Perfect Discipline: Conclusion

We will leave the story here just as the craziness in this dysfunctional family is about to begin. But we need to learn about God and his divine lesson just like those that lived this story. I point you to Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” God wrote this idea of retribution into the law that was given to Jacob’s descendants. It was given in the covenant that God made with Jacob’s ancestor Noah. William Plumer wrote, “Thus frequently does the Scripture assert this principle in express terms. It also gives us many examples. Jehovah has often “written the cause of the judgment in the forehead of the judgment itself…By fraud and deception, Jacob supplants his brother. Time rolls on. Jacob leaves his native land. Far from home he often finds his wages changed. Worse than all, in the matter of marriage he is miserably deceived. He loves Rachel and cheerfully serves seven years for her; and in the hour of his rejoicing finds that Leah has been palmed off on him. Thus he is made to feel in the tenderest possible manner the nature of his own wickedness to his brother. “If men deal treacherously with others, by and by others will deal treacherously with them.” As Christians, we don’t believe in Satan’s idea of karma or “what goes around comes around.” We believe that God is the perfect judge and will deal with the wicked rightly. God will show no favoritism. God will give them what they deserve which is often what they ask for. And with his children, God disciplines them in a way that confronts their sin head-on. If you are a child of God he will not allow you to be destroyed by sin. There may be a consequence in this life for the wrong that you do but God will not allow you to be destroyed by it. Sure, your sin might cost you dearly, maybe even your earthly life, but God will not allow your soul to perish in Hell. His discipline may seem painful, but in the end, it means that you are his child and have received eternal life.

Perfect Discipline: Blessing Amidst the Discipline

In verse 31, we see the beginning of Jacob’s and Rachel’s marriage summed up in one word, “barren”. Like the women that came before her, Rachel would have to learn through the struggle of barrenness. We’ll look more at this topic in the next section but I wanted to point this out before we move on. The introductory sentence to the explanation of where the twelve tribes of Israel begins with God opening Leah’s womb and keeping Rachel’s closed. We believe in the sovereignty of God in all things. But it takes on an inescapable weight and meaning when it comes to having children. In a culture where having children and many children was highly prized to barren was a crushing blow. Some of you know all too well that infertility is still a struggle that God uses to teach his people his lessons. This verse, though it is surrounded by the free actions of the people in the story, brings us back to the reality that God’s plan is what is unfolding before our eyes. None of this has happened by chance or luck but exactly as God has ordained. This is a lesson that this family of Jacob will have to learn.

Perfect Discipline: The Answer to Sin

With the seven years of his agreed contract with Laban up, Jacob is ready to receive his payment. Jacob served his uncle for seven years, which to Jacob, seemed like only a moment because of his love of Rachel. It is interesting how love tends to skew our perception of time. You may have known your love for a short time but you feel as if you have always known them. If you are apart from your love sometimes it seems like forever even though it’s been a day. And sometimes when you are apart from your love time flies because the only thing you are focused upon is being with your love. This is where Jacob is. He has a love and that is his one purpose in life. All else falls from view when you are in a labor of love. This is true of our relationships with other people but it is also true of our love for God. When our love is focused on God and being with him all the things of this earth seem to grow dim. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). According to custom, Laban gathers all the people of the place together and makes a wedding feast. We often complain of the expense of the complexity of wedding ceremonies today, but if you were to study the traditions of other countries and ancient practices, you find that weddings are an elaborate and expensive event. Many of the ancient weddings would last for days with singing and dancing and feasting. And so, on the night that Jacob and Rachel are to consummate their marriage, Uncle Laban is working out a scheme. He takes his oldest daughter Leah, dresses her in the wedding veil, and takes her to Jacob. It was dark in the tent and Jacob had been celebrating all night. In the morning, when he woke up and the sun is shining into the tent he realizes that it is not Rachel that is next to him but Leah. Jacob has just woken up to another consequence, and one of the most far-reaching, of his lying and cheating. The cheat has become the cheated. This will have ripple effects throughout his entire life until his death. We cannot underestimate the impact of this consequence and Jacob’s response.

