It's so good to see you tonight. I trust that your week is blessed and if it's not outward blessing that God is teaching you some wonderful, deep, even hard things. If that is true, we are in the right chapters tonight, as God deals with one of His servants named Jacob. So tonight we're in Genesis 28 and 29. At least I'm prepared to go through those two chapters, time permitting, so we'll aim for getting through two chapters tonight. I know it's a lot to ask of me. That is, to actually make it through two chapters but God's a God of miracles. Let's pray.
The Gallup organization tells us that America's favorite hymn is--guess what? Amazing Grace... how sweet the sound. We know the words. Most everyone knows the words. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see. There have been some people that stumble over the words 'wretch like me.' That saved a wretch like me? Who wrote that? Well, I'll give you a brief thumbnail sketch. It was written by a man named John Newton. He was raised in a Christian home, he had a Christian mother who taught him Scripture from an early age but she died and he was raised by other relatives. Because of the bitterness, the loss of his mother's death, and being transposed into other families, he grew quite bitter against God, against Christianity, and he would've been considered a profligate. Just totally destitute of any spiritual desire whatsoever. Even at a young age, he had a desire to leave home and he eventually ran away from home and joined the British Navy. He could out-drink and out-cuss most people and he was proud of it. He also got involved in the slave trade, the selling of human beings. His conscience grew more and more seared until eventually he almost lost his life. He became a slave himself. He thought frequently on those long trips about his mother's words. He came back to England safe, when he should have died on a couple of occasions, and he gave his life to Christ and then he influenced the Parliament of England as a chaplain. It was that John Newton who knew what he was and knew what he was saved from that said, He saved a wretch like me.
Jacob could have written that hymn, as well. He was a wretch by all standards and yet God has a plan for him. We're going to read his story tonight. We have already started to read his story, a snippet of it, in chapter 25 and then on into chapter 27. But there's a huge, huge theme, a line that runs through this chapter. It's the theme of God's grace. Now I've discovered something after a few years of being a Christian. One of the hardest concepts that we have to deal with, interestingly enough, is God's grace. Receiving something freely. Just receiving it freely. And then being motivated by that grace toward holy and godly living. As Americans, we are taught good values and the value of hard work and earning a living and earning your keep and earning your way. I don't know if any of you remember that old Smith Barney commercial some years back. It's a financial management company where this older British bloke was in all of these commercials and he always had that tagline--you may remember it. "They make money the old-fashioned way: they earn it." Some of you are too young for that and that's why I get so many blank stares but others of you will remember that. There's a lot that feel that way with God, that we're gonna earn it. Here's the problem: you can't earn it because God is perfect and doesn't need anything. So the whole concept of earning something before God is fallacious. It makes no sense. That's where grace comes in. Grace is God bestowing freely His favor toward the most undeserving people. And among that crowd, besides us, would be Jacob.
These two chapters are a love story and I love love stories, if they're the right kind. I love this one especially. It's a love story between a man and a woman, Jacob and Rachel. It's also a love story between Jacob and his God. And Jacob is going to discover, and he completely did not expect what he is about to discover--the depth of God's care and God's provision and God's love for him. Now Jacob, as a human being, was not particularly spiritual. He did understand the value of the spiritual blessing in the home and that's why he connived and deceived in order to get it. But he's not a particularly spiritual person. He didn't go about getting it in any spiritual way, as we remember. In fact, there is no record whatsoever of Jacob praying up to this point. Now we have a record of Abraham praying. We have a record of Isaac in prayer in the field as he waits for his wife. But we have no record of any kind of spiritual movement toward God until we get to this chapter. And we see, by God's grace, this man start to change.
