze upon a trial; if there were only one swamp in the world, they would soon be up to their necks in it, and if there were only one lion in the desert they would hear it roar...
"Faith's way of walking is to cast all care upon the Lord, and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities. Like Gideon's men, she does not fret over the broken pitcher, but rejoices that the lamp blazes forth the more. Out of the rough oyster-shell of difficulty she extracts the rare pearl of honor, and from the deep ocean-caves of distress she uplifts the priceless coral of experience. When her flood of prosperity ebbs, she finds treasures hid in the sands; and when her sun of delight goes down, she turns her telescope of hope to the starry promises of heaven. When death itself appears, faith points to the light of resurrection beyond the grave, thus making our dying Benoni to be our living Benjamin" (CH Spurgeon).
Reading 2 - Psa 37:20
"But the wicked will perish: The LORD'S enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish -- vanish like smoke" (Psa 37:20).
THE BEAUTY OF THE FIELDS: The alternate reading, "the fat of lambs", (AV) conjures up the picture of a great column of smoke ascending up to heaven. The everlasting death of the unredeemable wicked is the only acceptable sacrifice they can offer (cp Psa 21:8,9; Eze 39:17; Isa 34:6; 66:15,16; Zep 1:7,8,17; Mal 4:1). The punishment of the wicked is death, not endless torment: Psa 104:35; 145:20; Pro 10:30; 11:31; 13:13; Job 20:7,8; 21:30; Eze 18:4; Mat 21:41; Luk 19:27; Rom 1:32; 6:23; 2Th 1:9; 2Pe 2:12; Heb 6:8.
THEY WILL VANISH -- VANISH LIKE SMOKE: The wicked will vanish like the continual burnt offering, consumed into smoke, until there is nothing left: cp Eze 39:6,17-22. God's judgment of the wicked is described as a "sacrifice": Rev 20:9; Gen 19:24; 2Ki 1:10-14; Psa 37:20; Eze 39:6,17-22.
Reading 3 - Mat 22:37
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind' " (Mat 22:37).
"We cannot weaken the flesh: but we can, and we must, strengthen the spirit, so that it may subdue and control, the flesh. To begin with, we are all flesh: 'fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind,' like the beast of the field, knowing nothing better or higher. We build the strength of the spirit by the intense love of God. There is no other way. And love of God, in effective strength, comes by much study and meditation on His Word. The one great command of life is: 'Love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, ALL thy mind, ALL thy life, and ALL thy strength.' This is not a command in the ordinary sense of a requirement by someone else for their purposes and benefit. Rather it is divine loving advice on the only possible way of escape out of death into life. An intense, life-dominating love of God is the only power in the universe that can overcome the flesh, and the promise of God's glorious eternal future is only to 'him that overcometh' " (GV Growcott).