Genesis 28: Jacobs Journey
Isaac seems to have been shocked out of his carnal lethargy and now realizes what was almost a huge mistake in blessing Esau rather than Jacob. So now in the clear light of Gods will, he will bless Jacob again with the convenant blessing. Notice the name of God Isaac uses- God Almighty, El Shaddai.
He is sending Jacob away with some very good instructions for Jacobs future marry a believer and walk with God. A wife who is a believer is a suitable helper. And Isaac and Rebekah wanted for their sons what every believing parent wants for their children- a walk with Lord and a suitable help mate. Also- as we will see God has to separate us in order to set us apart.
That is why even though we are to honor our parents, there comes a time to leave your parents. Jacobs life was dominated by his mothers constant instruction as long as he lived at home. It would be necessary for God to remove some things from Jacobs life so that He could work some things into Jacobs life. For it is God who works in us both the desire and will to do His Good purpose. ( Phil 2: 13)
So Isaac sends Jacob on his way, alone to travel hundreds of miles to the land of his mothers family. Isaac blesses him and instructs him- the role a father is to play in preparing his son(s) to go out on their own walking in the light as God is in the light.
In verse 6, we notice a disappointed Esau taking all this in. He notices how important it is to his father and mother, that Jacob not marry a Canannite woman and remembers how grieved they were he married two of them. Putting one and one together- Esau comes to believe the reason for their displeasure and thus the reason for not blessing him was his choice of wives.
So we see Esau, desperate to be reconciled with his parents and maybe with the possibility of having the blessing restored to him, goes to the family of his Uncle Ishmael and takes a wife. But Esau continues to show what his problem is- it is his attitude of spiritual indifference. His actions show he will put on whatever outward appearance to gain favor with his parents- but in his heart he cares nothing for the things of God. Esau would be the type of person who joins a church today- in order to appear religious while using his membership to further his personal and business agenda.
Jacobs journey begins and I cannot help but wondering what was going through his mind. The next 8 chapters will be devoted to the process that Jacob will go through as God prepares him and changes him in the process of salvation. I believe Jacob did not yet have a personal relationship with God. He knew about God, he had heard the stories of his grandfather Abraham and his own father, Isaac. He knew about the God of Abraham and Isaac but God was not yet the God of Jacob.
Jacob had been under his mothers rule. She had him tied to her apron strings. She went before him and covered his back and made the all important decisions for her son, Jacob.
God would have to separate Jacob from his mother and separate him unto Himself. He would have to cut those apron strings- so that Jacob would learn to depend on Him, God, rather than his mother. God is the Potter- we are the clay. God shapes us to become the vessel He would have us to be. He does this in order to shape us to serve in the unique position He would have us serve. This process initiated by God requires time, pressure and complete yielding to the potters hand. That is why in Jeremiah 18, God tells Jeremiah to go down to the potters house so He, God, might teach Jeremiah a lesson. Paul writes in Romans 9- But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it- why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Jacob is about to shaped on the potters wheel.
Jacob is to be shaped and strengthened in order to establish the tribes of Israel.
He must first learn to depend on God alone.
It will take time. It will take trials. It will require pressure for that is how a clay vessel is shaped.
This is a process that begins with a personal relationship with God. Jacob knew a lot about God- but he did not personally know God.
The beginning point is about to happen- Jacob had to be separated from his mother and his dependence upon her.That dependence on her must be replaced by a dependence on God.
Each person is different. Some have a dependence on others- while others are dependent on their own abilities and strengths- like a Samson or Peter. But God knows what must be worked out- in order for Him to work in both the desire and the will to do His purpose.
Jacobs process is about to begin- and we will observe this process for the next 8 chapters which will represent the next 20 years of his life. When we come to Josephs story, we will see the process in his life required 14 years- but they were 14 very difficult years. But they were necessary in both cases to prepare the vessels for their purpose..
Here is an overview of the process:
1. Knowing God personally. This is what Paul considered to be the primary goal of his life.
2. Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and body. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him. Knowing God personally is a pre-requisite for the process.
3. Obeying God. If you love me, you will keep my commandments, Jesus said . (John 15) Obedience comes out of love- which come from knowing Him.
4. Abiding. If we love Him and obey him, we will maintain a living communion with Jesus- surrendered to His will. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me. (John15:5)
5. Finally the fruit bearing then comes as a natural process of abiding. This not only pleases God- it brings the sense of fulfilling ones purpose in their life.
Do you see what had to happen in Jacobs life? He had to be separated, cut off from his domineering mother ( good as her intentions might have been) and grafted into the vine- if he were to be able to bear fruit. We can observe the fruit that Jacob was bearing as long as he was abiding in his mothers will- look at his deeds: selfish ambition, lies, deception, and envy. Here is what James says will be the results of such actions: For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice. ( James 3: 16) This came from the worldly wisdom that his mother, Rebekah dispatched and the result was a dysfunctional family.