Now if you will remember, Jacob was the homeboy, and I don't mean in gang terms, like he's my homeboy. He was a boy of the home, ok? He liked home. He liked the tent. He liked cooking. He liked Martha Stewart reruns. He liked being inside the tent. He was not an outdoorsman. He stayed close to home. Now we see him on the run, on a journey that takes him 500 miles from home and he goes to Haran, which is the place of his ancestors. And he's going to meet up with some of his relatives. That's where he's going and on the way God has some lessons to show him. Now do you remember last time? In fact, it is in verse 44, where his mother says to him, quick, get out of here for a few days, right? For a few days. Beginning in chapter 28, as he leaves the door of the tent, the few days become 20 years. The few days, those 20 years, are days in which his mother, Rebekah, will die and he won't see her ever again and she won't see her son ever again. But here's the good thing and this is why it applies to us. This guy Jacob is a work in progress. You've heard that saying, this guy's a piece of work! This guy is a piece of work. A piece of God's work. His workmanship, a work in progress. How many of you consider yourself a work in progress? Boy, I sure am. In fact, maybe he even had a bumper sticker on his chariot, 'Be Patient with Me. God Isn't Done with Me Yet.' At least it would've worked for him.
Now in verse 1 of chapter 28, here's where he goes wife-hunting in this chapter. "Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram," that's a district of Mesopotamia. Basically, he's going to Iraq, "to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother. "May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham." So Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau." Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan," and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram. Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had."
Why is this put here? Simply to let us know that Esau is still wanting that blessing and in order to, perhaps, regain the blessing from his father that he lost, he goes know to marry somebody in his own family. One of the daughters of Ishmael because he realizes that's what Dad wanted. Now this is really a warped way of thinking. That is, I'm gonna do evil that good may come. What is the evil I speak of? Multiplying wives unto yourself. He had already married some women who were Canaanites, but he thought maybe I can just add to my collection of women and that will be enough to regain the blessing back. It never will happen but it's part of the intrigue that forms the background of the story. "Now Jacob," verse 10, "went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head," that was his pillow--a rock, "and he lay down in that place to sleep."
The place that he is at, we'll discover, is a place called Bethel, a name that he himself calls it, ancient Luz, at least that is what it was called during Abraham's time. That means he is about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. That means on the first day of travel he must've had an early start, he went up 40, 45, 50 miles, depending on which route he would take. It's a long day's journey. He is fleeing. He's running away and I'm sure he's filled with all sorts of emotion and questions. Again, he's always been around home. Now he's on his own and he's probably thinking thoughts like will I ever see my Mom and Dad again? Will my brother, Esau, chase me down and kill me out here in the wilderness, out here in the desert? And where's God in all this? Where is the Lord? Maybe he's thinking that thought. Maybe he has no thought at all of God. But I bet you that night, that first night away from home, those 40 miles away from home, all alone, on his own, he was a bit edgy. I'm sure that the night just seemed extra dark to him. Every little sound startled him through the night as he's there alone. And a rock for his pillow. Somebody put it this way, a long journey, an uneasy conscience, and a hard pillow: that's the stuff that dreams are made of. And boy is he about to have a dream that turns out to be a revelation of God.
The place that he is at, Bethel, is a beautiful spot. It's sort of in the heart of the land of Israel. It's in the mountain range, the Jerusalem mountain range. As I said, about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. It's beautiful but it's barren. It's very rocky there. I've been there before. Our tours don't go to Bethel because it is considered West Bank territory and the only reason I was allowed, I really wasn't allowed to go there, I told my tour guide one year, I'll meet you in Jerusalem and I took an Israeli soldier with me who, they always carry guns with them, and he needed a trip to Jerusalem so I thought great, I've got cover, let's go to some of these places that you can't go. So this was one of them. So anyway, all of that to say a beautiful place but a very, very barren place. The last place you would ever expect God to hang out. A Godforsaken place, especially in that day and that age. And he lays down. He puts his head on that rock and he probably looks up at the sky and, no lights back then, no towns really to speak of back then that would give any light pollution, so just black sky and brilliant stars. The handiwork of God. I love to go camping. When you go camping, you are looking up at what all of our ancient friends, the patriarchs, the saints of old, our Lord Himself, the sky that they looked at. And I often think, when I go camping, thoughts like this, this is the sky that Jacob was checking out. I wonder what thoughts went through his mind as he was looking up. I don't know about you, but when I look up at the Milky Way galaxy, a couple of thoughts come to my mind. Number one, vastness. It's so vast! I'm told it's 100,000 light years by 10,000 light years. I'm told there are 100 billion stars in that Milky Way galaxy. I've never counted them--I've just been told that. I wouldn't know for sure but I believe the count. I'm also told that there are 100 billion other galaxies besides them. And my Bible tells me that God spans the universe, or measures it, with the span of His hand. The span is from the thumb to the forefinger. So God looks at that huge vastness and goes, it's only that big! So when I look up, I think vastness, I think power, but I don't think of intimacy with God because it is so vast. I think if God is doing that to the universe and I'm a speck in it, it gives me a sense of distance. I imagine myself, what it would be like if I were strapped to a beam of light traveling at 186,000 miles per second. It would take me 100,000 years to get from one end of the galaxy I'm looking at to the other end. So it's vast and certainly made by an all-powerful God but I just think God's distant. It's so remote. It's hard for me to get my mind around being intimate and friendly with a God who does that to the universe--measures it like that.
