Spiritual Bootcamp – Genesis 29

Spiritual Bootcamp
Gen. 29 9/1/19
Let’s look together at our inspired text in Genesis 29. It’s one of the most dramatic and shocking stories in all of Scripture. It’s a text given not to entertain us but to conform our lives to greater dependence upon God.
Now, as we approach the 29th chapter of Genesis, I want you to think like a detective. And I want you to look for evidence. Evidence of God’s hand actively at work in the life of the man Jacob.
For God wants us to grasp what Jacob missed when he was in the thick of it all- God was shaping and molding his life through the mountain tops of delight and the deep valleys of disappointment.
It was God was taking Jacob through a spiritual bootcamp. He put him in situations that would strip him of self-confidence and humble him before God. You see, God was actively involved at every step in Jacob’s life.
Some of American Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin propagated the false teaching of deism. They viewed God as the powerful Creator but refused to believe He personally interacted with humanity.
In other words, man is left to himself to navigate life’s storms as God stands at a distance with folded arms and just watches.
Well, that’s not the God of the Bible. And that’s not the God who actively works in Jacob’s life in Genesis 29. He does that in 3 breathtaking ways. Through His:
Divine leading 1-12
Divine discipline 13-29
Divine blessing 30-35
1. Divine leading 1-12
In the first sentence of verse 1 we read: “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east.”
Jacob has just weeks before experienced that personal encounter with God at Bethel.
The memorial stone marker he had left there testified of how God had unmistakably revealed Himself to Jacob.
It was like a whole new start, a whole new chapter in Jacob’ life. There was new hope and confidence. For God has just affirmed to Him His presence, protection and His kind purposes.
The Hebrew language in verse 1 is picturesque. It literally says that Jacob “lifted up his feet”- he’s now heading up the road with new vigor and a spring in his step.
He journeys to the north and then east following the great arc of the Fertile Crescent into Mesopotamia.
It’s the region Jacob’s grandfather Abraham had left some 150 years before when he headed to the Promises Land
This would be the area of present-day northern Syria.
Well, one day as Jacob continues his over 400 mile trek, he’s looks ahead, and a wonderful landmark catches his attention.
“He looked (v. 2 tells us) and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for from that well they watered the flocks. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large.
When he sees a well, Jacob knows he can’t be far from civilization.
But something doesn’t quite make sense to him.
He notices three separate flocks of sheep next to the well. That indicates there were three shepherds there at the well, one for each flock.
But why are the sheep lying down and not drinking from that well?
Because there there’s a very large stone covering over the mouth of the well.
Such heavy stones were placed over the top of wells to prevent contamination of the water.
Now we find out why the heavy stone cover hadn’t been removed.
3 When all the flocks were gathered there, they would then roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
It wasn’t time yet for the flocks to be watered. That would be later in the day.
Those three shepherds may just be killing time, waiting until all the other shepherds with their flocks would come and remove the heavy stone.
Well, Jacob tries to engage those shepherds in conversation. Yet it’s like pulling teeth.
4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.”
“Haran”, just hearing that must have exhilarated Jacob because Haran was his destination. That’s where his relatives lived!
So in verse 5, “He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.”
Now is this just a coincidence? After many weeks of a long arduous journey, Jacob just happens to meet shepherds from the city he is looking for? And they just happen to know his uncle Laban?
Of course not! For God had ordered Jacob’s steps right to that particular well at that particular time even if Jacob isn’t mindful of that.
Well, Jacob fires off one more question to these not-so-talkative shepherds. It’s about his Uncle Laban.
6 And he said to them, “Is it well with him?” And they said, “It is well… And watch what they add: “and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep.”
O what amazing timing! A candidate for this bride-to-be is approaching.
For Jacob now realizes she’s the daughter of his uncle Laban. And he also can see she’s a hard worker as shown in her shepherding sheep (which was normally a tough job done by men).
Jacob must be on cloud 9. For don’t forget, the reason Isaac and Rebekah had sent Jacob to Haran was to find a wife.
And here out of the blue comes this young woman.
God displays His supernatural and sovereign leading here so vividly.
For God and not Jacob nor Rachel had arranged that they would meet at that well.
Yes, God guided their life paths so they would cross that day. He had led them to that point. Beloved, God is a God who leads His own.
God would later assure Moses that He would lead him and the children of Israel at they headed to the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
And Proverbs 16:9 tells us wonderfully “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
You can make your plans- whom and when you will marry, the work you will do, where you will live.
But Christian, it’s the Lord who actively directs your steps in how all that unfolds.