Perfect Discipline: Introduction

Several chapters back in Genesis we read the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau. We heard God saying to Rebekah that Esau would serve Jacob, that Jacob would be the stronger and Esau would be the weaker. The reversal of the birth order would happen. This was a blessing upon Jacob that he would receive while still in the womb of his mother. What precipitated this blessing? Nothing but divine prerogative. Then Jacob and Esau grew up and Jacob preyed on the weakness of his brother to get the birthright. Years later, Jacob lied to his father, pretended to be Esau, and managed to secure Isaac’s blessing and the conferral of the promises of Abraham to himself. And we are left thinking. Is God going to give him all these things and let him get away with all his deception and lies? Then we see Jacob having to leave everything to leave home. A small setback because on the way God appears to him in a vision and encourages him and confirms the fact that he is the chosen one. Then he arrives and Rachel almost literally falls into his lap and he falls in love. Did God care about Jacob’s sin? Is he being rewarded for evil? Are there consequences for his sin? That’s what we find in the story today. We look at our Western culture and we see the approval of sin that once was frowned upon. The sin was happening but it was more or less hidden. The culture decades ago, in general, said that what is happening today was immoral. And now they feel that they are throwing off the shackles of a backward and oppressive morality and are stepping into a more enlightened era. But is this true? Has culture evolved to a higher standard? No, that is foolishness. The world has and always will be evil. The standards they live by, unless they coincide with God’s, are evil. And even living by God’s standards apart from faith in God is meaningless for it is only by faith that you can please God. Whether sin is practiced openly or in the closet, whether sin is given a month of national recognition or is still taboo to the culture matters little to the judge who sits on his throne and whose eye sees all. Thankfully, for the child of God, he does not tread out his wrath on us, but he does discipline us as the unruly children that we are. Today we are going to see the Answer to Sin in verses 21-30 and the Blessing Amidst the Discipline in verses 31-35.

For the Love of Rachel: Conclusion

Jacob loved Rachel and gave seven years for her. But as we will see, he was willing to give seven more for her after he was deceived by Laban. The question for you is, do you love? We are not talking about eros or romantic love. The love that serves, sacrifices, and endures is agape love, the love that God shows to his children, and the love that his children are to show toward each other. Do you have a love that serves, sacrifices, and endures? John 1:3-16-18, 23-24. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. For those who do not believe, what you think is love is not real love. The only way to know real love is to experience the love of God. Jesus, God the Son, gave his life for his people. Are you on of his people? He is calling you to repent, to turn from your sin, cry out to him for mercy, and you will experience his love today. For the believers, you are commanded to love. You are to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. There are many ways to do that. But one suggestion I have is that you choose to be present. Make up your mind to be involved in the activities and life of the church. Use the gifts that God has given you and use those for the people sitting in these pews. You are also to love your enemies. There are many ways to do that as well. One way we show love to our enemies is to not allow them to destroy themselves. We stand up and shout out the truth. Do you use social media? Then lovingly show people the truth. But don’t just use your opinions or recite conspiracy theories. Share the word of God. They may say that their not Christians and therefore it doesn’t apply, but according to God, that’s not true. So share it anyway and keep on sharing. And may God bless the work of your hands.

For the Love of Rachel: Disciplined for Love

a. The Willingness to Serve. As Jacob is off talking to the shepherds, Rachel comes walking up with her father’s sheep. It says that as soon as Jacob saw Rachel he sprang into action. We might be tempted to attribute his response to an older man’s infatuation with a beautiful young woman but the rest of the story of Jacob would tell us otherwise. His love is real and strong from their very first meeting. He will speak lovingly, and his actions will be affected by his love for Rachel decades after her death. This is an abiding love. So when he sees Rachel with the sheep, he doesn’t wait for anyone to move the stone but takes the opportunity to serve Rachel. He, in a show of strength, moves the stone from the well himself and then proceeds to water the flock of his uncle. After the job is done, he kisses Rachel and weeps with joy. He had to leave everything behind in Canaan but now God has led him to a beautiful woman that was to be his wife. These are tears of happiness. Jacob explains who he is and that he was Rebekah’s son. Before we look at Rachel, let’s consider the kind of love that Jacob is displaying. One test of real love is: does it cause a willingness to serve. This goes for our love of others but also our love for God. Charles Naylor explains, “The amount of our love to God, is proved by our willingness to serve him. If there is in us a disposition to do only what we please to do, and to disregard any of the known will of God — then it is clear evidence that we do not love him. It matters not what we profess — if we are not willing to put obedience to God’s will before everything else, it is from lack of love. There are duties for all. There are opportunities everywhere. Every one of them is a test of love. Brother, sister — how does your love stand the test? Love will not grumble; it will not complain; it will not shrink from service. Do you love as fervently as you ought? b. The Character of Rachel. Rachel’s name means ewe which is a very fitting name for a shepherdess. One wonders if she had an infinity for sheep as a small child and that is how she received her name. Like Rebekah, we can discern some things about Rachel from the stories of her life. Here we find her serving her father and the family by watching the sheep. She had to have been a strong young woman to do the job. Her descendant, David, when told that he couldn’t fight Goliath said that fighting the Philistine was no different than fighting off lions or bears that went after the sheep. That’s what she was doing. Besides caring for her father’s sheep, when she is kissed by Jacob she honors her father. We are told that after Jacob explains who he is she runs home, leaving Jacob behind, and tells her father. She does not linger with the man but runs to her father. Young women, you would do well in following her example.