But James goes on to explain what happens when we obey and are instructed with wisdom from heaven: but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. ( James 3:17)
Jacob was in the process of being cut off from his mother and engrafted into the True Vine. He was beginning a personal relationship with the God he knew a lot about- but did not know personally.
I would imagine, having abruptly left his family, his domineering mother, and all that was familiar to him was an uncomfortable if not terrifying situation. We do love our comfort zones- our cozy, familiar nest. There was also the threat of his brother Esau to kill him. Maybe Jacob kept looking over his shoulder as he left home. Then there was the unfamiliar that lay ahead. He and his mother were a team who worked diligently to control all the situations they confronted. Now he was alone- on his own- separated from the familiarity of a place that had always been home. Jacob was right where God wanted him to be.
Jacob stops at Bethel and at sunset and lies down to sleep. Jacob then has a life changing dream. Now you might wonder why God chose a dream to speak to Jacob, but the Bible tells us in Hebrews 1:1: God spoke at sundry times in divers(various) manners in times past unto the fathers by the prophets.
The dominant feature of Jacobs dream was a ladder resting on earth with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord and He said, I am the Lord , the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south. All peoples of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
Simple question: what is the purpose of a ladder? To reach somewhere one cannot reach on their own. Notice where the ladder is resting-on earth. And notice where its top reaches- heaven.
What did Jacob see ascending and descending on the ladder? Angels of God.
Some Biblical facts regarding angels:
*They cannot be numbered- thousands upon thousands ( Hebrews 12:22)
*They are invisible- but can take on human form. ( Sodom and Gomorrah; also Hebrews 13:2)
* Angels are ministering spirits sent forth to serve those who will inherit salvation. ( Hebrews 1:14)
*They are mighty beings excelling in strength that do Gods commandments hearkening unto the voice of His Word. ( Psalms 103:20)
* They rejoice at the salvation of sinners. ( Luke 15)
* They protect us- guard us. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. ( Psalms 91:11)
Then in the dream, Jacob hears for the first time the voice of God. Do you remember the first time you experienced God personally speaking to you? When His word seemed to come alive in a way you had not experienced before?
That night the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac became the God of Jacob.
That night Jacob learned there was a place called heaven.
It not only was a real place.
It was an attainable place. It was possible for man to go up to heaven. But man could not get there by his own ways, he could not reach it. That is the purpose of a ladder to reach somewhere one cannot reach on his own.
Two thousand years after Jacobs dream there came down from heaven the only one who could make a way for us to go to heaven. He was God the Son, the pre-existent Son of God who had always been and would always be. The Lord Jesus came down from heaven to earth via the miraculous virgin birth to establish a link, a bridge – a ladder in order to make a way for sinful man to reach heaven and be in the presence of a Holy God.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 1- Phillip tells a dear friend of his, Nathaniel about this Jesus of Nazareth. Upon meeting Jesus, Nathaniel was skeptical at first, but Jesus convinced him telling him things about himself which Jesus could only have known supernaturally. Then Jesus told Nathaniel- here after you shall see heaven open and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. ( John 1: 51)
In other words, Jesus said I am the Ladder in Jacobs dream. I am the only way, The Way, by which one can go from earth to heaven.
Jacob not only had begun a personal relationship with God, but also had received a truth centered in Christ. It was a saving truth.
When Jacob awoke his first thoughts were : Surely God is in this place and I was not aware of it.
Do you have a conscious awareness of God at all times? It is a prayer my mother taught me to pray- a prayer that I believe is centered in the will of God and therefore a prayer that God will answer. Did God not tell Jacob I am with you, and will watch you wherever you go and will bring you back home. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised.
These promises are ours as Gods children. We are all Gods children through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. If you belong to Christ then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise. ( Galatians 3: 26, 29) Any physical promises to the seed of Abraham, such as land to be occupied are for the physical descendants of Abraham. But the spiritual promises are for Abrahams spiritual seed- which as believers in Christ we are.
These are our promises personally from God.
God is promising us- He will never leave us- always be with us.
God is promising us- Always keep us.
God is promising us- He will bring us home.
We can be confident, that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ( Phil 1: 6)
God was telling Jacob- you can depend on me now- not your mother or your abilities. Thus the journey with God begins for Jacob. He had to be separated from his mother and the comfort of his home.
He would have to learn to trust God not his own abilities and lessons he had learned from his mother.
Trust is a learned response. Jacob was entering the school of faith, where he would learn how to trust the Lord with all his heart and not lean to his own understanding. It is the most difficult lesson we must learn.
Jacob had in theological terms been justified. Now the process of sanctification would begin.
