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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

April 13, 2016

Genesis 28:16-29:27

  1. Recapping from last week Jacob has fled his father's house out of fear of his brother Esau. God met him and spoke to him with a vision of great promises. This is a perfect picture of the grace of God. Jacob had messed up royally, but God was still willing to use him. God doesn't give up on us. Jacob is given several promises by God with no conditions on those promises. Today we will see his response to those unconditional promises.

  2. Verses 15-22. Jacob responded to the Lord as best he knew how. He has not really been a real worshipper of God and he doesn't have much experience with God. So his response is not the response of a seasoned saint, but a babe in the faith. He got up in the morning and set up a pillar with his stone pillow and poured oil on it, as an act of consecrating it to the Lord. Then he made a vow to the Lord (28:20-22). Commentators are divided regarding Jacob's vow. Some say that it was a wonderful response of faith. They interpret the “if” of verse 20 to mean, “since.” Others say that this is another instance of this self-seeking schemer trying to bargain for his own best interests. My understanding is that while Jacob's response was immature at best, at least it was a response, and God met him there. A number of factors reveal that Jacob's response was immature. Jacob does not express any awareness or confession of his many sins he has recently committed. His focus was not on God and His purpose to bless the nations, but on himself and what he could get out of the deal. God has just promised to do all these things for Jacob and he turns around and says, “lf You’ll do what You just said, then You can be my God.” Jacob's vow sounds like the same old pattern he used when he bargained with Esau to get the birthright. He wasn't concerned about the other party; he was out for the best deal for himself. God isn't too impressed with such deals! Jacob should have responded, “You alone are God! While I deserve Your condemnation for my many sins, You have shown me Your grace! I surrender myself and everything I have totally to You!” But instead, he tells God that if He will come through as He has promised, Jacob will make Him his God, set up a house for Him at Bethel, and give Him ten percent. God is not impressed with our deals. Jacob's response shows that he doesn't understand God's grace.

    1. God’s promises to Jacob are all unconditional; Jacob's promises to God are all conditional. Thank God that He deals with us on His unconditional terms, not on our conditional terms! But all this reflects where Jacob is coming from. He was used to working out deals, so he's responding to God by trying to work out a deal. It was immature, at best, but at least it was a response. The significant thing is, God didn't rebuke Jacob: “You've got to be kidding! If you can't accept My word, the deal is off.” Instead, God let it go and graciously kept working with Jacob. it would take 20 hard years with Laban, a night of wrestling with the angel of God, and a traumatic encounter with Esau, to knock a lot of rough edges off Jacob, but God kept at it. Though it was an inadequate response, God took it and began to shape Jacob into the kind of man he needed to be.

  3. Chapter 29: In Genesis 28, we saw God's beginning with Jacob. At his time of great need, the Lord broke into Jacob’s life, promised to bless him and to fulfill with him all of His covenant promises to Abraham (28:13-15). In 29:1, the original language says that Jacob “lifted up his feet,” an expression which means that he had a new bounce in his steps as he continued his journey. God was with him, his guilt from the past was gone, his fear of Esau had subsided. Things were looking up! What Jacob didn't realize was that he had just entered God’s boot camp. He was in for a difficult 20-year term under God’s unwitting drillmaster, Laban. God would use these trying years to knock a lot of rough edges off Jacob. Ultimately, yes, God would bless him. But part of the process involved breaking Jacob of his scheming and selfish ways. God's blessings oftentimes come through His discipline. To bless us and use us to bless others, God has to break us from our dependence on the flesh and shape us into the image of His Son, who learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8). So God enrolls us in His boot camp. It's a tough program that lasts many years.