Ephesians 1:11, in describing God’s great purpose says He “works all things after the counsel of His will.”
“All things means all things.” Nothing is left out. God works in every circumstance to carry out His divine plan in your life.”
So too, we as Christian must rest in the assurance that God not only goes with us each day but that He goes before. Yes, He leads us at each step of our lives.
As Paul speaks of the ministry of the gospel, that was His great confidence. God always leads us.
2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
Now, Jacob’s heart must have been pounding in him knowing he’s about to meet this young lady.
Yet, look what he does first. He gives a piece of advise to those shepherds waiting at the well.
Verse 7: He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.”
As far as we know, Jacob has never done the work of a shepherd. But he tells those shepherds it’s time to head out. Why?
First, because the day was far from over. Instead of waiting around, he suggests they water their sheep immediately and then take them elsewhere to graze.
Yet, more importantly, you can be sure, Jacob is thinking a lot more about Rachel who is coming than those shepherds.
Yes, he most certainly has another motivation. Jacob would much prefer to be alone to meet and talk with this young lady!
The shepherds’ waiting around was the fly in the ointment for Jacob.
Well, they come up with a flimsy response: “But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
What? You three shepherds need more guys to remove that stone for you? What are you a bunch of wimps?
No, Jacob didn’t say that though he may have wanted to. Try as he might, he can’t convince those uncooperative shepherds to move on.
It’s then we are told, (v. 9), “While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.”
Now watch Jacob the suitor move into action.
Verse 10: “When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”
If those shepherds wouldn’t move that heavy stone cover off the well, he would.
And he does that singlehandedly. Jacob’s takes opportunity to put his strength to good use as this young lady is watching! Jewish tradition sees this as a great feat of strength that Jacob shows.
He not only takes initiative and shows strength. He demonstrates kindness by watering the flock for Rachel.
What he does next would have definitely shocked Rachel. Verse 11: “Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept.”
Kissing was a common greeting even between men and women if they were relatives.
But Jacob kisses her and breaks into tears of joy BEFORE she knows who he is.
She must be thinking, “I’ve never met you, and you come on strong like horseradish!”
Then Jacob properly introduces himself to her.
V. 12 Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.
I like that. She’s taken aback by this young man whom she just met at the well, and he says he’s related to her. So, Rachel races home to run it by her father.
You young, single ladies. Don’t miss the nugget of wisdom here. When a guy shows interest in you in a significant way- go to your dad (and of course include your mom as well). For dads usually have those guys pretty well figured out.
Since there’s no mention of Rachel’s mom in the story, it may be that she has already died.
Well, what Rachel shared would have been big news for dad Laban.
Now what took place that day at the well parallels what had happened years before when Abraham’s servant came there looking for a wife for Isaac.
Yet, here’s the glaring distance. That servant of Abraham acknowledged His dependence on God. He prayed to God for a successful journey. And later he bowed and worshiped God for granting that.
Yet not so of Jacob. There’s no statement in this chapter of him every praying, seeking God’s will, and thanking God for leading him there.
If fact, he doesn’t acknowledge the ultimate sovereign cause of what took place that day. It wasn’t anyone’s conniving or arranging. It was God’s leading.
So remember, fellow Christian, there is never a circumstance you will ever face when God is not there to guide you.
Therefore, follow God’s lead with confidence and thankfulness. Rejoice that God through His Word guides your every step. The psalmist uses that wonderful metaphor of how God lead us
declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
Well, what Moses describes for us in this dramatic story not only features the divine leading of Jacob but also the
2. Divine discipline 13-28
Jacob was in for a big surprise from Laban. He has no idea how God will make Laban an instrument of discipline for him.
He’s going to use Laban as sandpaper to smooth off many rough edges of Jacob’s character. And it’s going to hurt!
Yes. Jacob has no idea of what’s coming. For at the start, things appeared to be going smoothly with Laban.
V. 13 “So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things.”
Laban wastes no time to meet Jacob who has just talked with his daughter.
He runs to the well and brings Jacob back to his house.
He no doubt wants to catch up on news about his sister Rebekah there in Beersheba. For at this point she has been gone over 70 years!
Jacob, we surmise, would have stated his purpose for coming- his parents had sent him on this long journey to find a wife there among his relatives.
Well, the last time a servant had come looking for a wife for Isaac, he had put an impressive ring and bracelets on Laban’s sister Rebekah. And selfish Laban took note of that (Gen. 24:30).
Yet Jacob comes with little more than the clothes on his back. Remember, he was also fleeing for his life from Esau.
Now watch how Laban shrewdly works the situation. v. 14 Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month.