The next morning upon awakening we see Jacobs spiritual nature begin to change. It was here, he first realized that God was in more than one place. He remarked- surely God is in this place. A new awareness of the presence of God was beginning in Jacobs life because Jacob in New Testament terminology was a new creature.
He poured oil on the stone he had used for a pillow and set it up as a pillar. Jacob called this place Bethel- which means House of God, even though the city used to be called Luz. Luz means separation.
So the names here with their meaning tell us the story of salvation. Jacob was separated from God by his sin but now was brought near to the very house of God. Jacob has not only made an altar- he is responding to an altar call and making a public profession of faith.
It appears as we read his profession of faith, Jacob is making a conditional vow to God. Jacob is a new creature, but old things have not yet passed away. Jacobs vow is the vow of a new believer, not yet mature, who treats this relationship with God as a business deal. He vows he will do his part if God does his part.
But the real change is evident, as Jacob, always one interested in getting- now vows to give to God 1/10th of all that God shall give him. Jacob was a changed man, just like Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Zacchaeus said to the Lord, today I will give half of my possessions to the poor and to anyone I have cheated, I will return four times the amount. ( Luke 19) To which the Lord replied, Today salvation has come to this house.
Zacchaeus was not saved because he gave, he gave because he was saved. The same is true of Jacob.
Remember: the just shall live by faith. Faith is Gods way of living. Jacobs mother, Rebekah, did not understand that living by faith was living without scheming.
Reason is mans way of living- for there is a way that seems right to man, but the way ends in death.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and those whom come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. ( Hebrew 11: 6)
Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. ( Romans 10:7)
Jacobs sins were forgiven- he was justified by faith, just as his grandfather Abraham was.
However, over the next 20 years, Jacob would have a difficult life at times. For although God in His Grace forgives us of our sins- the spiritual principle of reaping what we sow will be administered in Jacobs life with God using Laban to do the administering.
These familiar Bible characters are real people with real problems- many of their problems are of their own making.
But through it all we see Gods hand at work- the hands of the Potter shaping His vessels for use.
We see family problems making life miserable.
We see how to make new beginnings when you fail.
We will see a dreamers dream turn into a nightmare- only to reveal it was all part of Gods plan.
We see how to bloom where you are planted.
Genesis 29: Jacob Arrives at His Uncle Labans House
The next three chapters of Genesis record the 20 years Jacob spent in the employment of his Uncle Laban.
Jacob left Bethel a different man from what he was when he left his home. In New Testament terminology, Jacob was saved at Bethel. Now would begin the journey of sanctification. Jacob had a spring in his step. The phrase Jacob went on his journey can be rendered Jacob lifted up his feet.
Jacob had experienced a dream in which the God of Abraham and Isaac spoke to him. God gave Jacob the promises of assurance of what He, God would do for Jacob. You might be thinking- I would walk with a spring in my step if I had such an encounter with God as Jacob did. But think about it Jacob had the memory of a dream and Gods promises. But we have even more- we have Gods promises to us in writing- so we can check them as often as we want to for assurance. We also have the Holy Spirit deposited in us guaranteeing what is to come. Should we not walk with a spring in our step?
In verse 2, Jacob comes upon a well in a field. This was probably the same well that Abrahams servant came upon when he went on his mission to find a bride for Isaac. The scene is described exactly as Jacob saw it that fateful day- a well in the field with three flocks of sheep lying by it with their shepherds and a great stone covering the well.
Verse 3 explains what was obviously the custom for watering the sheep. The stone was probably there to protect the water from dust and debris. It would not be rolled away until all the flocks were gathered, then perhaps it was on a first come- first served basis. This may explain why the flocks and their shepherds were gathered We will soon see the following traits of Jacob and note that he is not shy- but personable. Jacob certainly is not lazy, he is industrious. He possesses substantial physical strength and yet is an emotional man. Jacob is clever in business, shrewd in a deal, has an eye for what needs to be done in order to be more efficient and has amazing abilities as a herdsmen. He was a man with all of the skills to be successful- but in order for God to use him, the potter must flatten the clay on the wheel in order to shape the vessel for His use. We will note that Jacob started this journey with a spring in his step but there will come a time when the Lord will slow down his step and Jacob will walk with a limp and a cane.It will be such a significant change in Jacobs life, God will give Jacob a new name.
Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota is quite a controversial figure. He is a former Navy Seal, a professional body builder, wrestler, talk radio host, author, governor and professor. Once asked his opinion of Christianity- he remarked ; it is a crutch for the weak. At first many Christians were shocked and outraged- but actually it is perhaps closer to the truth- for unless we realize we can do nothing apart from Him that we must truly learn to lean on Him not our own understanding. So from that perspective- we realize there is much truth in Jesses statement- that we must realize we are weak.
Jacob is about to enter a period in his life when he must be subdued by the Lord. He must be broken in order to be made whole. Behold as the clay is in the potters hand, so are you in my hand, Jacob the Lord God is about to begin to shape Jacobs life.