  4. Verses 2-11. Notice the circumstances which Jacob encounters on his trip. He happens upon a well where there happen to be some shepherds, who happen to be from Haran and happen to know Laban. Just as Jacob is talking to them, Rachel happens to come along. God is ordering his steps without Jacob’s knowledge. Even when we are lost, we are found. Unlike Abraham's servant who went to Haran in search of a bride for Isaac, who prayed and was led by the Lord to Rebekah (24:27), there is no word that Jacob prayed. However, God wasn't asleep, even though He isn't mentioned in verses 1-30. He was watching, arranging the circumstances to shape Jacob into the man He wanted him to be. Jacob is still trying to arrange his own circumstances for his own advantage, not realizing how God is orchestrating the whole process. Remember, Jacob is coming to his uncle with only the clothes on his back (32:10). He doesn't have any gifts, as Abraham's servant brought, so he needs some bargaining power. These shepherds seem somewhat lazy and passive. So Jacob sees his opportunity. When Rachel arrives, he moves into action. He rolls the large stone from the mouth of the well and waters her sheep. While she's trying to figure out this hero, he kisses her, breaks into tears, and then introduces himself. Even though Jacob is still his old self, trying to arrange everything for his advantage, God was there behind the scenes, ordering everything. God would use these circumstances to shape Jacob in ways Jacob couldn't yet imagine.

  5. Verses 12-14. Things went well for Jacob for one month. He fell head over heels in love with Rachel. Going to watch over the sheep with her had given the shepherding business a whole new dimension for Jacob. Life was taking a turn for the better. His past was behind him. Uncle Laban seemed to like him--even called him “my bone and my flesh” (29:14). He was part of the family. Until now, it would look as if Jacob had skated away from his past sins. Rebekah's scheme seemed to work. Jacob received the blessing. Esau’s murderous anger had been thwarted. Jacob had arrived safely in Haran and had met beautiful Rachel. And Laban was treating him like a son. Besides, God had forgiven him. But God still needed to work on brother Jacob.

  6. Verses 15-20. After a month, Uncle Laban comes to Jacob with what sounds like a generous offer: “Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” (29:15) But don't be fooled! Laban is a shrewd operator who always has his eye on his own advantage. He's actually serving notice that Jacob isn't going to freeload indefinitely. He's going to have to work for his keep. While the shrewd Laban calls Jacob his brother, he also makes it clear who is serving whom (“serve me”). Laban craftily put Jacob under his thumb! So Jacob begins to reap some of what he's sown. He's never worked for anybody in his life. No doubt he had helped tend his father's flocks and done household chores. But he was the son of a rich man. Servants had served him. If he hadn't deceived his father and brother and fled for his life, he would have had ample resources. Like Abraham's servant securing Rebekah for Isaac, Jacob could have offered his gifts, taken his bride, and been on his way. But because of his deception, he didn't have anything. He would have to work for his bride. So he tells Laban that he will serve seven years for Rachel. Laban agrees to the deal, but doesn't tell him the catch: His seven years for Rachel will follow seven years work for her older sister, because they had a custom that the older girl had to be married first. So Jacob has to work seven years for a woman he wouldn't have served seven days for if he had his choice.

  7. Verses 21-27. Finally, Jacob's seven years are up. He has to remind Laban of that fact (29:21). You can be sure that both men were counting (for different reasons), but Laban wasn't going to remind Jacob if he could get a few extra days of work out of him. Jacob was ready for his wedding night (29:21), but he wasn't ready for Laban's treachery. The text delicately puts it, “So it came about that in the morning, behold, it was Leah!” It was dark when Jacob took her into the tent. Leah was veiled, probably dressed in Rachel's clothes and sprinkled with her perfume. She must have been about the same size as Rachel. There is debate about what “weak eyes” (29:17) means; probably, she didn't have the sexy sparkle in her eyes that Rachel had. But in the dark, the unsuspecting, overanxious Jacob didn't notice the finer points. But when he rolled over in the morning to embrace his bride, he got the shock of his life! So the deceiver is deceived! He's met his match in Laban. There are obvious parallels between Jacob's deception of Isaac and Laban's deception of Jacob. Jacob deceived his blind father; he gets deceived in the dark. He deceived his father; he is deceived by his bride’s father. He cheated his brother out of the rights of the firstborn; he gets cheated because of the rights of the firstborn to be married first.

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