Jacob looks up and all these thoughts are pouring through his mind. And "Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed." So there's Jacob looking up at the sky, it's so big, it's so vast, and as David said, when I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the sun and the moon which You have ordained, what is man that You're even mindful of him? But what Jacob discovers when he falls asleep in this dream--that God is very mindful of him. Now it's going to shock him. It's going to change him. It's gonna change him. He's gonna get more spiritual--thank God--from this episode. Dreams are typical. We're told that people dream every night. You may not remember them, but you have dreams every night. But some dreams are weird. Some dreams are unusual. When my brother, Rick, was a boy he used to have all sorts of strange dreams where he would be caught sleepwalking. My Dad would find him down the street because he got up out of bed, walked out the front door, and just started walking down the street, sometimes in the middle of the street. It's dangerous. Chip Lusko's son Levi was with us once in Israel and he has had episodes of wild dreams and sleepwalking. He got up out of bed, in his hotel room in Jerusalem, went into the elevator, went all the way down the elevator to the lobby, walked out of the lobby, and then he woke up. And he was just in his underwear in the hotel lobby. What a shock that would be to wake up! Where am I? Oh my goodness!
Not all dreams are from the Lord. But some can be from the Lord--this one was. I mean, you can have a late night pizza with onions and get dreams. But this is a dream uniquely from the Lord and it's interesting, he sees a ladder, literally a staircase or a stairway, this was the original stairway to heaven, right here. And he sees angels and God's angels are both ascending, going up, and descending, coming down. First they're ascending, it says. That means they had been on the earth and then some are descending, perhaps like they're taking shifts and one shift has finished its work and they're going up and the other shift is beginning its shift so it comes down. And the whole point is that God is involved in human affairs. God is involved in what's going on in the earth. Jacob is thinking, I'm in a Godforsaken place, I've run away from home, I've stolen a blessing, I've been a deceiver, I'm running for my life, surely God can't be here. And then he gets this wild dream of the angels of God that are ascending and descending. God is involved in human affairs. And God gives him a promise and we read part of the promise.
Now here's what I love. When God begins to speak to him in the dream, and it is the Lord, God doesn't reprimand him. Now what if you were the Lord and you knew Jacob? What would your first words be to him once, in a dream, he has your attention? And by the way, perhaps he got the dream because he wouldn't listen to God any other way. So don't think that people are necessarily more spiritual because they get dreams. Sometimes the most ungodly people in the Bible get a dream from the Lord. God can't get through to them any other way in the conscious world, so when they're not knocked out and subconscious, God can speak to them. And so if God can't speak to you in a still, small voice, He may need to amp it up and get your attention via a dream. So it doesn't necessarily mean you're more spiritual, it could mean you're less spiritual and more carnal. There's an old Yiddish proverb that says if a man calls you a donkey, pay him no heed. If two men call you a donkey, pay them know heed. If three men call you a donkey, buy a saddle. Not listening to God at all up to this point, now listening to God but the first words God speaks aren't word of reprimand. I would reprimand him. I'd say, Jacob, you deceitful idiot! Look what you've gotten yourself into! Now here's the road ahead of you and how hard it's going to be. But these are words of grace. These are words of promise. And God makes three promises: the promise of provision, first of all. I'm going to give you the land that you now lie on. Now my mind immediately went to the fact that he did lie a lot, he was a liar, and got says, the land that you lie on. But that's stretching the point. It meant he's lying down on. It was the same promise that God made to Abraham and to Isaac--He now makes to Jacob. This land, the land that we call Israel today; I've given it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So from a biblical viewpoint, not a military viewpoint, not a recently historical viewpoint, not a political viewpoint, but from a biblical viewpoint, it's really easy to say who the land belongs to over there. Well who owns the land? Who has the right to that land? Abraham, Isaac, the twelve tribes of Jacob, the children of Israel. God makes him a promise of provision.