Laban seems to be treating him like a son. “Jacob, we’re blood relatives, and we can trust each other.” So, he lets Jacob stay at his home a month.
During that time, Laban would have recognized Jacob could be a valuable worker for him. For Laban has no sons to help with the shepherding.
And Jacob would have had plenty of time to get better acquainted with Rachel who had caught his eye.
Well, the day comes when Laban wants to formalize his work relationship with Jacob. It seemed like a win-win situation for him and Jacob.
V. 15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”
Wow, Laban seems so gracious. “Jacob, I want to pay for the work you do. Just name the price.”
Some of you in our congregation have been looking for other employment options.
Imagine you meet a boss who says, “I want you to work for me. You name the salary.” Why that would seem too good to be true, right?
Well, in Jacob’s case it was too good to be true. It was a set up.
With Laban’s offer on the table waiting to be claimed, God alerts us to key details about his family.
16th verse: “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”
Now poor Leah has been greatly misunderstood by so many.
And the meaning of her name doesn’t help. For, “Leah” in Hebrew means “cow.”
But the name of her sister, Rachel, meant “little lamb.”
Now what’s wrong with Leah’s eyes? It’s not that she was nearsighted or half blind.
The word from which we have “weak” eyes, (rak) likely points to the fact that Leah’s eye lacked some sort of attractive sparkle. They may have been pale and not had the deep luster that was considered attractive.
Yet Jacob sees the younger sister Rachel as a knock-out.
We are told she was beautiful in form and face.
Now there’s only one other young lady in the Bible described that way.
That was Esther (2:7) who became a queen.
Well, in this important decision regarding a work offer and choice of a wife we don’t see Jacob inquiring of the Lord. He doesn’t take it to the Lord in prayer.
He thinks he can handle the situation and just following his feelings for her.
For we are told, 18 Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
That was a huge price that Jacob offered.
Since he has no money to offer as the dowry for the bride, he would pay for it in 7 years of work.
The dowry by the way proved that the groom could care for his wife financially. Well,
19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.”
How sly. Laban acts as if he is giving Rachel to Jacob. Yet in reality, he has positioned himself as a demanding tyrant over Jacob and has him under his thumb!
But why doesn’t Jacob see how he’s being lead
The 20th verse explains: “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
Jacob worked hard 7 long years for the woman of his dreams. They weren’t a drudgery; the time didn’t drag on. Why not?
Because of his love for her. It’s the “I’ll climb the highest mountain, I’ll swim across the most shark infested seas” just to have you” mentality.
Well, the 7 years of work for Laban had been completed. That amounted to over 2,500 days! Jacob kept his end of the deal and then reminds Laban of their agreement.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” Jacob wants to marry Rachel. So we read in v. 22 that “Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast.”
It’s a huge event inviting friends and relatives from all around. The feast, mistech, implies a drinking banquet which may well have influenced Laban’s best judgment.
It’s at this point that Laban launches his heartless scheme. V. 23:
“Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24 Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.” (the maid was a customary wedding gift).
Cunning Laban takes advantage of the darkness of night as Jacob had taken advantage of his father’s blindness. And Leah would have had her face hidden behind a typical wedding veil.
Well, the horrifying reality of what took place comes to light.
25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah!
Surprise, surprise! Jacob was totally blindsided. He wakes up and to his horror realizes, “I married the wrong wife!”
Jacob’s dreams had become a living nightmare.
Friends, this ranks as the meanest and lowest prank in Scripture.
And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?”
The deceiver Jacob had been deceived. The trickster had been tricked!
How ironic that Jacob repeats the identical words of Pharaoh to Abraham (12:18)- “What is this you have done to me?”
Just think of how awful that was for him. After 7 hard years of work he’s tricked into marrying the wrong woman.
Now Jacob got a taste of his own medicine.
Jacob had deceived his father, and now his bride’s father deceives him.
Friends, now he knows what it feels like to be taken advantage of as he had done to his brother Esau.
In response to his 3 questions to Laban we are told:
26 But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn.”
Heartless Laban doesn’t bat an eye. Now that word “firstborn” may have rung in Jacob’s ear.
For he had cheated from Esau the rights of the firstborn. And now he gets cheated so the firstborn would marry first.
So Jacob came to see that what goes around comes around. What you sow you will reap.
Yet that’s not the main point of the story.
What we need to see here is that God is lovingly shaping Jacob’s character. He’s teaching Jacob in the school of discipline.
You see, God loves us as His children far too much not to discipline us.
Sure, that discipline is painful. Yet God uses it to mold our lives.