For the Love of Rachel: Love At First Sight

a. The Willingness to Serve. As Jacob is off talking to the shepherds, Rachel comes walking up with her father’s sheep. It says that as soon as Jacob saw Rachel he sprang into action. We might be tempted to attribute his response to an older man’s infatuation with a beautiful young woman but the rest of the story of Jacob would tell us otherwise. His love is real and strong from their very first meeting. He will speak lovingly, and his actions will be affected by his love for Rachel decades after her death. This is an abiding love. So when he sees Rachel with the sheep, he doesn’t wait for anyone to move the stone but takes the opportunity to serve Rachel. He, in a show of strength, moves the stone from the well himself and then proceeds to water the flock of his uncle. After the job is done, he kisses Rachel and weeps with joy. He had to leave everything behind in Canaan but now God has led him to a beautiful woman that was to be his wife. These are tears of happiness. Jacob explains who he is and that he was Rebekah’s son. Before we look at Rachel, let’s consider the kind of love that Jacob is displaying. One test of real love is: does it cause a willingness to serve. This goes for our love of others but also our love for God. Charles Naylor explains, “The amount of our love to God, is proved by our willingness to serve him. If there is in us a disposition to do only what we please to do, and to disregard any of the known will of God — then it is clear evidence that we do not love him. It matters not what we profess — if we are not willing to put obedience to God’s will before everything else, it is from lack of love. There are duties for all. There are opportunities everywhere. Every one of them is a test of love. Brother, sister — how does your love stand the test? Love will not grumble; it will not complain; it will not shrink from service. Do you love as fervently as you ought? b. The Character of Rachel. Rachel’s name means ewe which is a very fitting name for a shepherdess. One wonders if she had an infinity for sheep as a small child and that is how she received her name. Like Rebekah, we can discern some things about Rachel from the stories of her life. Here we find her serving her father and the family by watching the sheep. She had to have been a strong young woman to do the job. Her descendant, David, when told that he couldn’t fight Goliath said that fighting the Philistine was no different than fighting off lions or bears that went after the sheep. That’s what she was doing. Besides caring for her father’s sheep, when she is kissed by Jacob she honors her father. We are told that after Jacob explains who he is she runs home, leaving Jacob behind, and tells her father. She does not linger with the man but runs to her father. Young women, you would do well in following her example.