In verse 4- Jacob, never a shy person greets the shepherds with the flocks- my brothers- where are you from? And they said Haran. Jacobs excitement builds as he realizes he has arrived at his journeys end.
In verse 5 Jacob inquires do you know Laban, the son of Nahor? To which they replied- we know him. Laban would have been well known for his family and his flocks were substantial in that area. As we will also observe Laban and his methods of dealing, he was probably known for being the type of person you had to watch closely in a business deal. There may have been some sarcasm in the shepherds reply we know him. Laban may have been the type of business man Dickens described Scrooge as- hard and sharp as flint.
The encounter continues as Jacob inquires if his uncle is well. To which the shepherds reply he is well and here comes his daughter Rachel with their flocks.
(verse7) Now Jacob cannot help himself- he is used to telling people what to do and how to do it, having grown up in a privileged home with influential father and grandfather. He observes it is early in day, why dont they water the flocks and put them out to pasture in stead of sitting around. Jacob would be successful because he was a man of energy who saw what needed to be done and he did it. He was a hard worker and he could not understand why they were sitting around.
The reply of the shepherds was we cannot roll away the stone until all the flocks are gathered. In other words, they told Jacob this is the way we have always done it..(vs.8)
Here is the scene, Jacob, the stranger is talking with the shepherds. He obviously could converse with them in a language he was familiar with- perhaps having learned it from his grandfather, Abraham. But also he could talk about a subject they both had in common, being herdsman. But when Rachel arrives, Jacob forgets about the shepherds, forgets about their custom of watering. Eager to impress, perhaps taken by her beauty and what may have been love at first sight, Jacob rolls away the stone by himself. This display of physical strength was not unlike the actions of a teenage boy wishing to catch the eye of a pretty girl.
The next verse tells us Jacob is not only a man of strength but also of emotions. Think about what has happened to Jacob over the past few weeks- there was the deception he and his mother had entered into in order to get the blessing instead of Esau. There was the threat of Esau to kill him. The official blessing of his father and being sent off a long journey to take for himself a wife. The encounter with God at Bethel. The long nights and days of the journey which had been physically and emotionally difficult. So when Jacob sees the beautiful young woman, who is family, who is beautiful, and perhaps his future wife, Jacob kisses her and weeps as he tells her who he is. He was overcome with emotions.
In verse 12, we see Rachels reaction, she ran to tell her father Laban.
In verse 13, Laban runs to meet Jacob, his nephew. I am sure he was glad to see the son of his sister Rebekah. But he also remembered the gifts, the gold and the wealth that had accompanied the servant of Abraham all those years ago when his sister Rebekah left to marry Isaac, the son of Abraham.
Their first meeting and Laban greets his nephew Jacob as bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Surely they were related and alike in more ways than just physically. The first month passes and obviously, Jacob being the type of person he is does not sit around the house.
By the end of the month the following is obvious as Jacob begins to work Laban cannot help but notice his nephew Jacob can outwork any two of his sons. It is also obvious Jacob is head over heels in love with Rachel.
In verse 15, Laban decides I cannot afford to lose someone this valuable, with his skills and his family wealth. So Laban goes to Jacob and says I cannot let you work for nothing- tell me what shall your wages be? Here is our first indication of how clever at a deal is Laban. Rather than making an offer- he first sees how much Jacob thinks he should be paid. Laban let Jacob name his terms anticipating because of his desire for Rachel he would get a better bargain this way.
Jacob had been doing some figuring himself. And he probably had been putting in extra effort at work to show Laban what a valuable asset he was. It will be interesting to watch these two men, so much alike, try to outsmart one another in their dealings. Jacob has a ready answer for what his wages should be I will work for you for seven years for Rachel. ( Now we are told Laban had two daughters the older daughter, Leah, described as being tender-eyed and Rachel the younger daughter described as beautiful and well favoured.. In other words Rachel was a knock out and Leah was not. How sad that we see judging others on outward appearance has always been the way of the world. The world has always placed a high premium on physical attractiveness. When we know that physical beauty is not an indication of a persons value. Yet the forbidden fruit in the garden was pleasant to look at and Satan, formerly known as the angel Lucifer was grand in his appearance.
Surely Leah knew she was not as attractive as Rachel and perhaps there was some envy there and perhaps some resentment. But remember it is God who made us the way we are and He did so for a reason. But we wonder, did this lack of physical attractiveness and the obvious value that society placed on good looks in any way make Leah feel inferior?
Verse 20 tells us a lot about the love Jacob had for Rachel. This verse tells us Jacob served seven years but they just seemed like a few days, because his love for Rachel was so great.
But next we will see what the con artists would call the switch. In the seven years he worked for his uncle, his uncle had time to formulate his plan.