V. 11: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
You see, a tangible proof of God’s love for us as His children is His fatherly discipline.
God uses trials yes and the Laban’s in our lives as an anvil to shape our character.
Well, there was some consolation to Jacob.
Laban then tells him, 27 “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” 28 Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29 Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.”
The week to be completed was a week of festive celebration. Of course, the word spread, that Jacob fell for Laban’s trick- hook, line and sinker.
And Jacob would have been the laughingstock of the town.
Yet God was using all of this to further His purposes in Jacob’s life.
Being deceived, shamed, and taken advantage of, all those God used as His gracious means to discipline Jacob’s life and make him into the man he was meant to be.
God’s methods haven’t changed. He still shapes men and women with the hammer of hardship and the chisel of discipline. As a master sculptor, God removes everything that needs to go so we reflect His likeness.
The divine guidance, discipline and
3. Divine blessing 30-35
It’s easy to miss the significance of the closing 6 verses.
They highlight for us how God sovereignly works in Jacob’s family and shows them undeserved blessing.
31 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
Here we see the compassionate heart of God. He takes pity on Leah and compensates her for being unloved. For He greatly blesses her in the form of motherhood.
Remember, Psalm 127:3 makes it clear, “Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”
Now watch what Leah comes to realize about God:
V. 32 “Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
Leah, the unwanted wife, gives birth to her first child, Reuben. And when she does, she declares a wonderful truth about God: the LORD has seen her in her miserable situation.
That’s powerful. Leah knows God has not been distant or unaware of what she has gone through. Rather, she has confidence that God has seen all the pain she has gone through and cared for her.
Leah hopes Jacob will now love her because she has given birth to a child. Yet even if Jacob
lacks in his love for her, she could count on God’s faithful love for her.
33 Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon.
Leah has just declared how God had seen her sad situation. And now she testifies of how God had heard all of it.
That’s why she sees her second son as God’s gift to her and aptly names him Simeon meaning “hearing.” God had heard her heart cry.
Jacob’s home began to look like a maternity ward.
34 She (Leah) conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons. Therefore he was named Levi.”
That third son’s name Levi meant to join or accompany. What she wished for in her marriage would come. For Leah ends up outliving Rachel by many years. And she and Rachel was buried with Jacob in the cave at Machpelah (49:31). By the way, this Levi would become the father of the tribe of Israel (Levites), chosen to serve the Lord as priests in the tabernacle and the temple.
Well, there something very special about God’s blessing Jacob and Leah with a fourth son:
Verse 35: And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.”
God had powerfully worked in Jacob’s life. And He did the same in Leah’s.
Now she acknowledges that God who has blessed her is worthy of her praise.
In fact, every time she, Jacob, or anyone would ever say the name of their son, Judah, they would be saying, “Let Him (God) be praised!”
God have given Leah that child and she realized God alone deserved the praise.
That’s the very response of the psalmist when He things about God’ gift of a child: Psalm 113:9 “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!”
Now there’s an even bigger reason here why God is so deserving to be praised. It’s connected with that fourth son named Judah.
You see, Judah was the kingly line that would lead to King David, and Solomon. And it that royal blood line would stretch all the way to the greatest King, Jesus Christ.
Yes, God chose through the line of unloved Leah to give His Son and show His love for the world!
Who would have ever imagined God would do that through Jacob and Leah?
In response to God’s truth, I want to give you some lessons for life we can embrace as doers of the Word.
1. Submit to God’s sovereign leading in Your life. If you are facing a rough patch of trial, or temptation look to the Lord for all the grace and strength and walk with Him.
He is all you need to make it through every day and all of life.
2. Thank God for using difficult circumstances and people in your life to make you more like Him. Realize that what God has
written that into the script of your life to shape your life and grow your Christlike character.
Therefore, refuse to grumble and complain in the hard times but rejoice in how God uses those to further His purposes in your life.
3. Above all, worship God for being God. Praise Him with confidence that no matter what you may face, He is faithfully accomplishing His sovereign plan in Your life.
Your job is to keep your eyes on Him and walk by faith!
O sovereign God, Lord of all creation, Lord of our lives. We marvel at Your great grace and we are humbled by Your great care for Your own.
Father, show us anything in our lives we need to lay on the altar and give to you. We submit our will to you and asks that You would shape and fashion us that Christ might be more seen in us.
We praise You for your unending love for us, Your leading us, Your disciplining us and the
eternal blessings you have poured out on our lives.
O cause us through Your Spirit in us to respond with lives that love You above all else and long to please You.
This we pray for the honor of Your great name, amen.