How many of you have heard the sayings, “What goes around comes around,” or “You reap what you sow?” Either saying would apply to the passage from Genesis 29:15-28. Jacob was born grasping his brother Esau’s heel, and that’s how he lived his life-grasping for all he could get by his own ingenuity and power.
Who among us has, after wanting something so badly that we would do anything to get it, woken up one day and realized that what we got wasn’t what we asked for? Jacob is a good example. Jacob met Rachel at a well and loved her, but he arrived without possessions or lavish gifts-a great disadvantage in securing a wife in those times. He served his uncle Laban seven years for Rachel in place of a dowry.
Weddings in Biblical times featured a huge feast. Afterward, the bridegroom was escorted to the tent of the bride where the marriage was consummated. Jacob probably drank too much at the feast and did not realize Laban gave him Leah rather than Rachel. Laban deceived Jacob, just as Jacob had deceived both Esau and Isaac.
Polygamy was practiced in ancient times but often produced family struggles. That Jacob “fulfilled her week” probably refers to the expectation that a newly married couple would “honeymoon” for a week. With his obligation to Leah complete, Jacob finally married Rachel.
Jacob deceived his father by obtaining the blessing that should have been given to Esau. Jacob tricked Esau into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. Laban deceived Jacob just like Jacob deceived his father and his brother. Laban took advantage of the custom that a bride was always brought to her husband veiled. He substituted Leah for Rachel.
As it turned out, Leah was the one whom God intended for Jacob. One of Leah’s sons was Judah, and it was through Judah’s line that God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled. Leah served and feared God, as we will see in subsequent passages from Genesis. Rachel was attracted to the superstitions of Laban’s house. Leah’s character fitted her better for her new calling than Rachel’s character did.
Jacob’s sinful weakness appeared in his married life. God blessed the hated wife Leah with children, but He withheld children from Rachel. In the birth of at least three of her children, Leah recognized God and acknowledged Him as her God.
Jacob longed for a child for Rachel. That child was a long time in coming. Jacob was used to getting his own way. He was only interested in winning. He learned another lesson the hard way. There is a limit to man’s resources, and the same lesson is hard for us to learn today. We tend to rely on our own inadequacies only to discover our shortcomings after much pain-and sometimes it is too late.
Far too many of us are like Jacob. We tend to love things and use people. Most of the problems in our world are caused by our tendency to love things and use people. We love our things. We love money. We lust for it; we have a passion for it. We tend to use people to get things, and that tendency leads to problems. It leads to the death of that part of us that is most like the image of God. God created us to use things and love people. Get that turned backwards and all hell breaks loose. When we orient our lives around loving others and using things, all the power of heaven is released in our lives.
There is little point in resisting what God is telling us. The sooner we learn the lesson, the sooner we can get on to other lessons. The longer it takes for us to come to grips with God’s gracious, firm, guiding hand, the longer it takes for us to mature. As long as we are on this side of eternity, there is no graduation from the school of hard knocks, and there are many opportunities for those who really want to grow.
How does God’s love abide in everyone who has the world’s goods and sees a fellow Christian in need and yet refuses to help? The redeeming power of the gospel creates in us a desire to serve others, to give of ourselves. That’s the only way for any of us to be released from the addiction to our own selfishness. How does this happen in practical terms? Here are three suggestions:
- We should look for opportunities to step outside ourselves. How long has it been since we intentionally looked for an opportunity to step outside our ordinary experience and into the experience of someone else?
- We should listen to people.
- We should put something we want on hold.
In other words, we are to stick around for a while longer. We are to trust that It was God who led us to where we are, trust that God knows what He is doing. We must be faithful to where God has led us, to what we have been called to, to the vows we took and the promises we made. We must trust that the place we are in right now could be exactly where God wants us or has been leading us all along. We must trust that God is working right here, to bring about things we don’t even know about that are yet to come!
Sometimes we realize that the ideal comes because of working things through and not leaving the table when we get disappointed, or when things aren’t turning out as we expected, or when things get ugly…the day we wake up and decided to make excuses about how it was too dark, or she was too veiled, or we were too drunk…that is the day we realize that everything in life starts to fail. There is no perfect person, no perfect relationship, no perfect team, or school, or job, or church. When we recognize it, we must not run away. We must stay and persist. We’ll get what we want in the end.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 42-43)
- Bible History Old Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1: Genesis (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 237-237)
- James A. Harnish, “Finding the ‘New’ You: The Things We Do for Love.” Retrieved from www.preaching.com