Labans plan is a cunning one. I wonder if during the seven years, Jacob told the story of what he and his mother, Labans sister, had done to deceive his blind father, Isaac. Laban would have been impressed with such a cunning plan and it might very well have planted the seed for the deception he is about to carry out on Jacob.
Jacob had disguised himself like his older brother Esau in order to deceive Isaac, his father and receive the blessing. Now Laban would disguise his oldest daughter Leah to pass her off as her younger sister Rachel. His plan to switch brides would be tricky. The wedding would take place at night so under the cover of darkness, heavy veils and perhaps wine at the feast the switch could take place. Rachel was either in on the plot being told by her father she would get to marry Jacob, but he needed to do this for Leah.
Labans plan was based on Jacobs character and his love for Rachel. He knew having consummated the marriage to Leah physically, Jacob would not desert her. But Laban also knew with his love for Rachel, he could get Jacob for another seven years.
The plan worked and Jacob did not discover until the next morning in the light of day, he had been deceived. I believe you could hear the roar that came from that wedding tent all through the camp.
Angry, deceived and feeling he had been greatly wronged and cheated, Jacob demands of Laban why have you done this to me? Why have you deceive me?
Laban, cool as a cucumber replies- it is our custom the older daughter must be married first- not the younger. Stay with Leah and fulfill the wedding week feast, the next seven days then I will give you Rachel also for another seven years of service.
Jacob was defeated. He agreed. Surely he could not help but notice- what he had done to Esau had now been done to him. Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. Now Jacob understood how Esau felt. He understood what he and his mother had done in a way he could not have understood before.
We also will take note of some other information : Leah was given a handmaid to serve her named Zilpah; and Rachel when she weds Jacob will given a handmaid, Bilhah. Both will play roles in the building of the nation of Israel.
I would caution you as we read about Gods chosen people and see the polygamy involved, that God does not support polygamy, we are just being told the facts. In fact Gods word is clear- Gods plan for marriage is one man and one womanthe two shall be one not three or four be one. We will also see that polygamy never works and causes all types of discord and jealousy .
Now verses 30 and 31 give us an insight into the household of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Verse 30 tells us Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. And verse 31 tells us the Lord who sees all saw that Leah was hated and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
Elvis Presley was once asked in an interview what made him happy. Elvis thought for a minute and gave an answer that I believe revealed a lonesome and in some ways sad man. Elvis said, I need someone to love, someone to love me and something to look forward to.
As human beings, God created us with a desire to be loved and to love. And we all want something to look forward to- the next vacation, the next trip, the next whatever. For Elvis Presley it was concerts- where thousands of nameless people expressed their love and appreciation for him-though neither he nor his audience knew one another. For the space of that hour- Elvis felt loved. And for the space of that hour some fans who loved a man they did not know and maybe obsessed about him felt somehow fulfilled. But when the concert was over- they were left empty.
People who are not loved- but love someone else and their love is not returned can become desperate and obsessive. We all can remember or know of someone who became desperate and obsessive- we see extremes of this obsession in the news where someone will kill that person they love and then commit suicide. John Hinkley shot President Regan to get actress Jodie Foster to notice him.
Leah became desperate for Jacob to love her. She was miserable. She evidently cried out to the Lord to do something.
The Lord opened her womb and in quick succession Leah has four sons. Her names for her sons reflect the desperation she felt in her attempts to have her husband, Jacob love her. Reuben, her first born son, name literally means God has seen. Leahs comment reveals her heart- surely the Lord has heard me and looked upon my misery and now my husband will love me. So we see the brief period of hope- hope that Jacob would now love her because she had given him the son that Rachel could not.
But the very next verse, verse 33 tells us this did not solve her dilemma so pregnant for the second time, Leah remarks because the Lord has heard I am hated He has given me a son.
I believe the unreturned love of Jacob causes Leah to become obsessed with having children. Beth Moore says the troubled child of desperation is obsession; but the healthy child of desperation is devotion. But know for sure- desperation will bring about something in your life- what will it be? Obsession or devotion.
I believe based on personal experience and stories shared in the Word of God that our Lord has a special place in his heart for people in desperate situations.
I am sure by now- you have experienced the difference between a situation that concerned you and a crisis that brought desperation. As a 31 year old man, desperate to become sober- I cried out to the Lord. A cry of desperation and He heard me-He rescued me and saved me.
Can you not see the young man, we know as the prodigal son, desperate for food, for fellowship and for love coming to his senses? What brought him back to his father- desperation.
Do you see the woman who had had it . She could not take it anymore. Her life was miserable, she had dealt with the issue of blood for 12 years. She had been to specialist after specialists for healing- her life was controlled by this disorder- and she was obsessed with healing. She was desperate and in her desperation she reached out to the Lord. At the same time a man called Jarius had come to Jesus- desperate for Him to come to his house for his 12 year old daughter was dying.