For the Love of Rachel: Providence in the Journey

a. The Journey’s End 1-3. In verse 1, we find our author Moses fast-forwarding the rest of Jacob’s journey. We don’t know what happened from Bethel to Haran but we know that his experience in Bethel was to encourage him and to reinforce to him that God was with him. God promised not to leave him. Bethel was a pivot from receiving the blessing by deceit to a new chapter in his life. Now, think back to the story of Abraham’s servant being sent to Haran to find Isaac’s wife and you will find some similarities here. Where did the servant go when he first arrived at Haran? He went to the well. Where is Jacob? He is at a well. Now the Bible gives us some details about the scene. First, there are three flocks with their shepherds at the well already. This is the well that these sheep were watered so this was a communal well that at least four households shared. Over the well, there was a large stone that the shepherds would roll back and forth when they needed access to it. This could serve several different purposes the least of which was to keep the sheep from falling in. With the scene set, Jacob walks up to the group of shepherd boys. b. Meeting the Shepherds 4-8. Jacob greets the shepherds calling them “my brothers” and asks them where they are from.” And they respond, “We are from Haran.” At this point, Jacob knows that he is in the right place. Then he asks the shepherds, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” The shepherds say, “We know him.” Now that Jacob knows that they know Laban he begins to elicit some information on him. So he asks, “Is it well with him?” Their response is, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” Jacob is at the right place and at the right time. Just like his grandfather’s servant who showed up at the well at the right time to meet Rebekah, he has shown up at the right time to meet Rachel. It makes you wonder if these similarities did not go unnoticed by Jacob. Doubtless, he heard the story of how his mother met the servant at the well. Jacob then tells the shepherds that it is still high day and the sheep should still be pastured and not gathered together. He tells them the water the sheep and then set them to pasture. Why does Jacob tell them this? They are shepherds and presumably know what they are doing. There are many speculations as to what he is thinking but it seems that Jacob wants to get rid of the other shepherds. But they turn and say, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” Again we are not told why they had to wait for all the shepherds to arrive before they opened the well. Some suggest that they were shepherd boys and needed all of them there to move the stone. Others suggest that it was their custom to wait for everyone and they were not prepared to forgo their custom according to the word of this stranger. At any rate, they refused, and nothing happened. Before we move on to look at the interaction between Jacob and Rachel, let us consider the comfort of Divine Providence. c. The Comfort of Divine Providence. At this point, Jacob is a weak follower of God but he would have to be completely lost to miss the hand of God in the events that are unfolding before him. The question for you is, do you take comfort in the providence of God? If not, are you even aware of God’s providence? Thomas Guthrie said, “Believer, what are you doing, going groaning through the world beneath a load of fears and cares? What should discourage you? What should disturb your peace? What can ruffle the calm spirit of a man who knows that the hands which were once nailed to the tree for him, now hold the helm of his destiny? The blessed Savior, who by love’s golden scepter reigns within his heart, holds sovereign sway over earth and Heaven; and by both bitter and sweet providences, by both coffins and cradles, by both disappointments and joys, by both losses and gains, shall cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

For the Love of Rachel: Introduction

What is love? How do you define love? If you were to ask most people it would have to do with feelings. The phrase “love is love” has been offered by our culture suggesting that feelings of affection toward anyone or anything is love. All of these feelings of affection are equally valid and good. One expression of affection is indistinguishable from another. Of course, this is complete nonsense because no one actually thinks or acts according to this idea. The world’s definition of love is completely meaningless and worthless. Love is found in the God who is love. All other loves are subservient to his love and always reference back to His love. I would argue that everyone knows this and does this even though they cover the truth with a lie. God’s love is original and exhaustive and so if any other love exists it must reflect God’s love. It is unavoidable. In our text today, we have the beginning of a love story between Jacob and Rachel. If it is truly love then we should see much of God’s love mingled in the affections and actions of these sinful people. As we consider the story, we will reflect on the love of God and the love of people. In verses 1-8 we will look at the providence of God in the journey of Jacob to Haran. In 9-12, we have love at first sight as Jacob meets the lovely Rachel. Finally, in 13-20, we will see Jacob’s discipline for love and how Jacob is disciplined for love.

The House of God: Conclusion

Let’s finish here with a few thoughts on this passage. Octavius Winslow wrote, “what an exceeding great and precious promise of our covenant God is here- intended for all saints, intended, my beloved, for you! “Behold I am with you and will keep you in all places where you go.” What is the New Testament but the echo of the Old? Hear we not the echo of this promise in the words of Jesus spoken to His disciples on the eve of His departure from them, when, like the patriarch, they were to be left as orphans in the world, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Take hold of this divine promise of your Lord, repeated with yet more earnest emphasis, and given under yet more affecting circumstances than it was to Jacob, and Jehovah Jesus will make it good in your individual and daily experience. God in Christ is with you, His child, and will keep you in all places where His providence leads you. No time or circumstance shall interpose to prevent its fulfillment.” As I studied this passage, I came across the hymn “O God of Bethel, by Whose hand” written by Philip Doddridge. This is the story of Jacob at Bethel turned into a prayer for us to say. O God of Bethel! by whose hand thy people still are fed; Who through this weary pilgrimage hast all our fathers led: Our vows, our prayers, we now present before thy throne of grace: God of our fathers! be the God of their succeeding race. Through each perplexing path of life our wand’ring footsteps guide; Give us each day our daily bread, and raiment fit provide. O spread thy cov’ring wings around, till all our wand’rings cease, And at our Father’s loved abode our souls arrive in peace. Such blessings from thy gracious hand our humble pray’rs implore; And thou shalt be our chosen God, and portion evermore.