Then notice also God makes him a promise of His presence. He says, verse 15, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go". And the third is the promise of protection: "And will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." So now we are told what he thought when he came there. God isn't in this place. I'm in a Godforsaken place. I don't know where God is and he wakes up and goes, wow! God is in this place! And I knew it not. I mentioned that we have a hard time with grace. Some of us, to be quite honest, in reading this story, though we love this about God, we have a hard time that God is promising a blessing to somebody this disobedient, this carnal, this nascent in his own spiritual growth. Such outpouring of God's grace. I brought with me something tonight that I wanted to share with you. It came to my mind and I thought, I've gotta pull it off the shelf. It's a book really that changed my life. It's simply a verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Romans. I got it went I was, like, 19-years-old, I still have it and I read it, but it's by William R. Newell and right in the midst of him talking about a commentary on Romans chapter 6, right in the middle of the book, he has this little section. It's simply called "A Few Words about Grace". Now when I used to meditate on this, it so blew my mind, as I said it changed my whole perspective. I'm gonna give you just a snippet; just a sampling. First of all, the nature of grace. Listen up: Grace is God acting freely according to His own nature as love with no promises, no obligations to fulfill, and acting, of course, righteously in view of the cross. Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient. Its cause lies wholly in the Giver that is God. Grace is always sovereign. Not having debts to pay or fulfilled conditions on man's part to wait for, it can act toward whom and how it pleases. It can, and often does, place the worst deservers in the highest of favors. Grace cannot act where there is ability. Grace does not help, it is absolute. It does all. There being no cause in the creature why grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His grace." Next little section, and I skipped a lot, it's just "The Place of Man under Grace." Newell writes this: he has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing. He is not on probation. As to his life past, it does not exist before God. He died at the cross and Christ is His life. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn." Now here's the proper attitude of the man under grace. Here it is: To believe and to consent to be loved while unworthy is the great secret. Did you get that? To consent to be loved by God while unworthy. So few people get that. Here's another one: To refuse to make resolutions and vows for that is to trust in the flesh. And finally: To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth. When was the last time you lived that way? I expect to be blessed--that's just who God is!
Here are a couple more things and I'll quit. Things which Gracious Souls Discover: To hope to be better is to fail to see yourself in Christ only. How many times have you said, oh, I'm going to do better. O, Lord, I'll do better! That's to fail to see yourself in Christ only. To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself. So real devotion to God arises, not from man's will to show it, but from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while we were yet unworthy and undevoted. Here's the final sentence and we'll close with this, not close the night with this, but close the book with this: To preach devotion first and blessing second is to reverse God's order. It's to preach law and not grace. The law made blessing dependent on devotion. Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing. Our devotion may follow but does not always do so in proper measure. As I said, when I read this, and it goes so much in line with what we're reading about Jacob, it was a life-changer for me. I remember that night I just went, aaah! It was like such a sigh where I could say Lord, go for it! You'll bless me not because who I am but because of who You are.
