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Summary: God uses the painful consequence of sin to discipline us and bring us closer to him.

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Of all the TV shows we have based our “Jake TV” sermon themes on so far, Desperate Housewives is one show I wouldn’t recommend. Here is a typical plotline: “Susan is dismayed to see her ex-husband, Karl, emerge from Edie’s house one morning. She runs over to confront him and he admits he spent the night with Edie and may move in with her. When Edie comes by to gloat, Susan snaps back that Karl is still in love with her and recently asked her to come back to him. Susan drives off with Edie in pursuit” (abc.go.com/primetime/desperate/recaps).

I don’t suppose a plotline like that shocks anymore since most sitcoms these days are all about rival relationships. But would you be surprised to hear a story like that in the Bible? You shouldn’t be for the Bible never hides the faults of believers. Today on “Jake TV” we’re going to see what happened when Jacob ignored God’s plan for marriage and married two women. The events that led to this arrangement and the rivalry that followed between the desperate housewives don’t make for happy reading. Still, God allowed and used these events to discipline Jacob, that is, to refine his faith, just as God still does in us today.

On our last episode of “Jake TV,” Jacob was touched by angels and assured that God was still near him even though he was traveling a lonely road due to his sinful conniving. 700 km later it was obvious that God was still with Jacob because he led the patriarch to where his relatives lived in Haran. Jacob was well received by his Uncle Laban and began working for him as a shepherd. After a month, Laban insisted on paying Jacob for his work and even invited him to name his wages. This seemed to be very generous of Laban but Jacob’s uncle was up to no good. Laban knew that Jacob was in love with his daughter Rachel and wanted to marry her. In that culture, however, you had to pay the bride’s father for the privilege of marrying his daughter. Jacob only had his services as a shepherd to offer as payment so by insisting that Jacob set the bride price, Laban knew he could squeeze more work out of his nephew because Jacob wouldn’t want to set the bride price too low lest he insult his future wife. In the end, Jacob agreed to work seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Just to put that price into perspective, jewellers today suggest spending two months salary when buying a wedding ring for the bride.

Although Jacob had agreed to pay an exorbitant price for Rachel, he didn’t mind. We’re told that the seven years seemed like a few days since Jacob was so in love. The long awaited wedding, however, ended in disaster. After the vows were exchanged and the marriage consummated, Jacob discovered that he had married Leah, Rachel’s older sister! How could something like that happen? Crafty ol’ Uncle Laban was behind it all. It wasn’t difficult for Laban to pull off the switch since brides in those days wore veils, as is still the case in many Middle Eastern countries today. But what was Laban’s motive? It was simple; he wanted extort another seven years of work out of Jacob in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage.

In Laban, Jacob had met his match. The deceiver was now the one deceived. Jacob learned what his father Isaac must have felt like when he had tricked him into thinking he was blessing Esau. It’s perhaps for that reason that Jacob agrees, without much arguing, to work for Laban for another seven years to marry Rachel. Was God paying Jacob back for what he had done to his father? No, this was training. The writer to the Hebrews calls such training, discipline, and had this to say about it: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons… 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7, 8, 10, 11).

Have there been times in your life when you were treated unfairly and suffered as a result? We may get angry with God for letting us go through a trial like that but take to heart what Hebrews 12 says. God allows hardship because he loves us and wants to refine our faith. That’s what he was doing with Jacob. He was teaching Jacob how hurtful it was to take advantage of others, and that there was no need to do so anyway since God was looking after Jacob. God has promised the same for us.

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