Can you not see the long line of people outside the home of Simon Peter who have come to be healedthe Bible tells us in Mark 1: and at evening, when the sun went down, they brought all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils and all the city were gathered together at his door. And He healed many that were sick of various diseases, and cast out demons All the desperate people drawn to the Lord. And He turned none away.
I could go on an on with stories but you get the point Read Psalms 107 and you will see even in their disobedience that brought them into their desperate situations the Lord responded to their cries. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saves them out of their distress.
Lets observe Leahs journey from the desperation of being unloved to the obsession with having children as a way to make Jacob love her to finally a devotion to the Lord. Reuben, her first born causes Leah to say God has seen my desperation (misery, affliction) and now my husband will love me. Next came Simeon and she remarked the Lord has heard I am not loved and gave me another son. Then came Levi and she remarked surely my husband will become attached to me. On her fourth son, we see a change from obsession and attempts to find love in her husband Jacob turn to devotion to the Lord. This time I will praise the Lord and she named him Judah. And she stopped having children.
Leah had found an outlet for her love in the Lord. She no longer had to obsess about whether Jacob loved her as much or more than Rachel. Her joy was the Lord and she was devoted to Him now and found what she had been searching for. The emptiness was filled and the desperation was gone.
Now once I was downhearted, disappointment was my best friend. But then you came and it departed and has not shown his face again. Your love keeps lifting me higher, than I ve ever been lifted before. So keep it up and quench my desire. ( Higher and Higher, Jackie Wilson).
Genesis 30: Lets Make a Deal
This chapter sees Jacobs family increase, another encounter with his father-in-law and a series of deals not only with Laban but also with Leah and Rachel.
Jacob sometimes seems to be the man who is always trying to please all those around him.
In verse 1, Rachel has a mini- breakdown. Frustrated at her inability to conceive while Leah, her sister bears one after another, Rachel is jealous or as the KJV states envied her sister. Envy is the offspring of jealousy and is defined as resentful awareness of anothers advantage. Matthew Henry states that envy is grieving at the good of another. Jealousy means you want what someone else has- envy means you not only want it- you also want it taken from the other. Rachel is so upset she says to Jacob give me children or I shall die.. Remember both of these wives are aware of the covenant of God with Abraham and now with Jacob and the blessing to come through his offspring. How can Rachel the favored wife become part of this if she has no children?
Verse 2, Jacob becomes angry with Rachel and says: Am I God? And then further implies there must be something wrong in her life and God has kept her from bearing children. We know Jacob loves Rachel and she- him; but in real life there are arguments and quarrels among a husband and wife who love each other. There is also friction from these multiple marriages and it will grow even worse.
In verse 3 comes the first of several deals in this chapter of Jacobs life. Taking the same route Sarah did with Hagar and Abraham, Rachel requests that Jacob take her handmaid, Bilhah and sleep with her and the offspring will be legally considered Rachels child.
In verses 4-8 we see Jacob father two sons by Bilhah named Dan and Naphtali respectively. Their names express Rachels emotions: the name Dan means God has vindicated me and given me a son; the name Naphtali means wrestling as Rachel viewed this as having wrestled with her sister and won.
Remember at the end of chapter 29, when Leah gave birth to Judah, we were told she stopped having children. Now in verses 9-12, Leah responds to the challenge of Rachel by convincing Jacob to take her maid, Zilpah, as a concubine or secondary wife and Jacob fathers two more sons in quick succession named Gad and Asher. Their names meaning fortunate and happy respectively.
But there seems to be no end to this contest of conception, it fact the competition escalates and Jacob seems to be a willing pawn giving into his wives demands as a way of keeping peace. But also probably delighted with the birth of so many sons- for they were considered to be a great asset to any man. But there will be trouble as we will see among these sons for the Word of God tells us clearly- unless the Lord build a house, they labor in vain who build it. (Psalms 127:1)
Obviously there are things about the culture of Jacobs time that are so different they are difficult for us to comprehend. But we also must realize that Rachel and Leah are the products of their upbringing- they were raised in a family of idolaters. We will later see that after all these years, those household idols were still important to these sisters. We will also see they had come to accept as truth- certain superstitions or what we might today call wives tales. One such belief was that a rare fruit called mandrakes was an aid to fertility.
For this reason we find Rachel making a deal with Leah for some mandrakes that her son Reuben had found and brought home. In verses 14 and 15 we see the bitterness between these two sisters as Rachel asks Leah to give her some of her mandrakes . Leahs angry response is wasnt it enough you took away my husband and now want to take my sons mandrakes?
Rachel says- I will make you a deal give me your sons mandrakes and I will tell Jacob to sleep with you tonight. But as we will see the deal backfires on Rachel.