"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." Notice the wording. Not the Lord was in this place last night when I had this dream God was here. The Lord is, right now, presently in this place and I did not know it. I know it now. I didn't know it then. Last night I came here thinking God isn't in this place! I wake up this morning--God is in this place. I knew it not but I know it now. "And he was afraid and he said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it." This is a commemoration stone. He's worshiping by commemorating something. It was very typical. Now do you remember that is was at this spot, back in chapter 12, that Abraham built an altar to the Lord? And then he went down to Egypt and when he came back after the period of disobedience, he comes back to Bethel and he worships God again. It's a stone of commemoration.
"And he called the name of that place Bethel," or the house of God, "but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God." Now it sounds like he's bargaining with God, doesn't it? Well, you know, if God does this for me, then I'll do that for Him. It sounds like he's bargaining and, to be quite frank, it could be that he was bargaining. After all, that was his M.O. That's what he always did. He bargained with his brother. He deceived his father. But often, and modern translations will sometimes correct it, very often the word if is translated since and that's how I prefer to see it. And many modern translations will say since God is going to do this, therefore I will do that. So it was a response to God's favor, not a condition. God if you do this, then I'll really get really religious--I promise. But it's since God has made these promises. Since God will do that, therefore I will keep it. "And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You." So he worshiped by commemorating, he worshiped by committing, and now he's worshiping by contributing. Here's what's fascinating to me. He's promising a tithe, a tenth, of his income. And I say it's fascinating because this is years before the Law was ever developed, the Law of Moses, which required the children of Israel to give a tenth. There's no requirement here. He freely, voluntarily gave of his substance financially to the Lord as a way of thanking God. I realize that God is the source from whom all blessings flow; I give Him this token because it was His anyway--He gave it to me. So I'll give the tenth back to Him. All voluntary, all before the Law.
Now before we jump into the next chapter, we have to tie two things together because Jesus refers to this in John chapter 1. Remember the instance? When Nathanael is told about Jesus of Nazareth and Nathanael says can anything good come out of Nazareth? And then Jesus shows up. As He sees Nathanael, He says, oh look, check it out! Here comes an Israelite in whom is no deceit whatsoever! And Nathanael goes, like how do You know me? And Jesus said, you know, before Philip called you, when you were in that quiet spot under the fig tree where you thought nobody was seeing you, I saw and heard everything that was going on. And Nathanael said, wow! Now that's in my text but... He was blown away. He said You are the Messiah! You are the One we've been waiting for! And Jesus said just because I said I saw you under the fig tree, you believe? Stick around--you'll see greater things than this, buddy. You will see, Jesus said, the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, remember that? What is He referring to? The twentieth chapter of Genesis. Jacob in the dream sees a ladder. Here is heaven very involved in the affairs of earth, the angels of God up and down in shifts, and the Lord speaking from heaven. Now here's Jesus saying, basically, I am the ladder. I am the link. I am the mediator. If you want to know God in any capacity at all, you must come through Me. I'll take you to Him.
Now chapter 29. Chapter 29 is where the con artist gets conned. The deceiver gets deceived. Jacob, though he was very crafty, is about to meet the master schemer. He had a Ph.D. in deception and that's Uncle Laban. That's the brother of his mother. And so if he thought he was clever, he ain't seen nothing yet. "So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and he saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well's mouth." Let your mind go back a few chapters when Abraham wanted to get a wife for his son, Isaac. There are similarities but there are some pretty hefty differences. When Abraham wanted to get a wife for his son, he sent his eldest servant, Eliezer, remember Eliezer? And he was going to find a wife for his son so Isaac didn't get to pick his wife, didn't get to see his wife, until after they were engaged. Now I know a lot of you are thinking, dude, never would I ever let that happen! However, Eliezer did it carefully and prayerfully. Jacob goes out, he's not praying at all in this, and he will choose his own wife. Here's the question you might ask: who was better off? So you got to get to the end of the story because he chose the right gal, but he gets well, a double-portion, you might say. It's not what he wanted. It didn't turn out the way he expected it.
