But when we read some of the stories in the Bible, we’ve got to admit that nothing much has changed when it comes to human nature. If we were watching a dramatized version of today’s reading what might it sound like? Check out today’s post to see.
But God didn’t include these stories just for entertainment value. They are for our benefit, so we might be encouraged and have hope to persevere when things are difficult or seem unfair or we don’t understand the why’s.
How might God be using the things we least want to remember about our past or we least want to embrace in our present circumstances in the most miraculous ways? It might be our family, how we’ve been sinned against, or something we did or didn’t do.
Genesis 29 & 30
Reality … Before “Reality TV”
Love, Deceit, & God’s Plans
The Bible is full of stories about love, sex, rejection, envy, jealousy, fidelity, adultery, immorality, scheming, deceit, greed, thievery, contention, even murder (and that’s the short list)!
Reality TV has nothing on our spiritual ancestors, or us, for that matter!
If it wasn’t for the love and mercy and patience of God, He might have given up on the human race a long time ago. Instead, He has carefully carried out the plan He has had since before the beginning of time—to send His Son to rescue us from ourselves.
Leah, Rachel & Their Manipulative, Deceitful Father
In chapter 29 Jacob has been working for his Uncle Laban for seven years for the right to marry his daughter, Rachel. But Rachel has an older sister, Leah, who is still unmarried.
Imagine for a minute that you are Leah. Apparently, she wasn’t considered beautiful in that culture. Verse 17 says her eyes were “delicate.” The NASB says they were weak.
“And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”
The word translated “delicate” or “weak” probably meant pale and may have been considered a blemish. But the comparison to Rachel says it all, “… but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”
The desire to look beautiful is nothing new. Even the serving women in Moses day had bronze mirrors (Ex. 38.8). Leah probably felt the sting of comparison and the desire to have someone love her like Jacob loved her sister.
I wonder how she felt as Rachel’s wedding date neared, being the older sister and still unmarried. Now imagine: the wedding party is going on, the wine is flowing, people are singing and dancing.
And her father comes to her with a plan.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her (29.22-23).
As we’ll see in the next few verses, Jacob didn’t have a clue who was waiting in the marriage bed.
Imagine how that conversation between Leah and her father might have gone:
Dad: “Honey, I’ve got an idea. I haven’t told your mom yet, but since you haven’t been able to attract a man, I’m going to take care of it. I’ll sneak you into the bridal chamber in place of your sister.”
Leah: “But, Dad, what about Rachel?”
Dad: “Don’t worry about your sister. I told her this is the way it has to be. It’s not right that she should be married first.”
Leah: “But, Dad, what if he knows it’s me?”
Dad: “Don’t worry. We’ll give him plenty of wine and it’ll be dark. Just don’t say much.”
And what about the next morning?
Imagine Leah waking up early and laying there, waiting for Jacob to wake up. And thinking … “What will he say? What will he do? How angry will he be? Will he throw me out? Where will I go (no longer a virgin in a culture that made chastity a high priority for marriageable material)? What will Rachel say? And our friends and neighbors? Pretty soon everyone will know.”
And then that moment when he woke up and saw her next to him … think about it. Jacob had to be bribed with the offer of getting Rachel, too, just to complete the honeymoon!
25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also (29.25-28).
The years to follow would be wrought with jealousy and competition between the two sisters because of their polygamous marriage.
Even though the Bible does include polygamy, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of it. Over and over again we see why it is wrong.
In another context, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other …” (Matt. 6.24). Even though He was speaking there of God and money, the principle is true in the area of loyalty in marriage, as well.
I wonder if Jacob thought back and remembered the shock and anger his brother and father must have felt when he deceived them, now that he, too, had been deceived.
And Rachel—her knight in shining armor—well, her knight on camel back—shows up and he’s smitten with her. He even tries to get rid of the other shepherds so he can talk to her alone (29.7). He shows off his muscles as he rolls that stone from the well all by himself (29.10). Then he was willing to work seven years just to get her. How romantic is that! But dad’s got a different plan. This isn’t fair. He’s ruining everything!
Yet God was going to use this family for His divine purposes. What, use this bunch? Jacob the deceiver? The beautiful but, as we’ll see, selfish Rachel? The less than beautiful Leah? And Laban? But, like Abraham (and us), those He uses will be tested and tried and allowed to suffer the consequences of their choices before they are usable.
Remember Romans 15.4:
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
So, as we think about these stories, we need to remember that God didn’t include all of this for entertainment value (although anyone who created aardvarks and hippopotamuses, to say nothing of this group, must have a sense of humor), but so that we, personally and individually, might be encouraged and have hope. And that because of the instructions and the warnings given we would persevere when things are difficult or seem unfair or there are things about our lives we don’t understand.
God was going to use the tests, trials, mistakes, and missteps to mold Jacob’s family. And, often, it is the things we least want to remember about our past or we least want to embrace in our present circumstances that God is going to use in the most miraculous ways.
Maybe it’s our family, or how we’ve been sinned against, or maybe it’s something we did or didn’t do. But God is using everything in our lives for His divine purposes.
Jeremiah 29.11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”
That promise, dear ones, is true for me and for you!
Today’s Other Readings:
Is He my Lord?
This psalm begins “O Lord, our Lord …”
“Our Lord,” that’s personal. He’s not just “the” Lord, but our Lord … my Lord.
How we need to guard against believing general truths about God without coming to understand them in a personal way. The Lord who is God must also be Lord of my life … personally … and your life … personally. Are there areas where you have failed to allow Him to be the Lord and Master of your life? In your finances? With your children? In your marriage? In your singleness? With your health? Important questions to consider.
The Blessings of Wisdom
The Bible and Proverbs, in particular, has much to say about wisdom. We are reminded over and over of the importance of asking for it, seeking it earnestly, and “taking hold” of it (v. 18). In this portion of Scripture we are told it brings happiness, that it is more valuable than gold or silver and more precious than rubies, that it will lengthen our lives, and that it brings peace to those who gain it and obey its instruction.
This is not speaking about man’s wisdom, the world’s wisdom, or the wisdom gained from hard knocks … this is God’s wisdom. It is gained by knowing Him through His Word and by applying it to our lives on a daily basis.
But we can’t truly know Him or understand His wisdom unless we first know Him, personally, as Savior and Lord. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Not for the Faint-Hearted
21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.
24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! (vss. 21-25 NLT)
Have you ever been persecuted for your faith? Have you been criticized for “being excited about the things of God” or “actually believing the Bible” or “becoming a fanatic”? You’re in good company. Jesus warned us that being a true believer—a disciple—is not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards and blessings are out of the world!
Remember, just as He did in Leah’s life, in Rachel’s life, and in Jacob’s life … God has a plan for your life. Stay faithful and trust Him.
Lord, help us to stay faithful, to trust You even when life doesn’t make sense or seem fair. Thank You, also, that You remain faithful even when we fall short in our actions, in our words, and even, in our ability to trust You fully. We ask all this in the name of Your Son, amen.
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