In verse 16- Jacob coming in from the fields from a days work is met by Leah who tells Jacob you must sleep with me tonight, I have hired you for the night with my sons mandrakes. Jacob was truly a hired hand it makes you wonder sometimes what was going on in his mind and in his walk with the Lord. Jacob seems to drift along sometimes with his only interest being in producing more offspring, increasing flocks and just the day to day business of life and family. We have all had times like that in our spiritual lives, where we seem to be more caught up with the business of everyday life than our spiritual walk with the Lord. If we are not careful we will drift away.
There is a time and season for everything. The Lord understands we need work and the ability to make a living. Jesus told us our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of before we ask. But our priority is to seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness- that is His rule and His will must be foremost in our lives .When this is so He will give us the things we need. We will see as Jacob begins to turn his heart toward God and back home- to seek first His kingdom and His will- God will provide all his needs. Where God guides He provides.
But underneath this story with its real, ordinary people and strange customs we must not lose sight that God is at work. For as Jesus told us, my Father is always at work. We are about to see how God directs us in our walk with Him as we observe how He directs Jacob in his walk.
The method God uses to direct Jacob will reveal the method He uses to direct us:
- An inner witness of the heart. A desire of the heart- a longing . Now one must be cautious for as we are told the heart can be deceitful. But if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart. The Lord first begins to put a desire in your heart. We may be caught up as Jacob was caught up for a period in our lives where our children are being born and raised and where we are establishing our careers. But God will get our attention first with a desire a longing.
- Next will come outward circumstances of life. These circumstances will confirm our direction. Adversity will often be used to steer us in the right direction.
- Then comes the confirmation of the truth of Gods Word. Jacob will develop a longing to return home. Circumstances will steer him in that direction and Gods word to him will confirm it.
We will observe these not only in Jacobs situation- but God will also reveal the same truths and steps in the life of Joseph.
It is also wise to consult those closest to us who will also be affected by our decisions. Jacob will consult with Leah and Rachel.
Back to our story- Jacob sleeps with Leah and verses 17-18 tell us Rachels Mandrake Deal backfired on her and rather than making her fertile- God allows Leah to become pregnant again and another son is born, named Issachar. ( Meaning reward.) This is the fifth son, Jacob has fathered by Leah.
Verse 19 reveals Jacob must have decided to spend more time with Leah for she gives him a sixth son, Zebulon. The name means dwelling for now she felt her husband would dwell with her.
Evidently Jacob did continue to spend more time with her, for next she bears what is recorded as the first daughter, named Dinah. This baby sister would be much loved by her brothers as we will see later on.
Finally, in verse 22 we are told that God remembered Rachel and she has a son, named Joseph. Although Judah will the line through which the Messiah, the Lord Jesus would come, Joseph was destined for greatness in his day. But his greatness would come as result of great adversity and patience.
So at this time- close to 14 years with Laban, Jacob has 12 children- 11 sons and one daughter. Leah has produced 6 sons and 1 daughter, Zilpah- 2 sons, Bilhah- 2 sons and Rachel -1 son. Rachel will later give birth to Benjamin the 12th son and baby of the family. We will see the divisions in the family and the favoring of one wife and one son by Jacob create a very divided family. Surely, the four sons of the two maids would form a natural alliance as their status of secondary sons was obvious, then there would be the natural rivalry between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel. Yet in all of this God was at work as we are about to see.
Verse 25 tells us after Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob begins to have a desire to return home. God has awakened in Jacob a longing to do what God has willed him to do. For as we will see it is God who works in us a desire and power to do His good purpose. So begins the next phase of the story of Gods dealing with Jacob. Jacob has an inner witness of the heart- a strong desire a longing to return to his homeland. Perhaps by now knowing his mother has died but his father and Esau are still alive.
Verse 26- Jacob says to his father in law Laban- it is time for me to return. I have worked my full 14 years paying for your two daughters. I have worked faithfully for you and done much good for you. In other words, Jacob says, I have fulfilled my end of the bargain and then some. All I am asking for is my wives and children.
Laban says to Jacob, please stay. I know your God has blessed me because of you, name your wages ( Labans favorite ploy) and I will pay them.
Let me make a comment about Laban. By now Jacob knows Laban is not a reasonable man. Laban is an unreasonable man. Laban is also a dishonest man.
Unreasonable people are the most difficult people to deal with. They can certainly be the sandpaper God uses to refine us- for they do wear us down physically and emotionally. The problem is not that unreasonable people do not understand- they refuse to understand, they will not understand.
Their refusal is their method of control.
This type of person is not ever going to be fair.
The only type of agreement they will agree to is an arrangement that is grossly in their favor.
Jacob has learned this lesson and knows how Laban operates. As we will see not only has God given Jacob a desire, God will give Jacob the plan that Laban an unreasonable man will agree to.