It says in verse 3, "Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well's mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well's mouth. And Jacob said to them, "My brethren, where are you from?" And they said, "We are from Haran." And he's going, awesome, bingo, that's the place I'm going. "Then he said to them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?" And they said, "We know him." So he said to them, "Is he well?" And they said, "He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep." Now the world would see this as just a coincidence--we see this as providence. God arranged this thing very naturally, but it was supernatural. Now watch what Jacob says: "Then he said, "Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them." But they said, "We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep."
Now why would he say this? Was he saying this because he was some conscientious person who felt really sorry for sheep and he wanted them to be fed, because basically what he's saying is look, water the sheep, and then let them go feed again. And they're saying, well we can't till they all get gathered together so we can do the watering of all the flocks at once. Why is he bringing this up? What he's saying is this. I see Rachel is coming. You guys water the sheep and get out of here! Because he wants some alone time with the girl that he sees out of the corner of his eye and now in full view coming toward him. Because she is, as we'll be told, very beautiful and he is hoping this is the one. And it will turn out to be the one. "Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel". Wow! Just like that? Oh yeah--but it gets better. "And lifted up his voice and wept." What kind of a deal is this? First of all he comes up so romantic, here's a kiss. And then he goes, Ah-hahahaha. Whoa. She's thinking is it the garlic I ate for lunch? I think he's overcome with emotion. It's been a long journey. He is more of the emotional sort. He's not the outdoors guy. He's the man of the tent. He's the indoor type. Maybe a bit more emotional. He's overcome with emotions. It's been a long, hard trip for the boy.
"And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's relative and that he was Rebekah's son. So she ran and told her father." Some commentators, in dealing with this passage, will say that this was love at first sight. Certainly she looked beautiful and when he saw her, he went... couldn't even whistle there, but anyway you get the idea. There you go. Scientists that study this have an interesting theory. They call it love-mapping. That your brain is wired to lock onto certain characteristics of the opposite sex. That when you see those certain characteristics, and one will have a group of characteristics different from another, that that attraction, that bond that forms infatuation, that brings you in proximity upon which people develop relationships. Here's a little article I found about love maps from one of the so-called experts of it. The issue of love at first sight brings up the speculation of biological origin, that you're hardwired to see somebody and then gravitate toward that person. But she, Helen Fisher, also adds, "In terms of human courtship and marriage, several observations are important. The infatuation phase," that's where Jacob is at, "tends to wane after four years or less. This may be in part to a reflection of the human brain's inability to stay in a revved up mode over a long period of time. The waning of infatuation seems to play a role in divorces occurring in the early years of marriage. The longer that couples weather the years, the longer they tend to stay married." Now I share that with you because Jacob is about to weather several years. Not just three or four--but fourteen of those years--and show that he is really interested and goes from infatuation to commitment in this relationship.
Verse 13: "Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh." And he stayed with him for a month. Then Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?" Now Jacob was waiting for this conversation. Like, what can I do for you? Glad that you ask. "Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel." Now watch this, "Leah's eyes were delicate," NIV says 'weak', "but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance." Perhaps the New Living Translation does a better job with it. It says that Leah had pretty eyes but Rachel was beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and a shapely figure. So rather than weak eyes, the term or idea of delicate could be that she had beautiful eyes. But though she had beautiful eyes, her sister had beautiful everything. So there was the comparison. "Now Jacob," it says, verse 18, "loved Rachel". He spent a month with her--every chance he got. And "so he said, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter." Listen, there's that girl. She's so beautiful and he's just like, knee-jerk reacting like, I'm gonna sign my life away here. Now he didn't read the fine print. He's dealing with a master deceiver because you'll notice that Laban never promises that at the end of the seven years he gets to have Rachel. Never once does he promise that, though that's the implication that Jacob has in his mind. I'll serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. "And Laban said," now watch what he says, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me." Nothing mentioned, it's all in the fine print in his own mind. "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel," now watch this, "and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her."
That is one of the most beautiful passages in all of the Bible to me. I've always loved this text. Here is a man who makes a commitment of seven years for this chick that he says he loves after one month. Seven years he serves! In 1 Corinthians 13, describing love, it says love is patient, or love will wait. This guy is waiting seven years. Did I mention seven years? That is unheard of today. Love is patient. Love will wait. Gals, just a little counsel from Uncle Skip. If you're dating a young man or a man of any age who says oh baby, honey, sweetie. I love you so much. I, I but I want more from you. I want to be more intimate with you and I can't wait. I can't wait till like next year, or till the wedding. I, I can't wait because I love you so much. After you slug him, and you have my permission to do so, realize what he's really saying. He's saying I love you but what he really means is I love me and I want you for me. Because if he really loved you, he would consider you, not violate you, not take something from you, but consider that you are to be respected and love is to be honored and love will wait. Love is patient. Seven years. Wow!
So they strike the deal. Here's the irony. The guy who deceived his father, Jacob, is about to be deceived by his father-in-law. Very ironic. Galatians 6: God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. He's about to reap a harvest. "Then Jacob said to Laban," this is after the seven years are done, he's worked now, it's a long courtship, "Give me my wife," I'd say that after seven years, "for my days are fulfilled," I want the paycheck, "that I may go in to her." And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. Now it came to pass in the evening, that he," that's Laban, "took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 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?" Now I know, I know, some of you read this and you think, what is this guy just a dunce? Couldn't he tell the difference? Right? Well it was night. They didn't have lights like this. They had candlelight. The bridal suite was kept dark on purpose and a bridal veil that kept eyesight off of the ability to discern features, she had a veil over her. She went into the bridal suite and he woke up the next morning, realized there was a switcheroo going on. The older sis was put in her place. Look what Laban says. He says, "It must not be done so in our country to give the younger before the firstborn." That's true and he knew it all along. That's the fine print. "Fulfill her week," that is her bridal week, "and we will give you this one also," that's what he calls Rachel, this one also, "for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years." Hardcore. "Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also."
Now I'm going to guess that there was a rivalry between Leah and Rachel very similar to the rivalry between Esau and Jacob and that, obviously, Leah was complicit in this. She went along with the scheme. She had to, couldn't have worked without her consent. And I'm sure she delighted in the fact, you know, I'm not as pretty as my sister but I'm gonna get this guy, this strong, handsome man first. And I'm sure when it happened, it's like the red light went on in his head. It's like, yeah, I remember that. I did that myself with my own father and dressed up and lied to him and he found out later. "And Laban," it says, verse 29, "gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years." If he would've approached this carefully and prayerfully, as did Eliezer, perhaps things would've turned out a little bit differently. If he would've really talked to Laban and understood the custom and gone a little bit, added a different way, perhaps it would've been different. Not sure. I do know this: when you're entering into a marriage relationship, understand what you're getting into. You're gonna hear vows that will be said at the wedding. Till death do us part. It's much easier to get into a relationship than it is to live through a relationship. Mark Twain used to say keep your eyes wide open before marriage and then half-shut afterwards. I think that's good counsel. Once you make the commitment, then you just let a lot of stuff just go, just let it water off the duck's back, let it roll, don't worry about it, don't get hung up on it. But at first, go slow--be careful.
Well he loved Rachel more than Leah, that poses a problem, and he served with Laban another seven years. "When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren." That's very interesting. As if there's some sort of divine compensation. That when you're lacking in something in your life, that God can compensate by giving you more in another area to make up for that. I love that! That God saw that and part of His grace was to enable one to conceive while the beautiful one was barren. "So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, "The Lord has surely looked on my affliction," that is, of being unloved by my husband, "Now therefore, my husband will love me." Now Reuben means, "See? A son!" So the boy comes out and every Jewish father, especially in the patriarchal period, wanted a son to carry on the lineage. Of course, that was important if the Messianic promises were to be fulfilled. And so she thought, I'm gonna earn my husband's love because I produced a son for him. Rachel didn't--I did. "Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved," so no doubt, this is a matter of prayer before the Lord, she talked to Him about it, "He has therefore given me this son also." And she called his name Simeon," which means "one who hears". "She conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me," see? Every time she's trying to, with the children, manipulate her husband's love. He'll become attached to me, "because I have borne him three sons. Therefore his name was called Levi," which means "attached". So she bears Levi, which is the priestly tribe; she bears, we'll see, Judah, which is the royal tribe from which Jesus Christ will come. So she was compensated, you might say, by being the agent of the blessing of God to the world. "And she conceived again," final verse, verse 35, "and bore a son, and said, "Now I will praise the Lord." Therefore she called his name "praise," which is what Judah means and "then she stopped bearing."