First Jacob states what he knows Laban already knows. Jacob has increased Labans flocks greatly. Jacob also is careful to give the Lord credit- for Jacob knows the Lord has blessed Laban through Jacob. ( Joseph would be a chip off the old block as his efforts were blessed by God wherever he ended up and clearly helped Potiphar, the prison warden, and the later the Pharoah.)
Next we will see the deal Jacob offers Laban and Laban takes him up on. It was a deal Laban could not refuse.
It was Labans kind of deal- a deal that weighed heavily in his favor .or so he thought.
Lets make a deal continues with Jacob fashioning a deal that Laban could not refuse. We discover later in Chapter 31, Jacob tells Rachel and Leah that God gave him the plan in a dream. Here was the deal: Jacob said to Laban I have worked hard for you and prospered you- but I have nothing of my own for my household. Remember God knows what we have need of before we ask Him.
So Jacob proposes to Laban a deal that seems to grossly favor Laban.
First Jacob proposes to continue to tend Labans flocks and herds. This would immediately please Laban.
Second, Jacob proposes to remove from the flocks all spotted, speckled goat and dark sheep. Keep in mind that the predominant color of goats in that part of the country was black and that eastern sheep were predominantly white. The speckled, spotted goats and the brown sheep would be removed from the herds and flocks and taken three days journey away from the flocks. Jacob would continue to tend the remaining flocks for Laban which would be all white sheep and all black goats.
Third, Jacob said what will be my wages will be any speckled, spotted goats or brown sheep born in the future.
Now Jacob was going to work hard as he always did, try a trick or two he had learned but trust God who we discover later is the One who gave Jacob this plan.
I do not understand what Jacobs actions with the peeled branches accomplished- but we do understand Mendels Law- a law of Gods by the way that Mendel discovered. What occurred over the next six years was the work of the Lord. The law of genetics tells us a scientific fact that some animals have the recessive genes for speckles, spots and brown color. These are called heterozygous and those having only the genes for pure colors without the recessive traits are called homozygous.
Here is the bottom line- God who created all things and controls all things who can cause a great number of fish to swim into a fishermans net; or a fish to bring a coin or a rooster to crow at a particular time; or a raven to bring food- has no problem causing those animals with recessive genes- the heterozygous animals to mate and restrain the homozygous animals from mating. This produced a greater number of speckled, spotted and dark colored offspring.
Jacob then culled these from the herds and allowed them to mate with one another producing even great number of their own kind. For the law of genetics as decreed by God says each will reproduce after its own kind.
Thus as we come to the end of this deal-makingchapter, we see Jacobs flocks had grown exceedingly prosperous and he came to own large flocks, and maid servants and men servants, and camels and donkeys.
But remember how God directs us:
- A desire a longing in our heart, an inward witness.
- Circumstances that direct us- an outward witness. Often adversity is used to steer us.
- The Word of God instructs and guides us.
This will be exactly what happens with Jacob. After the birth of Joseph, Jacobs heart turned toward God and home. He had a desire a longing, an inner witness.
Where God guides He provides, the next six years, God is able to provide all of Jacobs needs.
Then we read in the beginning of chapter 31 there comes the outward circumstances and adversity God uses to confirm our direction and steer us. Jacob heard that Labans sons were saying Jacob had stolen their fathers wealth. Labans attitude had changed toward Jacob. Circumstances and adversity were about to move Jacob in a different direction.
Then comes the confirming Word of God. The Lord said to Jacob, Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you. (Genesis 31:3)
Looking back at your life can you see Gods hand in directing your life?
Can you see how like Jacob, you were introduced to the God of your father, your parents- but you had to personally develop that relationship with God?
Can you look back to a time in your life when you had a Bethel Experience where like Jacob the God of your parents became your God?
Then can you observe how your life seemed to fall into the same routine of Jacobs? Look how many years we seem to do the same thing over and over— the getting up, going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching television to go to bed and get up and do it again.
Somewhere along the way- the Bethel Experience becomes a distant memory- the worship of God becomes as routine as the rest of your life and you wonder sometimes am I missing something?
Then comes an event- ( for Jacob it was the birth of Joseph) that wakes you out of your spiritual slumber and God begins a new, fresh work- there is a longing in your heart, a desire to do Gods will.
Then comes the circumstances- sometimes the adversity that steer us as God re-directs our lives. All of a sudden His Word becomes the source from which we seek guidance and He speaks to us and directs us for He delights to order our steps.
Then you realize- every day you wake up:
God the Father has a will for your life; He has an agenda.
God the Son communicates the Fathers will and agenda to us through His Word and His life. For the Lord Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
God the Holy Spirits task is to implement. His mission is to work in us the desire and power to do Gods will.
You see, the One and Only God Father has made you a deal you dare not refuse: for God so loved the world- you and me- that He sent His only begotten Son, and that who so ever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. He has promised if we seek Him first and His righteousness that He will supply all our needs.