So the first few children were all about gaining her husband's favor. Judah is somehow reflected that her attitude has changed a little bit. She's worshiping, she's praising, she's in better spirits. She says, "Praise the Lord." Here's the question I want to leave with you tonight. Just as Jacob was at Bethel, and it was a barren place, a Godforsaken place, he thought the Lord isn't in this place. Here's my question. What is your Bethel? You have one. You have some barren place, somebody's gonna listen to this who gets it in a hospital bed, that bed of pain is their Bethel, it's barren, it's Godforsaken. You're saying, God isn't in this place. For others it's a wheelchair, for others it's a boring job, for others it's a very difficult relationship. And you're in that difficult, dark place and you're saying, God isn't in this! God isn't here! And what you have to realize is that any barren place you're at can become Beth-el. The House of God. When God lets down the ladder. There was no temple at Bethel, there was no literal house, but he calls it the House of God as if to say God's house is wherever God meets with me in my painful, barren condition. That's my Beth-el. Will you allow the Lord to come to you on perhaps the very thing you hate? The very thing you fear the most. When did Jesus come walking on the water to His disciples on the Sea of Galilee? Was it when it was real nice and calm, when it was just glassy, just perfect glassy, awesome evening? And they're just sort of hanging out in the boat? It was in a storm! It was the wave. They thought it was gonna drown them. The very thing they feared the most is the vehicle that the Lord came to them on. Perhaps the Lord will come to you in a dynamic, dramatic way on what you fear the most and that place, that barren place, becomes the House of God and you'll say, God is in this place! And I knew it not. But I know it now.
There was a preacher who preached on Jacob's ladder one Sunday and his son was in the audience, made an impact on him. That night, that Sunday night, that pastor's kid went to sleep and had a dream. Got up the next day and said, Daddy, I had an interesting dream last night after your sermon on Sunday. Well what was it, son? I dreamt that there was a ladder from earth to heaven. Ooh! Wow! Just sort of like the biblical story. Yeah but it was a little bit different, Dad. There were people--not angels--people going up it and at the base of the ladder there was a bunch of chalk and the idea is that before you climb the ladder, you take one of the pieces of chalk and you mark on each rung of the ladder for every sin you've committed in your life. And people were going up it and it was my turn and I went up it and I grabbed my chalk but, as I was climbing up the ladder and marking the rungs with the chalk, there was somebody coming down. That's interesting, son, who was coming down? You were, Dad! In my dream, I saw you coming down the ladder. And he said, well that's interesting, son, why was I coming down the ladder? What for? And the boy said, for more chalk. An interesting dream. Perhaps a late-night burrito mixed with the biblical sermon. I like Jacob's dream better than the boy's dream. Not more chalk, but more grace. More grace. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound... that saved a wretch, a wretch, undeserving wretch, like me. God's in the business of saving wretches, undeserving, lost people. Finding them. Bringing them home. Restoring them. God is all about broken things. Have you ever met a person who doesn't like brand-new cars but likes the old, vintage, like a '57 Chevy? You know, that's a classic. Nothing like a restored '57 Chevy in all of its glory. Something about it--restored. We admire that. That's sort of what God is like. Instead of a new model, instead of saying you know, all you guys are losers, I'm just gonna create a brand-new, perfect human race. He goes, no, I'll take you in your sin and in your brokenness and through the blood of My Son, you're a fixer-upper, I'll restore you. There's something about a fixed-up, vintage person saved, redeemed, that is a billboard of My grace. He's done that in many of our lives. He wants to do it in all of our lives.